Friday, September 19, 2014

Mabon with the Kitchen Witch!

Autumnal Greetings! 

This turn of the wheel now brings us to the Autumnal Equinox, also known as Mabon. There is so much going on this time of year, one must only look out the window to see it! The temperature drops noticeably, the leaves are already changing and falling off the trees in wisps of beautiful colors. Many people celebrate Mabon as a Pagan Thanksgiving. We offer our gratitude for the full bounty of our harvest, a successful growing season, and prepare our homes to settle in for the long winter ahead. The equinox is also a time for balance, and we take this time to bring this lesson into our lives in so many ways. Light and dark are in perfect balance on Mabon and from now until Yule, the sun’s strength wanes each day.How do we bring this symbolism to our Mabon table? The first step is to decorate our tables with the beautiful colors of the new season. Oranges, reds, yellows, golds and browns should grace the table. Collect beautiful leaves from your yard and fill a vase for your table, or use the leaves to create personalized place cards for each of your guests. My family takes a nature walk each Mabon. We collect leaves, place them between two sheets of wax paper with some crayon shavings, iron the sheets together, then make a border with construction paper—Mabon place mats! Make sure you have an adult’s supervision with the iron. Our common theme for Mabon’s feast is the apple, a very typical and symbolic food that has great significance in Pagan celebrations. Slice an apple in half, across the seeds, and you’ll see nature’s very own pentacle! Herbs such as sage and rosemary are typical this time of year, as are grapes, gourds and peaches. Remember to bring your goal into your cooking; you’re not just making a meal, you’re nourishing the soul and appreciating the bounty given to us by the God and Goddess. 

HOT SPICED APPLE CIDER 
Wonderful for a chilly autumn evening, or to use during the Cakes & Ale part of your Mabon ritual. Be creative with your spices, add what you like. It’s all up to you! Here’s what you need for a basic recipe: 

6 cups of fresh apple cider
1/4 cup REAL maple syrup (not pancake syrup!)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice berries
1 orange peel, cut into strips (try to get the orange part, not the bitter white part underneath)
1 lemon peel, cut into strips (same thing, just the yellow)

Pour the cider and maple syrup into a large, non-reactive saucepan. Take a piece of cheesecloth (available at the supermarket), wash it, and cut a large square. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, and citrus peels into the center of the cheesecloth. Fold the sides up into a bundle and tie it up with kitchen string, also available in your supermarket. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture. Place the pan over medium high heat for 5-10 minutes, until the cider is very hot, but not boiling. Remove cider from the heat. Discard spice bundle. Pour carefully, with a large ladle, into mugs. You can garnish each serving with a cinnamon stick or a thin orange slice if you wish. 

APPLE-STUFFED SWEET POTATOES 
I found this recipe when looking for healthier alternatives to glopping butter onto my potatoes. Not only is this sweet and delicious, it’s low in fat! 

4 medium sweet potatoes
1 1/2 cup peeled and finely chopped apples (approximately 2 apples)
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup sugar (you can use less, or you can use an artificial sweetener like Splenda)
1 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest

Heat the oven to 400 degrees, put potatoes on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake them until soft, approximately 45 minutes to one hour. When potatoes are ready, combine remaining ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for three minutes. Stir carefully. Cook uncovered 1 ½ to 2 ½ minutes more until thick. IT WILL BE VERY HOT! BE CAREFUL! Cut a slit down each potato with a knife, and spoon a generous serving of the apple mixture into each. Yummmm…. 

HONEY CITRUS CHICKEN

One large roasting chicken, or 4-6 Cornish game hens
1-2 oranges, unpeeled, cut into wedges
2 lemons, unpeeled, cut into wedges
1/2 cup of honey
1 Tablespoon of orange zest
1 Tablespoon of lemon zest
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stuff the chicken or game hens with orange and lemon wedges; place in a roasting pan. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, and brush the chicken with this mixture. Bake in oven, basting with honey mixture twice during cooking, until cooked through, 60 – 75 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken (45 minutes if using game hens). 

THYME GREEN BEANS WITH ALMONDS 
A savory vegetable side dish will break up the sweetness of the other items on the Mabon menu. Here’s one of my favorites. 

2 pounds of fresh green beans, ends snipped off
2 tablespoons of butter, can use olive oil
1 tablespoon of minced fresh thyme (1 teaspoon if using dried thyme)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/3 cup of slivered almonds, toasted

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully put the green beans into the water and let them cook for about 8-10 minutes, until just crisp-tender and still bright green. Remove the beans from the water and plunge them into a large bowl of ice-water. This will help them keep their beautiful color and prevent them from overcooking by their own heat. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the beans, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes, or until heated through. Sprinkle with almonds when ready to serve. 

