Imbolc Ritual #1

Bardic Imbolc Ritual
by the White Bard

 

Materials

  • a candle for each covener present.
  • a MAIDEN, dressed in white.
  • a Crown of Light, made from three, six, or nine candles.
  • a BARD/GREEN MAN.
  • a DARK LORD, dressed in dark clothing, and holding a dark cloak.

The place of ritual should be set up, away from the gathered participants. It is more than a good idea to manage bathrooms and such like before the circle is closed. This Mystery is not something any of the participants should miss out on!

The BARD should stand to the WEST, unless otherwise specified in the ritual.

HPS

Go we now to the sacred place
And stand within the sacred space
Turn your minds to sacred things
And dance with me unto the ring!

HP and HPS lead the coven to the place of ritual by a spiral dance, ending in a circle around the altar. The cauldron should be at the south. The Bard/Green Man dances at the end of the line. A good song to sing here is “Lord Of The Dance.”

HPS

Come we forth, with the Spiral Dance
Within the Lady’s radiance
To celebrate the Sun’s rebirth
To renew life, to warm the Earth

Earth and Water, Fire and Air
I invoke the Goddess there!
This night we are Between the Worlds
To celebrate the year unfurled!

HP

Earth and Water, Fire and Sky
I invoke the God on high
This night we are Between the Worlds
To celebrate the year unfurled!

The corners shall be called thusly, that all may hear, but shall not be called until the HPS reaches that corner on her circumnabulation.

EAST

O Guardians of the Eastern Tower,
Airy ones of healing power
I do summon, stir and call you
See these rites and guard this circle!

Come to us and heed our call!
By the Power that made us all;
By the Power that blesses Thee:
Come to us; and Blessed Be!

SOUTH

Oh fiery ones of Southern Power
Thus I invite you to this tower
I do summon, stir and call you
See these rites and guard this circle!

Come to us and heed our call!
By the Power that made us all;
By the Power that blesses Thee:
Come to us; and Blessed Be!

WEST

Western ones of water’s flow
Help to guard us here below
I do summon, stir and call you
See these rites and guard this circle!

Come to us and heed our call!
By the Power that made us all;
By the Power that blesses Thee:
Come to us; and Blessed Be!

NORTH

Earthen ones of Northern fame
Bless and guard our Power’s fane
I do summon, stir and call you
See these rites and guard this circle!

Come to us and heed our call!
By the Power that made us all;
By the Power that blesses Thee:
Come to us; and Blessed Be!

The HPS shall move to each corner, and say, following each corner’s crying as she moves to the next:

HPS

So I cast and consecrate
This Circle of the small and great:
By Fin and Feather, Leaf and Tree,
By Rock and Earth, by Land and Sea,
By Fire and Water, Earth and Air,
By the Lord, and Lady Fair!
By Love and Joy and Work and Play,
All things harmful cast away!
By lightening’s flash, and rain’s soft fall,
By the Power that made us all;
By the Power that blesses Thee:
(Cast the Circle: Blessed be!)

On her return to the first corner she shall change the last line above, and say: “The Circle’s cast; and Blessed Be!”

The callers of the corners shall return their tools to the altar, and then shall join the circle at their corners.

Here begins the Candlemas (Imbolc) Mystery:

The Maiden shall step forth, and say:

MAIDEN:This is the time of Brigid, the Patron of Poets and Fire, and of Healing.

HPSThis is the time of new beginnings, when the Mother has become Maiden.

HPThe days have turned, and grow longer, and the Sun-child is growing to His strength.

BARD/GREEN MAN

I have been a wave upon the sea,
And a spark in the firelight.

I have been a fish in the ocean.
I have been a Thought within a Word,
And a Word within a Deed.
I was cast away, and found again.

I have been made of flowers
And of cold steel and brass.
Fire and ice are alike unto me.

I have been the narrow blade of a sword
That kills without cutting.
And the Void is my homeland.

I have been in Caer Sidi
In the Spiral Castle of Glass.
And the letters on the Standing Stones
Are no secret from me.

