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“Friendship Day” is Coming

18 Jul

In 1935, Congress decided that the first Sunday of August would be “National Friendship Day.”  You know, I have missed this important National event for the past 50 years, but no longer!

So, in two weeks on August 1st, side by side with Lammas, I’ll be celebrating all my friendships, near and far.

Here are some things I learned last year about Friendship Day from The Domestic Witch:

In 1997, the United Nations named Winnie-the-Pooh as the world’s Ambassador of Friendship.

There are four Goddesses of Friendship:

Philotes ~ Greek Goddess of Friendship
Amphictyonis ~ Greek Goddess of Friendship Between Nations
Eyasha ~ Santharian Goddess of Peace and Friendship
Kuan Yin ~ Chinese Goddess of Compassion

Here are some ideas on how to celebrate or observe Friendship Day:

Friendship Cake by Dria El on MysticWicks (modified)

First make this starter recipe:

Friendship Cake Starter Kit

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup warm milk

IMPORTANT:  USE NO METAL BOWLS, SPOONS OR STORAGE CONTAINERS

Day 1 of a 10 Day Cycle:  In a small bowl, soften yeast in water for 10 minutes.  Stir well.  In a one quart bowl, combine flour and sugar.  Mix thoroughly.  Slowly stir in warm milk and softened yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand at room temperature until bubbly.  Refrigerate.

Days 2 through 4:  Stir.

Day 5:  Feed.  Blend 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar in a small bowl; slowly mix in 1 cup milk. Stir mixture into starter. Return to refrigerator.

Day 6 through 9:  Stir.

Day 10 (which becomes Day 1 for the next series):  Feed as you did on Day 5.

Notes:

Consider the 10-day cycle as a guide; it does not have to be followed exactly.

If you need more starter, feed it more often. The starter is a yeast culture and will grow when fed.

To speed growth, leave starter at room temp for several hours and return to refrigerator and continue to follow the 10-day cycle.

If you are growing too much starter, cut feeding in half and return to refrigerator and continue to follow the 10-day cycle.

Remove what you need for baking and leave it at room temperature until very bubbly.   Return remainder to refrigerator and continue to follow the 10-day cycle.

Don’t let starter drop below one cup, because rejuvenating it to usable amounts takes ten days.  Measure out starter in one cup lots to give to friends (Friendship Starter Kit) and put the one cup starter lots in the freezer.  If you give it to friends, remember to tell them how to feed it so it will grow (included in recipe below).

Frozen starter takes at least 3 hrs at room temperature to thaw and come to life.

Friendship Cake

IMPORTANT:  USE NO METAL BOWLS, SPOONS OR STORAGE CONTAINERS

You must have a Friendship Cake Starter Kit.   Take the kit out of the freezer and let it thaw for one day.  The next day, begin the following ten-day process:

Day 1:  Place mixture into a 1/2 gallon or larger bowl (or else the starter will grow over the edges) and leave it on the countertop UNCOVERED (no lid on it) and do nothing.  Don’t even stir it!

Days 2, 3 and 4:  Just stir the mixture once. Watch it grow taller each day.  See note below.

Day 5:  Add 1 cup of flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm milk, and stir well.  Let sit on counter top uncovered.

Days 6 and 7:  Just stir the mixture once.  See note below.

Days 8 and 9:  Do nothing to mixture.  Don’t even stir it!  See note below.

On the 10th Day:

Add 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of warm milk, and mix well.  Separate mixture into three one-cup containers.  Keep one container for yourself, and give the other two Friendship Cake Starter Kits away to friends.  Or just keep them in your freezer to use at a later date (they will last more than a year in the freezer).

To the remaining one cup of starter mixture in the bowl, add the following and mix well:

1 cup flour
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 small box of instant Vanilla or Banana pudding
1 cup of crushed nuts (optional)

Grease and flour two loaf or cake pans and divide the mixture evenly between the two.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Note:  Mixture doesn’t need to be refrigerated during the 10 days. During the 10 days, the mixture might form a hard crust; this is okay. Just follow the recipe and stir only when directed.

Friendship Bands

Following the popularity and success of Friendship Day in US, several other countries adopted the tradition of dedicating a day to friends. Today, Friendship Day is enthusiastically celebrated by several countries across the world. In India, it’s common for friendship bands to be exchanged.

There are several different methods for creating knotted bracelets, or bands, on the Internet:

Cross Knot
Woven Braid
Chinese Staircase
Chevron
Twister

Celtic Friendship Ritual

From
eHow (modified).

Ancient Celts performed the anamchara, or friendship ritual, to formally acknowledge a bond of friendship. Anamchara means “soul friend” and the ritual recognizes the partnership of friends and the ways in which friends balance one another. The Celtic friendship ritual is not witchcraft or magic, but a ritual of the heart, and can be (but is not required to be) performed within a ritually cast circle.

