Creating Sacred Space: Calls of Thanksgiving

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Tomorrow, The Sojo Circle participates in the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service alongside our Abrahamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Secular Humanist, and Unitarian Universalist neighbors. I’m proud to say that a member of our circle is now the Director of the Interfaith Alliance of Eastern North Carolina, so we feel right at home in their lovely services. Every year this is a beneficial experience, and I look forward to reprising these poetic calls that we first shared in 2011.  Of course, we celebrated the Mabon Thanksgiving sabbat and feast back in September, but I’m happy to join my neighbors during this time our nation sets aside for gratitude.

Should the opportunity present itself, I welcome you to use these words to create your own sacred space. Happy Thanksgiving, and many blessings of abundance to you all!

Mabon Calls of Thanksgiving

~By Heron Michelle

Blessings of the East and of Air!
Amber twilight and crisp autumn chill, reddening the cheeks and painting the hills!
As the harvest ends, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of thought and inspire us!
Let there be wonder and wisdom as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome Air!

Blessings of the South and of Fire!
Crimson sun and hearth fire burning, warming heart and home this autumn turning,
As the nights lengthen, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of action and revitalize us!
Let there be generosity and gratitude as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome Fire!

Blessings of the West and of Water!
Silver rains and misty morning, hot mulled cider and memory swirling!
As the tides ebb, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of emotion and stir our hearts!
Let there be compassion and benevolence as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome Water!

Blessings of the North and of Earth!
Russet fields and bounty gathered, family recipes prepared on heaping platters,
As the feast is celebrated, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of growth and nurture us!
Let there be abundance and fulfillment as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome, Earth!

Blessings of the Center, Great Spirit!
Known by many names and many faces, Mother and Father, Nurturer and Provider!
Dark fertile earth and flaming sun, when met with love brings forth the bounty of the land and all that can sustain us.
As we assemble with our greater family, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of Spirit and unite us!
Let there be acceptance and peace for our community as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome, Spirit!

Release

Blessings of the Center, Great Spirit!
From this sacred space we send the light of acceptance and peace into our community!
With gratitude and reverence, we walk in Spirit.
Blessed be!

Blessings of the North and of Earth!
From this sacred space we send the light of abundance and fulfillment into our community!
With gratitude and reverence, we bid you farewell.
Blessed be!

Blessings of the West and of Water!
From this sacred space we send the light of compassion and benevolence into our community!
With gratitude and reverence, we bid you farewell.
Blessed be!

Blessings of the South and of Fire!
From this sacred space we send the light of generosity and gratitude into our community.
With gratitude and reverence, we bid you farewell.
Blessed be!

Blessings of the East and of Air!
From this sacred space we send the light of wonder and wisdom into our community.
With gratitude and reverence, we bid you farewell.
Blessed be!

All!

The circle is open, but never broken. Merry Meet, Merry Part and Merry Meet Again!

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Heron Gets Her Groove Back

mabonHappy Mabon-tides, my witches! I know I’m a little late, but I’ve been out in those fields of metaphor, harvesting all kinds of existential goodies, and getting into Aphrodite’s favorite shenanigans. Oh yes, my dearies, and it was about damned time this dedication to a Goddess of LOVE and PASSION became a joyous good time again.

BEHOLD! The fields of my Great Work finally bore fruit and I’ve been drunk on her sweet nectar for months.  In the dance of this Wheel of the Year, as the lamenting music that led to Lammas waned, and the last sorrowful notes of heartbreak faded into solo acceptance, I turned my view and my feet from the past faltering steps, into the present moment, did a little do-si-do with a bow and a nod to Her harsh lessons, then plunged onward into the reel.

