Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Positive MindF**k

Today some friends on Facebook suggested targeting a random stranger with a group of friends and bumping into them saying such things as "wake up" "you're in a coma" or "this isn't real".

But what if instead of targeting a random stranger with negative messages, we targeted them with something positive.

How about, "you're beautiful" or "I love you" or "you can do it".

I've often thought about the power that a simple smile to someone on the street can bring. What would happen if we targeted them with an easy and loving message?

Can it hurt to try?

And just maybe we'll give them a smile and a glad heart and the willingness to face the rest of the day's challenges with a positive attitude.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Honey Magick: Nectar of the Gods Part 1

Dripping golden as liquid sunshine, honey has been a symbol of the sweetness and richness of life since ancient times. In all cultures which had access to it (and that's most of them) honey (and the mead made from it) has been seen as the nectar of the gods.

Honey Hunt - 13000 B.C. Spain
Cave paintings in Spain from 13000 BC depict a honey hunt. The Neolitic settlement of Catal Huyuk (6540 BC) has an image of the goddess with a halo of bees, and the temple walls are painted with honeycombs. Sumerian carvings depict the Mother Goddess as a bee. Their physicians are believed to be the inventors of apitherapy, the medicinal use of bee products. The Omphalos stone of Delphi is believed to be modeled after a beehive. It is even postulated that the braided hair of the Willendorf Goddess may represent a beehive.

Priestesses of Cybele were called Melissai or Melissae (the Greek and Roman words for "bee") and they utilized honey in the rituals that brought on their oracular relevations. Demeter, Artemis, Aphrodite and Rhea are also associated with bees. It is possible that the Many-Breasted Artemis statue of Ephesia may depict bee eggs rather than breasts. As a baby, Zeus was fed on honey. In Egypt, bees were "the tears of Ra" and honey was symbolic of resurrection, and a protection against evil spirits. The temple of the goddess Neith, in Sais (in Lower Egypt) was known as "the House of the Bee." The Mayans saw the beekeeper god as Mok-Chi, while Ah-Muzen-Cab was a god that protected from Killer Bees. In India, the bee goddess is Bhramari Devi, and Kamadeva, the love god, has a bow with a bowstring made of bees. Honey is also sacred to Oshun, the Voudoun Orisha of love.

The star Sirius has been linked with bees in cultures from Sumeria to Crete and even as far away as the Dogon tribe of Africa. In Crete, the rising of Sirius marked the new year and a 40-day festival in which the honey was gathered.

In Britain, 3,000 year old objects made with beeswax (I'll assume lost-wax castings) were found near the river Thames. On the Isle of Mann it was a capital offense to steal bees. St. Bridget was said to have visited Gastonbury and lived for a time on the Island of Beckery - which translates as "beekeeper's island". The Welsh Bardic Triads which call Britain the "Island of Honey," tell of the sow-goddess Henwen who had a sow which gave birth to a bee. In ancient Wales, taxes were paid in measures of honey. At Tara, home of the kings of ancient Ireland, one residence is known as "the House of Mead Circling". The Brehon Laws of the Druids contained twenty pages on "Bee-Judgement," detailing laws surrounding the care, keeping and ownership of bees.

In the Norse Eddas, bees are connected with Yggdrasil, the world tree. In Germany, the sacred Irminsul, wooden and stone carvings resembling tree-stumps (used to house bees?) may be related to the bee-god Imme.

In Lithuania, where the bee goddess was named Austheia, families would move when the Queen Bee started a swarm and left the hive, establishing their new home wherever the bees landed. If a dead bee was discovered, all work stopped until the bee had been properly buried. Honey and bees were seen as a gift, and could not be sold, only given freely.

Amongst the folklore associated with honey, it was believed that if a bee touched a baby's lips, he would become a great poet and orator. Bees were thought to be spirit messengers who brought prayers to the heavens. The term "honeymoon" comes from the practice of giving a new couple a lunar month's supply of mead to bring fertility.

Some interesting honey links: 
TheBee: Beedazzled (3 part series)
The Bee Goddess

Friday, March 30, 2012

Onion Skins and Butter Lambs 4

The Polish Ostara Feast

In Poland the Easter Breakfast is generally eaten cold (because of restrictions of cooking on holy days). No complaints here! Having your food cooked ahead and serving it cold makes for an easy meal.

Hard boiled eggs are a biggie for this, of course. My Babcia (grandmother) liked to use brown eggs for this occasion because they look more natural (and possibly because they reminded her of the chickens she had at home). You can also use the dyed eggs above.

A platter of kielbasa, and sliced baked or boiled ham was always on the table with a bowl of horseradish and a bowl of good brown mustard, for slathering on the meats. We'd also have plate of cheeses and a couple loaves of good bread – I recommend a crusty Polish rye or pumpernickel.

