Article

Datura header 6

There is no doubt that Fall has arrived here in New England. The energy of the Sun has shifted as it pulls away from us. There is a silver grey hue to the sky. The wind’s kiss has a crisp bite to it, and the Standing Ones are covered in an array of autumnal color that has begun to blanket the ground around us. For many of us, October is one of the busiest times of the year. With Samhain almost here, the month is strewn with fairs and celebrations, and Witches are at our most popular.

Realizing that we are all on the run, I thought I would share two super easy and very tasty fall recipes with you—Baked Apples and Red Lentil & Pumpkin Chili. The first is one of my favorite autumn desserts that I originally learned to make while camping when I was a Scout. As for the chili, I thought I would share a savory preparation for pumpkin. Most of us associate pumpkin with lattes and pies, but they are a squash and can be very versatile.

Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 6 Large Baking Apples
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • A dash of Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Butter (room temperature)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • With a spoon, remove the center core of the apple, leaving a half-inch to inch of flesh at the bottom (you don’t want to go completely through the apple).
  • Place 6 apples side by side in a baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, mix butter and brown sugar with the remaining spices and salt until just incorporated. Make sure not to overwork or melt the butter.
  • Evenly distribute the butter mixture inside the cored centers of the apples
  • Cover with foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to a hour. Remove when the apples’ flesh is easily pierced with a toothpick or knife.

The beauty of this traditional autumn dessert is that it’s easy to assemble and cook, plus the serving size is simple to change. You can wrap just one in foil for a single serving or make several sheets of them for larger gatherings. A more adult version can be made by adding rum or even a hazelnut liquor to the center of the apples along with thebutter mixture.

Apple 1 Apple 2 Apple 3

Red Lentil & Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 15-ounce cans Kidney Beans, drained
  • 2 cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans Fire-Roasted Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup dry Red Lentils
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 cup Pumpkin, medium cubes
  • 1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 medium Jalapeno, minced (Chilies can be altered to suit your taste)
  • 1 tablespoon Cocoa Powder
  • 2 tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 3 teaspoons Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-cracked Black Pepper
  • Optional toppings (Pumpkin Seeds, Sour Cream, Cilantro)

Method:

  • Add all ingredients to your Crock Pot and stir.
  • Cook on high for 4-5 hours (low for 8-10 hours) until lentils are tender and chili is thick.
  • Serve with assorted toppings, if desired.

Doesn’t it make your mouth water just thinking about it? What an array of spices and veggies that are symbolic of Samhain and this time of year: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg—all fiery spices to warm the cold nights—plus apples that house the five-pointed star, and pumpkins, a veggie linked closely with All Hallows Eve.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, and I encourage you to play around with them and make them your own. I also encourage you to take a look at the list of ingredients, and if you don’t already know the correspondence for each, look them up. Better yet, sit with them. Speak to them, and share their stories as you share your meal.

What magick your cooking spice cabinet holds. If you are interested in learning the magickal uses for each of the culinary herbs you use every day, an effortless way to do so is to add a small sticker with key words to the outside of the spice container. That way, as you grab them and add them to your food, a simple glance will remind you of the power in the plant you have added to your meal, the energy you are taking in.

Samhain Blessings!

Ryan is an ordained Minister, Seminary Graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft & Deputy Minister of the Cancer Ministry. Ryan is passionate about Kitchen Witchery, the creatures of the Green World, working with Plant Spirits, & making magick in daily life. Crafting herbal infusions, candles, and sacred tools, Ryan is co-creator of Drops of Three. Visit his website at www.dropsofthree.storenvy.com.

The Story

candle As we approach Samhain and the darker half of the year, Halloween images of black cats, witch’s hats and candy are everywhere. Each year in my small Ontario hometown, a black cat seems to cross my path in need of rescue. I’m reminded of sweet Mira (short for “Miracle”) named by Pam, our gallery curator, while I was a resident artist at the old Mill. Pam came to my studio upset one day. A female black cat had been living under the porch of the studio next door. Pam had been feeding her, but as the weather grew colder, she fretted about what was to happen to this sweet cat. Winters here are long and bitter, and there was no space for her at our local animal shelter. Mira was so frightened that it was hard for me to get near her. Something had to be done.

I spent several days befriending Mira until I felt confident that I could foster her until a shelter vacancy opened up. Days later a vacancy opened up, and I brought her to our local Humane Society. I learned that not too many people want to adopt black cats, let alone an adult one. I felt sad because Mira was the sweetest soul you’d ever hope to meet. Pam and I continued to make donations in her name until finally she was adopted her two years later.picasso

The following spring, Pam introduced me to little “Picasso,” a jet black male kitten with bright golden eyes who’d managed to get into some paint and was prancing around proudly with his newly painted white tail. How apropos that he was rescued at a visual arts center! That lively little character got adopted much quicker! Nevertheless, a pattern was beginning to form.

One day, I started making fanciful candles with cat charms on them in October and selling them in my studio to an eager public. I then used the proceeds to sponsor black cats in various animal shelters. I call them Black Cat Rescue Candles in the hope that if there were more public awareness that black cats are just as sweet and lovable as other cats, maybe they’d be adopted sooner. However, it’s not essential to attach a cause to your candle making project unless you feel called to do so. They make great gifts, sabbat crafts, and altar candles too! If my idea happens to inspire more ideas, joy, creativity, discussion and possibly save a cat or two, then I say Blessed Be!

