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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Happy New Year…

December 31, 2015 at 12:39 pm (Magic, Wheel of the Year, With thanks) (, , , )

nyeWishing everyone a magical night tonight, as we farewell the old year, and all the good, bad and strange we’ve been through, and welcome in a new one.

I am grateful for a magical 2015 – for the good things and the bad things, the new friends and the lost friends, the successes and the struggles, the inspiration and the exhaustion…

And now we are on the cusp of a new year. It’s strange… Technically it’s no different today than yesterday – Chinese New Year is far more meaningful energetically, being celebrated on the spring new moon – and yet there is still the energy of stepping through a doorway, of releasing the year that has gone and welcoming the grand potential and promise of a new one, of being grateful for love deepened and dreams lived and friendships made and goals achieved and lessons learned and wisdom gained… and even the less-than-stellar moments of dreams frustrated and loss felt and pain suffered. It’s all part of the magic and wonder and adventure of life…

May 2016 be filled with love and joy and enchantment, and passion and dedication and inspiration, and may you fight to make your dreams come true.

newday

 

 

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With thanks… November 30…

December 4, 2015 at 1:56 am (NaNoWriMo, With thanks, Writing) (, , , , )

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square
Tonight I am grateful that I made it! I wrote 50,789 words in November, for National Novel Writing Month, which is a huge chunk of the first draft of my next book*. It feels so good to be done, and to have my novel validated for word count…
I loved this from the organisers: “Every day of this past month, you chose your novel, your voice, and your story. You stayed up late or got up early. You stole minutes here and there. You created time…” Sure did! I snatched moments on the bus to work, and while waiting to meet a friend for coffee, and in that strange midnight time where I’m not quite awake but not yet quite asleep either…
And I’m grateful to, and so proud of, all my NaNo buddies this year – more of us hit 50,000 words together than any of my previous NaNos, and everyone else made amazing progress too! Thank you for sharing the inspiration, the motivation, the late nights, the trials and triumphs and slightly manic fun – you all rock!
I’m grateful that I have to unexpectedly be at the magazines tomorrow, on my day off, so I could swap my days and have today – NaNo deadline day! – free to stay home and keep writing… I would have stayed up stupidly late last night and finished it if I had to, but this was so much more relaxing 🙂
jill_kaabI’m grateful for an AWESOME Jillian Michaels workout – Killer Arms and Back, level two… I wasn’t sure I’d get through it, because it’s tough, but I did – and when it finished I figured I may as well do it again to make the hour. I think I’ll be sore tomorrow, but it keeps me sane,and mentally strong, and gets me out of my head and away from the computer and the book for a while.
And despite a bad migraine, I’m grateful for a quiet night at home with Juz…
* I realised that I’m not quite ready to leave Summer Hill and the sacred tor, and all the people who inhabit the mist-shrouded world I created, and so this book is Rose’s story – it will be an Into the Mists Chronicle…

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A beautiful review – Into the Dark

February 8, 2015 at 3:51 pm (Book reviews, News and updates, With thanks) (, , )

cover_low-resInto the Dark

Serene Conneeley is an Australian author who has captivated many readers with the first two books of her current ‘Into the Mists’ trilogy series. Work on the third and final book will commence in November and be available for release in 2015.

From inSpirit magazine.

Put the kettle on and be ready for a sleepless night or two as the second book of this trilogy is hard to put down.

Carlie travels further into her world of self-discovery and magic as she continues to come to terms with her grief and remapping her future. She is coming to realise she has found her spiritual home as she deepens her connections with her grandmother, her community and a newfound friendship continues to blossom as Carlie and her friend Rhiannon commit to exploring their magical paths together.

cover_2014_11These relationships are challenged however, when Carlie finds herself drawn to love of a different kind – a love she is not ready to share and must keep secret. Frighteningly, a love that parallels echoes of the past, these same echoes that have ultimately defined her grief, present and future. A love that has Carlie making the most difficult choices of her life so far.

The choices that Carlie makes bring forth many twists and turns, more revelations about a past secret that so indelibly defines her life in the present, and a dramatic conclusion that has past and present colliding, leaving the reader reeling with shock, disbelief and wanting so much more.

