Butter Was Once Considered Sacred In Ancient Times

Butter is one of those ingredients that seem commonplace, but it has a rather remarkable invention. The story goes that after a day of walking, a nomadic herdsman noticed that his sheepskin bag of milk had turned into mysterious, delicious golden chunks of butter. While we know that it was likely a result of the churning motion created by the nomad's movement, it's easy to understand how the transformation from milk to butter was seen as somewhat magical at the time. So magical, in fact, that it is believed butter was once offered up to the gods.

In her book "Butter: A Rich History," Elaine Khosrova details the amazing journey of butter from its creation thousands of years ago to today. According to Khosrova, part of that journey included being seen as a sacred object for more than one ancient culture. For example, the author theorizes that the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia made offerings of butter to Inanna, the goddess of love, fertility, and war.

Khosrova also believes that bog butter, huge chunks of thousand-year-old butter buried in Ireland's peat bogs, were placed there to appease certain deities. In her book she writes that "Celtic pagan practices involving butter were fundamentally about imparting a sense of control over destiny," and keeping unworldly fairies satisfied so that they wouldn't cause any trouble.

How butter is still used as an offering to deities

Even today, butter is an important component in some cultures' spiritual practices. Tibetan Buddhist monks, for instance, create "torma," which are intricate designs or sculptures made out of yak butter. These torma are usually carved for certain festivals, such as Losar for the New Year, and often depict Buddhist deities or different animals, like birds and elephants, that have spiritual significance. When the torma are done, they are deemed as a respectable offering up to the gods.

There are many different forms of butter used around the world, and while they aren't all considered sacred, we can see how one may think that. Using nothing but motion to transform a liquid into a solid that makes everything it touches more delicious is quite miraculous. So, the next time you enjoy a slice of toast with a bit of butter — not margarine, an important distinction — remember to appreciate the mystical properties of this wonderful fat.