In many Wiccan traditions, it is customary for someone to study for a year and a day prior to being formally initiated. In some cases, it is the standard length of time that must pass between degree levels, once the person is initiated into the group.
Although the year and the day rule for initiates is most commonly found in Wicca and NeoWicca, it occasionally appears in other Pagan paths as well.
Background and History
This time period is based upon a number of early European traditions. In some feudal societies, if a serf ran away and was absent from his lord’s holdings for a year and a day, he was automatically considered a free man. In Scotland, a couple who lived together as husband and wife for a year and a day were accorded all the privileges of marriage, whether or not they were formally wed (for more on this, read about Handfasting History). Even in the Wife of Bath’s Tale, poet Geoffrey Chaucer gives his knight a year and a day to complete a quest.
The year-and-a-day rule is found in a number of cases of common law, both in the U.S. and in Europe. In the United States, notice of intention to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must be made within a year and a day of the alleged incident (this doesn?t mean the lawsuit itself has to be filed in that time frame, simply a notice of intent).
Edwidge Danticat of The New Yorker writes about the concept of the year and a day in Vodou, following the Haitian earthquake of January 2011.
She says, “In the Haitian Vodou tradition, it is believed by some that the souls of the newly dead slip into rivers and streams and remain there, under the water, for a year and a day. Then, lured by ritual prayer and song, the souls emerge from the water and the spirits are reborn… The year-and-a-day commemoration is seen, in families that believe in it and practice it, as a tremendous obligation, an honorable duty, in part because it assures a transcendental continuity of the kind that has kept us Haitians, no matter where we live, linked to our ancestors for generations.”
Familiarizing Yourself with the Practice
For many Pagans and Wiccans, the year-and-a-day study period holds a special significance. If you’ve recently become part of a group, this time period is enough that you and the group’s other members can get to know one another. It’s also a time in which you can familiarize yourself with the concepts and principles of the group. If you’re not part of an established tradition, using the year-and-a-day rule allows you to give your practice structure. Many solitaries choose to study for this time, prior to any sort of self-dedication ritual.
Why Are Some Pagans Vegetarians?
So you’ve found a Pagan group that you’d like to be part of ? and they’ve indicated they’ll welcome you to their numbers ? but a few people in the group have certain dietary guidelines they follow. A few are vegetarian, and a couple are even vegan. Does this mean there are dietary laws within the structure of Wicca and other forms of Paganism?
Not at all!
Did You Know?
? There are no official or universal dietary mandates in Paganism, but it’s okay to rethink your diet for the purpose of entering into a ritual setting.
? Some people choose to do a detox cleanse or fasting prior to ritual, or during certain times of the year, or related to the moon phases.
? Plenty of Pagans (including Wiccans) eat meat and other animal products; some even hunt and kill their own food.
Who Decides What You Eat? You Do!
Although each coven/group/tradition is responsible for setting up their own rules and mandates, there’s not any across-the-board dietary restrictions, no. We don’t have a Pagan equivalent of the Kosher diet. That having been said, there are some Pagans who believe that eating meat violates the concept of “harm none,” as outlined in the Wiccan Rede, so they choose for that reason to become vegan or vegetarian.
On the other hand, there are plenty of Pagans (including Wiccans) who do eat meat and even kill their own food, via hunting, trapping, or fishing, so it really just depends on the group you’re looking at. It may well be just coincidence that the members of the group you’ve met are all vegan. If this group requires you to be vegetarian or vegan as part of membership, and you aren’t down with giving up your carnivorous ways, then this is probably not the right group for you.
“Humans have a tendency, even pagan humans, to place beings in our world (both physical, and their spiritual counterparts) into a hierarchy, with humans at the top, and those beings that most resemble humans higher than those that are more alien to us. Therefore, we assume that because a spirit in a non-human animal body experiences pain and suffering in the same way we do, then its death must be more important than that of a spirit embodied in a plant body, which may not have the same sort of nervous system. Additionally, the individual oak, bigger than we are, evokes more respect than the communal grass that we tread upon.”
Your Diet Impacts How You Feel
Interestingly, many people find that their diet does affect the way they practice. For some of us, on days when there is a ritual planned, meals might include a very light breakfast and lunch, consisting of veggies and fruit, and then forgoing dinner until after the ceremony. You may also find it helpful to drink a ton of water and some herbal iced tea. Many people find that a not-full-of-meat-and-carbs stomach makes them more aware of their environment, and allows them to better work with the energy around them. On the other hand, if you carb-load and eat a bunch of non-plant things during the day prior to ritual, you may find yourself feeling pretty much worthless and unable to focus at all.
There are also many people who do a detox cleanse or fasting prior to ritual, or during certain times of the year, or related to the moon phases.
For many people, there’s a happy medium. Blogger Starweaver says,
“I find myself more in sympathy with indigenous cultures around the world, whose people subsist mostly on plant foods, but who supplement their diet with meat from hunting. When only rudimentary technology is used, a human hunter becomes something like a coyote after a rabbit. Such cultures live in close enough contact with the plants and animals they use for food that they respect them and know the spirit that lives in them. It is very different from the callous, numb consumerism that dictates eating habits in developed countries.”
If you’d like to modify your diet in a way that honors the earth and your belief systems, you can do so without eliminating meat and other animal products from your diet, although this is a very personal choice. Consider the idea of “clean eating,” which is simply about eating whole, unprocessed foods. In addition to fruits and veggies, this includes proteins like meat, eggs, and fish. By simply avoiding added sugars, preservatives, or unnecessary processing, you may find that you feel better overall, both physically and mentally. In addition, many people discover that mindfulness of their foods origins and journey to the table can be an important component to their spirituality.
So, while the short answer is that no, there are no official or universal dietary mandates in Paganism, there’s the long answer, which is that it is perfectly fine to rethink your diet for the purpose of entering into a ritual setting. No matter which way you choose to go with this, it’s a matter of personal preference – do what works best for your body and spirit, and don’t let anyone shame you for your dietary choices.