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Lughnasadh Blessings… and an enchanted Imbolc to those in the north…

February 4, 2015 at 10:00 am (Moon phases, Wheel of the Year, With thanks) (, , , )

bloglughnsdToday is Lughnasadh – in the southern hemisphere anyway – the first day of autumn and the first harvest festival, a day of celebrating the things we have metaphorically harvested, the things we’ve achieved, the gifts we’ve received, the experiences we’ve had, the talents we’ve developed and the things we’ve learned…

I am so grateful for all the many blessings in my life. For my beautiful husband, my loving family, my dear friends who mean so much to me. For the blessings of my health and the strength of my body, for a job that pays the bills and still allows me time to write my books… For the opportunity to help others who need it through time, money and/or awareness…

It’s also the full moon today, a time of magic and potential, so I’m wishing everyone a wonderful, magic-filled night. May all the wishes you whisper to the moon come true, and you be blessed with love and inspiration…

* Lughnasadh, or Lammas, which is celebrated in the first week of February in the southern hemisphere and August in the north, is a cross-quarter day marking 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, pass on some of your good fortune. Make a donation to a local charity, lend money to a business in the developing world or give your time to help someone, ensuring the energy of abundance continues and is strengthened. Give out of grace and for joy, not with the expectation of receiving anything in return. Work out small ways you can make a difference to the world and the people around you all year.
As well as a time of feasting and thanksgiving for the harvesting of the crops, and recognition of the eternal cycle of sowing and reaping, Lughnasadh is also about the symbolic things you grow and create in your life. It’s a day to harvest what you planted earlier in the year and celebrate your successes. Make a list of all the things you’ve gained – the goals you reached, 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, the opportunities you’ve pursued – and how you have developed and changed as a result of them.
Create a ritual of appreciation that is meaningful for you. You may want to journal about it, exploring in depth the things you’ve learned and the ways in which you’ve grown, send thank you cards to people who have helped you work towards your goals, start a gratitude diary or write a poem that outlines all that you’re grateful for. We may no longer be so connected to the production of our food, as in days gone by, or believe that our prayers or sacrifices influence the success of a crop, but appreciating what we have and giving thanks for it is still a beautiful way to live, and can increase our own attitude of abundance.
Also acknowledge all the things you’ve achieved so you can share your successes with others. Don’t be modest or downplay how far you’ve come, because you’ll inspire other people with stories of your breakthroughs, your dedication and details of how you overcame the obstacles you faced. Your successes will help them realise they can also pursue their dreams, and will hopefully give them the motivation they need to get started on their own journey.
Don’t ever diminish yourself or your achievements, or let anyone else do so. Be proud of your light, your talents and all your accomplishments, and always allow yourself to shine brightly and illuminate the darkness for others. As American author Marianne Williamson says: “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, and as we let our own light shine, we give other people permission to do the same.”
Now too, as the energy begins to subtly slow, it’s 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.

blogimbolcIn the northern hemisphere it is Imbolc, the festival that marks the beginning of spring, and celebrates the fact that the days are lengthening and the light is returning, illuminating the land and our own hearts.
Mythologically, this was when the goddess transformed into the maiden and waiting bride, signified by the new blossoms and the quickening energy within the earth, and the infant god continued to grow in power, represented by the longer days and increasing strength of the sun. Astronomically, the cross-quarter day of Imbolc falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In the southern hemisphere the sun is in the middle of its journey back from the lowest latitudes to the equator, and rises in the same position as it did at Samhain, when it was heading south from the equator towards its Midwinter point.
Energetically it’s a time of awakening, renewal and re-emergence, as nature fills with life force and begins to quiver with the energy to grow again, and we too start to emerge from the chill of winter, shaking off our inertia and lack of motivation and beginning to re-engage with the world. It’s also a time of purification and cleansing after the long dark of the winter months, of stripping away the old so the new can emerge. Imbolc is one of the four fire festivals of the year, and great bonfires would be lit not only in celebration but also for purification, so cleansing has always been an important aspect of the day.
Imbolc remains a day to honour the fertility of the land and our own selves. As the first signs of spring start to manifest, and the earth quickens with an energy that can be tangibly felt, it’s a powerful time to do healing work of any kind, and send energy to friends around the world. You can also increase your knowledge in an area you’re interested in, expand your creativity and tend to activities that are overlooked in the busy months of summer – making candles, sewing dream pillows, grinding herbs and blessing the seeds you’ll plant in spring…

* From Seven Sacred Sites: Magical Journeys That Will Change Your Life.

