Tuesday 24 February 2009

Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet...

Shrove Tuesday - also known as Pancake Day - is a Christian festival representing the last day before Lent, a 40-day period of fasting in the run-up to Easter, when Christians honour the death and resurrection of Christ.

The 40 days of abstinence represent the time Jesus spent in the desert where, according to the Bible, he was tempted by the devil. To commemorate this, Christians would traditionally go through a period of self-denial.

This might involve being vegetarian for 40 days, abstaining from alcohol or giving up some other luxury. As a child, I once gave up chocolate for Lent. Being a chocoholic, I can say it was tough going, although I really appreciated all those chocolate Easter eggs at the end of it!

But why am I, a pagan and a witch, talking about the Christian festivals of Shrove Tuesday, Lent and Easter?

Well, putting aside any religious meanings for these dates, I believe this is the ideal time of year to go on a diet, give up smoking or put into practice any resolutions for being fitter, slimmer or healthier that we make at the start of the New Year. January is just too cold and miserable to make dieting easy. Also, most people have loads of goodies left over from the Yule festivities and it is hard to stick to green salads when a huge box of choccies is staring at you.

By late February, the weather has often got a little milder, the days are longer and we are all starting to think of casting off our woollies and making plans for summer. That adds a big incentive to any desire to get slim, trim and fit. Also, the 40 days of Lent give us a definite time period for our abstinence. We can count the days down to the end of it and feel reassured that the misery of a diet is not going to go on forever.

Fasting - or willingly giving up food or drink - is also a traditional spiritual activity in many faiths, including paganism. It can involve abstaining from all food or drink or just certain things, such as meat or alcohol. It is almost always for a specific time period, such as for 24 hours or between sunrise and sunset. Wiccans are usually asked to fast on the day of their initiation.

Stephen Harrod Buhner, in Fasting Path: The Way to Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Enlightenment, says:

"Fasting has long been recognised for its ability to increase one's sensitivity to the nonmaterial world, to enhance one's personal experience of the sacredness of the self and the universe, and to help one gain a sense of orientation and purpose. In order to be truly transformed, you must first empty yourself."
I have to admit that fasting is not something I like doing. I very much enjoy my food, while a rumbling tummy makes me grumpy. However, when I put on a favourite dress the other day and realised my arse really did look big in it, I accepted it was time to diet - at least until all those Easter eggs arrive.

But, before the fasting starts, tonight is Pancake Night and I intend to eat, drink and be merry because, in a paraphrase of a famous saying "Tomorrow we diet".

Note: You should always consult your doctor before fasting or dieting, and if you feel unwell. Long fasts should always be done under medical supervision.

Fasting Path: The Way to Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Enlightenment


Anonymous said...

good luck on that diet!

Badwitch said...

Thanks! I've just finished eating pancakes and they were very nice. Not sure I'll feel the same way about the diet :(