I guess my Babcia "cheated" on the no-cooking, because she always made a delicious sausage or chicken soup and her amazing potato pancakes. Unlike the Jewish latkes I've had, these were made from blender-ed potatoes (rather than grated). Fried in butter, they were thin and crisp. Accompany the pancakes with a bowl of apple sauce and another of sour cream.

Another of our staple items for this meal was my Babcia's Cucumber-Sour Cream salad. Flavored with just a bit of dill, it tastes like pure springtime.

Babcia's Potato Pancakes

(Forgive me, I've never measured when I make these. Someday maybe I'll sit down and figure out the measurements. For now, you'll have to deal and estimate.)

Potatoes, raw, peeled and roughly chopped
A small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
Flour, a few tablespoons
1-2 Eggs

Throw the potatoes and onion into the blender and pulse until they are fully mashed. Add in the eggs and a couple tablespoons of flour (just enough to bind the batter). The consistency should be close to pancake batter, but slightly more grainy.

Heat a skillet and add butter. Pour the batter into small rounds (the same way you'd do with pancakes) and flip when the underside is crispy and golden.

Babcia's Cucumber-Sour Cream Salad

6 cucumbers, peeled
2 cups sour cream
Sugar, a couple teaspoons (optional)
Dill (fresh if at all possible!) a small handful, chopped

Slice the cucumbers (crosswise) paper-thin. A mandolin can be very helpful for this job. Salt the cucumber relatively heavily and let it sit at room temperature for about a half hour.

Drain the cucumber slices and squeeze them dry. This is easiest to do in small handfuls. The idea is to get as much of the water as possible out of the cucumber.

Onion Skins and Butter Lambs 3

Lemon Pig 

Another ornament on our Easter table was a pig made from a lemon. Why a pig? Frankly, I have no idea! Maybe because spring is the time when new pigs are born, or because pork is such an important staple in the Polish diet. There might even be a Slavic pagan tale that has been lost to time. Besides liking the spring-pig idea, I see this as a thank you to the Crone goddess (the sow is sacred to Cerridwen) and a reminder that though spring is here now, winter will return.

This one is also a fun and super-easy project for kids.

You will need:
A whole lemon
4 toothpicks
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves

Decide which end of your lemon (nose or stem) looks more like a pig's snout. That will be your pig's face. Push the whole cloves into the lemon's peel to form eyes. Break the bay leaves crosswise, and save the point ends (away from the stems) for ears. Slightly above the eyes, cut two small slits into the peel, and slip the bay leaf points into them (point side facing out). Turn your pig belly-side up, and poke the four toothpicks in to serve as its "legs". You'll want to put the legs on a slight diagonal so they can balance the pig.

Your lemon pig makes another cute table-item and can later be used to squeeze on fish or other food items as appropriate.

Onion Skins and Butter Lambs 2

Butter Lambs

Another staple on our Easter table was a lamb made from butter. This is a fun project for children, so get them involved!

You'll need:
Three sticks of cold (but not frozen) butter
Two whole cloves
Two bay leaves
A platter
Spring herbs (parsley, green onions, tarragon, etc.)

The first stick forms the base. Cut the second stick in half and stand one half up on the front of the base for the neck/head. Place the other half flat on top of the base for the lamb's back. Cut three small rectangles from the third stick of butter for the front legs and face. Assemble the parts of your lamb together and return it to the refrigerator.

Cream the leftover butter with a fork or mixer and let it cool until it is pliable but hard enough to keep form. Now use the creamed butter to round and fill in the lamb's shape. With a butter knife, swirl the lamb's "wool" into form.

Place the two cloves into the lamb's face for eyes. Break the bay leaves in half crosswise – you want the pointed half that is away from the stem. Curl the leaves gently with your fingers, pressing them into the side of the lamb's head, to create ears.

Put the finished lamb on a platter of fresh herbs, and use as an edible centerpiece.

Though the lamb might be seen as a Christian symbol, it is certainly a sign of spring, and perfect for an Ostara (or Imbolc) feast. If you'd prefer another butter-creature, with a little creativity, you can use the same idea to make a rabbit or other animal.

Onion Skins and Butter Lambs – A Slavic Ostara

I originally wrote this in time for Ostara, but computer problems intervened. Hopefully, I can add the pics for the butter lamb and the lemon pig soon. Still, enjoy!

In Poland, where my father's family comes from, Easter is the most important holiday of the year. Christmas comes in a pale second. In this article I'll offer some of our family customs, for use in your Ostara.

Natural Dyed Eggs

Back before you could get a package of egg dye from the local grocery, folks colored their eggs with food and spices.