The Project

Truthfully, candle making from scratch is an art and science that I haven’t fully mastered. My first attempt used the wrong type of wick and resulted in an epic mess – ruined pots, a lost fortune on supplies, and a pissed off husband! This time, I decided to try upcycling and not only was it inexpensive, it was so much fun!

What you will need:

  • 2 white or cream-colored identical candles to experiment with. When you are happy with your results, you can make as many as your heart desires and even experiment with other colors.
  • 1 cat charm (many great and inexpensive designs can be found in local craft shops and online – I purchased mine on Etsy)
  • 1 jump ring (add this to your charm if it has a only teeny tiny loop at the top.
  • 14” long piece of ribbon. Black, white or red ribbon looks good, but go with your gut or use what’s available. You can also substitute with raffia, cord, yarn etc.
  • 1 small tube of good quality black acrylic paint
  • 1 paintbrush (1/2” to 1” wide works well)
  • 1 small square of coarse sandpaper
  • Optional: 1 cake decorating turntable (I found mine at a dollar store!)
  • Aluminum foil
  • A lighter or matches
  • Optional: 2 pieces of 8 ½” x 11” parchment paper to print the labels.
  • 1 water soluble glue stick for attaching the labels.

Instructions

candle 1Step 1 – Choose your candles

I purchased 2 cream colored unscented pillar candles at my local dollar store for $1.50 each to experiment with (2” diameter wide x 5” high). Quality can vary dramatically, so I chose to experiment with the cheapest first. They worked well so I could afford to make plenty more! For magickal purposes, you may prefer to use natural wax such as beeswax, soy, or palm, so follow your intuition. Remember, the first two candles are just for experimentation and upgrades can always be made later.

Step 2 – The Burn Test

Create a sacred space and use an altar if you have one. Spiritually cleanse both candles but do not bless and consecrate them just yet. If desired, ask the Goddess, God and Great Spirit to assist with this project for the highest good harming none. Then, light just one candle with a protective dish underneath. Let it burn for at least 30 minutes and watch how it burns. Is there any black smoke? Is the wax dripping excessively and starting to make a mess? Is the flame “drowning” in the wax? Are there any offensive odors? If so, the quality is too poor for our purposes, and I would personally try a different one. Price is not always an accurate gauge of candle quality, so repeat the burn test for every new brand to be sure it meets your standards.

Step 3 – Candle Paintingcandle 2

Before painting, remove any labels and packaging. In a vertical motion, use the sandpaper to remove any shininess. This will help to give the paint and wax decorating process a surface that it can “stick” to. Do not worry about how the surface looks as it will be covered up later.

Cover your work area with newspaper and add a small dab of black acrylic paint onto a little piece of aluminum foil. Taking your unburned candle, apply a small amount of paint to the brush and begin making wispy strokes from the bottom toward the top. Leave the top half of the candle mostly unpainted with the exception of a few uneven “wisps” here and there. Allow the paint to dry for 20-30 minutes.

candle 3Step 4 – Wax Decorating

While the paint is drying, prepare your cake turntable by covering the surface completely with aluminum foil. Once the paint is dry, place the candle at the center of the turntable. Take the candle that you used previously for your burn test and relight it now. Tilt the burning candle slightly allowing the melting wax to drip onto the painted candle. Slowly rotate the turntable, creating lots of spooky drips down all sides of the candle. Experiment by letting drips fall near the wick of the candle and some along the sides. Add as much or as little detail as you like. When you feel your candle has been thoroughly “witchified,” leave it to cool completely for a few hours.

If you have several candles to decorate, wait a minute or two and then gently lift the candle from the turntable and leave it to cool on the newspaper. Remove any chunks around the base of the candle. Place a new candle on your turntable and keep on going!

Once you’ve got the hang of decorating your candles with wax, feel free to explore other candle colors and looks! Try new paint colors and painting techniques!

Step 5 – Finishing Touches

Once your candle is completely cool, thread the cat charm onto your ribbon and tie it around the candle with a double knot. Tie it firmly, but not so firmly as to damage your wax design. Trim off the excess ribbon.

Optional: Add a parchment paper “Black Cat Rescue” label to identify the cause. Free labels are available for download at ChristineMarieFord.com. Apply using a water soluble glue stick. Remember to sign your label and indicate what kind of wax you used. Bless/consecrate your candles and charge them with your intent before putting them out into the world.

You’ve now made your first upcycled Black Cat Rescue Candle! Experiment with new designs and themes or tailor them for your next ritual or Sabbat. Most importantly, remember that no matter how your first candle turns out, skill comes with practice. Trust that creatively speaking, everything is unfolding exactly as it should. I went through several candles before I finally created this design which is now my favorite. Blessed Be!

black cats

Six sweet black kitties I’m sponsoring this year at the Upper Credit Humane Society in Erin Ontario

Next: Healing through Creative Destruction

Previously: The Artsy Witch: An Introduction

Christine Marie Ford is a professional visual artist and crafts person for over 12 years. She is a former professional actress and musical theatre performer with over twenty years of experience and continues to sing and play cajon. Christine is a first year apprentice of the Temple of Witchcraft mystery school and a 101 Wicca Student of BTW. She has been a solitary practitioner for three years and has studied Reiki and various divinatory arts for many years. You can visit Christine at www.christinemarieford.com or on Facebook.

