7 Gluten-Free Ways to Celebrate Autumn

Like many of us, I grew up eating all manner of gluten filled foods. As the darkness of evening arrived sooner and frost glazed the fading foliage, hearty breads, sublimely scented cinnamon rolls, pumpkin cookies, and scores of other autumnal baked goods filled our table and tummies alike.

Jump ahead to my mid-twenties, which was about a decade ago now, and suddenly gluten and I weren’t getting on so well (to put it mildly!) Long story short, it turned out that like approximately 1% of the North American population, I have celiac disease.

Though the scope of symptoms and severity of how gluten impacts each individual with this chronic illness varies, it’s critical to our health that everyone with Celiac Disease, as well as gluten allergies and sensitives, avoid consuming any form of gluten. While gluten-containing foods are common amongst the eight Pagan sabbats that many of us observe, they have a natural affinity with the three harvest related festivals of Lammas, Mabon, and Samhain, respectively.

After all, it is during the final weeks of summer and early months of autumn that, just as it has been for thousands of years now, much of the foods that we rely on to nourish our bodies and keep hunger at bay through the long, cold winter months is harvested.

While few amongst us still grow, gather and process our own wheat (and other staple grain crops, such as corn and barley), as Pagans we often feel an especially close tie to the changing cycles of the year and the autumn time bounty that Mother Nature offers up to us.

Lammas especially, as well as Mabon, is closely linked to the grain harvest. However, Samhain is also tied to the veneration, bounty, and consumption of wheat and other grains (for example, the long-standing tradition of including Soul Cakes at the final autumn sabbat).

While, thankfully, more and more gluten-free options exist in general these days than ever before, it can still be challenging at times to approach the harvest sabbats from a gluten-less perspective.

Fortunately, you don’t have to throw in the towel (or altar cloth!) by any means. If gluten is, quite literally, off the table for you due to any number of reasons (medical, weight management, personal choice, etc), read on for several wonderful ways that you can still honour the autumn sabbats every bit as much as though you were winnowing your own wheat.

If you’re able to safely consume corn products, they’re an excellent, seasonally appropriate choice for the fall sabbats. From cornbread to hushpuppies, polenta to cornmeal waffles, corn chowder to cornmeal stuffing, corn makes for a wonderful harvest season mealtime option, the colour of which often jives with that of the last vibrant days of summer into early fall.

Bake or buy breads that are completely gluten-free. This one might seem obvious, but you can think beyond the standard GF loaves and look for ways to further enforce the harvest season’s scrumptious offerings by purchasing (or making your own) breads that include ingredients such as pumpkin, zucchini, apples, pears, sunflower seeds, and pepitas. And while you’re at it, why not add in some warming, deliciously scented spices or herbs that are strongly linked to this beautiful chapter of the year, such as sage, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, anise, and cloves (after all, the more kitchen magick, the merrier!).

Bread need not technically contain any type of grain to honour the spirit of the harvest season and what it represents for humanity in general, its ancient connections, and its importance in today’s world. If you cannot, or opt not to, eat any type of grain, there are still various types of breads (and other baked goods) that can be made and used to celebrate Lammas, Mabon and Samhain. Some examples of fully grain-free breads include assorted versions made with ingredients such as nut flours, buckwheat, quinoa, coconut flour, tapioca, sweet potato, and pumpkin.

If you’re a fan of including cakes and ales as part of your sabbat (or esbat) celebrations, track down gluten-free beers and ales to pair with homemade GF cakes, biscuits, or other tasty baked goods (if you can’t find GF beer or ale at your local liquor shop, numerous brands are now available for sale online in some parts of the world). Or, conversely, opt for another GF alcoholic or non-alcoholic fall time perfect beverage, such as wine, mead, apple juice or cider, pear juice, or pumpkin spice coffee, cocoa or tea.

Instead of getting literal, why not create (or buy) gluten-free baked goods in harvest season shapes that celebrate this festive time of the year. You need not be a master cake decorator or pastry chef to do so either. Cookie cutters, for example, are available in a huge range of shapes, including many pertaining to fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving that work wonderfully for our Pagan feasts, too (think ears of corn, pumpkins, sheaves of wheat, apples, and even ones shaped like loaves and slices of bread).

Set a tablescape that embraces the grain harvest without introducing any actual gluten into the equation. Earthy tones of yellow, gold, taupe, brown and faded green can be found in a wide range of dishes, mugs, glasses, table linens, candles, centerpieces, and seasonal décor, as can examples that showcase everything from bundles of wheat to cornucopias.

Create a piece of art or other homemade masterpiece that depicts the harvest season and place it on the table where you most commonly eat, in your kitchen, or in even inside or your pantry. This handmade visual representation of grains can have every bit as much meaning and significance as chomping down on a slice of whole wheat bread.

Just because gluten is a no-go for yourself or someone you care about, as these ideas demonstrate, it doesn’t mean that you can’t actively and enthusiastically continue to embrace the broader picture that is this important chapter of the agricultural year.

These days, as the leaves don their fall time best and the nights once again grow chilly and dark early, I carry on the culinary traditions of my childhood. Only now, I do so with a generous stash of gluten-free flours, cornmeal, and ground nuts to hand so that I can insure my body feels as healthy as my soul is happy about the return of harvest season.

Are you a fellow GF witch, Wiccan or Pagan? If so, what are some of your favourite ways to celebrate the fall sabbats with nary a speck of gluten in sight?

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