Lughnasadh kitchen witchery…

February 4, 2016 at 3:06 am (Imbolc, sabbats, Wheel of the Year, With thanks) (, , , )

bloglughnsdLughnasadh ~ Summer’s End

Seasonal foods and herbs play a large part in witchy celebrations, so below are a few of the Lughnasadh recipes I experimented with for Witchy Magic.

And an Imbolc one for my friends in the northern hemisphere…

Lughnasadh marks the end of summer and the first harvest festival, and it has long been a time of feasting and of thanksgiving for the life-giving properties of the grain. In honour of the Celtic Sun God Lugh, people sacrificed the first sheaf of corn, the first wheat stalk, the first fruits, the first loaf of bread, back to the land and to the Earth Mother. Today, the beginning of autumn is still a time of first harvests. Fruit picking, grape harvesting and wine making begins, and golden wheat fields cover the paddocks. Wild berries hold the energy of this season – blueberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries, elderberries, sloe (blackthorn berries) – all lusciously ripe and bursting with flavour, along with grapes, pears, apples, nuts, seeds and warming gingerbreads.

Sunflower seeds are gathered, and fruit and vegies are preserved to eat throughout winter.
Herbs include ginger, basil, vervain, elder, comfrey, ginseng, calendula, meadowsweet, yarrow, mugwort, milkweed as well as hops and chamomile, which some traditional cultures made dream pillows from in order to promote sleep and ease insomnia. Herb gathering and drying continues at this time, to prepare for the winter, and magical oils and essences are made from fresh herbs for healing and spellwork in the coming year.

Grains play a big part at this time of year – another name for Lughnasadh is Lammas, from the Old English for loaf feast, and all kinds of breads, cakes and muffins are baked from the abundance of grains – wheat, corn, rye, oat, barley, rice. You can bake bread as part of your ritual, or buy prepared dough and then divide it into three and add different seeds or grains to each one, changing the colour so you can plait the three strands together before baking.

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Gingersnap Cookies

Ingredients:
✩ 185g butter, softened
✩ 1 cup brown sugar
✩ ½ cup golden syrup
✩ 1 egg, lightly beaten
✩ 1 tblsp grated fresh ginger
✩ 2 cups plain flour
✩ 1 tsp baking soda
✩ 1 tsp ground cinnamon
✩ 1 tsp ground ginger
✩ ½ tsp ground nutmeg

What to do:
★ Cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the golden syrup. Add the egg and the fresh ginger, and mix well.
★ In another bowl combine the flour, baking soda and spices, then gradually fold it in to the butter-sugar mixture. Knead dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so.
★ Roll into teaspoon-sized balls and place on a lightly greased cookie tray, with space between each one. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm, fresh from the oven, or allow to cool on a wire rack.

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Candied Ginger and Ginger Tea

Ingredients:
✩ 1 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
✩ 4 cups water
✩ 2 cups raw sugar, plus extra
✩ Pinch of salt

What to do:
★ Place the ginger slices in a pot, add 2 cups of water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and leave to simmer for around 15 minutes.
★ Drain the liquid into tea cups and drink, adding a touch of honey if you wish. Ginger tea is warming, soothing and good for an upset tummy, and tastes wonderful. You can also allow the ginger water to cool then serve over ice, garnished with fresh mint leaves.
★ Add sugar, salt and 2 cups of water to ginger in pot and bring to boil. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until syrup thickens.
★ Remove from heat and drain the ginger syrup into a jar (it can be used in cooking or poured over cakes, pancakes or other desserts).
★ Coat the slices of ginger in sugar, and leave on a wire rack overnight to dry out. Store at room temperature in an airtight container, or leave the ginger in the syrup and store in the fridge – it will last for several months.

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Basil Tea

Basil tea is light and savoury, with a soothing effect on digestion and tummy upsets as well as on sore throats and mouth ulcers. It has also long been used to relieve anxiety and insomnia.
✩ Place half a cup of fresh basil leaves in a teapot, and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Top with the lid to retain the essential oils. Allow to steep for five minutes, then strain into cups.

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Imbolc Recipes

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Lemon Balm Bread

Ingredients:
✩ ¾ cup milk
✩ 1 cup fresh lemon balm, plus 2 tblsps
✩ 1 tblsp fresh lemon thyme
✩ ½ cup butter, softened
✩ 1 cup sugar
✩ 2 eggs
✩ 2 cups plain flour
✩ 1½ tsps baking powder
✩ Pinch of salt
✩ Zest of one lemon
✩ ¼ cup icing sugar
✩ 2 tblsps lemon juice

What to do:
★ Combine milk, one cup of lemon balm and the thyme in a saucepan. Gently bruise herbs to release the oils. Bring to the boil then remove from heat; cover and allow to cool. Strain and reserve the liquid, then discard the herbs (strew them on your garden).
★ Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
★ In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, a small amount at a time, alternating with the reserved milk. Chop remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon balm and add to the batter, then stir in the lemon zest.
★ Pour batter into a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake at 165C for 45 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
★ Combine the icing sugar and lemon juice, mix until smooth, then pour over the cooled bread if desired.