Merry Meet! I’m delighted to be writing this new column on a topic that has long interested me, and it is my hope to publish a new article twice a month with few exceptions. Throughout my career as a jewelry maker, book binder, and visual artist working in fiber/mixed media, a spiritual element has always pervaded my work. In my earlier years as an artist and up until fairly recently, this process was nearly always unconscious and intuitive. I was not yet aware that I was a natural witch of sorts. I knew nothing of the Craft, and I had long since abandoned my childhood Catholic upbringing, which did not resonate with me. I was lost spiritually for many years, determined never to “belong” to any organized religion again. Many of my family members are quite fulfilled with the Roman Catholic religion and I was a little envious, because I did not know what that felt like. Yet, in her own magickal way, the Goddess was always there…whispering to me.

Oftentimes, when I created a work of art, a profound spiritual meaning of the piece made itself known to me after I created it as if to say “Oh, that’s what I was trying to say” or “This is what I’ve been feeling and why.” I found myself creating special pieces of jewelry named after goddesses I knew nothing about consciously, but they spoke to me and told me their names. The most elaborate necklace I ever made was dedicated to the goddess Isis whom I knew nothing about, but I felt strongly that it must be made in dedication of her. I simply called it the Isis necklace. It was purchased and is now in the private collection of a wealthy and respected art collector in town. Isis continues to communicate with me and has been a blessing to my life.

phoenix

“Young Phoenix” from the Christine Marie Ford Private Collection

I made improvisational fabric wall hangings often depicting a young Phoenix newly formed from the ashes, abstract works of nature depicting the cycles of life, death and rebirth, and unexpected female forms which appeared where I least expected them through my improvisational approach to fabric art. My favorite creations did not feel like “my” creations. I felt inspiration flowing through me, and all I really did was try be an open vessel and stay out of the way!

finding freedom

“Finding Freedom” from the Christine Marie Ford Private Collection

A few years ago I discovered the Craft of the Wise and felt that feeling of “homecoming” that so many Witches speak and write about. To me the connection between art and spirituality is palpable and undeniable. As my spiritual life has begun to flourish, new meaning and inspiration flows in my artistic life. It is in this column that I would like to share some of my experiences and present some ideas in hopes of further developing the connection between art and spirit. I am in my first year of training in the Temple’s mystery tradition. I am neither an authority on spirituality, nor on witchcraft or even art for that matter. I am on a journey, and it’s a journey of a lifetime!

Let’s share in this adventure! I’d love to hear your ideas, your musings, and your experiences too. It is my hope to be an “open vessel” with this column and to allow something greater than myself to come through. Some articles may be more pragmatic and mundane, others more fanciful. Either way, this column is dedicated to all of you and the great Journey.

Next time: Black Cat Rescue Candles

Christine Marie Ford has been a professional visual artist and crafts person for over 12 years. She is a former professional actress and has been a musical theatre performer for over twenty years, continuing to sing and play cajon with the band “Random Roads.” Christine is currently a first year apprentice of the Temple of Witchcraft and a 101 Wicca Student of BTW as well. She has been a solitary practitioner for three years and has studied Reiki and various divinatory arts for many years. You can visit Christine at www.christinemarieford.com or on Facebook.

Witches and Charity

by Christopher Penczak

Though we might draw upon ancient traditions and think of ourselves as heirs to the mystery schools, in reality, modern Paganism, Wicca and Witchcraft are relatively new in terms of our collective values, resources and support structures. We’re at a fundamental point as individuals and a community to determine exactly what we value and why. Some of us have learned things in previous traditions and why to cast off those teachings. Other teachings and values we might want to keep, but struggle to see how they fit in with our current practices. So we should explore all of these things, and understand the ‘why’ behind not only our magick, but our community structures.

One of the most interesting and fluctuating topics in our communities is Pagan Charity. Are we a charitable people? Should we be? Why?

One would argue that our desire to be charitable comes from previous Christian conditioning. The idea is deeply tied with the Christian notions of Faith, Hope and Charity. It is also one of the seven heavenly virtues. Christian charity, theologically, is about a lot more than benevolent giving, and relates to deep concepts of love and divine friendship. Compassionate giving, such as alms, is also found in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism. While two sources not traditionally Pagan, many Pagans are more comfortable borrowing from Hinduism and Buddhism than Christianity or Islam.

Less recognized by many modern Pagans, we also see it in ancient Paganism, in the form of giving hospitality to beggars and strangers, for the gods can be disguised as the poor strangers on your door. While not codified in the Pagan four Cardinal Virtues, which include Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude, hospitality is found in the myths. We see humans expressing hospitality in tales of Athena, Zeus, Hermes, and Demeter, not knowing at the times their guests were gods. Norse and Celtic culture express not only the teachings of hospitality, but also in being a gracious guests when receiving hospitality and support. So despite our ideas to distance ourself from “Christian” charity, there are roots of it in all forms of Paganism and mystical traditions.

Socially, many would critique such charity as re-distribution of wealth, and a form of socialism, though voluntary giving is quite different from any form of socialism. Pagans of this view will look at the “kill or be killed” harshness of nature, and use that at a motto. Everyone must be strong and survive. Nature is not charitable. But when we look at a wide variety of animals, we see supportive structures humans would find familiar and comforting. There is even new research to show how plants within a forest support each other. On one hand, nature is harsh and cruel. On the other, very loving and support. Perhaps as Pagans, we need to be both, and know when each is appropriate.

As a modern Witch, theologically and magickaly, I see at least two main principles motivating charity and support for others beyond ourselves and our immediate kin. Drawing from the ideas of how the gods can be beggars and strangers, not only could they be, but they are. A huge portion of our spirituality recognizes the inherent divinity in all things. We are looking to more consciously realize and invoke our own divinity, and life more fully from that place, so recognizing the inherent divinity, conscious or not, of others, is important. Sometimes the most unusual people are our true teachers, and learning to selflessly serve and offer to others in an appropriate way that is not harming either party, is an excellent lesson in recognizing spirit in all forms.