I have been in Annwyn
And Tir na n’Og,
I have danced the Spiral Dance,
And drunk from the Hierlas at daybreak.

I have ridden beneath two ravens
And served in the kitchen,
And all places are alike unto me.

I have been a child
And now I come into my strength!

I invoke the Land, the dear Land,
the Earth our Mother!

MAIDEN

The cycles of the Moon have taken their course, and I am in my Maidenhood.
The stars are kindled, and I dance in their light.

DARK LORD

Thy home is with me thru the long months of Winter,
and the Earth shall lie fallow and bare.

The HPS shall then light the candles of the Crown of Light, and shall approach the Maiden, who is now standing in the East, and place it upon her head. She shall now, in company with the Bard/Green Man, circumnabulate the circle, and the coveners shall light their candles from her crown. The Bard/Green Man shall return to his normal place within the circle and the Maiden shall place the Crown of Light on the altar. The Maiden shall then approach the Dark Lord, and kneel before him, and he shall say:

DARK LORD:As it always is, always was, and always shall be. Come to my Kingdom.

Here he shall place the dark cloak around her, and they shall retire to the West. Here ends the Candlemas Mystery.

A normal cone-of-power may be raised, for growth and healing:

HPS

In a ring we all shall stand
Pass the Power, hand to hand.

HP

As the Sun is given birth
Build the Power; root to Earth

HPS

Pass the Power, hand to hand
Bless the Lady, bless the Land

HP

Bless the Lord, and bless the Skies
Bless the Power that never dies!

The above four verses should be repeated three times, (or as many times as needed) and then the HPS should say:

HPS

By Fin and Feather, Leaf and Tree:
Let the Power flow out and free!

All should release, at this point.

Such coven business as must be transacted may be done here. This is a good time to bless candles for use during the coming year. This is also a good time for initiations.

The Circle is opened.

HPS

Thus I release the East and West
Thanks to them from Host to Guest
Thus I release the South and North
With “Blessed Be’ I send them forth!
The Circle’s open, dance we so
Out and homeward we shall go.
Earth and Water, Air and Fire
Celebrated our desire.
The Sun’s returned to banish dark
The Earth awakes to sunlight’s spark.
By Fin and Feather, Leaf and Tree,
Our circle’s done; and Blessed Be!

Coven: Blessed Be!

All spiral dance out from the Circle.

Infusions

Infusions

By Lady Wystira
 
Another word for infusion is tea. Infusions are used for drinking herbs as medicine, not as a thirst-quencher. To make an infusion, use the softer parts of the herb that grows above the ground (stems, leaves, flowers) that have been properly dried.
 
Usually one would use 1 to 3 teaspoons of the herb to 1 cup of water. You can’t store infusions for very long, so it’s best to use it right away. At the most, I’d recommend making only about 3 cups and use the day it’s made. For most infusions you can drink up to 3 cups per day. You can store an infusion for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
 
The following is a very basic recipe to make an infusion:
(I like this method because it’s so easy)
 
1. Place the herbs in a teapot
2. In a saucepan, bring the water to boiling, turn off the heat, and pour the boiling water over the herbs in the teapot.
3. Cover the teapot, and let the herbs steep for at least 10 minutes (and up to 20 minutes).
4. Strain the liquid into a cup for immediate use, or into a storage container for storage in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
5. After it’s been stored, you should heat up the infusion in the microwave.

Healing Arts and Pagan Studies: Banishing Obstacles Spell

GrannyMoon’s Coventry of Healing Arts and Pagan Studies

Banishing Obstacles Spell
Here’s a spell to help remove any blockages that might stop the creative flow. This spell calls on the Hindu elephant god Ganesha, who is known for bringing good luck and banishing obstacles. Keep his image wherever you pursue your creative dream. Place a rutilated quartz, citrine, opal, or agate near the image. Burn some nag champa, sandalwood, patchouli, cinnamon, and laurel incense. Light the incense and say: “Ganesha, remove any creative blockages, so that I may create and express my soul.” Take a few deep breaths. With each breath, see the block crumbling apart, eventually disappearing completely…allowing you to start creating.
)0(
GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast Archives