Step 1

Gather the necessary items.  Select three candle colors that symbolize unity. One candle can be blue and one red, while the third candle can be violet, a unifying shade.  Select three glasses; one should be larger than the other two.  Select a beverage (water, wine, juice) that is acceptable to both parties.  Select gifts for each other, but keep your gifts secret until the gifting moment. The items you use are meant to convey ceremony and bonding. Place all of the items on the cloth between you and your friend. You can use a table or the floor.

Step 2

Pour the beverage into one of the smaller glasses.  Each friend will sip from the glass.  Pour what remains into the larger glass, which symbolizes unity. Together, state this friendship vow:

I am your friend,
I am your teacher,
I am your student,
I am your dependent,
I am your solace,
I am your shield,
I am your child, sister and mother.

Take turns drinking from the glass of unity.

Step 3

Each friend lights the candle that symbolizes you.  The third candle is left unlit and is placed between the two friends, symbolizing unity.  If one candle is red and one is blue, then the violet candle is the unity candle.  Each friend picks up a lit candle and together lights the third candle.  Recite together a declaration of unity:

By this ritual I am bound to you as your soul-friend, your anamchara.
Our flames shine brightly and burn hotter together than alone.
I bring to you all my wisdom and secrets for all my life.

Step 4

Perform the gifting ceremony.  An appropriate friendship gift is Celtic jewelry or crystals.  Once you have shared your gifts, extinguish the candles (and, if you have created one, close the circle).  Finally, take the glass of liquid outside and pour the drink on the ground as a gift to the Earth.  Do this together.  Visualize your spirits joining the Great Mother who bore you.

Do a Tarot Friendship Reading

From Aeclectic Tarot (modified).

Friendship Health Spread

FriendshipSpread1

1.  You:  Your personal views of your friend.
2.  Friend:  Their personal views of you.
3.  How You Feel About Them (+):  Your positive feelings about your friend.
4.  How You Feel About Them (-):  Your negative feelings about your friend.
5.  How They Feel About You (+):  Your friend’s positive feelings about you.
6.  How They Feel About You (-):  Your friend’s negative feelings about you.
7.  Environment:  Where you get to see your friend physically.
8.  Availability:  How often you get to physically see your friend.
9.  Past (-).
10. Present (-).
11. Future (-).
12. Past (+).
13. Present (+).
14. Future (+).

For the triplicity of the negative cards (9,10,11), take into consideration the bad parts of meeting this person, what presides in the present, and then how this would continue in the future. This is the opportunity to embrace whether you could detour any unpleasant future occurrences. This would be mirrored then in the positive aspect.

Making Friends Spread

FriendshipSpread2

1.  What are my strengths for finding a friend?
2.  What is holding me back internally from making friends?
3.  What is holding me back externally from making friends?
4.  What kind of friend do I need in my life right now?
5.  Where is the best place for me to find a new friend?
6.  What do I need to do to meet a potential friend?
7.  What do I need to do to move an acquaintance into a friendship?
8.  What other advice do I need to take into consideration on my quest?

Sign9

Rose Petal Tea Sandwiches

4 Apr

For those of you who are lucky enough to be able to grow roses (it’s darn hard to do here in Florida without tons of chemicals and constant 24/7 vigilance), here’s a wonderful way to use your rose petals just before they’re going to drop off anyway:

Put a layer of fresh and fragrant red rose petals in the bottom of a jar or covered dish.  Place 4 ounces of fresh butter wrapped loosely in waxed paper on top of the first layer of petals.  Cover the butter with a thick layer of rose petals. Cover the jar or dish closely and leave in a cool place overnight. The more fragrant the roses, the finer the flavor that will be imparted.

Cut bread in thin strips or circles and spread one side of each with the perfumed butter.  Place several petals from fresh red roses between the slices, allowing the petals to show along the edges.  Serve with the tea or tisane of your choice.  For my English Rose Tisane recipe, click here.

Violets or clover blossoms may be used in place of roses.  Just be sure that your petals are pesticide-free.


Popeye Never Had Spinach Like This!

20 Jan

I have been on a cooking spree.  At least, that’s what I call it when I cook fresh ingredients without the aid of a microwave oven more than twice in a single month.

Here’s my latest achievement:  Fresh, sauteed spinach prepared (as best I can guess) the way it is at Carrabba’s.  I love everything (except the pizza) at Carrabba’s, but I especially love their vegetable side dishes, to the point where I sometimes order two sides for dinner!

I couldn’t find a recipe, so I had to invent my own, which is my preferred operandi (the more I have to measure stuff and try to follow a recipe, the more it seems I tend to end up with a culinary disaster!).

I love garlic, so I peeled about 3/4ths of a head of garlic cloves and sliced them in half length-wise.  (I know, that’s a whole lotta garlic, but I did say I love garlic!)

