In the beginning, there was pasta.
Out of the void sprang a colossal tangle of it accompanied by two proportionately large, red-sauced meatballs. On its first day, soaring through nothingness, this supernatural spaghetti being resolved to split the water from the heavens. And after much flying and building stuff, it grew weary and created somewhere to rest: land and—why not?—a volcano that spat alcohol. Later, after the world’s first hangover, came seas, humans, and the rest of creation.
And so, according to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, our world was formed. This is the creation myth first expounded in 2005 by physics student Bobby Henderson, who argued in an open letter to the Kansas Board of Education that his religion based on pasta was every bit as scientifically valid as Intelligent Design and therefore should be taught in schools. He published the letter and his god’s eight commandments, or I Really Rather You Didn’ts, online and they soon went viral. Around the world, many thousands of self-identifying Pastafarians posted selfies wearing the church’s official headgear, a stainless-steel colander.
One of these devout was Karen Martyn, an enterprising resident of Wellington, New Zealand, who felt convicted by the Monster’s message of ending oppression, fighting bigotry, and consuming pasta. She believed the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster deserved to be recognized as an official Kiwi religion. A corporate governance consultant, she was unfazed by the mountains of paperwork and applied to the Registrar-General’s office in 2015. Her request was granted.
“Easy peasy,” Martyn tells me at a weekly church service in July while handing me a bottle of peppery New Zealand syrah. “Anyone who knows the rules here could’ve got it done.”
Today, Martyn, who is self-possessed with a striking resemblance to Patricia Clarkson, is the Kiwi church’s acting Top Ramen. Her arm of the church doesn’t accept tithes and, so, doesn’t tally membership short of the 4,000 Facebook users who follow its updates. Four of them are gathered here at a home in Wellington this wintry Friday night to honor the Pastafarian Sabbath, as a local Pastafarian-run catering company, Blue Carrot, puts the last touches on tonight’s meal.
The rituals of the service are simple: Gather at a table, connect with other humans, feast on pasta. The attendees, who’ve requested anonymity to avoid the wrath of Christian detractors, begin to pass heaping servings of fettuccine and pleasantly gamy meatballs made from one of New Zealand’s countless sheep. After we’ve all been served, I ask if we’re to pray.
Martyn throws back her head in laughter. “The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a pure carbohydrate deity!” she says with deadpan conviction. “It doesn’t have ears! It won’t hear you. No, let’s just eat.”
One of the key tenets of the religion that attracted Martyn, who was raised Catholic, was its uniform rejection of guilt of any kind, including guilt for eating pasta.
“I remember this song from childhood: Eat his body, drink his blood, and we’ll sing a song of love. It always sounded so cannibalistic,” she says, twirling noodles. “I like to think we’re not actually eating the appendages of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
Transubstantiation, along with the Monster’s ambiguous sex, remains a point of contention among Pastafarians. Counter to purists, Martyn believes in a gender-neutral, inedible creator.
“When I tell people about my religion, the reaction is usually a shrug,” she says, laughing. “As if you’ve just said you were into BDSM. But is it really any more bizarre than any other religion?”
To be clear, not all Pastafarians believe in a literal pasta-fleshed god. “We’re just asking you to be a good person, to maximize the well-being of all sentient beings,” Martyn says. But she and other followers remain deeply committed to the thought. In December 2015, the church ordained its first ministeroni, who performs legally sanctioned weddings.
“So far we only have one ministeroni”—Martyn herself—“but we desperately need more!” she says with a deep sigh. “It’s not for a lack of applications. We had one woman make it all the way to the final stage, but she ended up pulling out. Lived in Auckland, too. We really need someone up there.”
For now, lovestruck pasta believers across New Zealand fly her out for services. She has officiated at dozens of ceremonies, one in which the couple exchanged rings in the shape of spaghetti and meatballs.
As we’re finishing dinner, I ask her why, of all foods, they worship pasta.
“Why pasta?” she asks, her voice gently raised as she takes another sip of syrah. “Because pasta is delicious! You can’t argue with pasta!”
“R’amen!” someone says.