Daily Aromatherapy – Manuka Oil, New Zealand

Daily Aromatherapy – Manuka Oil, New Zealand

High leptospermemone
Botanical name Leptospermum Scoparium/OR/ New Zealand

Manuka oil gives you a good alternative to Tea tree as an anti- infections oil. The main constituents of Manuka oil are caryophyllene, geraniol, pinene, linalol and humulene

and….Leptospermone, which is very insecticidal. Manuka is anti-viral, anti-fungal and highly bactericidal across a wide spectrum. An excellent antiseptic for use on the skin
and can be used for respiratory infections and it has an anti-histamine action and is anti-allergic in most people. (test to be sure) It is an effective insecticide and the pleasant
scent makes it particularly suitable for use in air sprays or burners. It can be used in situations where the stronger and more medicinal smelling oils might not be welcome.
The scent is elusive……very sweet and ‘gentle’.
)0(
Brought to you by AromaThyme.com

Grounding Your House: Creating the Right Energy Field for Your Home

Grounding Your House: Creating the Right Energy Field for Your Home

by Sienna

Home Sweet Home. Home is where the heart is. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

Humans pride themselves on living in large homes. We are the only species that creates homes much larger than the space that we need for sleep. Bees and ants create large homes, but only as the swarm or tribe grows. We don’t hibernate, nor do we share our stores with large groups. Therefore, we make sure that our homes can keep us warm in bad weather, provide us with a place to prepare meals, hold all our stuff and be a safe haven when the world outside turns bitter.

But if you are energy-sensitive or emotionally sensitive, you want to make sure your home is a pleasant place to be, a place of contentment, happiness and peace. Sometimes this is more difficult than it sounds, as negativity comes and goes through our lives. A bad day at the office can come home with us, make us slouch around the place, slam doors, insult the pet. If we live with others, their bad moods can affect us more than is commonly recognized. So how do you keep that energy from affecting your peaceful place of solace?

There are many ways to cleanse energy, such as smudging with sage, cleansing with sprinkled salt and water and doing banishment by a rote working. But trying to do these things while the thoughts of traffic jams and crappy work schedules cloud your mood is usually counterproductive. Who wants to go through the hassle of lighting that sage bundle when all you really feel like doing is lighting your boss’s house on fire? Usually, when we come into our houses feeling negative from the outside world, all we want is to sit undisturbed for a few minutes and get rid of that feeling. If your house is full of that feeling anyway, it makes finding a peaceful mood even more difficult.

The method I present can help you keep your house clear all the time. It doesn’t hurt to smudge or cleanse or banish daily as well. However, if you don’t have time, or you want to create that mellow feeling in a new place, this method really works.

I recommend doing this practice with any new home before you move in, while the place is still empty of furniture. Once you have the keys to your new place, you can slip in before the moving van shows up. It only takes a few minutes, and you can have all the necessary articles in a gym bag or other “incognito” carrying case if you don’t want to alert your new neighbors to your paganism. It works just as well with apartments on the fifteenth floor as it does with entire houses. If you want to ground a home that you already occupy, take into account the furniture layout and try to get as close to the walls with the cleansing as you can. In either case, if you’re concerned about neighbors’ opinions and are using a smoking sage bundle, keep it below window level until or unless you have privacy blinds or curtains in place.

Start by smudging, banishing or cleansing with salt and water, as you might already do. If you don’t know these methods, the easiest one to learn is cleansing with salt and water. Use sea salt and ordinary tap water or rain-caught water, and combine them in a special bowl or chalice. Then walk around the interior walls of your home clockwise, sprinkling the water sparingly as you go. The thoughts in your head should be of clearing out old negativity. Imagine the negativity scurrying out through the walls as you go around the edges of all the rooms, through doorways and past windows. Don’t skip over alcoves, closets or small rooms.

