Many, many years ago I was watching a cooking show by Geoff Jansz. He was doing an Easter Simnel Cake and explained that the eleven marzipan balls that top the cake were representatives for the twelve disciples – Judas was naturally omitted. Jansz proceeded to put a 12th ball on the cake explaining that “two thousand years is a long time to hold a grudge”. Once I finished rolling on the floor laughing, I researched the cake and made my own version. I even made a cupcake variation!
This made me think about Easter, food, religion and tarot – popular topics for me.
When I think of Easter I think of the Tarot card the Hierophant. Hierophant is an ancient Greek word for someone who is skilled in the art of interpreting sacred and holy texts. The Rider-Waite Hierophant card features a man sitting on a throne between two pillars. He wears a crown on his head and his red gown and white shoes are both decorated with crosses. The Hierophant holds a scepter in his left hand, his right hand points to the heavens. At his feet are two crossed keys. Two figures kneel before him, one wearing a gown decorated with red roses, the other gown is decorated with white lilies. The Hierophant stands for conformity, education, good counsel and religious guidance. He is the link between Heaven and Earth and is the male spiritual counterpart to the female High Priestess. The name Hierophant may be of ancient Greek origin but the traditional symbology of the tarot card is distinctly Christian, which is why many decks call this card the Pope.
When you think of the Pope, the last thing you may think of is food. Yet food is intimately linked to religion. From the Christian ritual of communion to Pagan feasts, food has been one way of communing with the Gods. Easter is one of the most religious and food oriented celebrations on the Christian calendar. It is called a Moveable Feast as, unlike Christmas which is celebrated on a fixed date, Easter’s date changes yearly. The reason for Easter’s moveability is that it is based on the cycle of the moon and the Spring Equinox. To confuse the issue, Orthodox and Western Christianity argue about how to measure when these astronomical events occur. That’s why you sometimes have two Easters. Like the Hierophant himself, Easter’s dependence on lunar, solar and seasonal cycles harks back to ancient Pagan festivities.
Before Christians began arguing about full moons and equinoxes, Pagans around the world had been celebrating equinox festivals for ages. The Northern Hemisphere Spring Equinox ritual is a celebration of life and rebirth after the harshness of Winter. Christianity easily adapted its message of life, death and resurrection to this festival. Easter therefore incorporates the foods, ingredients, and rituals of many diverse cultures.
Last week I posted my recipe for Coffee Lamb Cutlets which can be an Easter dish as it combines the symbolism of lamb with that most religious and worshipful of all foods Coffee! I’d love to hear about your Easter traditions and recipes – whatever their origin.
So to bring this discussion full circle I will return to the tarot Hierophant. When I was creating my Dracula Tarot there was only one choice for this card – Abraham Van Helsing. The most famous of all vampire hunters combines an intellectual understanding of medicine, science and philosophy with arcane knowledge on the supernatural and a deep belief in religion, Christianity and the might of God. He uses the power and knowledge of the Hierophant to save souls and destroy the vampire Dracula. So what would Van Helsing’s favourite Easter food be? Hot Cross Buns! I can just imagine Van Helsing warding off Dracula with a large yeast bun 🙂