The second idea, less metaphysical and more philosophical for those more grounded, down to Earth Pagans, goes back to the oft-quoted Gaia Theory, and the general thought of many Pagans, myself included, that we are like cells within a larger organization, and all species and systems upon and in the Earth relate to each other like a whole organism. For the well being of the entire organism, the seemingly separate systems should be doing what they can to support and bolster each other. A healthy liver doesn’t mean a whole lot if the heart is not working, and the various parts of our body work together to bring greater well being, ideally. Even the various sections within a given organ or system seek wholeness whenever possible. So in supporting others, starting with fellow humans and expanding beyond to the many other realms and races, physical and non-physical, we can bring about a greater benefit for all.

These two ideas inform our work in the Temple of Witchcraft community. We believe our greater community has reached the point to develop greater infrastructure and support for our growing population, but to do so with Pagan theological values, and without losing the mystery and magick of our training. Service and charity is a way to understand and put those principles into action. And each of the major sabbats, we take donations for various charities. While it changes year to year, this was our initial model:

  • Yule: Toys
  • Imbolc: Blankets and Coats
  • Ostara: Tree Planting
  • Beltane: Pet Donations
  • Litha: Blood Drive
  • Lammas: Food Drive
  • Mabon: Disaster Relief Supplies for TOWER
  • Samhain: Winter Coats and Clothing

We’ve not yet gotten a blood drive off the ground and pet donations also happen on the Feast of Hecate on August 13. We collected relief supplies for TOWER at Templefest this year, so our 2015 Mabon collection will be a food drive instead.

At the moment, we have been working cooperatively with other local services, including many Christian services. I would hope one day that we’d have the infrastructure to serve a larger community, and to be able to reach out to the non-Christian identifying aspects of the greater community. But the work also brings greater interfaith understanding. (Plus, I get a kick out of getting very kind thank you letters from Christian organizations, who are writing to thank the Temple of Witchcraft directly!) I hope it changes some minds about who and what Witches really are. We’ve actually found a lot of support among various Christian branches here locally in New Hampshire, and our charity work is a way we can reach across religious lines and focus on helping anyone who needs it. If other religions have the mechanisms in place to reach those in need, then until Paganism grows such structures, let’s work with them. Ideally, even when we do have such structures, let’s find other opportunities to partner together.

At our Templefest Lammas celebration, collected nonperishable food items were donated to local food bank. We often work with the Emmaus House (http://emmausinc.org/) homeless shelter in Haverhill, MA.

11063579_10153439467368281_71594734377316244_o

For the Feast of Hecate, we collected donation for the MSPCA in Methuen, MA. In the coming months, be on the look out for future blog posts by our beloved Cancer Ministry volunteer Dragon, highlighting different ministries in the Temple, and their charitable work. Hopefully it will inspire those local to us, and inspire those distantly to start their own donation drives and find other ways to help.

Look at all forms of charitable work and giving as ways of enacting our spiritual values and creating the time of community that is built upon mutual support. That way we all go a step further in establishing the harmony of the time before time, and re-establishing the Garden of the Gods upon the Earth once more.

Does a Witch Have to Practice Witchcraft?

