Friday, August 15, 2014

LapiDairy ~ Aventurine!

Greetings everyone, and good Lammas to you!

Bo Finn here, on a warm and beautiful day at the LapiDairy. Everything is a lovely tapestry of green, the nearby trees provide plenty of shade to rest comfortably...even the lichen is growing thick on the cairn of stones that lies here, at the edge of our woods. A cairn is like a burial hill of rocks from long ago, but sitting here in their cover of mossy green, they remind me of a common stone found in these parts--the aventurine.

Lammas, or Lughnasad, is a time of looking forward to the coming crops, making plans for the future and hoping for business success. Aventurine is perfect for all three! It improves prosperity (maybe it's time to set up that lemonade stand or start that paper route!) and gives you confidence, imagination, and peace of mind.

Unsure how to spend the rest of your summer? Not sure how to prepare for school? Place an aventurine under your pillow and it will help you find answers. Not only that, aventurine helps you see the future, increases clairvoyance in general, and improves psychic abilities. Because it helps with Second Sight, this stone is also said to help people who are nearsighted--so it aids “vision” on various levels!

Aventurine is associated with Lammas because it brings luck, leadership, balance and protection--all the attributes that were needed in the old days for the Lughnasad Fair: safety, being able to bargain with merchants for the sale of your coming harvest, and confidence in the gods that your fields would thrive and bring in enough to both sell and sustain your family through the Winter. So too, it can help you spend the rest of the Goddess season in good health and assist you in preparing for the coming Fall and Winter months.

Good Sabbat, everyone! Slainte Chugat! (sloint-a-cug-ot) Good health to you!

By Katharine Clark
Art by Robin Ator

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

...from the Pen of the Puca

Lammas, and everyone is bustling, busy with the first harvest! This place is humming like a hive--each person fulfilling their role, busy as a colony of bees.

Ah, bees--the very symbol of the Sacred Divine. Oh, you didn’t know that? Well then, settle down over here by the fire pit and I’ll tell you all about the sweetest creature in the worlds of myth and reality!

It is said that, should our honey bees disappear, human kind will cease to exist within thirty years. Why, you ask? Because we are so dependent on bees to pollinate and cross-pollinate our plants, fruits, flowers and crops that their demise would bring about the end of our food supply.

The ancients must have realized how vital the bee is to our survival because, in folklore, it has always been honored as part of the human family. In England, and the American Appalachians, it was believed that bees could only thrive if kept by a happy family. Any news of the clan had to be shared with the bees--happy news, such as marriages and births, but especially the passing of a family member. In fact, if the bees were not told of the death before the next sunrise they, themselves, would begin to die!

The bees should be invited to the funeral. However, if the deceased had to be removed from the house (not everyone dies in a hospital), the hives had to be turned to face away from the front door.

Bees may have been closely connected to Death because they were considered to be messengers of the gods, and guides to travelers between the worlds of the living and the dead. Honey was considered the “nectar of the gods” and the food of the Divine. Bees and their honey symbolized immortality and the continued life of the spirit. They stood for resurrection. That could explain why King Tut was buried with pots of honey. (Honey was even used by the Egyptians to embalm and preserve bodies.)

The bee’s honey could be made into mead (honey wine) which was thought to have magical and prophetic powers. The person who drank the mead would speak the truth. In Greece, a child whose lips touched honey was thought to grow into an eloquent poet or speaker. In Irish myth, the god Oghma--creator of language--was called “Cermait” or “honey-mouthed.”

Bees were naturally associated with goddesses. After all, the hive workers were female, servicing a “queen bee,” but even god-based societies got their “buzz” on. In Maya, there was a bee god named “Ah-Muzen-Cab.” His image was found in the Mayan ruins. (By the way, their tombs were shaped like beehives. Hmmm…)

Even in Greece, the mighty sun god Apollo was connected in various ways with bees. Apollo could bestow the gift of prophecy. This ability was given to him by 3 “bee maidens” called “The Thriae.” Later, he gifted them to Hermes, a god who often guided the dead out of life (and sometimes spirits back into it). This makes sense, especially if bees could easily travel between the worlds!

Have you ever heard of Delphi? (Someone told me about this ditzy Seeker who traveled there, but thought she was in Las Vegas!) Anyway, the oracle of Delphi was a woman referred to as the Pythia, but she and her attendants were also called “bees.” They served the god Apollo at his temple. It’s interesting that the “navel stone” at Delphi (a stone supposedly marking the navel of the planet) is shaped like a large hive.

