Samhain blessings…

May 5, 2016 at 12:26 pm (beltane, Magic, sabbats, samhain, Wheel of the Year) (, , , )

Samhain blessings to everyone in the southern hemisphere, and to those in the north, magical Beltane wishes…

Samhain, the festival of the ancestors and the dead that marks the beginning of winter, falls in early May in the southern hemisphere and early November in the northern hemisphere – and on October 31 in popular culture, where it is celebrated as Halloween. It honours the Wheel of the Year as it turns towards the barrenness of winter, in nature and in our lives, and is a time of withdrawal and withering.

Mythologically, this was when the goddess became the crone, the old one, the wise one – the earth mother who understood, and taught others, that we need darkness and death to have light and rebirth. In some traditions the god descended to the underworld on this day, to await his transformation at the winter solstice; in others he was already there and the goddess returned to be reunited with her consort.

Astronomically, this cross-quarter day falls midway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. In the southern hemisphere, it’s when the sun is halfway between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, on its way north for winter, and it rises in the same position as it will at Imbolc. In the northern hemisphere Samhain occurs six months later, when the sun is heading south from the Equator down to the Tropic of Capricorn.
Samhain, also known as Halloween, All Souls Eve, Day of the Dead, Feast of Spirits, Shadow Fest and Ancestor Night, marks the end of autumn and the start of the coldness and dark of winter. The crispness and vivid flame-coloured beauty of autumn fades as the energy of the earth withdraws and nature starts to wither and die. Animals begin to migrate or hibernate, and while the grass may become green and lush with the onset of rain, many of the trees are stripped bare, with bitterly cold winds adding to the starkness of the season.

This was the third and last harvest of the year, when anything left in the fields, from wheat and oats to turnips and apples, would be gathered in and stored for the barren months ahead. Snow covered the land and fresh food was scarce. Cattle and sheep were brought in from the summer paddocks to the barns, and those who couldn’t find food or shelter were slaughtered and preserved for later eating. Wood was chopped and peat stacked for the winter fires, herbs were dried and food was baked and preserved. Families gathered together to prepare and ready themselves for winter, and there was an air of celebration and abundance even as the hard months approached.

Symbolically the energy is also about preparing for what’s ahead, harvesting and releasing the things you’ve been holding on to and readying yourself for new challenges and experiences. Winter is a season of introspection and darkness, both metaphorically and literally, which encourages you to slow down and withdraw a little to conserve mental energy. It’s a time for inner reflection and contemplation, of studying the Mysteries – of your magical tradition or your life – and scrying for answers and illumination. At each of the four cross-quarter days the veil between the worlds was considered to be thinner than usual, and at this one people connected with the energy of the ancestors, the spirits and the dead, calling on them for wisdom and knowledge about the future as well as the past.
Samhain was the Celtic New Year, the most important, sacred and magical celebration of the pagan calendar. Rituals were performed, elaborate feasts were held, and hearth fires were extinguished in every home so they could be relit from a special druidic fire in each community, which brought blessings and new light to the coming year, and rekindled the hopes and dreams that had been slumbering.

In the northern hemisphere, today is Beltane, also known as Bealtaine (bright fire), May Day, Walpurgis Night, the Festival of Flowers and Floralia. It marks the first day of summer, and the evidence of new life is everywhere, in abundant blossoms, the hatching of birds, and bees pollinating flowers. The seeds planted in spring have germinated and sprouted, and the land is warm, buzzing and green. Brightly coloured flowers were traditionally brought inside to symbolise fresh beginnings and the power of nature, and pretty white blossoms were gathered from the sacred hawthorn tree, which was associated with Beltane and used for love spells, in marriage rituals, to make wands as well as for protection and healing. Women would also bathe their faces in the dew gathered from their garden on Beltane morning to harness the energy of youth.

 

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A Beltane recipe…

May 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm (beltane, Magic, sabbats, samhain, Wheel of the Year) (, , )

Beltane marks the first day of summer, and is representative of vitality, fertility and the energy of the sun, so its foods include luscious fruits like cherries and strawberries, green leaf, herb and flower petal salads, oat or barley cakes, dairy foods and honey. Mead, a type of honey wine, is popular, white wine, white grape juice or mead is often infused with sweet woodruff and served with strawberries to capture the essence of the season, and fruit juices and light floral teas match well too. Herbs of the season include sweet woodruff, meadowsweet, calendula, marjoram, thistle, angelica, apple, cinnamon, vanilla, rose, violet, jasmine, all-heal, cinquefoil, clover, honeysuckle, ivy, lilac, rowan and St John’s wort.

Beltane is a festival of love and romance, and roses and other flowers can be added to your food, used as a garnish or table decoration, woven into a garland for your hair or used in spells for love, which can be as simple as lighting a pink candle and making a wish or soaking in a bath filled with pink rose petals. You can also leave a little plate of nuts, berries and flowers out for the faeries, as this is another cross-quarter day when the veils are thin, and their energy can be drawn upon. Dress in long, swirling clothes with flowers in your hair and dance barefoot on the grass, soaking up the vibration of the earth and of this powerful, potent time.