I covered the bottom of my 12″ stainless steel saute pan (please don’t ask how someone who can hardly cook comes to own Wolfgang Puck’s entire line of cookware, it’s a mystery to me, too) with a thin layer of olive oil and sauteed the garlic over medium-high heat for about one minute.  Sizzle, sizzle!

Love My Puck Pan!

Love My Puck Pan!

I dumped in a bag of pre-washed spinach (and if you think I took the time to remove all the stems, you have no idea just how lazy I really am) into the pan, threw the lid on, removed the pan from the heat, turned the burner off, immediately removed the lid, and used a pair of tongs to toss the spinach until it had reached the “slightly wilted” state, but was still very emerald green (this takes less than a minute; be careful not to over-cook or you’ll end up with a nasty canned spinach-like mess).  Sizzle, sizzle!

A few cranks of the pepper mill, a pinch of sea salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, toss into a serving dish, add a few cranks of freshly grated Parmesan, and viola!  Dinner is served, and even the dogs will eat it (my gold stick measure of success).

As soon as I can get my hands on some nice, thin green beans or asparagus, or perhaps julienne some onions, sweet peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, I’m going to subject them to this same technique.  I love my vegetables al dente, with the “bite” still in them, which means their nutrients and vitamins are a bit more intact, and this cooking technique is so perfect.  It’s also fast, easy and a quick clean-up.  It just doesn’t get any better in my “cook book!”

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Salmon Baked in Parchment

8 Jan

It’s been a long time since I’ve inflicted any of my cooking advice on you, so you’re sadly overdue, my friends!  This officially expands my cooking repertoire from two recipes (here and here) to three (I heard that snicker!).

A MySpace friend is “expecting” and was advised to increase her intake of Omega 3 fatty acid.  My favorite source of Omega 3 is salmon and so I thought of this fabulous recipe that even I can make (and I really am an acknowledged kitchen idiot).  In true Kat fashion, exact quantities are based on how much of any given thing you like (if the success of a recipe is dependent on precise measurements, you might as well stamp it FAIL before even letting me read it!).

On a 10 inch square piece of baking parchment (waxed paper won’t work and my parchment paper happens to be 10 inches across, so I fold it in a triangle before ripping it from the roll, which gives me a 10 inch square; in other words, exact size is unimportant as long as it’s big enough to create the packet), put 2 slices of lemon side-by-side. Dot the lemon slices with butter (I don’t use margarine, but I suppose it would work) and place a hefty sprig of fresh dill on top (you can also use fresh basil, tarragon, thyme or rosemary).

Grind some fresh pepper onto your salmon fillet (I don’t like the steaks as much, but they work–steaks are thicker, so you’ll have to increase baking time) and sprinkle with a little salt–both sides. Place the fillet on top of your chosen herb, flesh down. Sprinkle the top with some chopped onion (you like onion, use lots (I do); not so much, then use only a little (see how it works?!)).

Fold two opposite sides of the parchment paper up and over the salmon, roll down and flatten the fold against the fish. Take the open ends and fold over the salmon to seal; flip the packet over with the seam on the bottom.

Place as many packets of fish as you want on a cookie sheet with raised edges to prevent any juices from spilling and bake for 18 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

To serve, place the packet on a plate, cut an X into the top of the parchment with a sharp knife and pull open slightly–then dig in!

For the firmly non-gourmet, put the packet on their plate, cut the X, gently tear the paper until you can remove it first one end and then the other from under the fish–like pulling the table cloth from under the tableware–and serve.

I promise you, this is FABULOUS! Impossible to dry out (okay, if you cook it for like 10 hours!), moist and juicy is not the word for it, fish doesn’t get all broken up with handling, and hardly any mess to clean up afterwards–now, that’s my kind of cookin’!

If a heavy fish is not for you, try one of these recipes.

HALIBUT BAKED IN PARCHMENT WITH TOMATOES AND CORN

Ingredients

  • Four 5-ounce halibut fillets
  • 1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 2 cups tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup diced scallions, including light-green parts
  • 2 stalks celery with tops, finely diced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Kosher salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Tear off four 18-inch (45-cm) sheets of parchment paper. Fold each parchment sheet in half, then spread it back open. Place 1 halibut fillet on half of each sheet of paper 2 inches (5 cm) above the fold.

Mix the remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Place a quarter of the mixture atop each piece of halibut.

Fold the sheet of parchment paper over to enclose the ingredients. Starting with the corner near the folded edge, make overlapping folds, one on top of the other, about 10 folds, until the opposite corner of the folded edge is reached. Twist the last fold at the end of the package several times to make a tight seal, and tuck it under the packet.