Then there’s Dionysus, the god of wine. When the Dog Star (Sirius) rose in the late July sky, a bull was sacrificed to him. Bees were thought to rise from the carcass--the reincarnation of the bull. There are even ancient depictions of bee goddesses with bull horns!

Naturally, many goddesses have been considered “Queen Bees.” Take Artemis, for example. She’s Apollo’s sister, and a goddess of magic and the moon. So, what’s the connection? There are some beliefs that hold that honey comes from the moon, and the stars are its very own bees. Artemis is also known to the Romans as Diana. Her statue at Ephesus shows her with many breasts--or some think. They could also be palm dates or grain sacks (the scholars can’t tell for sure) but they bear a striking resemblance to bee eggs!

In Crete, the goddess Potnia was the “Pure Mother” and her priestesses were called Melissas. They were all depicted as dancing while being dressed as bees (Melissa = bee). Demeter’s priestesses were also called bees, and Aphrodite (the goddess of love) was worshiped at honeycomb shaped shrines.

Cybele’s priestesses (Melissas) were prophets and oracles. Part of the mixture they ingested to produce their trance included honey. An Anatolian Goddess has been unearthed, sculpted wearing a beehive headdress--a sign of Divinity. Finally, in the Bible--yes, even the Bible --there is a prophetess named Deborah. Her name means “true oracle,” “true words”... or "bee."

Think about this: the Bible says, “In the beginning was The Word.” The Buddhists say that there was a creating sound or word that brought all of Creation to life, and that word was Om. However, there are others who say that the creating “voice” of the Goddess was the humming of bees.

So, off you go! Help gather the harvest, or lend a hand preparing the feast that will come from all those home-grown goodies. Find some honey to spread on the Sabbat cakes or to mix in ice tea. Enjoy Lammas and, if you do…

 ...tell it to the bees!

By Katharine Clark
Puca by Lauren Curtis

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lammas... not a time to "loaf around"!

Depending on your family’s tradition, Lughnasad (pronounced “loo-na-sa") is celebrated on August 1st or 2nd. It marks the end of the major fruit harvest and the beginning of the ripening of the grain crops--wheat, barley, oats and maize. (In Ireland and the British Isles, wheat is called “corn”, while American corn is called “maze”). At the start of August (now only a few days away!), with one harvest done and the next not yet begun, there was time (in the ancient world) to set up markets, make deals for the sale of the crops to come, arrange marriages, resolve problems and debts in council, and to enjoy games and competitions.

In the spiritual world, it was a time to celebrate Lugh, the Celtic sun god. It is important to remember that there is a little goddess celebration in the God Season (which runs from Samhain to Spring Equinox – with Imbolc in the middle honoring Brigit), and a little god celebration in the Goddess Season (from Beltain to Mabon). Some believe that Lughnasad honors the “death” of Lugh, because the sun has begun its journey towards winter and shorter days. However, Lughnasad actually celebrates the death of Lugh’s foster mother Taillte, and all games, gatherings and fairs were dedicated to her.

The other name for Lughnasad is Lammas. This comes from the words “loaf mass.” In Pagan times, folks would gather a small amount of green (un-ripened) wheat, thresh it, and bake it into a small loaf of bread. Each person attending the ritual meal would consume a tiny part. It was barely edible, but by willingly taking a nibble of this awful bread, the individual was showing the gods that he or she had faith in them, and trusted that they would bless the fields and the coming harvest.

Come back on Friday--Lammas Eve--for a printable coloring page!

When Christianity came to Europe and the Celtic lands, the people would not give up their cherished tradition. Like so many other Pagan practices, it was adopted by the church. The loaves that were baked from the green wheat were now brought to the Christian altar and blessed during a special “loaf mass.” They were consumed at a family meal later.

The health of the crops, the land and the people were thought to be bounded together. There was a countrywide truce at Lughnasad, so folks traveling to one of the major fairs – such as the one at Telltown – could get there without fear of being attacked along the way by feuding tribes. Once there, however, they could “battle” each other in feats of strength, agility, and speed. The champion, or winning team, would bring strength to their district and land. Even the fairies of the rival districts were thought to do battle, the looser returning home to find blight on their potato crop.