by Christopher Penczak
Recently I was asked by two former students who had graduated from the Temple’s program before there was a Temple to graduate from an important question. It echoed some of the themes and talks we had at Templefest 2015 and I’ve been thinking a lot about it and my initial response, and the reflections of my colleagues and elders. The question: Does a Witch have to practice Witchcraft?
I guess the easiest response would be asking how do you define Witch, and how do you define Witchcraft? But I answered, like I often do, with another set of questions. Does a musician have to play music? Does mathematician have to do math? Does a basketball player have to play basketball? I think for most of those questions, the answer would have to be yes. A musician who no longer plays, unless retired from a long and illustrious time of play, is really a former musician. Some people aspire to be musicians, and play a little, but if they have not really played with a capitol P, then they would not likely be recognized as musicians. As a former musician myself, with a degree in classical voice and a history of hard rock bands, I have empathy. While I resonate with the other former musicians who paths took us in different directions, and can empathize with life on the road, crazy drummers and bad contracts, as well as the absolute thrill of playing on stage, there would not be recognition and resonance among the true lifers, those who dedicated themselves completely to the music and were not pulled away from it. Though I’m not a mathematician or a basketball player, I must imagine there is similar recognition when encountering one of the same vocational “tribe.” Something within us recognizes it. And its either there or its not. The it might be something inherent enhanced by practice, or something intangible earned by experience, but its there regardless of where it came from. In parts of our Templefest teachings this year, things like “the blood remembers” and “we reach out and recognize our own” were said, describing this factor in the Craft of the Wise.
So my answer is yes, a Witch, seemingly by definition, must do Witchcraft. Yet the definition of Craft is where it is nebulous. These students were asking about someone who had previous training, but no longer had a regular practice of any kind – no formal meditation or journeying, no ritual or spellcraft, no celebration of the wheel in any regular way. She may think of you fondly as part of her healing or prayer work, but it is not ritualized in any way.
Is that enough? Who am I to say? I don’t know what is in this person’s heart and mind at these times. I do know there is a difference between thinking good thoughts about someone for a moment while going about your day and completely stilling yourself thereby connecting to the forces of the universe and creating effective change for yourself or another. While I think there are powerful reasons to work with tools and herbs, partnering with nature and engaging an animistic, less human-centric worldview, that is not always necessary to practice our Craft and make magick. But it is necessary to engage all levels of the self, to be aware and conscious of what you are doing, and not haphazard or lazy.
By practice Witchcraft, I don’t always mean work traditional spells. And elder recently said to me that she does very little spellcraft these days. I understand her sentiment, though I fear that some who overheard us would think she does not still practice a formal Craft. She is a priestess still tending to an altar and the gods of that altar. She is a spirited herbalist growing, harvesting and using her plants for herself and for others. While they might not be tied to specific spells, they are part of natural attuments to the earth and stars. The dirt under her finger nails is the testament to her craft, while maintaining her daily responsibilities of work and home. She keeps a formal practice of vision work and spirit contact, and brings mindfulness into everything she does as a priestess, consulting her cards and astrological chart.
Some will say that they no longer need to “practice” as they live it and they are beyond the practice. Again, who am I to judge? Perhaps they are further along than my own limited understanding. Yet all those in any craft or path, Witch or otherwise, whom I would say have a level of deep awareness and mastery, still have a practice. There is no going “beyond” as their love is found in these basics. My piano teachers still played and practiced, both for fun and to maintain skills. The same with singing teachers, art teachers, yogis, martial artists and other athletes. Breaks can be had, and routines changed up, but there was some sort of practice. The same has been for all the mystics and magicians I know. Those who have gone deep have a regular practice of some sort, though each is different. Those who talk about how they don’t need to practice because they are living a magickal life are often suspect to me. If you are really living a magickal life, it will either be apparent in everything you do, or you won’t care who knows it or not, so there is no need to advertise. Deep magick comes with a level of assuredness.
On the other side of the spectrum, I know people who are thoroughly Witches, though they would never use the word. For many of us Witchcraft is a specific religious path or tied to a tradition and culture, but in my heart of hearts, Witchcraft is an orientation to the world, and tied intimately to our soul’s vocation, regardless if it ever becomes our professional career. Without training or formal practice we would recognize as Craft, these people are truly wyrd, or fey-touched, and magickal things happen around them. They naturally exhibit the blessings and difficulties of the Witch, and the wise ones will have integrated their own ways of using, practicing and integrating them. In essence, they are creating their own daily practice, meditations and rituals without calling it that. It reminds me of what must happen when someone is called to be a Witch or Shaman in times past and there is no one to teach them. The spirits, ancestors and the power itself rises up to teach the new practitioner, and they pioneer new ways, often unconsciously rooted in the old ways, to go forward.
Even the best trained traditional Witch will explore, question and go into uncharted territories. That’s the whole point. We continue to question, to ask the unanswerable questions and not take other people’s answers for our own. The strong roots allow us to climb higher.
So in the end, when asked this question, I go back to the tried and true “It depends on how you define the word Witch. It depends on how you define the practice of Witchcraft.” But in my heart of hearts, the answer is “yes.”

Castle Tree“The essence of gratitude is a law of Nature that never ceases to offer its vibration.”

– Sylvie Olivier

For many of us in the Modern Pagan or Witchcraft Traditions, the thought of saying Grace at the beginning of our meals makes us tense up. Scars of past spiritual practices have muddied a very beautiful ritual.

It wasn’t until I started studying with the Temple of Witchcraft and attending the public rituals that the thought of showing gratitude or saying a blessing over the meal I was about to eat even entered my mind. I didn’t come from a super religious background; in fact we didn’t even say grace in my household, but I still associated it with other faiths, more specifically Christianity.

When I first heard Matooka and Silver say a blessing over the food we were about to share after Ritual and speak about gratitude, it made me a little uncomfortable. Then it made me start to re-evaluate my stand on it and look at what was triggering this response. Was it the ritual itself, or some remnant or resentment of my experience with those other faiths? More importantly, was this a valid practice for me, and would I continue to allow those past experiences to overshadow a beautiful practice? Later on in the third year of my studies with the Temple, I decided to challenge myself and incorporate a blessing before each meal. I did so again in the fifth year, trying to weave it into my daily practice. During that time I still struggled a little bit, but I found it to be important.altar 1

As a Witch I see all things as having life. I am sure many of you share this same view. As we work our Magick and develop our practice, we have a chance to meet the spirits that lie within, beneath, throughout both the plant and animal kingdoms. We build relationships and gain allies. If you have been to one of the Temple’s public Sabbats and have heard me say the blessing, it is all about the gratitude I have for these beings’ sacrifices.

“I thank would like to thank the Spirits of Leaf and Bud, Hoof and Horn, Feather and Scale…”

The realization that something’s life has had to end in order for us to be sustained is at the very root of the power and importance behind saying grace or a blessing over our meal.

If you don’t necessarily share this same view on the individuality of each plant or animal or their equality, then as a spiritual person, I am sure we can agree that they are at least a manifestation of the Divine. If you see them as gifts for us, then would it not be important to say thank you for the generosity of the Universe or Divinity?

The ritual of saying a blessing or grace with your meals doesn’t even have to be an act of your spirituality. It can simply be taking a moment to acknowledge that we are part of a larger ecosystem. Whether you view Nature as delicate or dynamic, each plant, animal, mineral or molecule has developed to play a specific role in a larger system. A momentary pause before consumption can be taken to reflect on this and the place we hold in the world around us.

These three reasons I have discussed are just a little food for thought about incorporating this ritual into your daily practice. There are many reasons I haven’t discussed, animal ethics for example. How do you feel about saying a blessing? How do you show gratitude for the food that sustains you? Is this already part of your daily practice? What are the reasons it is not?

