4 Delicious Food-Related Religious Myths

John Ueland
John Ueland / John Ueland

This story originally appeared in print in the November 2014 issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe to our print edition here, and our iPad edition here.

By Gabe Luzier

These myths are so good they'll make you forget eating Paleo.

1. Eating like a bird

The gods of the Greek pantheon were no strangers to lavish gifts, but when a flight of doves introduced them to sweet ambrosia, it became a staple at Mount Olympus. Greek authors, though, weren’t sure whether the treat was a food or a beverage. (Some scholars think ambrosia was honey. Others, psychoactive mushrooms.) For their part, the doves never divulged where they got the sweet in the first place.

2. The lord of party crashing

Food has never been easy to come by in the Australian outback, so you can imagine how angry the locals got when one deity started hoarding all the grub for himself. Luma-luma was a supernatural whale who disguised himself as a man to teach Gunwinggu aborigines dancing and painting. Problem was, the gluttonous god made all the food at his worshipers’ feasts taboo so only he could eat it. At first, he was only shunned—penance for taking more than his fair share at the local feasts—but when Luma-luma began raiding a mortuary for a snack, the tribesmen banded together and drove the mooching whale-lord back into the sea.

3. A peachy secret to eternal life

Ever wonder how deities keep themselves fit for so long? According to Chinese mythology, it’s all in a steady diet of peaches. But not just any peaches—only those grown in the goddess Xi Wang-mu’s garden. The magic peaches take millennia to ripen, but that didn’t stop the trickster god Monkey from devouring an entire crop one year. Monkey was expelled from heaven as punishment, sentenced to a lifetime of inferior stone fruit.

4. The burp that made a goddess

Even gods have trouble telling when they’ve had one too many. That’s what happened to Daksha—the son of the Hindu god Brahma—when he felt a powerful thirst for primeval milk. In a story recounted in the Indian epic Mahabharata, Daksha made himself sick by drinking too much of the nectar-like amrita that had risen to the surface of the churning cosmic ocean. When Daksha gave a godly belch, he spewed out the sacred cow goddess Kamadhenu-Surabhi. The divine mother of all cattle, Daksha’s burp-baby has been serving up benevolence with a side of dairy to pious Hindus ever since.