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Happy New Year!

January 1, 2015 at 11:31 pm (With thanks) (, , )

Happy New Year! Wishing everyone a wonderful 2015, full of love, joy, adventure and magic. Make this the year you dare to go after your dreams! Dream big, take chances, risk everything, learn from so-called failure and push yourself out of your comfort zone, because that’s where results are made, where happiness lives, where magic exists and where dreams come true.

I don’t really do resolutions, I guess because I think every day has the potential for new beginnings in it, and I don’t wait until January 1st to decide what I want to do, or start doing it (I’m too impatient, ha ha)… But this year I will finish Into the Light, the third book in the Into the Mists Trilogy (no pressure there, gulp!), and continue working out every day – I’ve been doing it for more than two years now, and can’t see that changing. I’m excited about the new Jillian Michaels program, keen to finish Shaun T’s T25, and looking forward to Chalean Extreme and P90X3…  I’m enrolled in two courses – grief counselling and sports nutrition – which I’m looking forward to continuing, although the book deadline is my first priority. And I’m hoping life at the magazines calms down a little, although that’s probably not very realistic…

Today I’m grateful for a beautiful peaceful day at home – it was so quiet here in the morning, since I guess most people were sleeping off their New Year’s Eve celebrations.

I’m happy I worked out in the morning – a cool T25 Upper Focus weights workout that I liked so much I did it twice, and PiYo Buns, which hammered my lower body 🙂 Great combo!

I’m grateful for time with my hubby, and pots of chai tea, and e-chats with my workout buddy, and diving in to Anne Rice’s new book Prince Lestat, which I love! So cool that my favourite author of my teens and twenties is still releasing awesome books! And that I’m “letting” myself read a bit before I knuckle back down to serious writing time 🙂

Have a magical day, and a magical year! xx

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New Year’s Blessings…

December 31, 2014 at 11:26 pm (Magic, With thanks) (, )

Tonight I am grateful for a beautiful night with my hubby, dreaming a new year into being, celebrating a year just gone, and being happy to just be together and exist in the moment.

I’m happy that I did three workouts today (they were only 30 minutes each)… and glad that PiYo is almost over. I’ve enjoyed the program, but eight weeks is a long time for a set of workouts that you like but don’t love. Can’t wait for the new Jillian one to arrive 🙂

I’m glad I had time to make salad and yummy new dips, for a healthy start to the new year 🙂

And I’m grateful for the year just gone – the good, the bad, the sad and the joyful.

I’m grateful to my beloved, for love, adventure, support, encouragement, fun and sharing of dreams and hopes and love and laughter, for soothing frustrations and celebrating success, and all the myriad moments in between 🙂

I’m grateful for my friends and family, for visits to spend time with them, and catch-ups over cups of tea, and long distance friendships and laughter and love.

I’m happy that Into the Dark was published, and glad I wrote the first 53,000 words of Into the Light in November, and grateful that I made it through another crazy year at the magazines.

I’m proud of my hubby for doing a new EP and a cool video, and following his heart and his dreams and his muse, no matter what.

I’m grateful to my fitness friends, and especially my workout buddy Claire, for sharing another awesome year and pushing each other to do more and strive for more and be more – the best us we can be – and I’m so happy that we met Jillian together and worked out with her 🙂

I’m grateful for beautiful messages from people who read my books, and while talking is a little out of my comfort zone, I’m happy that I could meet people at Supanova, Book Expo, Mind Body Spirit Festival and Festival of Dreams, and glad that I’ve been able to meet even more online…

And I’m grateful for all the promise and potential held within this threshold moment, as we move from one year into the next – while being mindful that we can make a new start every day, every minute – we can change our mindset and our life whenever we choose to… That’s the real magic I think, the magic of intent and creation which exists always, in every moment…

Happy New Year! xx

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Blessings of autumn…

February 4, 2014 at 4:01 pm (Magic, Wheel of the Year, With thanks) (, , , )

Wishing everyone in the southern hemisphere a magical Lughnasadh, and to those in the north, an enchanting and blessed Imbolc… May the dance of the seasons fill you with love, joy and passion.