Once you have made an entire pass around the outer rooms, go to any rooms at the center of the home and make sure they are cleared also. You should feel a difference immediately. Next, find the middle of the floor plan. You can do this by looking around the place and estimating (if you have lived there long enough, this should be easy). By examining the floor plan on paper or measuring the distance between all the outer walls and calculating the center mathematically, you might be more exact, but you may also find that your center point is in the middle of a wall. If that is the case, then pick a point just to one side of the wall. If you have several floors, do this on the lowest floor or in the basement.

When you have located the center point of your home, sit there. In your typical meditative posture, calm yourself, center yourself and begin visualizing a large tree root growing from your body down through the floor and into the Earth. If you are above the ground floor, make that root go through the floors below you in a straight line downward. See that tree root go all the way to the hot molten center of Mother Earth, creating a flow of energy downward. You may be surprised when that warm Earth energy travels back up the root. This is clear, clean energy and will replace any negative energy you removed with the cleansing. If the flow upward doesn’t happen automatically, use your visualization ability to make it happen.

When you have established the flow of energy to and from the heart of the planet, use your mind to attach the energy permanently to the floor space you are sitting on. You can see it attached biologically (tendons), mechanically (bolts) or electronically (circuitry), whichever suits your personality best. Next, imagine that smaller roots reach sideways from the main root to the outer corners of the home. See these roots attach to the edges of the home in the same fashion, as many as you think necessary. When you are done, the system of roots might resemble a tree with your house perched in its branches.

Activate these smaller roots with the same flow as the main root. See all the energy from the corners of the house following the smaller roots to the main root, then down the main root to the heart of the Earth and the positive Earth energy following it back again. If you have several floors, make sure the small roots reach all the way up to the attic. If you are in an apartment, and you have people living below you, remember that the root is astral and will not negatively affect anyone or anything below you.

When you have that visualization in place, emphasize its permanence within your mind. Know that it will be there daily. Then open your eyes, and consider yourself finished.

This working will create an atmosphere in your home that is self-cleansing. All negativity will be funneled away and replaced with that good, clean Earth energy, every day, without you having to lift a finger. It is still a good idea to smudge or cleanse on a regular basis, but now you won’t have to do it until your mood is right.

When you come home each day from your daily schedule, remember that the root system is there, and allow it to pull that negativity from you as you settle in. This practice will go a long way toward helping you keep a peaceful, mellow atmosphere in your home.

Let’s Make Magick!

Let’s Make Magick!

by Janice Van Cleve

When I began this article two years ago, I got nowhere. Either I was not ready to write it, or the article was not ready to be birthed, or maybe the world was not ready to see it. It languished for months until one day my editor gave me a deadline. Suddenly I was ready, the words came forth, and you are reading it. Was it magick? Certainly my skills and knowledge continued to grow over the years, but they were not enough. It took a need to kindle the will. The will found the path that knowledge alone could not. A deadline is a powerful spell!

So what is this thing we call magick and how does it work? Its very name conjures up images of mystery, delight and power. Its tools are everything from “an eye of newt and toe of frog” in Macbeth to “the Force” in Star Wars. It has been judged both good and bad, depending upon the outcome or the perceiver. It either explains the unexplainable or creates it. Magick reaches beyond the reality we know.

Scientific Reality

The reality we know is relative. Science continually extends our capabilities to discover and to document our reality. We all recall the old movie: Natives capture explorer. Explorer uses magnifying glass to start fire. Natives are awed. They embrace the event as an act of magick. To the explorer, it was just basic science. What is magick for one person may not be magick for another.

Thousands have died of HIV/AIDS, but now new combinations of drugs are apparently able to restore T-cell counts and hold the fatal disease in remission. Lives that used to focus on early death are now faced with the challenge of life, career and old age. Was that magick? It took years of methodical research and countless tests to produce the drugs, yet the effect was to transform lives and create futures where none existed before. So what was a reality yesterday may not be a reality today.

As science continues to observe, analyze, synthesize, replicate and document the unknown, it converts the latter into knowable reality. This act itself may seem magickal to those outside a particular field of research, but the fact that we know that somebody knows how it works — even if we don’t ourselves — removes it from magick to science. Even the practitioner does not need to know how it works as long as the procedure produces predictable results. Many medicines were invented by wise women of the village from their own experience, which later have been revalidated by modern doctors. Shamans at Stonehenge may not have known modern astronomy, but their observations allowed them to predict the seasons and eclipses with accuracy.

