Wings…and what they say

heron horizonIt is a day of mournful poetry. When I awoke this morning I did not yet know that poet Maya Angelou had passed beyond the veil. Maya has been an inspiration to me since I was in Creative Writing school in ’90-’92. What a woman!

Before I’d heard of her passing, I’d already penned a poem that was beating its way through me all week. Have you ever heard of poet David Swanger? He wrote a poem called “What the Wing Says” that for twenty-two years has been my all-time favorite for the way it stirs me, it evokes….something intangible… that I still can’t quite wrap my mind around.  At 17 years old I did not understand its meaning, though it said different things to me then.  At 40 years old I am coming close to figuring it out, yet it remains still “on the outermost edge of desire.”

That is surely the point of poetry, is it not? To ensnare the mind and forever change the reader in some subtle way?  David Swanger is a poet who succeeded at doing just that. All week I’ve heard this line echoing in the halls of my consciousness, “Dismiss the grocer of your soul. Nothing important can be weighed…”

I offer you two poems today: David Swanger’s poem, and then a poem of my own, that was most certainly influenced by it…maybe even an answer back to the Wing, or a conversational reply…

What the Wing Says
By David Swanger

The wing says, “I am the space behind you,
a dent in the fender, hands you remember
for the way they touched you. You can look
back and song will still throb. I am air
moving ahead, the outermost edge of desire,
the ripple of departure and arrival. But

I will speak more plainly: you think you are
the middle of your life, your own fulcrum,
your years poised like reckonings in the balance.
This is not so: dismiss the grocer of your soul.
Nothing important can be weighed, which is why
I am the silver river of your mornings and
the silver lake curled around your dark dreams.
I am not wax nor tricks stolen from birds.

I know you despair at noon, when sky overflows
with the present tense, and at night as you lie
among those you have wronged; I know you have failed
in what matters most, and use your groin to forget.
Does the future move in only one direction?
Think how roots find their way, how hair spreads
on the pillow, how watercolors give birth to light.
Think how dangerous I am, because of what I offer you.”

 

Entanglement
By Heron Michelle

Wednesday dawns,
not unlike Tuesday,
and so many Mondays before.
Days into months into years,
epochs stretch back,
like beads on silken thread,
distant beyond counting,
but why bother? Death by tedium
or their crushing weight,
inevitable, just hard to predict;
space-time is a feckless bitch.
No choice but to wear the pitiful lariat,
a consolation prize
for mere attendance of my life.
It is my noon and I despair.
What new fulcrum can shift the balance
of these days?

I become the bobbing ship, crowded
with discontent, sheets slack
with the jab and snap of second-guessing,
getting no where; the albatross is dead.
It is a hungry time, no craving slaked,
a weary time, no rest found in these dreams,
sailing on and on with no arrival.

My eyes ache from strain
denied one visage, yet
I can no longer see the same way,
craving that which is beyond reach,
as existence becomes an assault.
Entangled in old nets, I am bound,
drowning in the snares of my making.
No daring now, I am afraid.
I cannot swim these waters alone
bearing the weight of regret,
and no way to forget.

Tiptoeing the banks,
heron feet in the murk,
head down to probe the mud,
discerning waste from sustenance.
What say you now, wings?
To rise or fall with these tides?
Ripples in these waters still throb,
and sights scryed in the black,
say “take flight! Take heart,
and beat the songs of these reckonings
to where the sun meets horizon
and is resolved in the dissolving
across a lonely sea, chasing
that one elusive fish
who got away.”

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Titles for the Teetering Pile

In my previous post, I confessed about the summer I “burned the witch” going on an obsessive reading binge of the history, biographies and original works of the Grandparents of Modern Witchcraft. Like quests to find the source of the Nile, I trekked back to discover for myself the sources of this stream that had long drawn me back to my genetic roots.

Telluride Colorado view of stream among the mountains

Taking the long view, Photo by Heron Michelle

The Problem of Pedigree

This quest was, in part, a reaction to a…let’s call it an “educational” experience…that I had back in 2012 with a Wiccan priest who touted a lineage that could be vaguely traced back to Alexander Sanders, who we know can tag his initiation back to Gerald Gardner (despite his claims otherwise.) That last bit was supposedly the key to opening the door into the exclusive “Wicca” club, per his view.  With no small amount of arrogance he offered to teach me the “real Wicca” you couldn’t find in books. He insinuated that since I was lacking this crucial pedigree that my work as a teacher and priestess lacked legitimacy in the wider witching world, but he could help me rectify this problem. Having never before had such an offer to be taught or initiated by anyone else, I was intrigued. In my attempt to “be present to win,” and follow the breadcrumbs of my guides, I listened to what he had to teach.

He began with a class on the modern history of Wicca as it emerged in England during the mid-20th century and its migration to America since then. He joked that during the 1960’s the Sander’s London apartment was a revolving door of initiations so frequent, and so easy to achieve, that all you had to do was drive by slowly enough on any full moon night, and you were instantly a first degree. While funny, and not without a kernel of truth, that was hardly a glowing recommendation. You can’t have it both ways: using this coven to prop up your own legitimacy, then turn around and demean their practices as a joke. No bueno.

Digging Up Roots

These days Wicca is treated like the bastard red-headed step-child of pagandom, with many entrenching opinions still in hot debate. From what I can tell across the blogosphere, you either love ’em (because you are one) or you revile them. Holy Hermes, people!  Much more bitching about which witch is legit, and I might pull a Cochrane and drink the belladonna.