IMG_7880The next steps involved a visit from writer and lecturer Jason “Pan” Mankey of Raise the Horns, who came out from California to teach through The Sojourner. In addition to 4 excellent seminars, he offered us a chance to initiate into the Morrison Clan, the Jim Morrison Clan, with a ritual of music, ecstatic hedonism and an unleashing.  Jason was just the Priest this circle needed to shake things up.  Into our temple he called in Jim as a modern incarnation of Dionysus, Pan, Aphrodite, and Eris Discordia, because if you don’t, she shows up anyway, and we’d rather not have hang-overs, thank you so much.

I know what you are thinking, and you aren’t entirely wrong, but this was some serious business. The ritual was set to the music and the spoken word of Jim Morrison and The Doors, and there was dancing, singing, wine, whiskey, and an excavation of that feral part of ourselves too often buried under layers of reservation, prudence, and socially respectable facades. We let our hair down, unwound, and Spirit moved.

We pledged to enjoy life, to let inspiration flow, to have hedonistic fun, to “drink the good wine to the old Gods,” to let “all acts of love and pleasure be her rituals,” in full-throttle engagement with the ecstasy of the flesh.  All this within healthy balance, dontchaknow, so that we do not flame-out prematurely as Jim did. I mean, good gods, y’all. Gimme some of THAT old time religion!

IMG_8120We each received a strand of mardi gras beads, and a clan name. I was dubbed “Story Morrison,” because I have stories to tell, and I’m often caught retelling them. Um, guilty as charged. But more than that, I think this was the opening salvo for the next phase of story-telling ahead of me, one that I hope is a bit more formalized, and will someday find its way into print. But that is a harvest for another blog….

*This* blog is about how Heron Got Her Groove Back. Note the swiftness of this magick:

Saturday night: Initiation in the Morrison Clan with a re-dedication to enjoying life again.

Monday: Deliver Jason back to the airport with so much gratitude and a genuine shift of perspective, thanks to his insights.

Tuesday: I get the familiar twitchy feeling, that deep longing to go forth into the night and make merry mischief. Basically, the sexy Heron beast within me awoke, stretched her wings and began to preen. I posted this to Facebook: “My kids are out of town with their dad for the rest of the week and I’m seeking shenanigans. I would like to attend to them directly.”

Back to my altar, I renewed the work, I thanked her for the lessons in heartbreak, in ugliness and loss, and I asked that at this time I be given the lessons of healthy love, of beauty and grace with the person correct and good for me at this time.  Oh, and could it be with a playmate who actually lives in my town this time, pretty please?

HAIL Aphrodite, of sensuous pleasure,
who restores my heart in full measure.
I give myself in reverent mirth,
hands, hips, and lips in holy rebirth.
Each little death, sweet sacrifice,
I am your willing acolyte.
As worship, let there be romance,
deep longing met in sacred dance,
to sing in divine duet once more,
I call forth the ideal paramour.
In perfect trust, in perfect love,
No harm to cause, to all involved,
I call the highest good for me,
As I do will, SO MOTE IT BE.

Wednesday: I receive a message in reply to my FB post from the most fabulous, interesting, compatible man I know in this town, asking me to meet him on Friday.  He was once a Gentleman of Interest, that long ago I’d set my sights upon, until I learned he was in a relationship, and had therefore retreated and been effectively avoiding for almost two years. Whaddaya know, he is newly single…imagine that!  As it happens, his previous relationship had been dismantling for just about the same time frame as mine had been…how very…fortuitous!

Since that fateful Friday: Well, let’s just say that since that auspicious beginning, I’ve learned a lot about living in the bliss of the moment, and being grateful for what is unfolding, without putting too much concern into what it might “mean” or where it might be “going.” I’m just too darned thankful to taint this gift with second-guesses. I feel like my wings are fully outstretched in rapturous flight, and I’m just enjoying how this new breeze lifts and inspires me to soar to new heights.

Isn’t the Universe grand in it’s poetry? So long now I’ve danced with Spirit in the Great Work, and even still I sometimes get twisted around and forget how I can trust absolutely Their lead; that all will come to fruition eventually; that all will work out for my highest good in the end, and in alignment with my Divine life purpose. Regardless of what happens from this point onward, I stand in deepest gratitude for that simple reminder.