[This is too damn hard!  Put the vegetable mix on the parchment paper first, put the fish on top, use my folding instructions, flip, next!  When you are folding down the first two sides, make the first fold small and roll down like you would a paper lunch bag; the resulting seam will be very tight.  You don’t want to “choke” the packet, just like you wouldn’t “choke” a paper lunch bag, but if you crease the folds on a lunch bag, the contents won’t easily fall out.  With the two ends then folded under, there is very little leakage and it’s FAST!]

Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake until the paper turns brown around the edge and puffs up, 10 to 12 minutes.

Place each on a plate. Carefully cut an X in the top of each to allow steam to escape. For the full visual and aromatic effect, cut them open at the table.

COD FILLETS IN PARCHMENT PACKETS

Ingredients

  • 4 squares parchment paper, about 15″
  • 4 firm cod fillets, 5 – 6 ounces each and about 1″ thick (alternatively, use halibut, tilapia, etc.)
  • 4 pieces of butter, about 1 tsp each
  • butter for the paper
  • 4 TB orange juice (or lemon)
  • coarse salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • 12 fresh tarragon leaves (or about 2 tsp dried)

Directions

Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F. Have a rimmed baking sheet on hand.

For each packet, butter the center of the parchment paper and place the fillet on top. Put one piece of butter on the fillet, pour on 1 TB juice, season to taste with salt and pepper and place 3 tarragon leaves on top or sprinkle with dried tarragon.

Bring up the ends of the parchment and fold over securely, crimping the edges to seal.

Transfer packets to the baking sheet. Bake for 17 minutes.

Slide packets onto plates and serve.

If you absolutely must “crimp” your edges, here’s what it should look like when done:

salmoninparchmentcrimped2

You could just gather up all the edges and tie it, but a lot of moisture will escape (you can’t cut it open with an X and it doesn’t look very pretty–hmmph!):

salmoninparchmenttied

Here the chef folded the opposite two sides down and then folded the ends over, but then secured them with a skewer rather than flipping (oh, so close! but not very neat and not going to keep the steam in very well):

halibutinparchment

This is the only photo that looks like mine when it’s served, i.e., rectangular, not tied, not skewered, and not crimped:

salmoninparkchmentpacket

Here’s my final explanation on how I prepare my packet:  I do it basically the same way I wrap gifts.  I hold the two opposite sides together so that they form a tent shape over the gift box, fold and crease both pieces, then turn that fold completely under and tuck it snugly against the box and crease again, then tape closed.  I then fold the ends in to create 45 degree creases on each side, and then I fold and tape the ends up.  For the fish packets, instead of turning the first fold completely under and tucking snugly, I roll the first fold several times until about an inch away from the fish and then crease that final fold.  I make much shallower-degree creases on the end pieces before folding them over so they are longer and won’t untuck.  Too bad I couldn’t find a picture and didn’t have one of my own, because I’ve over-thought this now and made it sound frustratingly complicated!!!

Candlemas

26 Jan

Celtic: Imbolc, Oimelc, Festival of Bride (pronounced ‘Breed’), Festival of Bridgit, Candlemas
Caledonii: Imbollgc Brigantia
Strega: Lupercus

Northern Hemisphere: February 2
Southern Hemisphere: August 1

Candlemas is the Christianized name for the greater sabbat. The older Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc. “Imbolc”‘ means, literally, “in the belly” (of the Mother) where, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings. The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening and the new year grows.

At the time of Candlemas, the newborn Sun God is seen as a small child nursing from his Mother.

The sabbat is also called “Brigit’s Day,” in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit. She was considered a goddess of fire and a patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing. The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be “Saint” Brigit, patron saint of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. They “explained” this by telling the Irish peasants that Brigit was, in fact, an early Christian missionary sent to the Emerald Isle.

Today, this sabbat is chiefly connected to weather lore. Even our American folk-calendar keeps the tradition of “Groundhog’s Day,” a day to predict the coming weather where if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be “six more weeks” of bad weather. This custom is ancient. An old British rhyme tells us that “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

Actually, all of the cross-quarter days can be used as “inverse” weather predictors, whereas the quarter-days are used as “direct” weather predictors. Imbolc involves celebrations of banishing the winter and welcoming the spring. At this phase of the cycle, winter is swept away and new beginnings are nurtured. Some Wiccan groups favor this time of year for initiations into the Craft.

It is traditional at Candlemas to light every lamp in the house for a few minutes in honor of the Sun’s rebirth.

The following is from Kate West:

At Imbolc, the spark of light born at Yule becomes a flame to warm people and the land. Now we see the first signs of spring. The trees are in bud and some flowers (snowdrops, for example) begin to blossom. The word “Imbolc” means “in the belly,” whilst “Oimelc” means “ewe’s milk.” Both refer to the fact that many ewes are pregnant at this time and in a mild year the first lambs will be born about now. Imbolc is the quickening of the year, the time when the Earth is made pregnant with the promise of summer fruitfulness and the harvest to come.

