Why Are Some Pagans Vegetarians?

Family Preparing Salad In Garden
Do you have to go vegetarian to be Pagan?. Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

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!

Healthy vegetarian meal
demaerre / Getty Images

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.

Witchvox blogger Lupa writes,

"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

Chicken meat
cometary / Getty Images

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.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Why Are Some Pagans Vegetarians?" Learn Religions, Aug. 28, 2020, learnreligions.com/are-all-pagans-vegetarians-2561850. Wigington, Patti. (2020, August 28). Why Are Some Pagans Vegetarians? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/are-all-pagans-vegetarians-2561850 Wigington, Patti. "Why Are Some Pagans Vegetarians?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/are-all-pagans-vegetarians-2561850 (accessed March 25, 2023).