Any modern synopsis of what “real” Witchcraft is, was, or should be will be biased based on the speaker’s point of view. That is the shtick with a point of view, isn’t it? It is pointy and limited by the distance seen from one’s vantage point. The higher you climb up the teetering pile of well-studied books and experiences, the farther you can see. Well, I wanted a nice panorama shot so wide I could perceive the arc of the horizon.  Like all the best occult mysteries, its a paradox: to see far, you dive deep. So, I went into the garden of Witchcraft and started digging down to the roots.  To quote Orion Foxwood, you can’t “Bless the fruits, and curse the roots.” I LOVE the fruits of modern craft, but I was pretty clueless about the roots, so I went to the sources.

Memoirs of Wiccan Priestesses

Photo by Heron Michelle

To triangulate my way to a truth about where it all came from, I started with the biographies of the founders of Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca, Namely Alex and Maxine Sanders, and Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente. This revealed the names of their covenmates and inheritors (I read up on Patricia Crowther, Lois Bourne and Vivianne Crowley), and rivals (namely Robert Cochrane); which led to reading THEIR biographies; which led to reading many of THEIR original works on various streams of Witchcraft; which led to reading the foundation occult materials that had inspired their practice; which led to reading the biographies of the generation of THOSE occultists who’d come before them (namely Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, etc.) It was quite a trip, and the stack of books on my nightstand that I have yet to read continues to grow.

My favorite was The Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente, originally published in 1989; I absorbed every word with gleeful delight.  This is a must-read book, especially for those vying to win the very popular game of “oh witchier than thou.”

Back in the day, Doreen served as Priestess within the covens of both Gerald Gardner, AND his contemporary and rival, Robert Cochrane. She helped to found and hone both of their traditions. In this book Doreen shares her story and research, and much like a war-correspondent, shares pointy insights on her first-hand involvement with these men, these covens, the tumultuous times in which they emerged, and how both their good works and dastardly deeds influenced Modern Witchcraft. Plus, she’s a hoot. If I could invite one deceased historical person over for dinner and conversation some Samhain night, it would be Doreen Valiente.

Four Dastardly Bastards

So here we are in 2016, and I’ve long noticed that when talking about our history and traditions, it is easy to focus on the MEN who attracted the spotlight, like Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders, Robert Cochrane, and the “wickedest man in the world,” Aleister Crowley. I now refer to those four men as the Four Dastardly Bastards.  We are all enjoying this revival because they trotted it out to the press with their signature flare, (or pitched a fit in Witch-circles against publicity in the case of Cochrane) so I suppose that deserves some gratitude, but they weren’t the only ones making magick at the time. They had priestesses, who were well-balanced, sincere, discreet, and running the damned show!

You know, while the ego-maniacal face-men were out flirting with tabloid reporters, acting like big- ol’ divas, posing for inflammatory photo-ops, and flat-out lying to everyone, mamas Doreen, Maxine, Patricia, Ray, Lois, Dafo…are back at the covenstead with the reasonable priests, honoring those vows of silence Gerald took from them before breaking himself. They were creating liturgy, researching, teaching, organizing, running interference for the dastardly bastards and doing the Great Work of the Old Religion with dedication…all while raising up the babies (Maxine was, at least.)  Ain’t that usually the way? <eyeroll>

Photo by Heron

Photo by Heron

Mama Doreen Drops the Mic

I think that a major cause of this imbalance in current discourse is due to the Grandmothers of the craft not being given an equal measure of attention as the infamous Grandfathers early on. The best part about reading the autobiographies of these priestesses, are the scenes they describe where they realize that Alex, and Gerald and Robert have gone off the rails, and are just making shit up to try and control them. My favorite bits in all these memoirs are when these strong women tell the dastardly bastards exactly where they can shove their abuse and sexism, drop the mic, and exit stage left.

Doreen left Gerald’s coven after he insisted on publicizing what was oath-bound, and then lying about it to them. When they dared to demand some standards of behavior, he manufactured the sexist Ardanes, or Laws of the Craft, in a ludicrous attempt to remove her from any power. Here are a few dandy quotations from Rebirth of Witchcraft:

Doreen wrote to Gerald “I am afraid we have come to the parting of the ways. Because there is no point in trying to do magical work with someone who is going to foist a lot of phoney ‘Laws’ upon us and whose word I can no longer trust.” page 72

In the case of Robert Cochrane, who she reports as being an adulterous, hate-mongering, drug-abusing, madman:

(Doreen) “rose up and challenged him (Robert Cochrane) in the presence of the rest of the coven. I told him that I was fed up with listening to all this senseless malice, and that, if a ‘Night of the Long Knives’ was what his sick little soul craved, he could get on with it, but he could get on with it alone, because I had better things to do.” page 129

Doreen walked out on both Gerald Gardner and Robert Cochrane over their abusiveness. Cochrane’s wife and Priestess of the Clan of Tubal Cain divorced him over infidelity, and Maxine divorced Alex for the same reasons. They both tell the story of how heart-breaking and difficult that was to do, but then they carried on with the business of Witchcraft with distinction, forming new covens with reasonable witches, whose names you’ve probably never heard, and rightly so. If the women who knew these dastardly bastards so well could tell them to fuck off and walk away, then why are we still arguing under the banners of these men’s names? Why do we not call it the Valiente Tradition? or the Maxinians?

