Friday, October 17, 2014

Crow Magic!

It's 5 a.m. A warm summer breeze pokes its way through the window screen, softly caressing your face. Lazily, you roll over onto your back, relishing that sleepy state of comfort. Just as you are about to slip back into dreamland, you are jolted, wide awake, sleep no longer an option. It is a new day and the messenger of such is making sure that everyone knows it!

If you haven’t already guessed it, that messenger is jet black and screeching out its throaty, unmistakable trademark of “caw-caw” - the aggravating and annoying, crow! The crow is a member of the “corvidae” family which includes magpies, blue jays and ravens. Ravens have often been mistaken for the crow because of their similarity. The only real difference between them is that the raven is much larger and found more in wilderness areas.

Not everyone views the crow just as a loud, obnoxious, black bird. In Roman mythology crows were as white as snow. One day, the crow brought Apollo (a Greek god) bad news that made him very angry. It is believed that in a fit of fury, he turned the crow from white to inky black. Native Americans believe that animals serve as “totems” or spirit guides. A totem is an object or animal whose energy attaches to someone during their life time. It is believed that if you have a crow as your totem, there are many lessons that they can teach you. Lessons such as how to be at peace when you are alone, as well as within a group; how to value yourself and give yourself the best out of life; and how to find joy in exploring new things.

With the crow as your totem also comes responsibility. When you encounter people who are in emotional pain or are bitter and do not have the intentions of doing good to others or to themselves, it is your role to guide them into a place where they can forgive the people who have hurt them. However, before you can do this for others, you must first turn your own bitterness, anger, and hurt into love and forgiveness. Native legend also states that the crow is very mystical and is able to bring messages to the living from ancestors in the spirit realm.


...the crow is considered to be the smartest of all birds. Some studies indicate that crows can even count! 

...during mating season, the male crow makes himself look as handsome as possible. When he finds that special female crow, they build their nest together. 

...the great horned owl is crows’ most deadly enemy, and at night their nests are extremely vulnerable.  

...the crow is a member of the songbird family (now, that’s hard to believe!) and has 25 different calls. 

...crows live in all parts of the world, except for Antarctica, South America and New Zealand.

If you take the time to observe the crow, you will see that they are very watchful and always have a member posted as the lookout. Their nests are made with an outer basket of sticks and then filled with mud and grass. As a finishing touch, they are lined with something soft like spongy, green moss. These large, bulky nests are built high up in the trees so they can observe their living and feeding area in its entirety. Their keen, piercing eyes miss nothing. Sometimes they have been observed to attack and kill one of their own. It is an old belief that they do this to the lookout crow who failed to warn of danger. Crows are notorious for warning other animals and birds of any threat or lurking danger. They are very social and are masters at working together.

Crows are extremely curious and they have to explore anything that catches their attention. In fact, they are thieves! Shiny things, like coins or jewelry left unattended, could likely end up in their tree top nests. They also have an insatiable appetite and will eat almost anything. It is nothing for them to steal food from other birds or whatever is lying around. Don’t leave that food on the picnic table unattended! Remember – they are watching!

When you look closely at the crow, especially on a bright, sunny day, their feathers give hints of deep blues and purples that glisten like a shiny, well polished shoe. Although the crow is a daytime bird, black is the colour of night. The colour black has long time been associated with magic (i.e. “black magic”) and traditionally it is what the crow symbolized, but their blackness is also a reminder that every pitch-black night miraculously gives birth to a brand new day.

So the next time your sleep is cut short in the early morning hours by that rambunctious, obnoxious, aggravating, big black pest, consider this: maybe he is trying to give you a message that magic is all around you and that life itself is magical! 
by Keri Lefave
art by Morgaine du Mer

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Samhain with the Kitchen Witch!

Greetings and merry meet! How quickly the wheel has turned and brought us to the exciting Sabbat of Samhain. Just step outside and you can feel the chill in the air, see the beautiful colors of the changing leaves, leaving summer behind us as a fond memory. There’s a buzz of excitement in the air’s energy this time of year as we physically and emotionally prepare ourselves for the coming holidays and cold season. The time between Samhain and Yule is my favorite time of year for cooking. Our bounty is still abundant, but the flavors become more rich and the meals become more hearty. Long, slow cooking processes leave your home smelling fabulous!