Thank you for your time. I am grateful to be able to write this column for the Temple of Witchcraft and for all of you who take time to read it and share your comments.

Ryan is an ordained Minister, Seminary Graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft, and Deputy Minister of the Cancer Ministry. Ryan is passionate about Kitchen Witchery, the creatures of the Green World, working with Plant Spirits, and making magick in daily life. Crafting herbal infusions, candles, and sacred tools, Ryan is co-creator of Drops of Three. You may visit his website at www.dropsofthree.storenvy.com.

 

Inked

 

inked

Inked

by Ashara Mayim

The pain on the back of my shoulder is bad, but far from unbearable. Occasionally on the physical plane I feel the needle hit a bundle of nerves and the stinging becomes particularly sharp. I might squeeze the hand holding mine or kick my legs, but I’m not all there. I have one foot firmly planted in each world. In the tattoo shop, I am laying on a cushioned table, breathing deeply, listening to the steady, terrifying buzz of the tattoo gun. At the Crossroads, I am sitting, my knees tucked to my chest, looking at my hands.

There is a staff with a torch planted firmly at the “Y” intersection of the gravel roads. Several plates of food offerings are gathered at the intersection. Little blades of grass peek through the rocks and dirt, which crunch beneath the weight of my body as I shift to get comfortable. But there is no getting comfortable. The Crossroads isn’t a comfortable place. It’s a place of choices—of metamorphosis—of change. The Crossroads is a crucible.

She is standing over me, looking at me in her maiden face. Dark hair and glowing eyes—sometimes green and sometimes black (or maybe they are just dilated so far that they appear black to me), they seem to radiate in the light of the moon.

“Are you happy now” she asks. I look up at her in time to see that little smile trace across her face.

“That’s not the question, though, is it, little wolf? You didn’t do this to make me happy.” I feel suddenly offended. A surge of defensiveness, anxiety, and self-righteous anger well up in my belly.

“Of course I did! I did this ALL for you! I drew it for you, I planned it with you, I mixed my blood with yours, and you told me to earn it! That’s why I’m here at all! To show the world you are my Goddess!” My artist hits a nerve bundle. I wince and curse. Her hand on my chin pulls my attention back to the Crossroads—to Her. She is crouched down, staring into my eyes with her crone face.

“Stop thinking so hard. Get out of that HEAD of yours. Stop thinking and KNOW,” she tells me.

There is silence, save the howl of a wolf in the distance. I think I see his shadow out of the corner of my vision, but it is obscured by the light of her torch. My own appearance shifts to the Lady in the mirror with her blonde curls, her beautiful body, her full red lips…and back to my earthly form again. Her voice has softened, but that stern resolve is ever present. It’s hard to argue with the Lady anyway, but when she’s right, it’s downright impossible.

“I did it to prove…”

“To prove what, little wolf?”

“That I have a choice. That I can. That it’s my body—that other people, my past, and my fear… none of that controls me. I have control. I make my choices.” She grins at me, letting go of my chin and standing to full, imposing height, looking up at the moon again. Even in Her crone face, she is far from frail.

“And what have you chosen?”

“I choose you.”

“As I have you.”

We stare into the moonlight, in silence, my fingers tracing the scar on the palm of my hand. All at once, she is gone, the Crossroads are gone, and I am jolted back to the harsh reality of the physical world. To my artist telling me it’s over. To my friends telling me how well I did. I sit up, look at the pictures, brush sweat from my brow, and begin to cry.

Let the tears fall down and cleanse my emotions as the ink has cleansed my soul.

I am strong. I am made new. I am free.

Ashara Mayim has been a Witch since October of 2012 and is about to start her third year of study with the Temple of Witchcraft. She is a life-long learner, published author, and a teacher by trade. Mayim co-founded The Owl’s Well, an education-based pagan community in St. Louis, in December of 2013. She lives in St. Louis with Owl’s Well co-founder Andrew, her dog Ace, and her cat Isilmé.

flower 2Few things speak of Beltane to me more than flowers. As the Spring sun kisses the emerald grass, it seems to leave a trail of yellow flowers behind. The cool May breeze spreads the floral perfume of these elegant color splashes that dot the newly green landscape. You can’t attend a single Beltane or Spring event where garlands of flowers don’t decorate the hair of the participants. The flowers sing of all the promises that Beltane and Spring make. Vibrancy, beauty, passion, sexuality. The colors of yellows, purples, pinks and reds are alive and reflect the energy that is around us.

Most of us love to fill our houses with these new friends, loading vases with tulips and lilacs, allowing us to carry some of that verve inside, but I bet most of you don’t think about eating them. Many of these newly blossoming friends are edible and even have some nutritional benefits. Some edible and easy to find flowers are clover, violet, lilac, dandelion, peony, chrysanthemum, nasturtiums, calendula, golden rod, bee balm, jasmine, elder and linden.

Check out this link for a more complete list: http://whatscookingamerica.net/EdibleFlowers/EdibleFlowersMain.htm

I thought I would use this month’s article to share three of my favorite ways to incorporate flowers into your Spring and Summer Menus.

Salads – Let’s start off easy. Flowers like violets, dandelions, calendula and clover are easy to find, and all you need to do is step outside, pick a few, thank the plant, rinse them, and add them to your greens. Summertime is loaded with picnics and events like Pagan Pride. Making a Green Salad that is dusted with purple and white violets will be a show stopper. Adding a hand full of calendula to your favorite pasta salad fills the dish with vibrant streaks of golden yellow and orange.