I think I know why; because the wise Grandmothers ultimately knew that the Craft, and the Power and The Divine Forces are nameless and all names, ageless and all ages, owned by no one yet possessed of everyone, and does not particularly care about blood-lines, or lineages, and would never allow such hubris to cloud THE WORK.

‘The Old Religion meant a great deal to us, and we had not stopped believing in its beauty, its magic or its power. Our parting with Gerald simply meant that the quest went on.” Rebirth of Witchcraft, Page 72

When Maxine Sanders was asked what they should the call witches who followed their ways, she said, “We had no idea. To us The Craft was just that, The Craft.” Firechild, Page 164

The Moral of the Story:

I know that the soul is eternal, unbound by genetics or heritage, so why should it have ever mattered to me which stream of Witchcraft floats my boat? To me, pedigree doesn’t matter one lick, not anymore. I solved that problem with a little bit o’ education. It might not have been apparent in all their earlier writings, but the older the Grandmothers grew in their understanding, and the further they wandered, the more they realized that this stream was meant to flow through us toward new horizons, not be damned up to stagnate in the past. This theme continues through the writing of the Craft’s sons and daughters, and grandsons and granddaughters, to become thing we now call Modern Witchcraft today.

I came to the gates of initiation as a book-trained “solitary.” I’ve now studied in person, on one level or another, with teachers who are every flavor of Witch but I took my initiations direct from Spirit. I’ve learned important things from each of these people, stood on sacred ground and heard the voice of the Gods through their lips. I deem them “legitimate” because of their dedication and the beneficial fruits of their Work, not because some witch up-line from them was or was not trussed, whipped and kissed by a press-whore named Gerald or Alex.

Circling back to the story of the Wiccan Priest who offered to train me, I left his tutelage before we even made it to a dedication ritual, but that experience was transforming and I’m glad I took the time to listen and open to that possibility. I left with both an appreciation for who that Priest was in his own right, and self-respect for my own wyrdly wonderful, witchy path, to boot.

Teetering pile of books on my nightstand ~ Photo by Heron

Teetering pile of books on my nightstand ~ Photo by Heron

Titles for the Teetering Pile

I highly recommend to any Witch that you educate yourself by reading the foundational texts for yourself. Why? Because these Witches were some seriously interesting, entertaining and screwed up people, full of shadow and light, but basically they were no different than the rest of us.  Especially do this for yourself if you are being demonized for your choice of path. You need to know enough about where it came from so that you can defend your choices with accuracy, because ALL THE GODS know that we need a LOT more accuracy up in here.

I’ve read a lot of these works, but the stack of books on my nightstand is still teetering with plenty more I have yet to explore. To that end, click >>Here<< for a list of the books I recommend that you add to your own teetering pile.

Enjoy!
~Heron

 

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Yule Recipes

Yule.h3The wheel of the year turns on, and we arrive at the Sabbat of Yule on the winter solstice, when the sun enters Capricorn (December 20-22.)  On this longest night of the year, we gather friends and family around the hearth fires, to jingle bells, feast on the sweet and savory, toast the wassail, and regale each other in song and story until the wee morning hours. We sit vigil to the birth of the new baby sun, the infant God reborn anew to the Goddess.  Like the New Year’s traditions of old, we welcome “baby new year.”

Yule is the celebration of hope, returning light and life, even in the heart of the darkest night. Like the yin/yang symbol, each pole contains the essence of the other side. At Summer Solstice, when the light was strongest, we faced the defeat of the sun and the long dark shadows cast before us. Here at the Winter Solstice, in the cold and dark, we acknowledge that the darkness is defeated by the light once more and will grow stronger and the days longer each day from here.

In the Great Work, we’ve been “holding the space” since Samhain, reflecting on the previous year’s intentions, their harvest and what we’ve learned. Up until now we’ve been letting go of what no longer serves our highest good, clearing the fields, cleaning and putting away our tools. Now, the metaphorical snows have fallen to blanket the world in pure white, obscuring what was, so we can begin to imagine what could be. This is the purification and the starting fresh. This is the blank page, the primed canvas, awaiting inspiration.

With the dawning of Yule we turn the inner eye into the future. We stare deeply into the void of potential and play midwife to the birth of “what’s next,” and over the course of the next 6 weeks, until Imbolc, we will remain open to the messages of Spirit about what the next Great Work for us should entail. (See my Great Work: Holding the Space post on more about this process of remaining opening to the messages from Spirit. See my Imbolc recipes post for the next step in the Great Work.)

Here are some of my favorite Yule recipes that have helped to warm the cockles of the heart, and bring cheer to all at this most joyous of holiday seasons. Note, that so many of our “holiday” spices of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, etc, all have solar and fire magickal associations. Wassail punch is a traditional alcoholic beverage at this time, as well as Mulled Cider, his non-alcoholic first cousin.  For more information and another great traditional recipe, check out this article at Nourished Kitchen. These drinks become solar potions that actually do heat you up, but also would bring you in resonance with the newly returning solar energies. Merry Yuletides!