Today is Lughnasadh in the southern hemisphere, and it’s a beautiful softly grey day, with gentle rain falling on the trees outside my window – all so welcome after the fierce heat of January. I have no doubt that it will be hot again, but today I am enjoying the reprieve… Heralding the first day of autumn, Lughnasadh is the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, and for those that measure, Lughnsasdh was calculated to fall at just before 8am this morning. It has been starting to feel a little more autumny over the last few days, the sun a little less jarring, the sunrises a little bit later – 6.15am now, which I love, since I’ve been getting up at 6 every morning to work out, and the sky is so beautiful and golden…

Traditionally this is the first harvest festival, and it remains a day of celebrating the things we have metaphorically harvested, the things we’ve achieved, the gifts we’ve received, the experiences we’ve had, the talents we’ve developed and the things we’ve learned… I am so grateful for all the many blessings in my life. For my beautiful husband, who supports me and encourages me and helps me so much, from making me endless cups of tea when I’m writing to drawing illustrations for my books and listening to my doubts and fears, and sharing all the beautiful moments of our life together – walking hand in hand into town, curling up on the couch for another Harry Potter marathon, gazing at the moon, laughing as everything people say reminds us of a Jillian Michaels quote, dreaming and scheming and plotting and planning to make our dreams come true, while also finding the beauty in the golden moments in between where we just are, being together, doing nothing in particular… I am grateful too for my wonderful friends, my inspiring workout buddy, my health, my determination, my day job, which is crazy-busy (a little too much at times), but pays the bills and allows me time to write… And for the turning of the seasons from summer to autumn, and the rich beauty that brings to the world…

I’ve been sponsoring a child through Plan Australia since I was a kid, donate monthly to Australia for UNHCR to assist refugees and to other causes when I can, but in the spirit of Lughnasadh, I just made four new loans through Kiva, to women in Peru, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Cambodia, so they can develop their own businesses and become self-sufficient. The best part is, I’ve donated the money – so when they repay their loans, that money goes to fund new loans, on and on forever.

Lughnasadh is also the first sabbat that Carlie celebrates with her grandmother in my novel Into the Mists, and this festival of thanksgiving helps her see the blessings she still has in her life after all that she has lost…

Here’s a little from my book A Magical Journey: Your Diary of Inspiration, Adventure and Transformation, for anyone who wants to read more about this seasonal celebration…