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs – Put the egg in a saucepan with cold water (this will help keep the egg from cracking) and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Once the water simmers, shut off the heat and let the egg cook in the hot water for 10 minutes. Use any of the following ideas to color your eggs. Use only one "color" per batch, or you may end up with a muddled color.

Onion Skins – Wrap a raw egg with the brown outer skins from a yellow onion. You can use a rubber band or kitchen string to make sure the onion skin stays on. Cook the egg as above. When you remove the onion skins, the eggs will be a light golden brown, and the veins of the onion often leave a slightly darker pattern. You can also make a tea of the onion skins first for a slightly darker color.

Black Tea – Put several teabags in with your eggs, for a deeper brown.

Grass – Get a handful of fresh green grass, and wrap the egg, using rubber bands to keep the grass around the egg. This yields an egg with lovely green striations where the grass is thickest on the egg. Be certain to use grass that is not treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and where animals don't wander.

Beets – Boil the egg with slices of red beet or beet juice for a lovely pink.

Red Cabbage – Boil the cabbage first, let the "tea" cool and then cook your eggs in it, for a blue color.

Turmeric – A tablespoon or two of this spice in your boiling water will yield a rich gold color.

Eggs as Sacrament

In my family we started the Easter meal with the head of the family peeling a hard boiled egg and sharing a piece of that egg with each person at the table. Consider blessing an egg along with your usual Cakes and Wine and sharing it around the circle for your Ostara sabbat.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Dagda's Basket: A Wealth Spell for Gardeners

Many years ago my former HP gave me a useful and evocative spell for wealth.


The Mammon Cup Spell

Get a cup that means "wealth" to you. The cup I ended up with was a cobalt glass goblet.

Find a coin that is "different" in that you can separate it from the others. A half dollar or a foreign coin works well.

Empower the cup and coin in the name of Mammon. Mammon is an ancient Babylonian deity of wealth trade and commerce. Interestingly, Mammon now means "evil" and "all that wealth/physical stuff" to many modern day Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses. Here we intend to deal with the original aspect of the god.

At the end of every day, take any loose change from your pocket and put in in the cup. At the end of a moon cycle (you can attune your cup to either Full or New moon depending on your preference) give all the coins in the cup away, with the exception of your special coin. Give that wealth to the first person who comes along needing it, no matter how you personally feel about that (the drunk on the street is as worthy as someone trying to pay their rent) and empower it with the idea that what you put out comes back to you. Do not expect or accept thanks. Remember that they are doing YOU a favor by taking this wealth, and allowing it to return to you three or tenfold.

Why it doesn't work for me personally:

As a Celtic witch, I just cannot get "with" the idea of Mammon, no matter how worthy or not that being might be.

I don't use paper money any more. On the rare occasion I actually make it to town, I use plastic money. That means no change in my pocket to put in the cup.

At this point in my life, I have come to see wealth as having enough food on the table for my family (including my many critters). The bounty of my garden is also my most accessible form of wealth. 

The Dagda (pronounced Day-da) or the Good God is the Celtic deity who represents wealth, fertility and bounty. He is associated with the cauldron (his could never be emptied) and the fork (which represented food/eating, the plow and also his enormous member).

The Dagda's Basket

Acquire or make a good-sized basket, preferably of natural materials. You can also use a cauldron (if you have access to one) or a stock-pot, however I prefer the basket because it will be lighter in weight. Decorate the basket with symbols of wealth. Some ideas are suns, green and/or gold ribbons, clusters of wheat, acorns or corn, or beads and stones such as amber, tiger's eye, malachite or green tourmaline.

Also acquire a large fork. I suggest a wooden salad fork. Paint or carve the fork with symbols of wealth. The Fehu rune or the Gar rune (from the Younger Futhark) work well, as would  dollar symbols, suns, spirals, lemniscates or whatever symbols have meaning to you. Bind the fork to the basket.

Empower the entire assembly to bring prosperity to those you gift and to return that prosperity to you tenfold, in whatever manner the Gods see fit. I recommend doing your spell at noon at the first crescent or full moon.

At least once per month (or any time you have a good harvest) fill your basket with the bounty of your garden. If you make preserves, pickles or other items, you can also fill your basket with those items as you make them. Naturally, with fresh veggies and fruits, you'll want to do your give-away while the items are still fresh. For non-gardeners, or during winter months you can also purchase canned food from your local grocery and give that away once your basket is full.

Bring your basket into town. Be sure to bring a shopping bag or two as you don't want to give away the basket itself. Give the contents of the basket away to the first person you see who looks hungry. Do not expect or accept thanks, just pass it off as "no biggie," and empower that exchange to return the wealth to you tenfold. If you don't see anyone who looks like they could use food, bring the contents to a soup kitchen, food pantry or church.

May you be blessed with prosperity, joy and health!