 

 Wassail_Punch_1Wassail Punch!
Ingredients:
2 quarts apple cider (I prefer the organic, murky stuff in the refrigerated section over the refined clear apple juice in the aisles. But sometimes the cider needs a bit of sweetening with some honey.)
2 cups orange juice
2 cups brandy, or spiced rum (I prefer Captain Morgans.)
1 tablespoon dried All-spice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
1 small orange, sliced into 4-5 rings
1 tablespoon whole cloves
Ginger-ale (optional)

Directions:
Slice the orange into rings and stud the peel with the whole cloves (this is pretty, but it also helps to keep the cloves from being scooped up into your cup this way, and that can make for some floating fire bombs in your cup.) In a crock pot, set to warm, add all the ingredients and let warm for several hours before serving. This is called “mulling.” If you would like to serve it to the kids, simply leave out the alcohol. You can also add a splash of ginger-ale to give it some kick and bubble for the little ones.


 

IMG_4450Veggie Wreath Appetizer
Vegetarian
Ingredients:
2 (8 oz.) packages of refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 (8oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups finely chopped green vegetables, like broccoli, bell peppers, green onions, cucumbers)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove dough from cans in rolled sections, but do not unroll. Slice each dough section to yield 8 rounds each, 16 per package.  Place a small round bowl, inverted on a cookie sheet.  Arrange flat dough slices around the bowl to form a wreath shape, then arrange an outer ring.  The slices should all be touching each other, but do not press together.  Remove the bowl and and bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool one minute; loosen with spatula and slide off onto a serving platter to cool completely.

In a small bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder and blend until smooth.    Spread the mixture over the wreath and then top with the green vegetables to form the foliage.  Sprinkle the red bell pepper to form the berries.  Red pepper slices can also be used to form a bow.  Refrigerate.


IMG_2876Deck the Halls Torta
Vegetarian
(Makes 3 tortas)
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 2/3 cups cream cheese, room temp.
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/3 cups drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup butter, room temp.
salt and pepper
slices of toasted baguette or crackers

In food processor, finely chop garlic. Add basil, pine nuts, oil and lemon juice.  Process until well blended. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and parmesan cheese.  Using on/off turns, process until just blended. Transfer pesto to a medium bowl.

Again in food processor, coarsely chop tomatoes.  Add tomato paste and process until almost smooth.  Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and blend well.

Using an electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in bowl until fluffy.  Season with salt and pepper.

Spray 3 2-cup souffle dishes or bowls with non-stick spray.  Line with plastic wrap as smoothly as you can manage, extending plastic over sides.  To assemble, you will layer all three mixtures so that they have white, red and green stripes when finished.  To begin, spread 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture evenly on bottom of each dish.  Next, divide tomato mixture into thirds and layer in each dish.  Follow with a layer of 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture in each dish.  again, divide pesto mixture into thirds and distribute into each dish.  For the final layer, divide remaining cream cheese mixture into thirds and distribute into each dish.  Smooth evenly and fold plastic wrap over the sides to cover.  Chill over-night.  If you only need one torte, you can wrap the remaining two and freeze for up to 3 months then thaw for about 24 hours in the refrigerator prior to serving.

To serve, Invert chilled torta onto platter.  Peel off plastic.  Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts.  Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.


Sondra’s Chicken Divine
This was one of the most requested of all my mother’s recipes, especially at any holiday gathering. Whenever my sister and I would visit mom after we’d left home, she would be sure to have one waiting for us. This is especially a good recipe to make in advance in a disposable pan and freeze for later, or for taking to sick, recovering or grieving friends. My mother was always the best for arriving at just the right moment to support a friend with a hot meal. I share this family recipe in honor of her.
Ingredients:
1 package Uncle Ben’s wild rice with original seasonings
3 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed.
2 can’s cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
a dash of white pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
3-4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tubes of while wheat Ritz crackers, crushed
3 Tablespoons melted butter
sprinkles of paprika

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Assemble this casserole in a large, deep baking dish.  First layer: Prepare rice according to package instructions then spread in the bottom of the dish.  Second layer: Evenly spread the broccoli over the rice. Third layer: Blend soup, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, pepper, chicken, broccoli and 1 cup of the cheese in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Spread evenly over the broccoli.  Fourth Layer: spread remaining cheese over the chicken mixture. Topping: Crush the crackers and blend with the melted butter, then spread over the cheese.  Sprinkle paprika over the crackers. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbling at the edges. Remove foil and brown for a few minutes more. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

 

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Samhain Recipes

JackolanternSamhain (pronounced Sow-wen) is known as the Third Harvest. This is the time of the slaughter, when in ancient agricultural communities, the livestock was thinned, butchered and prepared for storage over the winter, because you can’t keep the entire herd fed over the winter, nor warm with you and the kids in your yurt, and well…the point of raising livestock is to eat it…duh. In Eastern NC there are hog kills and they are a lot of hard, gory work on the farm, but make for a great feast of pork barbecue. mmmmm…..

Samhain is a Greater Sabbat and the peak of the tides of the Autumn season, when the earth is in decline, just like old age. It is celebrated when the sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio, or on the calendar date of November 1. Remember that if “Hallows” is Nov. 1, then “All Hallows EVE,” would be the night before, on October 31st. In the US Halloween is celebrated far and wide with gory, horror shows, costume parties, traipsing through the night with lit jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating for candy (or else! Its sanctioned extortion, I tell ya.) For one night you can be your shadow self for the night, which in this college town seems to reveal the latent desire to be porn stars, but anyhoo….  While the roots of these practices are indeed from our pagan ancestors, and a lot of fun to do with both the kids, and all my wacky, witchy adult friends, I don’t consider that part of my spiritual practice.  Don’t get me wrong, I LERVE me some Halloween; I’m over-the-top intense about my costumes and decorations, and I throw a huge Witches’ Costumed Ball

Heron as "allegory." Basically I was a dark personification of "pisces" or The Moon card.