Lughnasadh : First Day of Autumn : Gratitude
Lughnasadh, the cross-quarter day which marks the beginning of autumn, falls in the first week of February in the southern hemisphere, and the first week of August in the northern hemisphere. It’s the first harvest festival, a time of feasting, celebration and thanksgiving for the life-giving properties of the grain.
Mythologically, this was the time of the waning god, as the solar deity who had peaked at the summer solstice began to lose his power and strength. In some traditions he was cut down by the goddess, along with the harvest, in order to fertilise the land and ensure abundance for the coming year. He was the sacrificial god, a theme echoed in religions around the world, tied to the forces of nature and the cycle of death and rebirth. And the goddess was the bountiful mother as well as the wielder of the scythe, and continued her pregnancy alone, knowing her companion would be reborn at Yule.
Astronomically, this cross-quarter day falls midway between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. In the southern hemisphere, it occurs when the sun is halfway between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator, on its way back north, in the same position as it was at Beltane as it headed south towards summer.
Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas, First Harvest, Bread Harvest, Tailtiu’s Feast and Festival of First Fruits, signifies the end of summer and the first day of autumn. The earth still throbs with life and energy, but it’s mature, fully ripened, almost over-abundant energy. It’s often still hot at this time of year, especially in Australia, but the strength of the sun is beginning to wane, and cooling breezes and crisp air start to temper the warmth of the days, particularly in the enchanted twilight hours. The trees begin to turn red-gold-orange-rust, the night comes a little earlier, and the first crops are ready to harvest.
Another name for this festival is Lammas, from the Old English hlaf, meaning loaf, and maesse, meaning feast, because traditionally it was on this day that the first loaf of bread was baked from the first harvest. In medieval England this was transformed into a Christian festival of thanksgiving, although it was still steeped in pagan traditions such as sharing nature’s bounty with the poor and sacrificing the first fruits in honour of the god or goddess, adding to the sacrificial symbolism of this festival. As the first harvest was brought in, people took a few days off to rest, relax and celebrate, and honour the earth mother for the food that would keep them going through the winter months. Soldiers would return from war to help bring in the harvest, so it was also a time of reunions with family and loved ones.
While Litha was a celebration of the strength of the god, Lughnasadh honoured the goddess and her abundance, represented by the grains that kept people alive. Along with bread, corn dollies were made from the husks of the first cereals to be harvested, symbolising the deification of the crops and the importance of the harvest. These “dollies” were an embodiment of the goddess, and were kept in the home until spring, when they were ploughed back into the earth with the first seeds to increase fertility, thus continuing the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Ways to celebrate
The beginning of autumn has long been a time of thanksgiving and revelry in appreciation of nature’s bounty. In Ancient Rome they honoured Saturn, the god of agriculture and the harvest, while in Greece it was Demeter, the goddess of the grain. In Ghana in West Africa they celebrate the harvest festival of Homowo, which means hooting at hunger. It commemorates a devastating famine and the agricultural methods they developed to prevent future ones, and is celebrated with feasting, music and ritual. In China during Chung Yuan, the Hungry Ghost Festival, food is left out to appease the spirits who return at this time, while in the Aztec lands the harvest festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli honoured Xipe Totec, god of vegetation and renewal.
Across the British Isles this first harvest festival was celebrated with feasting, craft fairs, horse markets, games and contests, many in honour of Lugh, the Celtic sun god. Handfastings also took place at these fairs, with people being bound in marriage for a year and a day, and wooden cart wheels were dipped in tar then set alight and ceremonially rolled down a hill to signify the waning of the sun’s – and the sun god’s – power as summer came to an end. He was seen as a sacrifice, going down into the underworld until his resurrection.
In his honour 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. A libation of mead and an offering of food was part of all their rituals, but at this time of year it became a major part of the proceedings. There are even legends of human sacrifice and death, of kings offering their life in order to return power to the land as it began to waste away and enter the fallow winter period.
Today, the beginning of autumn is still a time of first harvests. Fruit picking is a popular job for many travellers, with farms all over the country taking on seasonal workers. The grape harvesting and wine making begins, and golden wheat fields cover the paddocks. You can create your own little ceremony by going to a farm and enjoying the first fruits of the season fresh from the vine, absorbing the energy of the earth and the life force that flows through the planet.
But this festival is also about harvesting the fruits of your labours, and acknowledging your successes and what you’ve achieved in the past year. It’s a time to celebrate the goals you’ve reached and have your own festival of gratitude, in whatever form that takes. Toast your success, throw a party, reward yourself for your hard work with a gift you’ve long wanted, some time off to rest and chill out, or even a trip away to mark the occasion. Invite your friends over and bake bread or muffins, infusing them with gratitude for the plentiful food we enjoy, and feast on fresh organic produce.
Then, out of gratitude and in the spirit of the ancestors who shared the bounty of their harvest with those less well off, pass on some of your good fortune. Make a donation to a local charity, support World Vision or another group giving aid to feed people in impoverished nations, lend money to women setting up a business in the developing world through Kiva.org or give some time to help a friend or family member, ensuring the energy of abundance continues and is strengthened. Give out of grace and for joy, without any expectation of receiving anything in return. Such small sacrifices reflect the essence of Lughnasadh, and help create future abundance and prosperity.
Long ago, people used this time to prepare for the coming winter by storing food, making jams, sorting out their possessions, fixing leaking roofs and mending tools and fences. You can also plan ahead, setting things in motion now that will pay off later. Learn a skill you might need, research the next step in your project, or work on letting go of a fear that has been holding you back. Even as the harvest is brought in, the seeds to be sown next year are gathered and stored, in a continual dance of planting, growing and culmination.