Simple Syrups – This one is a little more work, but still not difficult. A simple syrup is made by taking equal parts of water and sugar and slowly heating them until the sugar is completely dissolved and suspended in the water. After you allow it to cool, you can use simple syrups to sweeten, iced tea, lemonade, iced coffee and your favorite cocktail. The switch up for my simple syrup is to make a variety of them that are flavored with flower. How delightful does rose lemonade sound or a lavender-infused gin & tonic? Flowers such as elder, lilac, rose, lavender, bee balm, thyme and mint which have stronger flavors work best. Once you have made them, you can use them to flavor the beverages I mentioned or add them to cake frostings, drizzle them into fruit salads, and brush them on grilled fruit for summer BBQs.

Simple Syrup Recipe

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water (room temperature)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup flower of choice

Add water and sugar to sauce pan and place on medium heat. Stir mixture until sugar has completely dissolved and water has just come to a boil. Turn off heat and add flowers. Stir flowers in and make sure they are completely wet. Steep for fifteen minutes. Strain flowers using fine colander or cheese cloth.

IMG_1597Baking – Flowers can be added to cookies, cakes and breads. Bee balm or bergamot shortbread cookies are a favorite of mine; don’t worry I have shared the recipe, but I also love adding rose with chocolate or calendula to corn bread. You can even press flowers between layers of phyllo dough or pie crust.

Bee Balm Shortbreads

  • 3/4 lb unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp bee balm – finely minced
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In mixer, cream sugar and butter. When the color of butter and sugar has slightly lightened, add vanilla, bee balm and lemon zest mix until just incorporated. Add remaining ingredients and mix until the dough forms. Dump out on table and form ball. Roll ball into long snake or cylinder about two inches in diameter (square off edges if desired to form square cookies). Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight preferred. Remove dough from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut cookie dough into slices about 1/4 thick. Bake for 10 -12 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool and devour.

Now that you have three methods you can use to add flowers to your ,you might be asking how this is Kitchen Witchery. In my opinion, every meal that we cook as a Witch is Magickal. We take care to gather the ingredients. We add each one to our cauldrons, now known as pots and pans, and stir away, creating a meal for those we love, providing them with energy and sustenance. The act of cooking in itself is one of transformation, but when we take a little more care with the ingredients we are adding the Magick of our foods start to really zing. Simple acts of charging your salt with protection and intentionally stirring in a particular directions make the mundane an act of Sorcery. With the topic of flowers in mind, we can carry these intentions a step further. You can choose flowers that correspond with your particular need. You can choose the color of the flower’s petals to reflect the spell you wish to weave into the food, or the scent of the flower to carry the spell to its target. Almost everyone I know associates roses with love. Nothing says Love Magick more to me than chocolate cupcakes with rose-infused chocolate frostings.

Now go outside. Pick and play but please make sure when gathering your new found friends, you know where you are getting them from and that they are not treated with anything that might be toxic.

Ryan is an ordained Minister and Seminary Graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft. Ryan is passionate about Kitchen Witchery, the creatures of the Green World, working with Plant Spirits, and making magick in daily life. Crafting herbal infusions, candles, and sacred tools, Ryan is co-creator of Drops of Three. You may visit his website at www.dropsofthree.storenvy.com.

 

The Journey Home: A Story Based on the Tarot

By Ravenwonderingdragon

She wore a mask so no one could see her beauty. She wanted to have people know her from the inside out. It was her one virtue she held onto. In fact she called herself Strength. It was a name that few did not recognize. The ritual of the Goddess and God joining together again was approaching. Strength had no time to waste. She needed to make it back to her homeland. However, she was lost.

Strength had traveled many lands on her adventures. In that time, she had never gotten lost. It was odd for her in this moment to feel as if she could not even take a step forward. She adjusted her mask and looked onward; the lion, which was with her, held steadfast as they approached a strange figure. The figure was almost transparent, but upon closer view was skeleton in nature. As he walked towards Strength and her majestic lion, he held in his arms a woman.

Strength held back as the figure approached.

“Hello, I don’t mean to scare you. My name is Death,” Death said as he put the woman on the ground.

Strength looked at the ground where the woman lay. She realized just how much of the desert she had crossed trying to find her way back home. Looking up at Death, she wondered how this figure had come across the same area she had. She was surprised yet relieved that there was someone else out in this vast terrain.

“How long have you been out here?” Strength asked.

Death looked around. He moved what little white hair he had left from his eyes. He then looked at the woman.

“Too long it seems. I have been on this quest to bring this woman back to her final resting place. I have traveled long and far. In all this time, I have not come across one person, until you.”

Strength stared at the woman who lay on the ground lifeless. Her black hair just peeked under the hat she was wearing, and her red dress was tattered from the dust.

“I am on my way home for the great ritual.” Strength reached down to pet her lion.

“The great ritual, ah, yes, does that not happen in a few days?” Death asked.

Strength nodded. “I should have been there by now. I have to prepare.”

Death looked into the huge desert. He shook his head. “Why are you not there?”

“I’m afraid I have gotten lost.”

“That is not good. I might be able to help.”

Strength looked up. “I would appreciate that.”

“Okay, fond lady, I have to go to Summerland first to allow this woman to have her final resting. It should not be far from here. I can help you after to find your place.”

They walked and walked. It seemed like it took millions of years before they reached what Death had labeled as Summerland. Strength suddenly stopped. Before her eyes were five beautiful fairies on a tree. Each one of the fairies was holding a branch; they swung from the tree with such grace. They noticed Death and Strength.