Most everybody loves to watch magic tricks. My favorite is the rope trick. When the magician slides that knot off the end, we marvel and applaud. Yet we know that the magician presents us with a disconnected reality, by hiding the intermediate steps in the process. We deliberately participate in this disconnected reality for our amusement. While we ourselves may never discover just how the trick was performed, we are nevertheless confident that it is indeed a trick and not really magick.

Changing Reality at Will

So if science continues to expand reality and trickery only manipulates our perception of it, where is the magick? Somewhere the power of the will must operate to make the impossible possible, to span realities, and by definition to do so with deliberate intent.

Who can do such things with more deliberate intent than marketers? Think about it. “Things go better with Coke.” “The Friendly Skies of United.” Joe Camel. The engineering that goes into a marketing message is one of the most highly developed sciences in the world. Millions of dollars and countless hours are invested in creating a perception that will catch on with the public and become a household word. Nobody uses tissues; they use Kleenex — even if the tissue in their hand is a Crown Z product. Nobody photocopies; they Xerox — even on a Canon copier. These are examples of very successful brand marketing achievements created and abandoned as business dictates. They have no basis in science. After all, things go very well without Coke, the skies have no friendly emotions, and camels don’t smoke.

Marketing creates powerful realities, not all of which are intended or beneficial. The Nike swoosh is a registered trademark with legal standing in court, while a 20-year relationship between two lesbians with children has no standing. A high-school student is suspended from school for wearing a Coke T-shirt on Pepsi appreciation day. (I’m not making this up. It happened in Atlanta!) A child in Detroit was even killed for his sneakers because their brand and style had been elevated by advertising to have a higher value than a human life.

Is this not magick? It is an act of will that deliberately alters reality on many dimensions in symbolic language. It is widely understood, and it has clear, tangible outcomes that are not always intended. By extension as a tool of the state, it has created nations like the two Koreas and has eliminated nations like those of the Native Americans. It both imposed apartheid in South Africa and overthrew it. Marketing’s magick bubbles only bursts when marketers cannot sustain the illusion, as when the lofty rhetoric of clashing ideologies is reduced to counting chads.

The Internet has also changed reality at will. A Montana rancher, hundreds of miles from the nearest library, who has never been out of the country, is completing his doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century Russian literature from the University of Minsk in Belarus. A surgeon in Kinshasa, Congo, is performing a delicate operation with the help of a team of specialists online at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York.

The Internet has created a connectedness of human consciousness unparalleled in history. It has created a new dimension where virtual images have all but replaced the tangible entities they represent. The almost instantaneous transmission of human thought and emotion, brain to brain, across hundreds of miles is very nearly an out-of-body experience — a “sending.”

Is this not magick? Parties can transcend physical reality to operate with deliberate intent in a virtual cyberspace and affect tangible outcomes. They can enter and exit multiple webs at will. From warfare to Wall Street, lives and fortunes are directed by digital images.

Disappointed? Were you looking for magick in a cauldron and found this article telling you to look in a computer? Were you looking for magick in an incantation and instead found it in a commercial? The word “magick” has been used in many different and often conflicting ways. Starhawk in The Spiral Dance defines magick as “the art of changing consciousness at will.” She calls magick an art of elaborate metaphors, not truths. She warns us that if we use these metaphors “for glib explanations and cheap categorizations, they will narrow the mind instead of expanding it and reduce experience to a set of formulas that separates us from each other and from our own power.”

From this viewpoint, magick is not only an alternate reality to be reached and relinquished at will, it is also a personal consciousness of ourselves in relationship to the interconnectedness of all people, and ultimately the interconnectedness of the whole universe. Magick is not about changing tangible things or intangible images so much as it is about changing our own personal relationship to them.