At Imbolc the Goddess casts aside the robes of Wise One and returns as Maiden, dressed in white. In some groups a Maiden will be chosen and will wear a crown of lights and a white robe or cloak for the ritual. It is worth noting that up until relatively recently, the term “maiden” was used to denote a female who had not yet given birth to [a] child, so that even an obviously pregnant married woman could be a maiden and take this role in ritual. The God, who was reborn at Yule, is now seen as a young man, full of vigor, and his pursuit of the Maiden starts at this sabbat.

Imbolc is the time when the last of Yule’s festive evergreens are removed. In some places it is still traditional to hold on to the (undecorated) Christmas fir until Imbolc, when it is taken and burned on the Imbolc fires. These days few of us can afford to keep the tree in place, especially as our modern forced and treated trees find it hard to keep their needles until January, let alone a whole month later. However, there is a practical alternative. As part of your Imbolc celebrations, take all the Yule and Christmas cards you have been given and recycle them, either making them into gift tags for the following year or cutting out the pictures to give to a local playgroup.

In ancient Rome, this was a festival of Pan [the Lupercalia] and the priests of Pan, called the Luperci, would run through the streets dressed in goatskin cloth whipping the people, especially women, to make them fertile for the coming year.

In many parts of the British Isles you will find wells dedicated to Bride or to the Christian [Saint] Bridget. Originally these would have been associated with the Goddess. If you are lucky enough to live near one of these, or able to visit one, look for a nearby tree with scraps of fabric tied to its branches. This will be a wishing tree.” Many people, whether Witches, Pagans or otherwise, visit these places to make an offering to the Goddess in the hope of having a wish granted. Such offerings are usually a strip of cloth, but it is not unusual to see necklaces of plaited grasses, small posies of flowers and even a child’s shoe tied to a wishing tree. If you do visit such a site and wish to leave an offering, try to make it something which will soon return to the earth – a small circlet of grass plaited whilst thinking about your wish, or a hair from your own head, offered as a form of sacrifice. Look in your local press for notices of well-dressing celebrations, as many of these still take place at this time of year.

AN IMBOLC RITUAL

This festival is the first rite of spring. The dark of winter is behind us and now the Goddess takes on the robes of the Maiden and the God is seen as a young man.

Find some time and a place where you will be undisturbed. Take a black or dark red candle to represent the Goddess as Wise One and a white one to represent her as Maiden. As with all your rituals, call upon the elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, as well as the Goddess and the God to be with you.

Light the dark candle and say, “This light is the light of the Crone, the Wise One who has ruled over the winter months, the resting time.” Spend a few moments thinking of all that has passed since your celebration of Samhain, especially of what you have learned in this time.

Next say, “Now it is time for the Crone to turn away and become once more the Maiden, Lady of Spring and of promise.” Light the white candle and extinguish the dark one.

Now spend a little time thinking about what you would like to begin in this new season.

Thank the elements and the Goddess and the God for their presence during your rites.

An alternative to this ritual would be to take some ice, a large piece if possible, and, taking it in your strong hand (your right if right handed, your left if left handed), hold it over a bowl and say, “This represents the Crone, Lady of Winter, of the time when the land is still and resting. But as winter’s thaw begins, so the Lady casts off her robes of stillness and becomes once more the Maiden. Full of movement, like the cool waters of spring, she flows once more to bring life and hope to all the land.”

Once the ice has fully melted, keep the resulting water to put on your favorite plant, either indoors or in the garden. Please wait until the water has reached a reasonable temperature before you do this, otherwise you will freeze the poor thing’s roots!

Once again, this ritual should begin by asking the support of the elements, the Goddess and the God, and they should be thanked at the end.

OTHER IMBOLC RITUALS

As this is a time of new life and growth, it is appropriate to plant bulbs or flowers or to sow seeds. However, you will need to use your judgment and some local knowledge to decide whether to actually do so at Imbolc or whether to wait a week (or several) until the last frosts have passed. Of course, seeds can often be started indoors and planted out a month or so later.

A word of caution here – if you are unlucky and your seedlings or plants fail, try not to read anything significant into this. Unless and until you are an experienced and seasoned gardener, or unless you naturally have “green fingers,” you are quite likely to have a less than impressive success rate the first few times.

If you don’t have access to a garden, you can always choose an indoor plant to nurture. Many of the herbs that Witches use in their Magic, as well as their kitchen, will grow quite happily on a window sill. Rosemary and lavender are perhaps the two most useful, as well as having a pleasant scent all year round.

If you are lucky enough to live near a suitable tree, choose one to be “your own.” This is the tree that you will watch to mark the seasons. Observe its cycles of growth and fruitfulness, the way it reacts to the seasons. By doing this you will have a natural link to the Wheel of the Year. It is better to choose a tree which does shed its leaves in winter rather than an evergreen, as the cycles of the latter can be very difficult to see. There are many trees which have particular significance to Witches; oak, ash, hawthorn, elder, willow, rowan and many others. If your tree is in your own garden or in an accessible place, then you will be able to visit it and even meditate under it whenever you please. You may even find that this is the tree which gives you the wood for your wand.

