1. I will maintain purity of body.
This is a Pagan Order, and as such we hold the flesh and the body holy, for it was given to us by the Gods, and was made out of the flesh of Gaea, all of which is also sacred. To live an embodied life in this world is a privilege, not a prison. It may be hard and challenging at times, but even the hardest life is not meant as a punishment. Your karma was not assigned to you out of vindictiveness on the part of the universe. If you were born with a less than perfect body, it is because you needed to learn a lesson in coping with physical limitations.
Your body is a tool given to you for your use. When you dedicate yourself to the Order, you are turning that tool over entirely to the use of the Gods, and They will not be pleased to be given a tool that is used carelessly and thoughtlessly, especially since They entrusted it to your care in the beginning. You must care for your body and keep your flesh as pure as possible, by applying a discipline of purity to its maintenance.
I. Food and Drink
This discipline starts with what you put into your flesh. In order to obey the 4th Principle of Clarity, you must not put any sustenance into your body that was created using methods that harm the Earth. This means that your food must not have been produced in a nonsustainable manner. Ideally, this means vegetable products that were not sprayed with harmful petroleum- based chemicals or farmed in a manner that eventually made the soil unable to sustain its fertility. It means animal products from animals that were treated kindly, given food that was raised sustainably and was appropriate to their species, and killed quickly and cleanly, ideally in a sacred manner.
Sometimes you will not have this kind of food available, and you will have to make do with what you can find. It is less disrespect to the body to give it less-than-ideal food, as long as the meal is balanced, than to starve it. If it is a choice between eating well on non-sustainable food or not eating, go ahead and eat. However, you should simultaneously be working toward getting a supply of sustainably-grown food. Eating less ethical food should be an emergency situation only.
Creating a supply of sustainably-grown food is inconvenient and difficult, especially if you live in a more urban area. However, it is something that you should go to the trouble to create, even if it means getting shares in rural CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture programs, which allow you to buy a share in a local farmer's produce), buying a chest freezer, and carpooling to the country every two weeks. Even if it means putting effort into supporting the creation of CSAs, if there are none in your area. Even if it means lobbying the local store for organic produce, or paying more for "clean" food.
If you live rurally, it goes without saying that your should produce as much of your own food as possible, in order to be self-sustaining, and that it should be farmed with earth-friendly methods. There is a hierarchy of what foods are the most correct for members of this Order; keep this in mind when you plan your location and your food supply. No particular basic food is forbidden, so long as its production methods are ethical. Location of your food, however, should also be taken into consideration. As small family farms are devoured by large factory farms, an ethical community should concentrate on getting as much of their fresh produce as possible from locally-grown small-scale operations.
Foods in order of correctness:
1. Food grown or raised on the property, grown and harvested with your own hands.
2. Organic, sustainably grown food from local low-income non-commercial farmers with whom you have a working relationship.
3. Organic, sustainably grown food from local commercial farmers through a CSA or farmstand.
4. Organic, sustainably grown food from local commercial farms through local co-op stores.
5. Organic, sustainably grown food from distant farms through local co-op stores.
6. Non-organic, non-sustainably grown food from local low-income non-commercial farmers with whom you have a working relationship, although their methods must be examined on a case-by-case basis, and it is acceptable to deny if practices are offensive.
7. Organic, sustainably grown food bought at large supermarkets.
8. Food bought at the supermarket that is simple in its ingredients.
9. Food bought at the supermarket that is processed, or full of chemicals.
The idea is not that 8 or 9 are entirely forbidden or the Gods will be angry. It is that one should strive to eat as low on the chart as is possible without suffering overly much. It is better to eat junk food from the store than to starve. It is better to eat the occasional junk food than to suffer from appetite fatigue and be unable to consume nourishing food. For people living on small pieces of land in an urban area, #1 will not be possible at all, and #2 and #3 achievable only with difficulty. The idea is progress, not perfection. Still, ideally a neo-pagan religious community of any kind would stick to #1-#5 for all group meals.