Being seen as one of the most, or even THE most important holiday in Pagan celebrations, the Samhain meal is very significant. Many consider this Sabbat as the Pagan new year, so it is a time for new beginnings and endings. As you may know, the American Halloween tradition of dressing in costume comes from the idea of dressing up for this date in a costume that will attract the qualities you want to bring for yourself into the new year. The other big influence on our celebration is the Celtic Feast of the Dead. This is the time of the year when the veil between our conscious world and the spirit realm is thin, making communication with our deceased loved ones easier than during the rest of the year. The Halloween tradition of Trick or Treat has evolved from making a feast to honor our ancestors, leaving out for them the most choice cuts of the meal, and leaving treats to appease any mischievous spirits that may come to play.

Our Samhain feast focuses more on the traditional meaning of the ancestor feast to honor our loved ones who are no longer living, but I’ve thrown in a few fun witchy Halloween items too. Most of the dinner recipes I’ve included are traditional in my family and honor my own ancestors by using recipes that have been handed down to me. I’d like you to focus on being creative in planning your own Samhain dinner by asking parents, grandparents or other respected elders for their favorite recipes and adding them to your own feast. There may be items that you wouldn’t normally see on the table for the same meal, and that’s okay, because we’ve got a dish that represents each one of the people we’re hoping to honor with our feast. The desserts, however, are fun and festive for either a Samhain dinner or a Halloween party with friends. Here’s what we’ve got cooking for Samhain:

There was never a family gathering without Nana’s antipasti plate as an appetizer. There are no specific amounts and you can substitute anything that you like with this one. Set out a tray of antipasti so your guests can snack while you’re preparing the rest of the fabulous meal. 

Thinly sliced Genoa salami, prosciutto, ham
Fresh mozzarella cheese, either in small balls or cut into thin strips
Thinly sliced provolone cheese
Roasted peppers cut into strips
Celery sticks
Fresh shrimp that has been deveined and cooked, shells removed.

Roll each slice of salami and prosciutto up into cigar-shaped rolls. Arrange all the meats, cheeses, vegetables and breadsticks on a platter in a pretty display. Easy! 

When I was a child, my grandmother took me on a vacation to South Carolina and we sat each morning in the beautiful garden of our Bed and Breakfast, eating fresh-baked pop-overs with home made jelly. Pop-overs are a light, airy bread made in a muffin tin, best served hot with melted butter as an addition to any meal. I can’t have these without fondly remembering her and our trip. If you’re making the full Samhain menu, you can bake these while the roast is resting. 

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 cup MINUS 2 Tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt Preheat oven to 375.

Generously grease 9 muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, water. Add butter in a stream, whisking the entire time. Add flour and salt. Whisk until just combined, but still slightly lumpy. Divide the batter into the tins of the muffin pan. Bake in the lower 3rd of the oven for 45 minutes. Cut a slit about 1/2 ” long on top of each popover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve immediately with butter and/or jam.

Opapasan was my father and while he didn't cook EVER, this was his favorite dish so I make it to represent him at our Samhain meal. A rib roast is a very expensive cut of meat but it is so worth it. It’s delicious and everyone will be impressed. It has a few steps in it, and requires some advanced preparation, so plan ahead. 

Two full heads of garlic
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup of prepared white cream-style horseradish
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 6-pound rib roast **Note: You can have the butcher remove the ribs from the roast then tie them back on with butcher twine. The bones give the meat so much flavor, plus they’re fun to chew on later, but it makes for more difficult carving if they’re still attached.

Preheat oven to 350. Carefully slice the tops off the two heads of garlic, exposing the cloves. Place garlic heads onto a sheet of heavy duty foil. Drizzle the top of each with some of the olive oil and seal them in the foil. Bake for 40 minutes, until garlic is soft. Cool 15 minutes. 

Carefully squeeze the garlic heads to get the roasted garlic cloves out into the bowl of a food processor, adding any of the oil that collected in the foil. Add the horseradish, salt and the rest of the garlic. Puree until almost smooth. 

Place the roast in a baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of the garlic mixture on all sides of the meat. Put the roast, rib side down, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, up to one day. Position the oven rack towards the bottom third of the oven. Preheat to 350. Uncover the meat. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the top center registers 125* for rare, about 1 3/4 hours. Transfer the meat to a platter and let it rest for 30 minutes before removing the bones and slicing cross-wise. Pan drippings can be defatted and warmed to serve over the meat. 

A simple, sweet side dish that was offered at my other grandmother’s Thanksgiving table.