Horses and cattle were forced to swim across rivers and lakes because it was believed to remove negative magic and illness. Women wove wheat stalks and heads into crowns and wore them in order to share in the fertility of the fields, and offerings were given to the gods by throwing them into running water (such as rivers).

So, this Lughnasad, celebrate the sun and its beneficial effects on our food and our lives. Eat healthy, play games in the fresh air, and send your energies to the surrounding gardens and fields. Be strong, and remember: Fall and winter are just around the corner.

by Katharine Clark
Art by Robin Ator

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lammas with the Kitchen Witch!

Greetings and merry meet again! Good Lammas (or Lughnasadh) to you! At this point of the year, we celebrate the first harvest. Nature’s bounty is so evident which makes our Sabbat feast such a wonderful one. Look at the garden, the vines beginning to hang heavily with ripe fruits and vegetables. If you’re an urban dweller, a trip down the produce aisle of your local supermarket will show the vibrant colors and bounty of summer produce. The intent of our Lammas feast is to offer gratitude to the Lord and Lady for the gifts of the harvest, and to enjoy easy to prepare, fresh ingredients. Traditional Pagan celebrations for this Sabbat honor Lugh, the Celtic Sun God who is also associated with the grain harvest as well as other deities who have an agricultural significance. Lammas is closely connected with bread and grains reaped from our early crops. As always, our Sabbat feast is a combination of fresh, seasonal ingredients and foods symbolic of this turn of the wheel. Our Lammas menu is filled with a culinary celebration of harvest and grains as well as quick, easy summertime fare. Be sure to offer your thanks to Mother Nature for providing us with such a rich bounty. Don’t forget to make your corn dollies and decorate your table with sunflowers! 

A true Lughnasad celebration would not be complete with fresh, home-made bread that’s infused with the season’s best herbs. At our family’s ritual, we form the loaf into the shape of a man to honor Lugh, but traditionally-shaped loaves of bread are just as good. For those who have never made home-made bread before, here’s an easy recipe to use. 

Two (.25 ounce) packages of active dry yeast
2 cups of warm water (110 degrees F)
2 Tablespoons of white sugar
¼ Cup of olive oil
1 Tablespoon of salt
2 Tablespoon of dried herbs of your choice. I use oregano & basil, but you can use a combination of herbs that you like such as parsley, thyme & rosemary
1 Teaspoon of garlic powder
½ Cup grated Romano Cheese
6 Cups of bread flour

Mix yeast, warm water and sugar together into a large bowl. Set aside for five minutes, or until mixture becomes foamy. Gently stir in the olive oil, salt, herbs, garlic powder, cheese and only 3 cups of the flour into the yeast mixture. Gradually add in the next three cups of flour. Dough should be rather stiff. 

When the flour has been incorporated, turn out the dough onto a smooth surface (may need to dust the surface with a small amount of flour to prevent sticking) and knead dough with the palms of your hands for 5-10 minutes, until it is smooth and rubbery. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, and turn the dough to cover the surface with oil. Cover with a damp dish towel and let it sit somewhere warm with few drafts. Allow the dough to rise for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. 

Punch down the dough to release all the air. Shape into two loaves. One or both can be formed into bread men. With a sharp knife or scissors, make a snip up the middle of the bottom of one loaf to separate the bottom part of the bread into legs. At the middle of the loaf, make snips on each side to form arms. Towards the top of the loaf, use the scissors to make a small indentation on both sides to form a neck & head. Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet and allow to rise a second time until doubled in size, about 30 more minutes. 

 Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes. Remove loaves from pan and let cool on wire racks for at least 20 minutes before cutting. 

It’s easy to bring the sun’s power right into your Sabbat feast with this refreshing beverage. Exact amounts aren’t needed here, let your taste buds be your guide! 

4-6 Tea bags (a combination of orange pekoe, berry and/or peach teas will give your tea its fruity flavor)
2 Quarts of water
Sugar to taste
Fresh raspberries, peach slices or other fruit as garnish

Add 4-6 tea bags to your water in a large glass jar, using more tea bags if you prefer a stronger flavor--remember, sun tea is not as strong as tea made from boiled water. Cover. Place the jar in a sunny spot outside, moving it around as necessary so that it stays in the sun. Brew your tea to the desired strength, but not longer than 5 hours. Sweeten with sugar (if you wish) and refrigerate immediately. Serve over ice, garnish with fresh fruit and drink in all that wonderful sun energy! Use the same day; since the water isn’t boiled, the tea won’t keep longer than a day or two. 