BEST EVER APPLE PIE 
To me, it’s not autumn until we’ve gone apple picking and made an apple pie. Is it really the “best ever” apple pie? My family thinks it is! This is the one request that I get when guests join us for dinner this time of year. (It’s second only to the Pumpkin Bread I make at Samhain, wait until next issue for that one!) Use a mixture of great apples to get full flavor. My personal favorite mix is Gala, Granny Smith and Macintosh apples. I hope you enjoy it as well. 

Pastry for 2 crust pie (can use your favorite recipe, or a premade one works just fine and saves TONS of work!)
1 cup of sugar
4 Tablespoons of flour
Dash of salt
6 cups of peeled, pared and thinly-sliced apples (about 6 apples)
2 Tablespoon of butter
2 Tablespoons of milk
1 more tablespoon of sugar Cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, flour and salt. Put apples into a very large mixing bowl. Pour sugar mixture over the apples and toss them lightly to coat them evenly. Place one pie crust into the bottom of your pie dish, pour in apples. Dot with small pieces of butter. Roll on the top layer of pastry, adjusting it over the filling. Make several slits in the top with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape during cooking. Crimp the edge with your fingers or with a fork. Brush the top of the pie with milk using a pastry brush, and sprinkle on a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet on the center oven rack for 45-50 minutes, or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. **Variation: When dotting the pie filling with butter, you can add some squares of caramel in there too! Fabulous!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Make a Wheat Weaving for Mabon!

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

This year we celebrate Mabon on September 23! Like Lammas, Mabon is a Harvest Festival. While Lammas marks the first Harvest (fruits), Mabon marks the last (grains). If you live on or near a farm, you can see that the plants are starting to yellow. It's the end of the growing season, and the world is getting ready to renew itself, and go to sleep for a while. 

You may see people hang wheat weavings in their houses or on their doors once the cooler weather of Fall settles in. They do look lovely, but they are more than just a decoration. In times past, when the Harvest was gathered, stalks of the best corn were set aside to be woven into a Corn Dollie, a talisman in which the spirit of the fields would dwell during the Winter, when the land was dormant (at rest). The Corn Dollie would be presented to the landlord (read: the "Land Lord"  who owned many acres of property, and families who lived close by would rent the land from him and grow crops on it). The Corn Dollie would be accepted and in return, a feast would be given.


Today, we know these as Fall Festivals or Harvest Home banquets. These feasts were held not only to show thanks to the Earth and enjoy Her bounty, but as an act of faith that the fields would bloom again. When the fields were plowed for the next Spring's planting, the Corn Dollie would be returned to the Earth. Visit the Guild of Straw Craftsmen to see some really neat examples of the kind of Corn Dollies you can make--then, try it yourself and bring an Autumnal Blessing to your home. You'll need: 

  • 9 strands of wheat 
  • Water 
  • A Large Flat Pan (it should be big enough to lay the wheat flat in it without bending the stalks) 
  • Red Ribbon (you can also use a seasonal color like orange--both represent fiery energy!) 
  • Scissors 

While you are braiding and tying, say the following spell (or make up your own):

Welcome Mabon! 
Colors bright, 
An time of equal Day and night. 
Goddess sweet, please smile on me, 
And on my home give blessings three! 

You may want to practice braiding with some string before you begin so that when you do the work, you can concentrate on the spell and not be distracted or frustrated if you make a mistake. Soak the wheat in water for about three hours before you work with it so that it is soft and pliable. 

Tie the nine strands of wheat together with the heads at the top, then divide the nine into three sections of three strands each. Hold the wheat so that the sections are in front of you like the diagram below. The left strand is A, the middle, B and the right, C.



Start with your left strand (A) and cross it over the middle strand (B). Next, take the right strand (C) and cross it over the new "middle" strand (A).


Take your new "left" strand (B) and cross it over your new "middle" strand (C). Then take your right strand (now A) and cross if over the middle strand (B).


Each thread takes turns as the middle, left and right strands with each crossing. 


Keep repeating the process--crossing the left and then the right strands over the middle strand of the braid, until the strands are too short to cross any more.


Take the end of the braid and bend it up so that the braid makes a loop. Tie the end to the top of the Corn Dollie (where the heads of the wheat are) and knot three times. Tie a length of ribbon through the braid loop for hanging--or you can do what I did here and make three braided loops and link them together. 


You may want to tie a sachet of herbs (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and star anise make a lovely Autumnal combination!), or other plants and feathers and decorations to give your Corn Dollie some extra energy.

Mabon Blessings to you!

by Natalie Zaman

Friday, September 12, 2014

Herbie and the Spite Corn

Herbie and Joey were good friends and next-door neighbors who shared many of the same interests. They both liked to work with tools, they both liked back yard cookouts, and they both were very VERY serious about keeping nice lawns.