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Bride’s Bread

Soda bread is made from buttermilk, flour and salt, with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) instead of yeast – the buttermilk acidifies the baking soda and helps the bread rise a little, although it’s still much flatter than a normal loaf. Soda breads include Australian dampers, Scottish bannocks, Irish soda breads and other similar loaves, and are quick to make, requiring very little mixing or kneading.
Imbolc is dedicated to Bride, the Maiden Goddess, and you can dedicate your loaf to her by adding any seeds you like – sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, poppy, linseeds, caraway – or make it a sweeter loaf by adding raisins and a spoon or two of honey.

Ingredients:
✩ 1 cup plain wholemeal flour
✩ 1/3 tsp baking soda
✩ 1/3 tsp salt
✩ Handful of seeds
✩ ½ cup buttermilk

What to do:
★ Combine the dry ingredients, then stir in the buttermilk. Mix until well combined, shape into a rounded loaf and place on a greased baking tray. Cut a deep cross in the top of the loaf, which helps it cook through. Bake in a preheated 200C oven for around 30 minutes. Tap the bottom of the loaf to test it – if it sounds hollow it’s ready to eat! Butter with your fresh butter and eat warm!

✩ You can also make buttermilk by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and letting it stand for five minutes, or buy it at the supermarket, although this obviously has more additives.

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Bride’s Scones

Ingredients:
✩ 50g butter
✩ 2 cups self-raising flour
✩ 1 cup buttermilk
✩ 1 tblsp honey (or more to taste)
✩ 1 tsp pure vanilla essence

What to do:
★ Rub the butter through the flour, then add the other ingredients and mix well. The mixture should be quite wet.
★ Knead lightly, then shape into balls and flatten a little. Place on a greased baking tray and glaze the top of each scone with milk.
★ Bake them in a preheated 220C oven for around 15 minutes, or until golden brown and firm, and cooked right through. (The size of each scone will influence the cooking time.)
★ Serve the scones warm from the oven with fresh butter.

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Imbolc Tea

✩ 1 tsp chamomile flowers per person
✩ 1 tsp finely sliced fresh ginger per person
✩ 1 tsp honey per person, to taste
✩ 1 cup boiling water per person

Pour water over the chamomile and ginger, steep for five minutes then serve hot with honey, or allow to cool and serve over ice. Red clover, dandelion and nettle teas are also good choices at this time of year. Red clover is a blood purifier that has traditionally been used as a cough remedy and to ease respiratory problems and skin inflammation. Dandelion is a great detoxifier, playing an important role in liver cleansing programs, and eases digestive disorders and reduces inflammation. And nettle has anti-inflammatory properties, boosts immunity and helps ease the physical effects of stress.

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Make Your Own Butter

You may have accidentally discovered how to do this while whipping cream for desserts. All you need is some heavy whipping cream and a glass jar with a lid that seals tightly. (Or you can use hand-held beaters or a blender, but the jar option is more fun!)
✩ Pour the cream into the jar, no more than half full, and start shaking vigorously. Depending on how much cream you used, it can take from 10 minutes to half an hour, but it’s good for the arm muscles! It will start to form into yellow clumps – this is the butter. The liquid is buttermilk, so drain it off and use it in cooking (it’s yummy in pancakes, and can also be used to make soda bread).
✩ If you want it to keep for some time, place the butter in a strainer and rinse it with water, kneading any extra buttermilk out. Add a touch of salt if you want to (it will preserve it for longer), or add some honey if you’ll be using it for sweet treats, some herbs for savoury toast, or garlic if you want to make garlic bread.

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Lughnasadh blessings…

February 4, 2016 at 2:42 am (Magic, Wheel of the Year, With thanks) (, , , , )

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Wishing all my friends in the south a magical Lughnasadh, and those in the north an enchanting and enchanted Imbolc… On this day of gratitude and thanksgiving, I am grateful for my love-filled life, and all the blessings I have – a loving hubby, close family and friends, clean water, good food, good health, a job that pays the bills, a wonderful home, the right to choose, the right to vote, the right to an education, access to health care and (for the most part) equality…

From Into the Mists…

The ritual Carlie attended was Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas, which is celebrated in the first week of August in the northern hemisphere and the first week of February in the south, and marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. It’s the first harvest festival, traditionally a time of feasting and of thanksgiving for the life-giving properties of the grain, as well as a recognition of the cycle of sowing and reaping of the crops – and of the symbolic things you grow and create in your life.

It’s a day of harvesting the fruits of your labours and acknowledging your successes and what you’ve achieved in the past year. Celebrate the goals you’ve reached and have your own festival of gratitude, in whatever form that takes. Toast your success, throw a party or do something special to mark the occasion. Make a list of all the things you’ve gained over the past year – the gifts you’ve been given, the new talents you’ve developed, the friends you’ve made, the experiences you’ve had, the healings you’ve received – and give thanks for it all.

Then, out of gratitude and in the spirit of the ancestors who shared the bounty of their harvest with those less well off, pay your good fortune forward. Donate to a local charity, as Rose and her friends do, lend to a business in the developing world, or give your time to help someone, ensuring the energy of abundance continues and is strengthened. Give joyfully, with no expectation of receiving anything in return. And work out small ways you can make a difference to the people around you all year long as well.

As the energy begins to subtly slow, this is also a time to be patient and to trust that everything is as it should be, because there are still harvests to come. Not everything has to be achieved right now – some things take longer to manifest. The lesson of the Wheel of the Year is that everything continues, everything happens when it should, and everything is eternal.

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