In your journal
As well as a time of feasting and thanksgiving for the harvesting of the crops, and recognition of the eternal cycle of sowing and reaping, Lughnasadh is also about the symbolic things you grow and create in your life. It’s a day to harvest what you planted earlier in the year and celebrate your successes. Make a list of all the things you’ve gained – the goals you reached, 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, the opportunities you’ve pursued – and how you have developed and changed as a result of them.
Create a ritual of appreciation that is meaningful for you. You may want to journal about it, exploring in depth the things you’ve learned and the ways in which you’ve grown, send thank you cards to people who have helped you work towards your goals, start a gratitude diary or write a poem that outlines all that you’re grateful for. We may no longer be so connected to the production of our food, as in days gone by, or believe that our prayers or sacrifices influence the success of
a crop, but appreciating what we have and giving thanks for it is still a beautiful way to live, and can increase our own attitude of abundance.
Also acknowledge all the things you’ve achieved so you can share your successes with others. Don’t be modest or downplay how far you’ve come, because you’ll inspire other people with stories of your breakthroughs, your dedication and details of how you overcame the obstacles you faced. Your successes will help them realise they can also pursue their dreams, and will hopefully give them the motivation they need to get started on their own journey.
Don’t ever diminish yourself or your achievements, or let anyone else do so. Be proud of your light, your talents and all your accomplishments, and always allow yourself to shine brightly and illuminate the darkness for others. As American author Marianne Williamson says: “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, and as we let our own light shine, we give other people permission to do the same.”
Around Lughnasadh, as the energy begins to subtly slow and the tides of the earth start to ebb, it’s 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. This can be hard to accept when you’re desperate to fulfil a dream (believe me, I know, I’m totally impatient!), but often waiting for more information, or taking the time to plan fully rather than rushing into a project and starting before you have everything you need, is more efficient in the long run and will help you reach your goal quicker.
Also consider whether there are any things you regret. Did you aim for something that didn’t pan out, or become involved in a painful situation? Write about them, pouring out your heart, and your pain, your regrets and your bitterness. Then let them go. Regret and bitterness are the most destructive of emotions, and they’ll hold you back and poison all your good intentions.
If you want to do a ritual, pour all of your troubles into a stone, a piece of paper, a corn husk or a pine cone, either by holding the object and using the power of intention to transfer your emotions into it, employing a shamanic technique to physically blow your pain into it, or sleeping with it under your pillow so it can absorb everything you want to let go of. Then throw it into a river or a fire, and feel yourself lightening up as you release the burdens you’ve held on to.
Lughnasadh is the festival of symbolic harvesting, contemplation and emotional cleansing. At the cross-quarter days the veil between the worlds is considered to be thinner than at other times, and at this one you can connect with your own higher self and do inner work. Let go of the things that are holding you back so you can lay the foundation for future harvests and move forward into the light.

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Musings on Australia Day…

January 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm (With thanks) (, )

I’ve always felt conflicted about today, “Australia Day”. I am proud to be Australian, and I love this country deeply, knowing I am of it, and glad of that. I feel connected to the land, having grown up on it, and proud of the wonderful achievements of its people. But January 26 represents so much pain and loss and injustice, more than two hundred years of persecution. To many people it is Invasion Day, or Survival Day. And while I love this country and honour the land every day of the year, it is on this day that I struggle most.

So today I hope and wish and pray that this is the year we start to redress the balance, that the gap closes, that social injustice is addressed, that the apology becomes a foundation for real change and not just a nice memory, that our honouring of the land and its people extends to real, practical transformation…

“Today we stand in footsteps millennia old.
May we acknowledge the traditional owners
whose cultures and customs have nurtured,
and continue to nurture, this land,
since men and women awoke from the great dream.
We honour the presence of these ancestors
who reside in the imagination of this land
and whose irrepressible spirituality
flows through all creation.”

Acknowledgement of Country by Jonathan Hill, an Aboriginal poet living in NSW.

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