We understand that this is going to be a source of controversy, but this is a Pagan Order that is inspired by ancient religions, and our ancestors did eat meat. It is the stance of this Order that killing and eating animals, so long as it is done as cleanly as possible, is not wrong. Making an animal suffer is wrong, and much of factory farming does entail the suffering of animals, so one must take great care with the animal products in one's diet. At the time of this writing, the organic animal product market is small and expensive, and part of that is the inconvenience of having to provide organically-raised animals with appropriate feed, living space, and sunshine. This is all the more reason that the Order should support the organic animal-farming movement, even when it means a great inconvenience in money, time, or effort.
When you observe the daily meal suggestions in the Book of Hours, you will notice that there are many vegetarian and vegan days, as well as days with specific kinds of meat and fish, all keyed to honoring the deities in question, and creating a group atmosphere where a great deal of thought goes into meditating on the nature of each deity or principle. It is an immersion technique, as well as a way of serving and honoring the deities, and the food choices are a part of that context. However, as in all groups, there will be people with dietary restrictions - allergies, foods which bother them, etc. - and it is not fair to force someone to eat foods which will make them ill. On the other hand, the needs of someone with special food issues should not dictate the menu of the House. People who cannot or will not eat certain foods cannot demand that they not be served; they can only refrain from eating them, and perhaps make arrangements with whichever members are maintaining the kitchen to find them an alternative on days when they are unable to eat the main dish.
We realize that there will be some people who do not wish to eat meat, and certainly that should be treated like any other dietary restriction. However, eating other living things is what we are designed to do. It is part of the cycle, and plants are just as alive - and just as worthy of life - as any animal. We don't believe that the human race can be convinced to give up meat, nor should they necessarily. The meat should just be harvested in an ecologically conscious way.
It is true that factory farming has a lot of suffering to answer for, and clearly meat that is eaten in the House must be ethical meat in that sense, and just as clearly the best way to do that is to raise and slaughter it yourself, or get it from a trusted neighbor, or at least buy certified- organic-to-standard. But in a pagan faith, the food chain is part of the cycle of life, and regardless of where you prefer to come in, the food cycle should be accepted in its entirety as sacred, and that includes the role of the predator. Nearly every ancient pagan culture had hunter gods. The Hunter in all His forms is one of the oldest gods in existence, and to revile His gift is to dishonor Him. Revulsion at seeing or touching Death is borne out of fear of Death, and we pagans should not fear Death, at least not the way that modern culture fears and avoids it. Death is also sacred.
Some will attempt to claim that if all the land currently in use feeding livestock animals was used to feed humans, we would all have enough food. This is an opinion obviously created by people who never actually farmed. The idea that all land can be used to feed humans is entirely false. Most land won't support agricultural practices. In America today, what was once the best farmland 400 years ago is now under concrete, because our forefathers moved there, made farms and villages, and then covered them with cities. Of the remaining land, some can be farmed, and some can't, at least not without entirely wrecking and replacing the ecosystem, which is not a sustainable way of going about things. On the other hand, livestock animals can sustain themselves on land that will yield nothing at all for a human being to eat - grassland which shouldn't be plowed, scrubby marginal pasture, etc. - and turn it into human food. Animals have always been an important way to get human food from land that won't grow soybeans or barley or lettuce, or anything else that we can eat. If handled properly, livestock animals are a very ecologically safe part of a sustainable food-producing system.
Even if you are personally a devout vegetarian, you should support the organic meat market - perhaps not by buying it yourself, but by buying it for your meat-eating friends, or your House if you are joining this Order. Why do that, if it's nothing to do with you? For the same reason that those who are not people of color should support the civil rights movement, and people who are not HIV-positive should support AIDS research, and people who are not adult females should support breast cancer research, and people who are straight should support gay rights, and so forth. There is no way that the human race is going to stop eating meat altogether, but there is a chance that factory farming can be reformed and organic livestock production can be made de rigeur, if only through economic pressure.....and that will make the world a better place. It's worth it, in the end.