Years ago, I bought into the patriarchal, suburban, career Yuppie philosophy and alternately valued and despised myself by those yardsticks. Then came the layoff, the collapse of my savings, resume rejections and finally the emergency room at the hospital. I had to let go of the old yardsticks. From inner values, I visioned a new place for myself in the world that had more to do with who I was instead of a corporate title. I learned to give generously and to receive graciously, to be part of the flow rather than looking for paybacks. As it turns out, I prospered even by the old yardsticks, but it didn’t matter anymore. I took risks I could not have imagined earlier, and I achieve incredible goals as commonplace occurrences in the new flow of my life.

Was that magick? Indeed it was. Often we read stories of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things. We read about their courage or determination, and sometimes we reflect how different their attitude is from our own. Coaches say attitude is everything, and counselors teach us that affirmations help build our self-esteem. However, unless these become integrated parts of our lives and we become integrated as well into the whole universe, they will have no magick for us.

A cup may be half-empty or half-full. Neither science, nor tricks, nor marketing, nor computers can change the volume inside the cup. A pessimist may complain; an optimist may be grateful. But the worker of magick? She drinks!

Waiting for Spring: How One Pagan Greets the Earth at Imbolc

Waiting for Spring: How One Pagan Greets the Earth at Imbolc

by Catherine Harper

Spring comes to Puget Sound early and slowly. First, there is the false spring in January, the few warm bright days that arrive along with the seed catalogs so soon after the Winter Solstice and tempt the gardener outside. I always seem to plant a few seeds for New Year’s, no matter how well I know that winter is not over, a few broccoli and hardy lettuces, or a row of radishes. By the middle of the month, the ground has frozen again. Yet the first stirrings of a lasting spring aren’t far behind.

As the days lengthen, even if the skies are leaden, the air full of rain and the thermometer nailed at 40, plants again begin to grow. It’s an odd time of year for eating. What’s in season is what has lasted from the year before — root vegetables, squash and suchlike — and what can be kept in the garden, such as cabbages and leeks that hold well there even if they don’t grow. And then there are the first shoots of new growth. The corn salad that went to seed in my garden last summer and sprouted in the fall has resumed its growth, giving me half a bed of 4-inch leaves for salads. In my herb garden, the salad burnet is producing new green leaves like serrated coins, tasting of cucumber. And throughout the yard are the tender young rosettes of wild sorrel, dandelion and pepper grass.

It isn’t much of a season for foraging; your time and effort will grant you only damp knees, cold fingers and a scant handful of leaves. But I find these few young shoots and last year’s gleanings irresistible, the first new tastes in the kitchen since the end of last year’s harvest. My salads are tiny handfuls, sometimes, masses of little leaves more strongly flavored than lettuce. I dress them simply with a sprinkling of oil and a few drops of good wine vinegar from our vinegar barrel — unlike the tough imported commercial greens of this season, their taste is worth savoring. Dandelion, picked young, is tender and only pleasantly bitter, rather like the taste of a cultivated chicory. Sorrel is a sharp green lemon, pepper grass a spicy cress, corn salad mild and crisp. And soon, within weeks, perhaps even only days, the first sprouts of chives will appear above the surface, marking another start of the year.

When writing for a pagan audience, it’s sometimes tempting for me to discuss these forays in terms of ritual practice: a recognition and greeting of earliest spring, or an opening to a discussion of holidays and symbolic significance. There’s something a little naked about saying “I went out today and saw a beautiful tree, and it made me tremble at my very roots,” and sometime I find it comforting to hide behind history, behind symbolic reference, behind, essentially, my own intellectual understanding of magic.

Yet in some ways, whatever lofty words I use will be but an abstraction of the simple physical reality. Outside, right now, there are green shoots. The waxing of the year might not be very far along, but it has started, because these shoots are growing more quickly now after almost stopping altogether only a few weeks ago. If you check on them regularly, you can see this. And if you go out into your yard, or someone else’s yard, a park or an overgrown lot, you can find them growing among the grass, plantain and pineapple weed. If you are hungry, you can pick them and eat them. There is still in me a great love of ritual, and yet at times all the ritual seems to pale before taste of these greens on my tongue.