1 large can of peeled, cooked sweet potatoes
1 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup water
Dash of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter

Sprinkle of cinnamon Walnuts Cut potatoes into 1/2” slices. Combine sugar, water, salt, butter and cinnamon in a large sauté pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and cook over low heat for 45 minutes, gently turning the potatoes occasionally to coat. During last 5 minutes, add the walnuts. 

No one in my family actually remembers the origin of this recipe, but somehow it has made it to our family table on more than one occasion. This will help use up some of that extra zucchini that the garden produced at the end of the season! 

2-3 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the zucchini length-wise into long strips. Heat one inch deep of salted water in a pot until boiling, add zucchini, cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the water out, return zucchini to the pot. Add butter and toss. Sprinkle cheese over the zucchini and serve warm. 

Okay, here it is! The recipe I am asked to make more times a year than any other. I must make 4 or 5 batches between Mabon and Yule. This is adapted from Lori Cabot’s recipe, and it comes from her book Celebrate the Earth. I doubt there are many who know more about Sabbat celebrations than Ms. Cabot, so it’s an honor to take some of her wisdom and add it to my own holiday table. Don’t be intimidated by the amount of butter and eggs, as this recipe makes two large loaves of pumpkin bread. 

2 cups of pumpkin (canned, cooked… don’t use pumpkin pie filling, just plain pumpkin)
1 cup of melted butter (yes, that’s two sticks)
3/4 cup water
4 eggs
3 2/3 cup flour
2 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons (I use 3) cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup (I use
1 1/2) of raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Blend pumpkin, butter, water and eggs until well-mixed. Add sugar and mix. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and baking soda. Add to pumpkin mixture in small batches, mixing well to combine. With a wooden spoon, stir in raisins and nuts. Pour into two loaf pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 for one hour, or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly dry. 

These are adorable, fun treats that are easy to make. A packaged peanut butter cookie mix makes this very simple. 

Package of peanut butter cookie mix
16 pretzel rods
2 squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 tube of red or orange decorator icing

Make the cookie mix according to package directions. Form dough into 16 balls, each 1 1/4 inch big. Place pretzel rods onto an ungreased baking sheet. Press ball of dough onto end of each pretzel. Press fork firmly into each dough ball to leave marks that look like broom bristles. Bake for 12 minutes. Let brooms cool completely, for about 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then completely on a wire rack. When cool, place brooms on wax paper. Carefully melt the chocolate in the microwave, using a microwave-safe dish, stopping to check and mix the chocolate often. Spoon chocolate over the part where the pretzel and cookie join. Let it stand until firm. Decorate the broom ties with colored icing. 

This is a popular dessert for larger groups and to bring with you if you’re going to a Samhain or Halloween party. 

3 cups cold milk
2 packages (4-serving size each) Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 tub (12 oz.) Whipped Topping, thawed, divided
15 Chocolate sandwich cookies (Okay, Oreos), crushed 
Fun, assorted decorations, see notes below.

 Pour milk into a large bowl. Add dry pudding mixes. Beat with a wire whisk for two minutes, or until well-blended. Let it stand for 5 minutes. Gently stir in three cups of the whipped topping and half of the cookie crumbs. Spread evenly into a 13x9 baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cookie crumbs. Refrigerate at least one hour. Meanwhile… here are some ideas to fill your graveyard: Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies make good tombstones! Use decorator icing to write RIP on them, or any other dates & names you like. Take Nutter Butter cookies, dip them in melted white chocolate to make ghosts. Use mini chocolate chips to stick on as eyes, and decorator icing to make red mouths. Gummy worms can stick out of your dirt wherever you like Candy corns and pumpkins can be used to decorate the top as well. The rest of the whipped topping can be plopped on top to make ghosts too Peeps now makes marshmallow ghosts too Be creative!

by Aviva
Art by Sue Miller

Friday, October 3, 2014

LapiDairy ~ Jet!

Hello, everyone--Bo Rua here! There's lots of preparations going on. Wood is being gathered for the festival bonfire. Windows, doorways and mirrors are being blessed and sealed, so no spirit can use them as an unintended portals into our world, and the jet scrying glass is waiting in its bag of mugwort, to be used by the Elder during our Samhain ritual.

Do you know about scrying? It's another word for crystal gazing, although not everyone uses a crystal ball. Some Elders prefer a round glass, and sometimes spheres, made from shiny, black jet. It's a perfect stone for this kind of work, not only because it can be polished into a dark, reflective surface, but because of its properties, too!