III. Alcohol and drugs
This is a more controversial area, in many ways, than food. Buddhist monks are forbidden any kind of mind-altering substance, as it is said to retard their ability to achieve samsara, or mindfulness. Catholic monks have been allowed alcohol since their beginnings - medieval monks were sometimes infamous for ale consumption - and some brew famous liqueurs as their hallmarks, such as Chartreuse and Benedictine. Wine is one of the sacraments, which the priest drinks as a matter of course, and it is considered merely something to gently partake of in small amounts. In all cases, out-and-out drunkenness to the point of loss of self-control seems to be an obvious point to restrict consumption. However, should one go further with this? If we look at the situation from a polytheistic pagan viewpoint, what do we come up with?
In almost every European culture, the god who is associated with mind-altering drink and drugs is one of the Sacrificed Kings. In ancient Greece, the wine-god is the infamous and widely revered Dionysos; in the Norse cultures there is Ing the beer god; in India, Shiva was the patron of hemp. Even the Aztecs had Patecatl the mezcal god. His gift of altered states is considered a sacred thing, something to be welcomes as a way to touch the divine. Yet there are points against it, as well. One is that by its very nature, monasticism is about discipline, even to the point of asceticism sometimes, and not loss of self-control. Yet the gods were often honored with wine or beer, or mead, especially if they were gods of the harvest or sacrifice, and sacrifice has a useful place in a pagan religious community.
In the mysteries of Dionysos, they spoke of two kinds of madness: the Greater and the Lesser. The Greater Madness is the denial of all that is spirit, the idea that our existence is, at the core, no more than the daily drudgery of unquestioned work, survival, and adherence to arbitrary social codes. The Lesser Madness, which is the altered states of the wine-god and his mushroom- eating Maenads, throws one out of the cycle of drudgery and reminds one that there is something greater than this mere daily existence. For this alone we should hold Dionysos and his kin, and their ambivalent gifts, holy and worthy of reverence. If the Gods did not want us to have the use of such substances, we they would not be here for us to take.
Note that we said "have the use of", not "use". When one is living in a religious community, the sacred is all around - one is steeped in it - and one creates an altered state merely by going through the pattern of the path. Using the Sacred Plants to get there is not necessary. However, to deny or even to ignore the Gods of Sacrifice, and their traditional sacrament, would be disrespectful to them. Therefore, we offer different types of alcohol for libation to the deities who appreciate it. It is passed around to share at the end of most of the rituals that involve it, and it is served at the daily meal in their honor. No one is required to drink it; if it is part of one's vows to avoid it, merely pouring a little into the libation well will be sufficient.
In order to maintain purity of body, yet still honor the Gods of Vine and Barley, it is acceptable to have enough alcoholic beverage under these circumstances as will not alter your state and/or impair your usefulness. Recreational consumption is prohibited; the only interaction that a member of the Order should have with alcohol is as a sacred substance. Non-alcoholic drugs are prohibited entirely, because it is impossible to accurately manage a similar amount of substance to the "one sip at the ritual" or "one drink at dinner in honor of X", and also because they have no cultural food value at the meal. One toke of weed, or one mushroom, or tab of acid, will affect you much more than a sip of wine, and your intake will be much less easy to control, and would spill over all too quickly into impairment. This may seem arbitrary to those who know their bodies well, but calibrating a non-impairing amount of these substances for a widely varying group of people is impossible. There is also the very obvious reason that many of them are illegal, and likely to get you closed down.
Some may worry about the community member who is in recovery from alcohol abuse, and has to see alcohol passed or see it on the table at dinner. Some individuals who are in recovery feel that they must insulate themselves from ever seeing or being near alcohol or they will backslide into abusing it. While we agree that recovery is a painful and difficult process, we feel that in the disciplined communal setting of a House, everyone can work together to keep one particular member from going down that road. First, it is assumed that the individual in question was honest with the House Mama or Papa on the way in, and explained their alcohol issue. Second, it is assumed that refraining from alcohol will become part of their personal vows, unless they wish to take the more difficult path of learning to drink once and no more, without backsliding. Thirdly, it is assumed that their brothers and sisters in the House will collude to keep them from disgracing their vows. Ritual alcohol is passed in public, and alcohol to honor a deity at meals is drunk in public; no one should drink in private, or for recreational purposes. Therefore, any alcoholic in recovery will not have the chance to do more than be tempted, and wrestling with temptation in a disciplined environment is good for you.