Joey and Herbie were very different people, however. Herbie always made sure that the tools he borrowed were returned in the same, if not better, shape. Since their back yards touched and looked like one sea of grass, he also made sure that he did nothing to spoil the look of Joey’s lovely lawn. On the other hand, Joey returned what he borrowed, but not too quickly and not always in the same shape. He kept his lawn beautiful by piling all the yard sticks, leaves, pine cones and debris in the far corner of his land—the part near the front of Herbie’s house! 

Herbie knew Joey wasn’t a mean person, just thoughtless. He put up with the twigs and leaves, the missing and bent tools until, one day, Herbie’s favorite mower showed up in his shed, broken, muddy and out of gas. That was it! Herbie had enough! He knew he should let Karma take care of teaching Joey a lesson about caring and sharing, but he decided to take matters into his own hands. Joey needed to be punished, but how? He thought and he thought, and then he hit on the perfect plan. Nothing mattered more to Joey than the pristine look of his velvet green lawn, where every blade was the same height and no weed would dare trespass. If he could only make the yard look ugly without harming the innocent grass… Aha! He knew exactly what to do.


The next day, all along the boundary between his and Joey’s yard, Herbie planted a row of corn. At first, all you could see was a ridge of brown earth, but with watering, lots of energy, and warm spring days, the plants soon broke ground. It wasn’t long before a line of tall, spindly, leafy corn stalks were bobbing and waving in the gentle wind, trailing the silk of growing corncobs in their wake. Herbie called it “spite corn” and grinned sheepishly. Joey called it an eyesore, and asked that the corn be taken down, but Herbie refused. The summer passed. Joey held his backyard cookouts, as usual, despite the ugly corn stalks just meters away. Herbie, however, had to stop his cookouts when his friends no longer wanted to use the yard. They all had a funny feeling that the corn stalks were hissing at them, and that made them feel too uncomfortable to eat their hot dogs.

When the stalks matured, Herbie looked forward to eating some nice, fresh corn, newly picked. He boiled it with a pinch of sugar and buttered it well, but after the first bite, he spit it out and threw it away. Every ear of corn had a bitter taste, too nasty to be eaten. Even the crows wouldn’t come near it. Finally, at the end of summer, Herbie took down the dried stalks and burned them in his ritual pit as part of the Samhain fire. The smoke from the stalks was thick and oily. It clung to everyone’s robes, and filled the yard with a horrible black smoke. It even seeped into the house like an evil shadow. Herbie learned his lesson. Nothing done for spite is right.

Moral: Be careful of what you do, for it will come back to you 3 fold . And also--avoid hissing corn!

by Katharine Clark
art by Robin Ator

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy *BELATED* Birthday...

LEO!

Positive Traits ~ Warmth, generosity, nobility, strength, loyalty, leadership, and a soothing, gentle tenderness.
Negative Traits ~ Arrogance, false pride, vanity, tyranny, haughtiness, and sometimes, romantic promiscuity.
  • Ruling Planet: Sun
  • Color: The color of the Sun from dawn to dusk.
  • Dates: July 23 -  August 22
  • Polarity: Positive 
  • Duality: Masculine 
  • Element: Fire 
  • Quality: Fixed 
  • Body Areas: Heart, spine, back 
  • Direction: East (tending towards the North) 
  • Geography: Czech Republic, Italy, Lebanon, Romania, Sicily, Southern Iraq, South of France 
  • Cities: Bath, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Chicago, Damascus, Los Angeles, Madrid, Philadelphia, Portsmouth, Prague, Rome, Syracuse 
  • Trees: Bay, citrus, olive, palm, walnut 
  • Flowers and Herbs: Almond, celandine, helianthus, juniper, laurel, marigold, mistletoe, passion flower, peppermint, pimpernel, rosemary, rue, saffron, sunflower Foods Meat, and all vegetables with high iron content
Gregarious and generous, and forever loving the spotlight, Leos enjoy taking center stage. Nothing satisfies them more than to sit back at the end of the day and admire how well their tasks have been executed (with flair and finesse, of course!). Excellent organizers, Leos have a way of knowing how to get things done, and things are always done their way. However, it’s important for them to balance their egos when they are in charge of people; they might come across as bossy and domineering, and often unbearable. It’s important for them to learn how to delegate with charm and warmth, remembering that other people thrive on encouragement and praise just as they do. They love drama, and display a flair for theatrics, for Leos are the picture of extravagance and magnificence, and hence do everything ‘king size.’

