“Man should not live on bread alone. And also sometimes, fuck bread.” -God.
Growing up in a Christian cult, I was lucky enough to participate in many an Old Testament holiday. That’s right; Christmas, Halloween, Easter, birthdays, and anything remotely glistening with festive innocence was dragged kicking and screaming into the spotlight of historical and dogmatic scrutiny and deemed pagan and forbidden. Because nothing says childhood like cynical asceticism. No, I didn’t get fun holidays. I got things like fasting.
This would have all been a boon to my ritually-inclined side if there had been any sort of coherence to the logic behind these rituals that seemed to serve no purpose other than self-punishment, but for little-bitty-Brian, there were no such reasons. I was offered no explanation that fasting, for instance, induced altered states, but instead given a flimsy logic involving frailty and dependence. There was never any sign in my father or mother’s eyes that it made sense to them, only a sense of duty and expectation. Like with taxes.
Even now that I am fully-grown and have my own practice full of ritual, I thought it might provide a way-in to a means of understanding these customs, but Passover was two nights ago and as I helped my grandmother put all the leavened food in a trash bag (one that would not go into the compost pile due to nuanced biblical law but be sent to the landfill to rot amongst non-biodegradables) I couldn’t help but fall into analysis.
The idea of this holy holiday, as I was always taught, is that yeast represents our sin and that for the sake of a ritual exercise, we will expel all sin from our property and lives in order to better understand what it will be like when Christ returns. Now, even if I ignore the irrefutable fact that from a cognitive sensory perspective this essentially equates Jesus’ comeback story with a removal of variety and enjoyment, I cannot ignore the audacity of both referring to something as ubiquitous and ethereally present as yeast as “sin” nor can I fathom what possesses the keepers of this holiday into thinking that something floating in the air around us all the time can ever be purged. You’re literally breathing it, even when you choose to eat flatbread for one week.
Yeast is our friend. The baker is it’s business partner and many of yeasts’ relatives keep your belly producing the right amounts of dopamine. Yeasts are actually fungi and I could literally write a book (and I am) about the occult relationship between humans and fungi, and I’m not even talking about psilocybin here. Just fungi. The stuff that almost definitely came here from space and transmuted the rock into nutrients for bacteria and eventually plants to thrive on. I’m supposed to equate that with sin?
In my mind, the numerous myths about the earth-mother or goddess sending forth a spirit to shape the land, a spirit of breath or air, does little in the way of excluding yeast from this perfect world when we consider that it’s ancestors likely shaped this world for us. There is a popular theory that water first came to Earth in the form of a giant frozen ice-cube, we already know that spores can survive being frozen, and some can even survive the vacuum of space. So let’s take a look at a popular story amongst practitioners of this yeast-banishing holiday, just for the sake of occulted perspective, from the viewpoint of the consciousness of the fungi itself, just floating in a block of ice near it’s spores and looking for a place to create a world. Remember ‘waters’ can be frozen and ‘without form and void’ could easily describe the planet pre-H2O.
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
Now what happens when that consciousness in a chunk of ice careening towards our solar system feels the warmth of our sun? After all, you can’t have biological life without heat as far as we know.
“And God saw the light, that it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness.”
Now, if you are floating in space, it would always be daytime. But the second you descend to earth, from your perspective, you would have “created” night and day by “separating” the light from the dark through a change in vantage point.
Then, skipping to verse 6, we get some insight into what it would have been like in the very first days of mushy, water-filled Earth. Hundreds of thousands of years of chemical reactions, gasses forming and expelling, water sinking deeper into the earth before boiling back up into the atmosphere. This was one of the most violent and crazy times on the face of this planet, as the water cycle found its groove.
“And God said, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.”
And now we have rain, snow, clouds, etc. Due to some findings in 2019, scientists are fairly certain that fungi crawled onto the land long before the beginnings of plants or animals did thus juxtaposing my Genesis thought-experiment with the various messages transmitted to Terrence McKenna by the mushroom consciousness telling the exact same story. Look it up.
Feel free to follow the rest of genesis through the evolution of plants, then animals, and then finally the break in ice ages with God “resting,” and all the while it’s far too easy to imagine yeast’s common ancestor observing the whole thing unfolding through an experience of time that is wholly unlike our own. Anyone who has communed with mushrooms knows that time is not the same for them and they enjoy showing this off to us monkeys.
All it would take is one person on a meal’s worth of psilocybe asking to be shown where we came from, then passing that story on orally until it became doctrine many generations after it was first told. I probably would have called the voice “God” too after an experience like that.
Back to here and now, as I watched the yeasts being demonized and my grandparents seeming to act more out of obligation to rules they don’t need to understand in order to follow, I realized exactly what ritual means to me. The occulted relationships between us and other living things, like yeasts, already have stories present. Vast, rich stories that tell the true-true of our relationality. When we go ascribing meaning all willy-nilly it’s no different than interspecies racism.
Truly, and above everything else, ritual is about what makes sense to me and making a pariah out of the being that may have actually done all that legwork just doesn’t. The spirit of the power of the air just might be the same one that makes your bread rise.
Put that in your animist pipe and smoke to your heart’s content.
Thanks for listening.