2013, Heron as “allegory.” Basically I was a dark personification of “Pisces” or the Moon Tarot card. My date was Allegory of Scorpio, or The Death Card. It was awesome!

every year, but I separate the two sides of the holiday, and celebrate Samhain on the astrological date during the first week of November.

The Wheel of the Year mythos of this time tells the story of the Sage God, who sacrificed himself to feed his people at Lammas, and began his descent to the underworld at Mabon, now arrives and enters his deep slumber of regeneration, just like the hibernating animals of the wild.

The Crone Goddess, having joined him for her rest and preparation for birth of the new light at Yule, has fully withdrawn her vital energies from the earth, just as the sap has withdrawn, rendering the branches scraggly and bare.  Best to have brought in all the harvest from the field by now; anything left behind beyond Samhain needs to be left for the Spirits, or its bad luck.

This last harvest is about letting what no longer serves our highest good die away, clearing out the refuse, and making space for that fallow period. It is an austere time, polar opposite of the decadence and frivolity of Beltane, as it should be. Whereas Beltane was the marriage, Samhain is the funeral.

This is when we honor the very important aspect of death within the life-cycle. Without death, we would be seriously screwed. I mean, just think about EVERY zombie, or vampire movie you’ve ever seen. That shit ain’t natural, and its terrifying to think about.

Speaking of shit, every time you take one be grateful for the fact that what food you ate that “died” to sustain you, can be broken down into energy, and the refuse removed from your body, being replace with NEW LIFE!  We NEED death. Within the Great Work of our spiritual intentions, we start to release attachments to those things that have come to their conclusion because of the Work, or that need to be cleared away to make room for the full harvesting of the Work. We honor the dead, we remember our ancestors, we sit in silence and share the “dumb supper” with our beloved dead. We mourn our losses, but losses make us wiser…they pierce the veil and allow us to see further, and recognize the big-picture patterns forming around us.

From Samhain, we then turn the inner eye back over the whole cycle and appreciate it’s end and what it taught us.  We, too, enter our “hibernation,” and should take this “between” time to contemplate, integrate, and “hold the space” in that dark, silent, still, dreamy period ahead; Winter is coming.

Here are a few of my favorite Halloween and Samhain recipes that I’ve long loved for both Costumed Ball and Samhain Dumb Supper with the Tribe; may they brighten the feast of the dead. Enjoy!


 

pumpkin fluffPumpkin Fluff Dip

Ingredients:
1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 (8 ounce) Cool Whip, thawed
Gingersnaps or graham crackers
Blend the cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla and spice with a hand blender until smooth, add the Cool Whip and fold together with a spatula. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. I like to load it into a small hollowed out pie pumpkin, and serve with the gingersnaps or graham crackers.

Baked Jack-o-lantern Brains

Ingredients:
1 pie pumpkin about the size of a volleyball that sits upright easily
1 box Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice with Original Recipe seasonings,
or 6 oz. of the grain of your choice, with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup raisins
1 chopped fresh apple
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried mint leaves
1 can tomato soup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your rice or grain according to package directions and set aside.

In large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef and onions, stirring occasionally to break up the meat.  Pour off the excess fat.  Remove from heat then stir in the lemon peel, raisins, apple, walnuts, parsley and mint leaves.

With a sharp knife, create a removable top around the stem by cutting at an angle a 4-6 inch diameter hole.  Scoop out the seeds and loose pulp, trim the stringy pulp from the top.  Stuff the pumpkin with the skillet mixture, replace top.  Sit your stuffed pumpkin in a large baking dish, add 1/4 inch of water and cover with foil.  Bake for 1 hour or until flesh of pumpkin is tender and easily scoops away with a spoon to be served with the stuffing.

While pumpkin is baking, blend the tomato soup, lemon juice and cinnamon and heat either in a sauce pan over low heat or warmed in the microwave for a few minutes.  When serving, pour tomato sauce over the stuffing.


Lentil Veggie Turkey Soup

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
3-4 stalks of the heart celery with all the tender leaves, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of Thyme leaf
1 teaspoon celery seed,
copious black pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
1 can of diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can of corn, drained
2 boxes of prepared chicken stock – I don’t actually know how many ounces were in each, but they were the standard large-ish box available in the grocery store soup section.
1-2  tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, to taste.
1-2 cups of prepared wild rice (I happened to have some left-over in the fridge. It was Uncle Bens, with the seasonings already mixed in.) OR you can add a half cup of dried wild rice and an extra 1 cup of water.
6 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari sauce
A turkey or chicken part of some kind, like a leg on the bone. Mine happened to just be the tail bit off a bird I’d roasted a while back and had frozen the extra pieces for making stock. I added it while frozen, then let it simmer in the stock the whole time.

I sauteed the fresh veggies in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then added the lentils, spices and canned veggies to saute a bit more. Then I added the rest of the ingredients, except the prepared rice and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, covered, then reduce to medium low and simmer for about an hour, possibly two on very low. This can be an all afternoon affair if you’d like.  Stir frequently.  Before you serve, remove the turkey/chicken piece, separate the edible meat, chop into bites, and add back to the soup and discard the bones, etc.  Add in the prepared rice and soy sauce. Taste it. Is it too earthy? More vinegar and pepper. If it isn’t salty or rich enough? More soy sauce.