In the kitchen, it’s a vexing, restless season, the time I am most tempted by imported peppers and avocados. With so little new choose from, it’s hard not to reach for some faint echo of summer. But it’s a time for patience, too, a time to acknowledge the cold and dark that is so much larger than our little pools of light, instead of trying to ignore them. At this time of year, I fire my brick oven frequently and bake bread, and then while the oven is hot I make dinners in clay pots — mousaka or lasagna, roast game hens, braised leeks. Late in the evening, using the recipe of a Finnish friend I put a pot of oats in the warm oven (a brick oven, once fired, holds heat for at least 20 hours) with water, cream and perhaps a little cinnamon, honey or molasses. In the morning I open the heavy iron door and pull out hot porridge, slow-cooked over the night.

It’s a good time of year to see what can be made with what you already have. Risotto with chanterelles saved from last autumn, or stored butternut squash and prosciutto. Dried black-eyed peas cooked with ham hock, dried tomatoes and peppers. Muffins with a handful of last year’s frozen blueberries. Potatoes sliced and baked with leeks and a little cheese.

And, of course, it’s the season of soup. I love soup. Noodle soups built on the last of the frozen broth from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass. Eight-fungus hot and sour soup. Red lentil tomato soup (which has the virtue of neither looking nor tasting like mud, a challenge that faces all lentil soups). Thin soups with ginger and pepper to drink when you have a cold. Thick soups for dinner with crusty bread. Winter minestrone to simmer on the back of the stove and feed whatever hordes might descend on your kitchen. Borscht to teach you a proper respect for those stout winter vegetables. On that note…

Winter Minestrone

This almost falls in the category of reaching for summer…. but the tomatoes are canned, oregano is growing in my garden, and even in the darkest months I can usually come up with a handful or two of greens fit for the pot. Broccoli greens are a favorite for this, though kale, chard, cabbage or even spinach will work just as well.

  • Dried beans
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • Canned tomatoes (at least two 14-ounce cans, but amounts are approximate)
  • 1 chunk parmesan rind
  • At least a double handful of noodles (shells are my favorite)
  • A couple of handfuls pot greens, coarsely chopped
  • 1 glug red wine
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or a teaspoon or two dried

Cover the bottom of a soup pot with dried beans, though the layer should be no more than two beans thick, and one is plenty. Soak the beans for at least three hours in warm water; overnight is better. Drain off the water, replace with some inches of fresh water and simmer gently over low heat until the beans begin to be tender. Add onions, garlic, tomatoes and parmesan. Simmer for another half-hour or so. Add noodles. Around the time the noodles just start to get tender, add greens, wine and oregano (you can also add a similar amount of dried basil, or of fresh basil should you be so lucky as to have any). Salt and pepper to taste, and serve when the greens are tender with crusty bread.

Borscht

I cannot claim any lineage of note for this borscht. The base recipe came from a cookbook some years ago, and I have adapted it (some might say taken liberties with it) to suit my tastes. Somehow borscht — even without either bacon or sour cream — manages to be more warming and filling than can be expected from a bowl of vegetables.

  • 2-3 pieces farmer’s bacon (optional)
  • 1 large leek (or two smaller ones)
  • 3-5 medium beets
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 1 small or 1/2 large head cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 glugs wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sour cream

Cut the bacon into small pieces, and fry them in the bottom of a large thick-bottomed pot. Chop up the leek, and fry it in bacon grease (or omit the bacon and use some decent oil). When you can no longer prevent everything from sticking to the bottom of the pot, add a bit of water. Finely dice beets and carrots, add them to the pot and add enough water to cover. Chop cabbage (reasonably fine) and add it to the pot — add water if necessary, but remember that the cabbage will go limp soon and release its fluids. It doesn’t really need to be covered all the way. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add paprika, vinegar and salt. Cover and cook a few more minutes, and correct seasonings. Serve big steaming bowls, each with a dollop of sour cream.