“What brings you here?” they said in unison.

Death placed the girl back down. “Thank you, my fairies, for your wisdom,” he said. “The woman here needs to go to Summerland for her final resting place. My traveling companion needs to be at the Great Ritual.”

The fairies spoke in unison. “We accept your place, Death. As for your companion, she needs to wait here. However, you follow us,”

Still holding the girl, Death followed the fairies through an invisible field. They all disappeared. Strength just looked on. She wondered what would happen if she tried to pass through the veil. Did she have the courage she thought she had? Strength made a choice; she was going to do it. She was going to go through the veil.

She started to walk into the veil. At first it seemed cloudy, and she could not make out what was ahead of her. However, beyond the cloudiness she saw beautiful trees with majestic horses and the vastest land she had ever laid eyes on. Her weight was nothing, and she floated past several apple trees which made her smile. The winds led her to a sacred circle just outside the biggest tree she could possibly imagine.

The tree was so large that Strength could not even believe it was real. She walked up to the tree where its hollow entrance waited for her to join. As she walked into the tree, she heard birds chirping. A sudden stop caused her to look and see the great Goddess waiting for her, her hand outreached ready for Strength to take. She took the Goddess’s hand and continued to walk with her up the tree. As they walked, Strength saw several people enjoying the fruits of their labor. They played and celebrated as if life had never ended but was reborn,

“My dear, you are in Summerland,” the Goddess said. “Your journey has been long and perhaps one you did not know you were seeking. However, you are here now. The Great Ritual you were seeking was of your own rebirth.”

Strength looked at her with love and trust; she followed her further up the tree where she came across Death.

“This is why we met too, little one. It was fate.” Death now took her hand leading her the rest of the way up the tree.

When she reached the top of the tree, the God awaited her, now joined by the Goddess. The Great Ritual was about to begin, and Strength was about to be reborn.

Ravenwonderingdragon has been a practicing Witch for several years. She is a published author, aspiring screenwriter, Certified Tarot Consultant, and avid Tarot deck collector. She does professional Tarot and Dream interpretation readings at her website: http://www.readingsbyravenwonderingdragon.com/. Ravenwonderingdragon lives with her family that includes some furry cats in the Southeastern U. S.

 

If you listen carefully you can hear the birds announcing the arrival of Spring. As the snow here in Connecticut slowly recedes ,you smell the freshly exposed earth in the air around you. Ostara is here, and with it the promise of growth and new beginnings. With that in mind, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk to you about a few things related to the Kitchen, Kitchen Witches, and the Cancer Ministry.

I guess I should start with an introduction. My name is Ryan. Many of you have met me at the Temple’s Sabbats in New Hampshire or at Templefest. Over the last few months, I have had the pleasure of taking lead on running the kitchen for our New Hampshire Sabbats, with the assistance of some amazing people we have affectionately labeled “The Kitchen Witches.” It is my hope to continue to write this article monthly. With it I am eager to share recipes, pot-luck ideas, tips and tricks for creating food, and the visions of the NH Kitchen Witches and Cancer Ministry for the Sabbat pot-lucks.

One of our visions is to reduce the impact we have on our environment. At the end of each Sabbat, we come together and share a meal. Before people get their food, it has become a tradition to say a blessing. Each time I begin I make it a point to thank all those that have sacrificed to sustain us: the Spirits of Leaf and Root, Hoof, Scale, and Feather. As Witches, this beautiful world we play in is alive and breathing. We have the pleasure of speaking with the Plants and Animals around us. We understand that we are all interconnected. For this reason, it is important to honor their gifts.

So how else can we work to honor that sacrifice and the impact we have on the Earth we live with? Some simple steps we have taken are to Recycle and Compost. What we are hoping to do next is work on one of the other three R’s in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reuse! We are hoping with your help to reduce the amount of plastic cutlery, plates, and cups we are using.

The easiest solution would be to purchase flatware and dinnerware that we could wash after each Sabbat and reuse, but right now we can’t due to limited space in the kitchen. One of the simplest things you can do is bring your own cup and cutlery. I appreciate that many of us come from far away and it adds one more thing to remember, but we feel it would make a tremendous difference. If you look at the number of people we are blessed to share the Sabbats with and then think about at least one fork per person, plus the times we need a knife and/or spoon, plus the times we accidently toss our fork and have to get another on for the exquisite line up of deserts our community has graced us with . . . you see the problem. Something as small as bringing your own silverware and cup (which most of us carry around all day anyway) can make a measurable change on the amount of waste we are producing at each Sabbat. As the season shifts around us and we ride the wave of Ostara’s renewal, this is the perfect time for us to make a commitment.

To take it a step further, you could even set aside a set of dinnerware used for this sole purpose, just as you have sacred vessels used at the Sabbats. Think of them as extensions of the offering bowls or ritual tools used in your magickal practice, weaving another thread between the mundane and magickal.

IMG_1568IMG_1569

So what do you say? Are you in?

With that I will close and give my thanks. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for considering the idea of bringing your own cup, plate, and cutlery and thank all of you beautiful people who join us for Sabbats and share your presence and food with us. I wish everyone could be there.

Ryan is an ordained Minister and Seminary Graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft. Ryan is passionate about Kitchen Witchery, the creatures of the Green World, working with Plant Spirits, and making magick in daily life. Crafting herbal infusions, candles, and sacred tools, Ryan is co-creator of Drops of Three. You may visit his website at www.dropsofthree.storenvy.com.

X