For a vegetarian version, use veggie stock instead and omit the poultry, obviously. I suggest mushrooms as an alternative.


Fungus Aradia

Why? because this is an Italian dish with mushrooms and I’m stretching for Witchcraft related names, just go with it!
Ingredients:
1 pound of peppardelle noodles (wide, flat ribbon noodles)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound of thick sliced pancetta, cut into long strips
(or substitute thick-cut bacon)
3 yellow onions, sliced into 1/8 inch ribbons
2 pounds of assorted fresh fungi (crimini, chanterelles, portobellos, porcini) sliced         1/4 inch thick or halved if small.
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage and thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Directions:
In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the pancetta and stir occasionally until lightly browned.  Add onions and saute until almost tender, 7-8 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  In the same pan, melt the butter and saute the mushrooms just until they release their liquid and soften.  (You may have to cook the mushrooms in 2 batches depending on the size of your pan.)  Add the onion mixture back into the mushrooms and reheat over high heat.  Add the balsamic vinegar, sage, thyme and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm.  Meanwhile boil the pasta in salted water until al dente.  Drain and transfer noodles to a large serving bowl.  Add the mushrooms and toss gently. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

A Dream Not to be Forgotten

Garden-Wedding-Idea1I am a dreamer, literally.  All my life I dream great epoch dreams of adventure and exploration, full-color, full-detail, full-emotion, and sometimes prophetic, or “lucid” where I know I’m dreaming and can take control of the experience to work things out, solve problems, and stretch my wings. In those moments, I tend to fly.  Gravity, schmavity. 😉

Wednesday morning, I had a very different kind of dream. This one was about the emotion of the thing and there was no control over anything…like being caught in the rapids of a rushing river, all you can do is be taken with it, and try to keep your head above water.  It was the sort of dream that clings to you for days afterward like the greasy stink of burning oil, heavy and acrid.

When this dream began I was bursting with love and happiness, giddy excitement on my wedding day. Dressed in white and delicate laces, hair twisted gracefully with tiny white flowers, and cascading in wispy curls to the shoulders. I felt like a full-body smile, as though the flesh was simply not strong enough to contain all the feels and I might burst into a cascade of rainbows at any moment. I had all the emotions of the bride that cannot wait to get the the altar and claim her prize.

In the dream, I am about to marry “the one who got away.” It isn’t nearly as important *who* I visualized as this dream man, let’s just say that my subconscious supplied an image of such a man.  More important was that in this dream, for a shining few moments, in the dappled sunshine of a garden wedding, with flowers in full bloom, in perfect weather, with gaily dressed friends and family gathered around, ribbons and twinkling and all the trappings of my “perfect” wedding day, I was the happiest woman on earth and I felt beautiful. I explained to giggling, congratulatory women around me that this marriage was a dream come true; that I could hardly believe that *this* wonderful man was choosing *me* to spend his life with; that I was so honored to become his wife. Just to look at him was to melt me into puddles of bliss. He was a gorgeous, dapper, stallion of a man in a tuxedo…let’s just say that when my subconscious creates a groom, it does a stellar job. 🙂

The moment of triumph: we are at the altar, hand in hand, and the officiant asks if there is anyone there who objects to our union. Like the stab of a knife, a woman I don’t know breaks desperately into the scene, throws herself before us and proclaims her undying devotion for my groom, and asks him to marry her instead because “he was the one that got away and she’s always regretted losing him.”  He rushes to her, accepts her proposal, then turns to me and says he’s sorry but he just has to marry her instead because he’s always secretly loved her more than life itself.

However, he wants me to stay and be their bridesmaid for the ceremony. You know, take the consolation prize and just step off to the side. Be a dear, and don’t bother me further, if you don’t mind. kthxbai

All of a sudden I am wearing the most hideous pea-green bridesmaid’s dress you can imagine, have an 80’s hairdo (blarg,) and am forced to stand witness, right there on the spot, MY LOVER, marrying this other woman, at my altar stone, at my wedding, in front of my friends and family, and I stand there dying inside. Frozen solid in pain and horror, the light within me turning to darkness and seeping like the chill grip of death from the inside out until my body is a husk in green satin, the roses in my hands dry and crumble. The dream shifts such that I’m viewing the joy of their wedding unfold, through the husk of this dead body and I’m just a small, invisible consciousness peeking out, a ghost on the sidelines.

That is when I was once again aware of my bed, and the cat beside me, and my son softly breathing as the dawn light crept into the window. But in that dreamy middle-realm before fully waking, I felt the deep mourning and humiliation wracking through my body. All the loss of my love and pride crashed through me and the crush was paralyzing.  The jealousy, the want, the horror of rejection, and I wanted the pain to stop….just to let go and be gone completely from the flesh that was a prison.

Gods, I remember that feeling. There was a time in my separation from my ex-husband that this is how I woke up every morning. This state of abject self-loathing, shunted to the side like last week’s garbage; this was my life. I barely survived that time period: I almost managed to will myself to non-existence, but that was a very long time ago.

After this dream ended, it took a few minutes to realize it wasn’t real, and I could rise into the monotony of the new day, in my new house, in my new life.  There were children to wake, and breakfasts to be served, carpools to be run, and work to be done…alone. <sigh>

I know it was a dream, but I’m a witch, and the dream times are the message board, the chat-room of the Gods and guides who work with me.  The subconscious knows, and through dreams, my conscious mind is given marching orders for what it needs to do.  For me, there are rarely *just* dreams. This one was the shadow of the past, casting long and piercing into the now.