I celebrated this Mabon with my faith restored, and I am once more fat, happy, grateful and satisfied with the fruits of my labor.

Blessed be.

Solstices, Life and Death

cauldronfireLithaHappy Solstice! I hope that yours was as meaningful and relaxed as mine was here in North Carolina. Here, The Sojo Tribe and I celebrated Litha, the Summer Solstice, and the apex of the Sun and all that we’ve accomplished so far during the growing light phase of the year.  We lit a fire in my copper cauldron with the remains of our beeswax class candle (We prepare a candle and light it during our classes to create sacred space. This one has been in use since Imbolc.)  We then fed that fire with harvested Rosemary and Litha incense, and the rays of our accomplishments written on colorful paper. We applauded, and congratulated each other, then released our ego-attachment so that we could strive for even greater things in the future! And…then we went out to a local patio bar and shared some “summer solstice” beer and a meal. “All acts of love and pleasure are her rituals….”

As the copper cauldron heated up, a fantastical chemical reaction happened wherein the flames turned green! It was the witchiest thing we’ve had spontaneously happen in a long while and it was glorious in its simplicity.  This was an impromptu ritual because our dear Tribe member, who intended to host and lead our Litha ritual, lost his father earlier in the week.  Death is not only an ending, it is a beginning, just as Litha is both the triumph of the sun, and the beginning of decline into the dark half of the year.

We’ve had a lot of death visit us this midsummer with several people known and kin to folks in our group crossing the veil, which is a fitting reminder that death ALWAYS hangs in the balance with life. All the more reason to savor the joys and bounties when they come, for tomorrow we may die… This summer season, I am overjoyed to travel to see my family in my mother’s home town for the first time in many years. That is my celebration of life, as I honor the life of my maternal grandmother, who passed through the veil at Beltane.

Back at Beltane, My grandmother Frances came to visit me before they even laid her body to rest. As my daughter and I toured a historical church yard with cemetery in New Bern, NC, (because that’s what my 12 year old daughter likes to do for her birthday, Witchy much?) who should join us in that cemetery? Only the spirits of our maternal ancestors, and they spoke to us via a medium from New Jersey named Denise who was touring the same churchyard, and was kind enough to deliver their messages.

left to right, Frances, Elmore, me and Sondra Rouse, circa 1998.

left to right, Frances, Elmore, me and Sondra Rouse, circa 1998.

Yes, Frances and Elmore, my grandparents divided by the veil for almost 15 years, and Sondra, their daughter and my mother, gone these last 7 years, were with us once more. Their family is rejoined in Spirit at last and looking out for us. They came to tell me that they think I’m a great mom, that they they love us, are proud of us, and not to worry about them because they are just fine, the afterlife is better than they even expected.

Denise transmitted their side of the story of what was going on after my grandmother became so sick that she was mostly incoherent. Her family in Spirit became a kind of hospice care on the Spirit side, while my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins, were attending her on the living side. Her Spirit family helped her to relax, let go, and ease across the veil to rejoin them. Her father was even present there in the end, keeping watch over her. That tidbit gives me great comfort.

You see, they were all Christians, and the afterlife just isn’t what they were told it would be, but it is better, and they wanted me to know that they accept me fully for who I am–the Witch in the family.  I’d kept that last bit from all three of them while they were alive.  It was toe-curling awesome to be fully known by them at last.  My granddad told my daughter that he looks out for her especially, that “she’s his girl.” That thrilled her to no end, especially since he died several years before she was even born. If you are going to have an ancestral guardian, make it Granddad Stormy, former police officer!

I stand in awe and wonder of my magickal life. Gratitude.

For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere who visited my blog last week, Merry Winter Solstice!  I wish you all the joys of the new light! As we head into the darkness, you are heading into the light. Isn’t that a beautiful balance? I love how the Wheel of the Year is so relative to where you live.

Blessed be.

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.

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!