Addiction of any kind is, of course, not acceptable. This does not include only an addiction to illegal drugs, or cigarettes, or alcohol. It might include an addiction to sugar, or certain behaviors. The idea is to be able to have control over what goes into your body, not to let it have control over you. If you are addicted to something that is not necessary to your health, and which you can do without, you should work on doing without it until such time as you can take it cleanly, without compulsion.
This is also an area of ambivalence and difficulty, and great personal responsibility. Each individual must make their own decisions, as objectively as possible, as to whether a particular medication is necessary or not. If you have a medical problem that requires certain medications or your physical health will suffer, to go without that treatment is abuse of your body, and a dishonor to Those to whom you have offered it. For example, if you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, you owe it to the Gods to keep your body healthy with attention to diet and medication.
As another example, doctors often hand out psychiatric medications without careful investigation to find out whether the problem is actually a built-in ongoing neurobiological imbalance, or just a current psychological problem. Some rationalize this by saying that psychiatric drugs - some of which can barely be qualified as other than addictive recreational drugs - are "necessary" to temporarily help someone "rise above" their current negative feelings so that they can get the objectivity to work through the psychological problems that cause them. This is unnecessary for someone living in religious community; artificially "removing" negative feelings that are caused by something external is all too often a way to ignore the underlying cause, and part of our striving for mindfulness involves struggling directly with our monsters, with no comfortable buffers of chemicals between us and them. Great care must be taken in this situation to determine whether there actually is a permanent biological imbalance. Try praying and asking the Gods.
However, there is a difference between long-term medication that is necessary in order to solve an ongoing health problem, and short-term medication that is necessary to solve a temporary issue. In accordance with Principle #4, whenever you can use a natural remedy (vitamins, minerals, garlic, herbs, hot steam, etc.) that will solve the problem just as well as a prescription pharmaceutical, use it. Running to the doctor for a cold is only useful when those other remedies have failed, in which case it is imperative. Use your judgment.
In the case of medication, the House Mama or Papa should let each individual make their own decisions. Much as they may disapprove of a particular choice, they do not live in that person's body, and they cannot intuitively decide what is necessary for them. They may advise, but they may not order otherwise, because the price of an incorrect decision is so drastic. The one exception is if they see a decision to limit medication that is actually necessary, and it is interfering seriously with long-term wellness.
The purpose of the hour of Gymnastika is a commitment to the exercise needs of the body. The ancient Greeks and Romans deliberately inserted an hour for exercise, as they also held the body to be sacred. We pagans do not mortify or neglect the flesh. Exercise can be a discipline in and of itself.
However, in any given community, there will be many people of different ages and levels of decrepitude. Although all should partake in Gymnastika in some way, it may be that separate "tracks" of exercise are needed, perhaps harder forms for those who are younger and/or healthier, and softer forms for those who are partially, or more than partially, disabled. The House Mama or Papa should take the physical capabilities of each of their members into account, and set up what is necessary to make sure that everyone is able to participate.
As a lay member, you should do what you can to eat as clean as possible, make good judgments about your medications, and create an exercise regimen. You may not be in a position to eat as low on the correct food chart as those living in a House, but you can slowly work up to a healthier diet. While you are actively supporting the consumer culture with your paycheck, put it toward local and organic food whenever possible. There is no reason why you cannot abstain entirely from recreational mind-altering substances, however, and you should do it.
While you are trying to honor the dietary rules in your own home, you must make sure that your discipline does not inconvenience others with whom you live and work. Do not force it on them, or force them to change their habits for you. Your convenience is the one that is irrelevant here. Do it quietly, without making a show or a scene.
[Order of the Horae]