And the now, marked the 7th day since a man I loved, a man I was supposed to be hand-fasted to a Beltane a few weeks ago, asked that we cut off ties completely for the time being, because we live several hours apart from each other, and we have no way of changing that…for possibly a decade. There were very logical, very healthy reasons for this request, and I agreed that it was for the highest good of all involved.  Seriously, never before has there been a more amicable and spiritually mature parting of the ways.  By the Grace of the Goddess Aphrodite, to whom I am dedicated this turning, I was able to let go of my lover, hoping that if he was truly mine, someday he’d return to me, when we were both ready and the time was right. There is no denying that I have healing work to do on myself; there are things still tender and unresolved since my divorce.  Sometimes I think I’ve laid these issues to rest, but then they rise from the grave like zombies, and eat my brains. I just can’t get these images out of my mind.

The divine works through me in such a way that I follow these bread crumbs through the dark forest of consciousness. This particular crumb is rotten, the bitter pill. Yet again, the thorny path rises up to meet me. There is work to be done.

Great Goddess, guide me! So I pull out my trusty tarot deck and let her speak to me.

May 23, 2014What brought me to this moment: 4 of swords, truce
The key to the situation in the present: Knight of cups
The message moving forward: XV The Devil.

Synopsis: I may have laid down my weapons, stopped the battle, and formed a truce, my worries were conquered, I knew calm and clarity over the situation, but truce is not always a peace…I can’t suppress feelings about the situation. The key to the situation is my knight of cups….funny, that has been the signifier card for my lover since the beginning of our relationship…I always called him my Knight of Cups. He was my surrender to beloved ones and reaching the highest of emotional planes and to have a spiritual relationship fully integrated within my community. Moving forward, I can’t let others (or myself) demonize me; I am the master of my life. Use this vital, masculine form of creative energy and individuality, in whatever way I need right now to meet my needs–to follow my bliss. This is also the card of Capricorn, and I think of how agile the goat is in scaling what seems to be impassible mountains. They are some determined and hard-headed creatures!  This speaks very deeply to me.

With gratitude for the journey…

Blessed be.

 

 

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Mabon Feasts Serve up a Challenge

Mabontides are flowing out once more, my lovelies! Witches’ Thanksgiving is one of my favorite sabbats, and it is marked by our entry into the cardinal sign of Libra, a sign of balance. Once again, the sun hangs in the equilibrium of light and dark. This year that moment falls on Wednesday, September 23rd.¹

When day-time and night-time are equal,
When sun is at greatest and least,
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
And Witches gather in feast.²

Witches Wine / Heron Michelle

Witches Wine / Heron Michelle

The second harvest of fruits and vegetables, Mabon is the initiator of the season of Autumn. This is a low ebb or lesser sabbat, wherein we feel the vital energy begin to recede from the earth as she continues her spiral into the decline of the year. This is the time of acceptance, the receptive power of water. The auburn, red and yellow leaves of the trees, the apples ready for picking, the deepness of the setting sun, the darkening afternoons, all remind us that night always follows day, no exceptions.

The dark and the light in succession,
The opposites each unto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess:
Of this our ancestors teach²

In the Wheel of the Year mythos that I enjoy, at Mabon the God and Goddess become the Sage and Crone, and with experience, comes the inner vision to see deeply into both the past and future. They know the sacred order of the “perfect,” complete cycle, that is symbolized by the wheel; they teach us that life is sustained through death, just as death contains the promise of rebirth (at Ostara). As symbolized in the yin/yang, the key to one side of any polarity is found in the heart of it’s opposite. The fruits that are cut down, will rise again both as the seeds planted next year, but also by sustaining the living. As we are fed another year, the gods live on through us.

The birth and rebirth of all nature,
The passing of winter and spring,
We share with the life universal,
Rejoice in the magical ring.²

No Witch is an Island

This time of year, I ask myself:  how will I stay in balance of giving and receiving? It takes hard work to bring in the harvest, and many hands working together toward the common goal of survival. Think about that cookie on your altar platter; SO MANY hands are required to bring that seed of wheat, sugar, and chocolate chip all the way from planting, through harvest, through baking, to the store, to the feast … no witch is an island!

How have we helped our fellow humans within this web of existence lately? How have we expressed gratitude for all that we are bringing in from the fields of the gods? They instruct us to FEAST!  Let us bring our best and most tasty offerings to the common table, and share in what we have with generosity.

So drink the good wine to the Old Gods,
And Dance and make love in their praise,
Till Elphame’s fair land shall receive us
In peace at the end of our days.²

Perfect Love as a Verb

This harvest feast, the Witches’ Thanksgiving, calls for a gathering ’round of family, both your family of origin, but also your family of choice. Recently I was challenged by a dear priestess friend of mine with the question:  “When does it get to be Love as a verb? I mean, to see all this broken humanity, yes. But how does that translate into action?”

Goooood question!

This reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Mr. Rogers, my childhood hero. Despite growing up deep-fried in the contentious and back-biting Southern Baptist church, I can thank a children’s TV show personality and Presbyterian minister, Mr. Fred Rogers, for instructing this young witchling in what it means to be a decent neighbor.

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” ~Fred Rogers

Verbs or nouns, the key word we are looking for here is “active.” We all occasionally fall short of the ideal in our relationships–especially our spiritual relationships. Perhaps sometime in the past, a kerfluffle flared up between friends. It has happened to me more than I like to admit.