This is one of those wonderful quick & easy summertime recipes that is light, delicious and doesn’t keep you working over that stove on a hot summer day. Exact amounts aren’t included as it’s all done to your liking. 

Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (approximately one per person)
One bottle of your favorite vinaigrette-style salad dressing
Mixed salad lettuce greens
½ Cup crumbled feta cheese
Kalamata olives
Your favorite salad ingredients like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onions, celery

Cut the chicken breast halves into one inch cubes. Toss them into a large plastic zip lock bag with about half of the bottle of salad dressing. Allow the chicken to marinate for approximately 1-3 hours in the refrigerator. Preheat the barbecue grill or an oiled grill pan. In a large bowl, put your lettuces and assorted vegetables that have all been peeled, chopped, sliced or otherwise cut into bite-sized pieces. Pour some of the remaining salad dressing over the top and gently mix the salad. Fill individual bowls with the salad, sprinkle each serving with feta cheese and a few olives. Remove the chicken from the dressing and discard the marinade. Grill the pieces of chicken until they are no longer pink in the middle and nice grill-marks are made, about 3-5 minutes. Put chicken cubes over each salad and enjoy! 

There are so many ways to enjoy corn this time of year, simple steamed corn on the cob being the easiest. This is my family’s favorite corn recipe, yet another way to bring this fabulous grain into our Sabbat feast. 

One 16-ounce can of cream-style corn
One 16-ounce can of regular corn kernels, drained of liquid
4 eggs
4 Tablespoons of sugar (you can reduce this if you wish)
4 Tablespoons of butter that has been softened
4 Tablespoons of flour
2-4 Tablespoons of milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the flour into a small bowl. Add one tablespoon of milk at a time, mix with a fork using just enough milk to make the flour into a paste. Mix the rest of the ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Add the flour/milk mixture and stir until all the ingredients are well-combined. Spray a 13x9 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the corn mixture into the dish and bake until golden brown and no longer liquid in the center, approximately 60 to 75 minutes. 

Fruit is so delicious and ripe this time of year, it’s a wonderful dessert without having to cook it. But since it’s a special occasion, we add this extraordinary touch. Any fruit pie would be a welcome addition to a Lammas feast. If blueberry isn’t your thing, a peach pie would be right at home here too. Save the apple pies for the autumn season when apples are at their peak. As with any recipe, once you’ve got the dish down right, play with it. Try different combinations of berries that suit your liking. If you’re ambitious, you can make your own pie crust with your own favorite recipe. I find that the packaged ones (the kind that come in a roll that you can unwrap and fold into your pie dish) work so well and save tons of time and effort. 

Pie crust for a two-crust pie
2 pints of blueberries, rinsed, drained and picked over for stems
¾ cups of sugar (can reduce or add to this amount depending on sweetness of berries)
3 Tablespoons of cornstarch
3 Tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons of butter

For the top: 
Egg wash (one egg beaten with a pinch of salt),
1 teaspoon of sugar

Combine one cup of blueberries with sugar in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring often, until the sugar is melted and the mixture is very liquid, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water together. Slowly add the blueberry/sugar mixture into the cornstarch mixture and whisk well. Return everything to the pan and cook, being sure to stir constantly, over low heat until the mixture comes to a boil, thickens and is clear and no longer cloudy. Don’t rush this step, make sure the mixture turns clear before you continue. 

Pour this mixture into a large bowl and stir in the lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter. Add the remaining 3 cups of blueberries, stirring very gently, and set aside to cool. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, arranging the oven racks at the top third and lower third of the oven. Roll out the bottom crust and arrange it in a pie dish. Pour the cooled filling into the bottom crust. On a smooth surface or wax paper, cut the top crust into narrow strips and form a lattice pattern by weaving the long strips over and under each other. Slide the entire formed lattice on top of the pie, and crimp the edges of the pie. Carefully brush the edges and top pie crust with egg wash. Sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar. 

Place pie in the oven on the lower rack and lower the heat to 375 degrees. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the crust is baked through and a deep golden brown, and the filling is gently bubbling. If the top crust has not started to brown after 30 minutes of baking, move the pie to the upper rack of the oven for the last ten minutes. Cool well before serving.

by Aviva
Art by Sue Miller