In other news - now that I've been fasting through the days until the end of next month, I am suddenly inspired by food very much. It's funny how that works, being apathetic until there's no good to come from passion in it. I'm particularly enamored of cheese platters and dark red wines. Also, with heavy pasta dishes with creamy sauces and meat dishes. Maybe I'll do a little food blogging at some point.
The fasting has been going pretty well. My motivation, even though the fast coincides with Lent and some of my practices are tied pretty closely with it, is not Lenten. I don't necessarily give up meat and eggs and dairy products, instead fasting in the manner of Ramadhan for the entire forty days (sun up to sun down, though my current class schedule means that three days a week, I come home and eat a slice of toast and a small cup of juice or milk at around noon), though I don't fast on Sundays in order to keep up an energy reserve. I've fasted for Ramadhan with Muslim friends of mine before and I find that if I don't take a break once a week or so, I get very very sick. Like, in a hospital sick. I'm sure it has something to do with my being 5'6" and anywhere from 115 to 125 ell-bees. Even though I don't impose a particular dietary restriction on myself once the sun goes down, I find that I tend to eat very light foods that are sans dairy and egg and (lots of) red meat any how, as those things tend to overload the system and result in sickness - so my fast actually tends to line up pretty well with that found in Eastern Orthodox churches.
All of this probably seems really out of place for a heathen such as myself. Really though, this ties in directly with my cosmology. You see,the end of the winter months and the start of spring is ritualized and very much involved with the Otherworld, Gods, and Ancestors. The White God (Bieloboh), among West Slavs, is identified primarily with a God names Jarilo - often described as a vegetation God and sometimes identified with the Greek Dionysos. He brings plenty, ecstasy, warmth, pleasure. He rejuvenates the world after the cold, dead winter. When he is reborn every spring, along with his twin sister Morena, they marry and have many children. Toward the end of the year, when the crops are brought in, Morena finds Jarilo was unfaithful, and she murders him, tears his body apart, and build a house from it. Through the winter, she becomes a frustrated old hag - a dangerous Goddess who brings ruin to the world.
When the winter is reaching its end, at the Vernal Equinox, a doll is made that is inhabited by Morena. It is dressed up, paraded through the town, and ritually sacrificed by lighting it on fire, or drowning it, or both. With the sacrifice of Morena, Jarilo is reborn and the cycle begins again.
This ritual is where the justification, rather, the need, for my fasting now is found. My personal faith draws a very strict set of purity standards brought from my Hellenic practice and combined with certain Slavic cultural practices. Historically speaking, I do not think that ancient Slavs necessarily held the same views that I do, but the justifications for certain cultural practices and attitudes/events in myths I think point to an at least similar concept.
To be in the presence of our Gods, I believe that our bodies and minds must be "clean." This includes washing the body thoroughly, wearing clean clothes, and purging the mind of thoughts of food, sex, and other things that would render an impurity. In the winter, my spiritual practice doesn't necessarily stop, but it slows down quite a bit. This has a lot to do with the absence of Ancestors as an active participant and motivation in my religious life and the absence of the Gods I regularly worship from life during those months. A bit of UPG here tells me that the rule of bad spirits and "negative" Gods over the world in the winter leads to a kind of "general impurity" that should be washed away to make way for the new year of bounty in the spring. When Morena leaves and the Black God is defeated again and the evil spirits roaming the world are again pushed away by our Ancestors and the White God, we should meet this time with clean bodies and minds. Hellenic religion does this in its own way at the end of Anthesteria - decloaking the shrines and cleaning away the bad spirits from the homes, commanding them to not return. My own practice puts Anthesteria at the end of March, a week after I take out Morena and coinciding with Easter. That fits more with my cosmology (and moving a festival is not without historical precedent - I'm not Athenian after all), and is in a way for my own benefit; a week of rest between two major festivals.
But, the month long preparation of fasting for me comes directly from Morena. As a Goddess who shall inhabit a space directly, and be directly in the presence of me and my house and family, it is doubly important to be clean. All the impurity of the winter and the year in general needs to be purged; I should be "clean as possible," so to speak. As such, every step must be taken.