As you may know, Samhain is the night when the worlds of the living and the dead are close. We welcome the spirits of our loved ones to join us and our rites. When a person scrys this evening, there is more of a chance that they could be bothered by other forces that are allowed to roam the earth until noon the next day. Jet turns aside negative energies, and protects a person who travels, physically or spiritually. So, it's good for those who “travel” using psychic vision, but also good to carry in your pocket when you go door-to-door for “trick or treat.” Because it protects spiritual travel, it's also a good meditation stone to help you discover your past lives.

Jet and amber are the sacred stones found in the necklaces worn by some traditions of Wiccan High Priestesses and Elders. Together, they represent life and death, male and female energy, and set up a very healing vibration. Part of that is due to jet's ability to cleanse your aura of any negativity or sickness. In fact, if you put small pieces of jet in a bowl, and then place other stones, crystals or jewelry in the bowl with them, the jet pieces will remove any unwanted influence from those other items. It's a great way to get your ritual jewelry ready for the big night and, if your parents or Elders have allowed you working tools like a wand or blade, keeping a piece of jet with them, when not in use, will keep them safe from unwelcome energy.

Jet keeps you calm and removes unwanted fears but, more importantly for Samhain night, it will also keep you safe from any misuse of magic and energy. After all, one can't be too careful--anything can happen on Halloween.

Enjoy your parties and your celebrations. Remember those you love and those who have passed on. Leave some food out for the Puca (Samhain is his special evening, you know) and stay safe until morning.

Sasta Oiche Shamhna (saws-tah ee-hah how-nah) Happy Halloween!

by Katharine Clark
Art by Robin Ator

Friday, September 26, 2014

Worts and All... The Three Sisters

Greetings, Broomstix readers! I'd like to introduce you to some very good friends of mine. They are Native American sisters who are down to earth yet magical too. They have been honored at harvest time for thousands of years and are still alive today. Let me tell you their story.

A long time ago there were three sisters who lived together in a field. Each one was different in size and liked to dress a different way. The littlest one could only crawl on the ground and she wore all green. The next sister had a bright yellow dress and whenever there was a lot of sunshine and gentle breezes in summer, she would run off by herself. The third sister, the oldest one, always stood tall over the other two to protect them. She wore a pale green shawl and had shiny, silky golden hair. These three sisters were also alike because all three of them loved each other and always stayed together. That's what made them all so strong.

One day a child came to the field. This child liked to talk to the animals and birds. He noticed the three sisters and they noticed him. Towards the end of the summer, the youngest and smallest sister disappeared. It made her other sisters sad. Around harvest time, the child came back again. He looked at the two sisters that were left and they looked at him. That night, the second sister, the one in the yellow dress, was gone. The oldest one was sad over this but kept standing tall in the field.

When the child came back again, he saw how much the tall one missed her sisters. And so the next day he brought them back. When they were all together again, they were even stronger than before. The three sisters and the child became good friends and lived happily together ever after.

Long before Europeans came to the Americas, the native people knew the magic of what is called companion planting. There are certain plants that help each other to grow when they are planted together as companions. The Three Sisters are one of the oldest examples of this. Planted close together, they all benefit each other, like good sisters do. The corn grows tall and makes a natural pole for the beans to climb. As the beans grow, they enrich the soil to feed the other plants. And the squash grows close to the ground to block out weeds, keep the soil moist, and discourage insect pests with its hairy vines.

But that's not the only amazing thing about the Three Sisters. Besides helping each other to grow, they help us too. Fresh corn is one of the most nutritious foods of the harvest. The few elements that it lacks in nourishment are filled in by the good things in the beans and the squash. Together the Three Sisters give us almost everything we need for health, strength and growth.

You can honor the oldest of the Three Sisters at harvest time by making a corn husk doll (CLICK HERE for step by step instructions!). All you need is dry husks, a bowl of warm water, string or twine and scissors. Make it as simple or fancy as you like. Dress it up like the Corn Sister, or try to make it look like yourself, a friend, or a member of your family. Use corn silk, yarn or twine for hair. Wrap more corn husks around it for clothing, or try scraps of felt, doll clothes, bits of leather, beads, buttons, glitter - whatever you have handy. A traditional Native American corn husk doll would be decorated with clothing and hair but would have no face. Keep it on your altar or in a place of honor in your home to remind you of all the magic of the Three Sisters.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy a happy harvest! 

by Gillian Green
Airmid by Morgaine du Mer
Corn Husk Dolls by Amber deGrace via Flickr Creative Commons
Making Corn Husk Dolls by Dedra Wolff via Flickr Creative Commons

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. 

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. 

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…. 


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). 

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. 

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