OTHER CANDLEMAS FACTS

Candlemas involves celebrations of banishing the winter and welcoming the spring.

Light a candle in each room of the house or turn on all the ligts for a moment or two to welcome back the Sun. Imbolc is a celebration of the end of winter and the return of the light.

At the time of Candlemas, the newborn Sun God is seen as a small child nursing from his Mother.

At this phase of the cycle, winter is swept away and new beginnings are nurtured. Some Wiccan groups favor this time of year for initiations into the Craft. It is traditional at Candlemas to light every lamp in the house for a few minutes in honor of the Sun’s rebirth.

The Goddess becomes the “Maiden” again as the wheel turns toward Spring. It is a celebration of the coming Spring and the new life it represents.

Imbolc (pronounced “IM-bulk”, “IM mol’g” or “EM-bowl/k”) is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on February 2nd. In the Celtic tradition it is celebrated on February 1st or the first Full Moon in Aquarius.

Other names Imbolc are known by include Imbolg, Imbolic (Celtic), Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonii Tradition, or the Druids), Candlelaria (Mexican Craft), Disting (Teutonic Tradition – celebrated on February 14th), Candlemas (some Pagan Traditions and/or individuals prefer this name), the Feast of Candlemas and St. Bridget’s Day (Christian), Oimelc, Brigid’s Day, Lupercus (Strega), the Feast of Lights, the Feast of the Virgin, the Snowdrop Festival, or the Festival of Lights. The name “Imbolc” or “Oimelc”, which is derived from Gaelic, means “ewe’s milk” after the lactating sheep that are feeding their first born lambs of the new season at this time of year.

This sabbat is a time of cleansing and newborn lambs, a good time for the blessing of seeds. It is a festival of the Maiden in preparation for growth and renewal. Imbolc is a time to honor the Virgin Goddesses, along with the first signs of returning life in a frozen winterland. In many places, the crocus flower is one of the first to show itself popping up through the snow, and so it is also a symbol of this sabbat. Candlemas is a Festival of Light and is therefore celebrated by the use of many candles.

Symbolically, many Pagans choose to represent Imbolc by the use of Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels – these may be used in ritual or simply as decoration. Candle Wheels are generally round decorated “crowns” made of straw or some type of natural woven substance which is ringed with either eight or thirteen red, pink or white candles and decorated with colored ribbons. In many Imbolc rituals, it is traditional for the High Priestess or the Maiden to wear this “crown” during the ritual at some point.

Grain Dollies can be made many different ways, and need not take on human shape unless you desire. They are made of wheat or sheaves of other grains such as straw, corn or barley. The sheaves are formed into some semblance of a “dolly” by folding, tucking and tying here and there. They can then be “dressed” in white cotton or satin and lace to represent the bride. You may even choose to create a “bed” (from a basket usually) for your grain dolly, commonly called a “Bride’s Bed”. There are many Pagan books available on how to create Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels. Please refer to them for further instructions on making these decorations. Imbolc is also represented by burrowing animals. Some other altar decorations may include a besom (Witch’s broom) to symbolize the sweeping out of the old, a sprig of evergreen, or a small Goddess statue representing Her in the Maiden aspect.

Imbolc can be symbolically represented by a dish of snow, evergreens and/or candles. Ritually, you may choose to light and hold candles (symbol of light) within the Circle. You may also want to place a wheel symbol upon the Altar. It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house — if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place it in a prominent part of the home or in a window. If snow lies on the ground, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of Summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow. Other Pagan activities may include the gathering of stones and the searching for signs of Spring. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants at this time.

Appropriate Deities for Imbolc include all Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, all Fire/Flame Gods and Goddesses, and Gods and Goddesses represented as Children. Some Imbolc deities include Brigid, Aradia, Anu, Arianrhod, Athena, Branwen, Inanna, Selene, Gaia, Februa, Februus, Pax, Cupid, Eros, and Diancecht. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include planning and preparing for the times to come. Spellwork for fertility and protection are appropriate, as well as those to help one define and focus on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order – whether physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or all of the above. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to help create a refreshing sense of bringing in the new and clearing out the old. Preparing yourself and your home now will help to allow you to take full advantage of the wonder and freedom that Springtime will bring.