Like the Crab of Cancer, the Lion of Leo is associated with one of the twelve labors that the hero Hercules was made to perform. A ferocious lion, born of Echidna (the snake-woman) and Typhon (a monster with a hundred eyes), was sent by Hera to wreak havoc upon the land of Nemea that was sacred to Zeus, king of the gods. First Hercules tried shooting it with arrows. Then he attacked it with a sword and a club, but the lion barely batted an eyelid. Eventually, Hercules resorted to choking the lion with his bare hands while it was resting in its cave. However, when he tried to skin it, he discovered that its hide resisted all knives and swords. Hercules used the lion's own claws to cut the hide, and then used the hide as an impenetrable suit of armor, with the head as a helmet. The lion itself was set in effigy among the stars by Zeus.


From the tears of adolescent Cancer, the soul is now transformed with brilliant swiftness into the symbolic teenager--Leo. Gone are the insecurities and extreme sensitivities. The soul has now returned to the element of fire (first being in Aries) for its second run through the elements. Because of this, the soul now knows (or thinks it knows) its true identity. Then again, don’t all teenagers believe they know everything there is to know about themselves and the world around them? Being in a ‘fixed’ sign, the soul experiences the powers of Masculine forces and the element of Fire a whole lot more than what it felt during its infancy in Aries. Now that summer has finally settled in and is in full bloom, Leo abandons all things that made his predecessor Cancer self-conscious into a blissful state of SELF consciousness.

Like the various planets and celestial bodies revolve around the sun, Leo souls believe the world revolves around them. Like all teenagers, they are self-involved and believe everything (even the small stuff) is all about them. This belief causes those born under this sign to gaze into the mirror and admire their reflection with an air of noble pride, but underneath this pride remains the memories of all the pain the soul experienced from its infancy in Aries to its painful adolescence in Cancer. No matter what, any weaknesses remain well hidden beneath brilliant smiles and twinkling eyes. Like every teenager, Leo needs reassurance in the form of flattery, and declarations and displays of love and affection (this soul still secretly cringes when ridiculed). After all, a teenager isn’t really the man or woman it believes it is, despite all the surface sureness.

The ruling Sun cleanses the soul of all grudges, tears, fears, and everything else it clung onto while under the influence of lunar Cancer, so Leo learns to forgive and forget easily on all levels and leads with sympathetic consideration for those who are more vulnerable. Leos truly believes that their presence in the lives of those less-fortunate can actually bring joy, just like the Sun brightens the world after a cold dark night. This is why Leos, despite their moments of diva-tyranny, have no real desire to crush the helpless, and love giving their friends and family a ‘make-over’ as a way of expressing their love--just like G(a)linda took it upon herself to make Elphaba popular; she believed that she had all the answers to everything life had to offer. No wonder her means of transportation was a bubble as she graced the citizens of Oz with her glorious leonine smile.


The sun, being the ultimate source of light has a powerful presence. When it glows gloriously in the sky, it nurtures plants, brings cheer and joy on a lovely summer day, nourishes our bones with Vitamin D and kisses our skin with a glorious healthy tan. However, this same sun, when taken in large doses, can be dangerous. Like the sun, it’s always advisable to take Leo in small, yet necessary doses. A word of advice to those living with a Lion--give them plenty of personal space and never disturb their beauty sleep. Clinging to them might get you a burn from their solar fires. Try to control them with rules and discipline, and they’ll let out ferocious roars that will send shivers down your spine. This is why, despite being the first to forgive and forget, Leos still have trouble obeying orders and at times respecting the wisdom and concern of their elders--just like your typical teenager.

Leo souls admire and are admired, love and are loved. Their motto is I WILL and go through life with an ever sunny disposition, leaving behind all their forgotten fears and insecurities. Despite their self-centeredness, they are incredible romantics, and take full pleasure in the joys love has to offer. They live in the relaxing joys of the present, for the past is behind and forgotten, and the future is still ahead and will unravel when it has to. One of the most creative of the signs, they’ll always add that extra shine to everything they put their heart and will to.

The Karmic goal of Leo souls is to express the life force creatively from the heart to empower themselves and the souls of those around them. If lead and prodded with tender love and care, they’ll quickly transform from ferocious kings and queens of the jungle, into playful kittens (just like the Strength Card in the Tarot). Once they learn the difference between empowering others and having power over them, they’ll blossom into wise leaders with a magnanimous loving spirit. An aware Leo naturally radiates warmth out to the cold world, and holds and binds all by the power of love. The inner nature or destiny of the sign is HARMONY.

by Zorian Cross 
Art from the collections at karenswhimsy.com

Friday, September 5, 2014

Broomstix ♥♥♥s Kid Art!

We love it when readers try our crafts and spells and coloring pages! Thank you Oonah from Massachusetts for coloring and decorating our Harvest Goddess and sharing it:


Have you tried something you found on Broomstix? Email us at broomstixblog@gmail.com and tell us all about it--and we'll post it here!