Egos get in the way sometimes; perception can be such a tricky thing — especially within covens. We all have shadowy bits that must be dredged out of the deep recesses for processing–that is how we advance through the initiatory and evolutionary process of Witchcraft. Too often (usually when Mercury is in retrograde) we erroneously project those shadows onto our loved ones standing beside us in the cosmic amplifier of the sacred circle. Unfortunate things go down, sad to say.

I hate it when that happens. Hopefully, with time and water under our damaged bridges, things have now settled down. Thank all the gods that life is a cycle … those may have been the winters of our discontent, but the hope of spring always follows. Hopefully, we’ve come through the kerfluffles as wiser people.

The Mabon Challenge

We realize that it is the struggles, the challenges, the grit and tweak against the grain of life that hones us into the powerful incarnate gods that we are, yes?  “Thanksgiving” is a pretty obvious theme of The Great Work at this time of year. This Mabon, we need to dig deep and excavate gratitude for the lessons learned through adversity–including the unfortunate coven kerfluffles.

As a way to turn the idea of perfect love into a course of action, lets consider reaching out with ye olde olive branch.  Mend a fence, rebuild a bridge, send a card, make the call…it doesn’t have to be a huge thing, but in some way let’s reach out to the beloved friends we’ve been missing at our feast tables, and “accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Maybe that means that the first thing you serve yourself is a heaping helping of crow, but that kind of soul food can be so beneficial.³

This is The Work, folks. No one said witchcraft would be all glitter and moonbeams. (Well, if they did, they were a snake oil salesman!)

And Do What You Will be the challenge,
So be it Love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment.
By Magic of old, be it done!²

As a “spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down,” I’ll share with you one of my favorite recipes (below) to scintillate your coven mates come Mabontides!

Blessed Be!

~Heron

References

  1. For exact astrological times of all the Sabbats for your region, you might find archaeoastronomy.com helpful.
  2. From Doreen Valiente’s, “Witchcraft For Tomorrow” 
  3. I have this theory that “eating crow” actually melts cellulite…uh huh…seems legit!

Autumn Harvest Bisque (Vegan and gluten-free)

Autumn Harvest Bisque / Heron Michelle

Autumn Harvest Bisque / Heron Michelle

(Heron Michelle)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only,
  • rinsed thoroughly and drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or red pepper (optional)
  • 1 Teaspoon Berbere powder (it’s an Ethiopian spice much like paprika.)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
  • 6 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 can of Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 cup Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Garnish:

  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
    1 pound crispy fried bacon (Obviously this recipe is vegan all the way up to this option, but…bacon!)

Directions:

In large soup pot over moderate heat, melt the coconut oil or EVOO.  Add the leeks and saute about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir briefly.  Add the squash, potato and apples, raise heat to high and saute until they begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes.  Stir in curry powder, ginger, lemongrass, berbere and red pepper.  Add in the broth, bring to a simmer and cover,  Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer until the vegetables are all tender, about 40 minutes.

I puree in the pot with an immersion blender, but if you don’t have one, transfer in batches to the blender or food processor and process until pureed.  Return to the pot, add the coconut milk, and tamari sauce.  Stir well, remove from heat and season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve as soon as possible into individual bowls and garnish with and liberal sprinkles of green onion (add bacon if you don’t need it to be vegan.)

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Lammas Recipes

LammasCornThe cross-quarter Sabbat of Lammas arrives around the first day of August, or when the sun is 15 degrees Leo! This is first harvest of corn and grains, when the fields grow tall and verdant and the vines are heavy with fruit, just like our Lady Goddess, her belly full as the moon. Lammas is a Greater Sabbat in the Witches’ year, as it is the apex of the summer season, and thereby is the apex of the summer power.

In the southeast United States, where I live, corn is a very big part of our harvest, with ears of sweet succulent goodness ready to be shucked and dollies woven, not to mention the tomatoes fit to bursting off the vines. It is high summer, hot and sticky!

Lammas is a “pregnant” time, full of hopefulness and expectation, wherein we begin to taste the fruits of our labors within the Great Work, and our back yard gardens alike. We tended those magickal workings at Litha, working hard to support those intentions with our sustained energies, actions and self-confidence, we now begin to prepare for the harvest with methodical planning and gentle care.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes to tickle your taste buds, and thrill your coven-mates come Lammastides.

Blessings!


Tomato Polenta: Vegetarian

Ingredients:
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup water
1 Cup Tomato juice or V8
1 Cup yellow polenta cornmeal
1 t. sea salt, Himalayan sea salt is even better!
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

In sauce pan, bring liquids and salt to a boil.  Slowly sprinkle cornmeal into liquids while stirring constantly to break up lumps.  Lower to medium-low heat and continue stirring for 10 minutes or until mixture is thick and like “grits.”  Stir in cheese.  Remove from heat and pour into a flat casserole dish or pie-plate.  Set aside to cool and set-up or refrigerate and use later.  After it is firm it can be reheated, baked or sliced and fried.  Serve with Black and Gold Salad on top.

Black and Gold Salad: Vegan

Ingredients:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed.
1 can corn niblets, drained
1 medium tomato, diced
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3-4 diced green onions
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

Mix it all up and serve room temperature or chill and serve later.  Serve over Tomato Polenta or as an appetizer with tortilla chips.  Personally, I think it is good enough to eat with a spoon!