The most common colors associated with Imbolc are white, yellow, and pink. However, light blue, light green, red and brown are also appropriate colors for this sabbat. Altar candles should be white, red, pink and/or brown. Stones to use during the Imbolc celebration are turquoise, amethyst, garnet and onyx. Animals associated with Imbolc include robins, sheep, lambs, deer, and burrowing animals like badgers and groundhogs. Mythical beasts associated with Imbolc are the phoenix, dragons and other types of firebirds. Plants and herbs associated with Imbolc are evergreens and willow trees, rosemary, angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, heather, myrrh, clover, dill, and all yellow flowers. For Imbolc incense, you could make a blend from any of the following scents or simply choose one: basil, myrrh, frankincense, wisteria, jasmine, camphor, cinnamon, and lotus.

Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those that represent growth, such as seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), as well as poppy seed breads, muffins, and cakes. Also quite befitting are foods from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Appropriate meat dishes should contain poultry, pork, or lamb. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines, herbal teas, honey, and dishes containing raisins — all foods symbolic of the Sun — are also traditional.

CANDLEMAS CUSTOM

The Witches’ Almanac, page 36, pring 1993 to Spring 1994 edition,
prepared and edited by Elizabeth Pepper and John Wilcock,
Published by Pentacle Press, 1993

At nightfall on Candlemas Eve (February 1), an ancient tradition is observed by witches. Every candle in the covenstead glows with living fire to encourage the swift return of the sun and the spring season. The holiday has a deeper significance too, for it is the prelude to an interval of purification. This is the time of year to eliminate from one’s life all that encumbers — from old clothes to worn-out dreams. Just as candles illuminate the darkness, a witch seeks to penetrate the hidden recesses of the mind and heart in order to greet the coming season with a clear horizon in view.

Alchemists described the climactic day of an experiment, when baser metals were to be transmuted into gold, as “a day of projection.” Candlemas marks for us a period of projection, from February 2 to March 21, during which a personal transformation takes place.

Mundane matters such as settling debts, returning borrowed items, and catching up on correspondence are attended to during early February. A systematic clearing out of drawers, cabinets and closets eliminates unnecessary articles which accumulate over a year’s time. Appraise all your possessions to determine what should be discarded or passed on. This stage of Candlemas Custom subtly increases the power of decision and prepares us to examine the quality of our individual lives.

BASIC DESERT CREPES AND CREPES SUZETTE

The Witches’ Almanac, page 38, Spring 1995 to Spring 1996 edition,
prepared and edited by Elizabeth Pepper and John Wilcock,
Published by Pentacle Press, 1995

Dessert crepes are delectable, light and tender, and despite their bad press as a fussy food, they are simple to prepare. If you can make ordinary breakfast pancakes, you can make crepes. But they do need to be prepared in a heavy iron pan. Special crepe pans differ from skillets only in that the sides are lower and more slanty; if you don’t have a special crepe pan, any small, heavy skillet will do.

7/8 cup Flour
1 tablespoon Sugar
3 Eggs
2 tablespoons Melted Butter
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/8 teaspoon Salt
About 1 1/2 cups Milk

Sift dry ingredients and add eggs one at a time, mixing well, until there are no lumps; a mixer at low speed does this well. Add melted butter and flavorings. Gradually stir in milk and mix until batter is consistency of light cream. Let batter rest 1 or 2 hours.

Heat a heavy 6-inch pan well and butter it. Pour in about 1 1/2 tablespoons batter and tip the pan so that it covers the entire bottom. Pour any excess batter back into the bowl. Cook crepe until it shakes loose from bottom of pan. Turn with fingers or spatula and brown lightly on reverse side. (Crepes may be kept for several days in the refrigerator or for a month in the freezer.)

You may simply squeeze fresh orange juice over the crepe, add a sprinkle of sugar and roll it up.

Or for a more elaborate treat:

Cream 1 cup butter with 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. Add the grated rind of 3 oranges, the juice of 1 1/2 oranges, and 5 tablespoons Grand Mariner or other brandy. Melt over low heat in a skillet or chafing dish. Fold crepes in quarters and add a few at a time to the pan. Heat very slowly, spooning the sauce over them until well saturated. Remove to a heatproof platter and keep warm until all are done. Pour the sauce in the pan over the crepes, add 1/4 cup warm brandy, ignite and serve.

IMBOLC INCENSE

by Scott Cunningham
The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews, page 72,
Llewellyn Publications, 1992

3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Dragon’s Blood
1/2 part Red Sandalwood
1 part Cinnamon
a few drops Red Wine

To this mixture add a pinch of the first flower (dry it first) that is available in your area at the time of Imbolc (February 1st). Burn during Wiccan ceremonies on Imbolc, or simply to attune with the symbolic rebirth of the Sun — the fading of winter and the promise of Spring.

CANDLEMAS RITUAL POTPOURRI

by Gerina Dunwich
The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch’s Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes, page 161,
A Citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group, 1994/1995

A small cauldron filled with homemade potpourri can be used as a fragrant altar decoration, burned (outdoors) as an offering to the old gods during or after a sabbath celebration, or wrapped in decorative paper and ribbons and given to a Wiccan sister or brother as a sabbat gift.