Edible Flowers

Many flowers are edible, and summer is the perfect time to add some pretty petals to your recipes and strew them in salads. Some edible flowers include marigolds, nasturtiums, violets, pansies, primroses, calendulas, carnations, jasmine, sunflowers, dandelions, lemon verbena, lavender and hibiscus, as well as the flowers of sage, thyme, dill, chives, basil, coriander, bee balm (wild bergamot), sorrel, rocket and borage, plus zucchini and squash blossoms, apple blossoms and banana blossoms. Do always make sure your flowers are fresh and pesticide-free, and that they are the type you think they are, as some plants are poisonous. With some flowers, such as roses and chrysanthemums, only the petals should be consumed. For others, such as violets and nasturtiums, the whole flower can be eaten. And with others, like dandelion and calendula, you can eat the whole plant, although sometimes the petals are the tastiest part.

Flower butter: Combine 250g of butter with half a cup of chopped flower petals, and leave, covered and in a cool dry place, to stand overnight so the flavour of the flowers infuses the butter. Stir again then refrigerate. Use this pretty butter on breads, scones and muffins, and in cake, cookie and dessert recipes.

Floral Ice Cubes: Half fill an ice-cube tray with water and allow to freeze. Once frozen, place a single violet flower, apple blossom, jasmine bloom or rose petal into each ice-cube hole, top up with water and freeze again. Serve in drinks to add a sweet summery vibe and a celebratory look to the meal.

Crystallised Flowers: Beat an egg white and a few drops of water until foamy but not stiff. Using a small paintbrush, paint clean dry flowers such as violets, geraniums, pansies and rose buds with the egg white mixture, then sprinkle with super-fine sugar (use icing sugar or just blend white or raw sugar in a blender), covering the whole surface of each blossom. Leave to dry for a day or two in an airtight container, then use the gorgeous flowers to decorate cakes, ice-cream, desserts and drinks.

Rose Petal Biscuits

Ingredients:
200g butter
½ cup icing sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 tblsp lemon zest
1 tsp rose water or pure vanilla essence
Handful of rose petals (chemical free)

What to do:
Cream the butter and icing sugar, then fold in the sifted flour, lemon zest and rose water or vanilla essence. When well combined, gently stir in the rose petals. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so to keep its shape while baking.
Roll out onto a floured board to around 1cm thick, and use a cookie cutter or the mouth of a glass or a jar to shape into cookies.
Place on a lightly greased cookie tray and bake in a preheated 180C oven for around 20 minutes, or until firm and golden. Cool on a wire rack then serve on a pretty floral plate.

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A Samhain recipe…

May 5, 2016 at 12:22 pm (beltane, Magic, sabbats, samhain, Wheel of the Year) (, , )

Samhain, the festival of the Ancestors and the dead that marks the end of autumn and the beginning of winter, honours the Wheel of the Year as it turns towards the barrenness of the coldest season, in nature and in our lives, and is a time of withdrawal and withering. It is the third and last harvest festival of the year, when anything left in the fields, from wheat and oats to turnips, apples and pumpkins, would be gathered in and stored for the desolate months ahead. Pumpkin pies, apple fritters, roasted turnips, butternut pumpkin casseroles, grainy breads and muffins, nut dishes and other comfort foods align with the earth’s energies at this time, along with mulled wine, cider and warming herbal teas.
Herbs of the season include nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, mugwort and wormwood (both good scrying herbs), sage, mint, chrysanthemum, mullein and thistle, and spicy drinks are popular.

This cross-quarter day is also the time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, when some believe our Ancestors walk freely among us, along with restless spirits, so many Witches leave out offerings of food. Set an extra place at the table for your loved ones who are no longer with you, and honour their memory by telling stories about them and reminiscing about their life. This aspect of the Sabbat led to the images of ghosts and ghouls, Witches on broomsticks, sugar skulls, hollowed out gourds and jack-o-lanterns that are so closely associated with today’s Halloween celebrations.

Pumpkin Fritters

Ingredients:
2 cups mashed pumpkin
½ cup self-raising flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of salt
Pepper, curry powder, chilli flakes or any herb or spice you like
Oil or butter for cooking

What to do:
Combine all ingredients thoroughly, and shape into small round balls, around a tablespoon full in size.
Spoon the mixture into a heated, oiled frying pan and cook for two minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Apple Cinnamon Fritters

Ingredients:
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup water
1 tblsp macadamia oil, plus extra for frying
2 eggs, separated
2 green apples

What to do:
Mix together the flour and cinnamon, then slowly stir in the water and oil. Add the lightly beaten egg yolks and stir well. If you prefer a sweeter taste, add some brown sugar to the batter.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples.
Whisk the egg whites until peaks form, fold them into the batter.
Dip the apple slices in the batter, then fry until they are golden brown on each side. Serve with lemon juice and brown sugar.

 

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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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