45 drops Myrrh Oil
1 cup Oak Moss
2 cups Dried Heather Flowers
2 cups Dried Wisteria
1 cup Dried Yellow Tulip Petals
1/2 cup Dried Basil
1/2 cup Dried and Chopped Bay Leaves

Mix the myrrh oil with the oak moss, and then add the remaining ingredients. Stir the potpourri well and then store in a tightly covered ceramic or glass container.

IMBOLC OIL

5 drops frankincense
5 drops rosemary
3 drops cinnamon
2 drops sandalwood

Add a piece of rowan and a small hematite, garnet, and clear quartz crystal. A spicy, sunny scent for awakening the earth. Put in soap or use to annoint candles.

CANDLEMAS CRESCENT CAKES

by Gerina Dunwich
The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch’s Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes, page 166,
A Citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group, 1994/1995

1 1/4 cups Flour
3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Finely Ground Almonds
3 drops Almond Extract
1/2 cup Butter or Margarine, softened
1 tablespoon Honey
1 Egg Yolk

In a large mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Add the butter, honey and egg yolk and mix together well. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and then chill for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
When ready, pinch off pieces of the dough (about the size of plums) and shape them into crescents.
Place the crescents on a well-greased cookie sheet and bake in a 325-degree preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. This recipe yields about one dozen Candlemas Crescent Cakes.

IMBOLC SALSA

by Scott Cunningham
Llewellyn’s 1993 Magical Almanac, pages 90-91,
Llewellyn Worldwide Publications, 1992

2 very large, very ripe Tomatoes
1 small Onion
1 to 2 canned Seranno Chilies
1 tablespoon Cilantro (fresh Coriander leaves), finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
A dash Sugar

Peel and finely chop the tomatoes. Finely chop the onion. Remove seeds from chili pepper(s) and finely chop. (WARNING: Two will make this quite hot.) Place the first four ingredients into a bowl, season to taste, and let sit, refrigerated, for several hours. Serve cold with tortilla chips. (Serve with chili [vegetarian or con carne], beans and rice.)

Source: Magic Spells, Inc.

Digg!

“Gower Wassail” by Steeleye Span

22 Dec

Wassail” (pronounced wossayl or woss’l) is a hot, spiced punch often associated with winter celebrations of northern Europe, usually those connected with holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s and Twelfth Night. Particularly popular in Germanic countries, the term itself is a contraction of the Old English toast wæs þu hæl, or “be thou hale!” (i.e., “be in good health”). alternate expressions predating the term, with approximately the same meaning, include both the Old Norse “ves heill” and Old English “wæs hāl.”

While the beverage typically served as “wassail” at modern holiday feasts with a medieval theme most closely resembles mulled cider, historical wassail was completely different, more likely to be mulled beer. Sugar, ale, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon would be placed in a bowl, heated, and topped with slices of toast as sops. Hence the first stanza of the traditional carol the Gloucestershire Wassail dating back to the Middle Ages:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

At Carhampton, near Minehead, the Apple Wassailing is held on the Old Twelfth Night (17 January). The villagers form a circle around the largest apple tree, hang pieces of toast soaked in cider in the branches for the robins, who represent the ‘good spirits’ of the tree. A shotgun is fired overhead to scare away evil spirits and the group sings, the following being the last verse:

Old Apple tree, old apple tree;
We’ve come to wassail thee;
To bear and to bow apples enow;
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full;
Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs

Here’s a nice recipe for Wassail:

The taste of this drink is quite good. Deep, rich and spicy. It’s no wonder why this drink was handed out to those who went out caroling.

  • 2 pints and 1/4 cup brown ale (winter ale and scottish ale will also suffice)
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 4 apples
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup port
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardomon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large sauce pan, pour in 2 pints of ale. Add the cinnamon sticks, lemon zest and cloves and bring to a simmer over low heat.

Take an apple, and score it with a knife around the circumfrance of the apple. Place in a baking dish. Repeat this step for all of the apples. Cover with one cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of ale, and all of the port. Cover baking dish and place in oven, cooking for 30 minutes.

While apples are baking, place remaining sugar and spices into the sauce pan, ensuring it’s well mixed.

When apples are done baking, place entire contents of baking dish into sauce pan. Allow to cook over a low heat for another 30-40 minutes.

Serve hot, one-two ladles into your favorite mug.

Serves 6-8

In conclusion, I highly recommend anything by Steeleye Span, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say their Spanning the Years compilation is terrific. They’re talented and fun.

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Yummy Ahi Tuna

7 Dec

I’m the first one to admit, I’m no cook. In fact, licking the back of a postage stamp is probably both more tasty and more nutritious than my cooking!

However, here’s a recipe that sounds yummy and looks so easy, maybe even I could do it! Check out Sesame Encrusted Ahi Tuna at The Gastronomist.

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