Inviting Magickal Fey Into Your Garden

Inviting Magickal Fey Into Your Garden

by Jimbo

 

Fairies, Gnomes, Nymphs, Sprites… Creatures of the Earth, Air, Fire and Water… those who live in the veil between this plane and the next… mischievous, lucky, magickal, beautiful and grotesque, large and small… All fey friends welcome! Welcome! We invite you to inspire us! We invite you to invigorate us! Infuse us with mirth and laughter! Excite us with your magick and mischief – in a good way. Come! Play with us! We welcome you.

Many a tale has been spun throughout the ages involving some sort of mysterious creature. Fairy Tales, Fables, Folk Tales – often with a trickster, prankster, or magical creature that grants wishes!

I believe that these creatures exist all around us – often unseen in the nooks and crannies of our lives. Where many often banish the fey, I invite them into my rituals – to aid me in my magick.

What do the fey represent?

Every person has their own relationship with the archetypes represented by different fey creatures. I like to think of the fey as a “personification of nature”.

The apple tree in the back yard has a true personality – it’s an old, chatty wise woman, with her sweet apples and knobby branches. She is great for climbing, and if you sit in a particular spot, she tells you stories about the orchard that used to live there, and all sorts of things that have happened. She loves to cradle you as she sings you the song of the sunset, and whispers as the breeze flows through her leaves. She is a tree nymph _ and she is wonderful. Also in the yard are lots of little fey – a family of gnomes under the shed, and a whole clan of fairies in the back fence overgrown with prickly blackberries. (They like to steal a tool or two and bury them somewhere in the lawn)

You, too, can bring the fun and frolic of the fey alive in your personal space as well. You can create a special garden or shrine devoted to the fey.

Be creative! There are so many ways to invite these wonderful creatures into your life! From simply hanging a sparkly wind chime outside, to placing a sweet cookie on a pretty plate on your altar, gestures to the fey really make a difference.

Here are some ideas on how to create a garden for your yard or a smaller one for indoors. But this is by no means a limit to the different ways you can connect with that special inspiration we can only attribute to our beloved fey friends.

Indoors

Bring some of that ethereal inspirational spirit into your apartment with an indoor fey shrine.

Start with a miniature arboretum. It can be planted in any size or shape of container – many of which are available at home and garden stores.

Fill the planter with soil and plant herbs, moss and even mushrooms. Smaller leaved herbs work well, like thyme and oregano. If well clipped, rosemary and dill are great too. Think about the type of fey that may live with you in your space, and allow them to inspire the selection of plants. Add some rocks, crystals, and a pretty ceramic bowl to use as a reflecting pool.

You can also create a hidden garden in a large houseplant you already have. Beneath the broad leaves of a Peace Lilly or the branches of a Fichus tree, arrange some small sparkly stones, and tie some colorful ribbon to the stalks. With two different colors of fish-tank pebbles, create a pattern on the soil.

The fey (and cats) that live in your house will enjoy discovering these elusive hideaways!

Outdoors

Outdoors, the possibilities are endless. Use rocks or bricks to build some sort of altar to the fey. Landscape a small area of your yard with pebbles, crystals and a variety of plants. Transplant that bothersome moss in your lawn to your fey garden – it will really grow! In the spring, plant Lobelia, Forget-me-nots, Baby’s Breath, and even Cosmos. I enjoy planting purple flowers in the spring that bloom all summer. In the winter there are all sorts of perennials that can be planted: herbs, grasses, ferns and succulents are good ideas.

Using found materials that are attractive to the fey is a good approach, especially in residential areas. Tiles, which can often be obtained inexpensively, are a nice touch to a garden. You can also place special crystals here and there. I like to work small, and create little wee places for my fey friends to play.

If you see mushrooms in your yard, dig up a small patch around them, and transplant to your garden. They will spore there and more will grow next season.

You can add a fairy mound – a small hill covered in moss, with a small door (from a doll house, or hand crafted) on the side. A variation is a small round mirror or reflecting pool on the top.

Even branches tied together with an old window, arranged rocks, a shiny pinwheel, and ribbon streaming from the fixture is sure to keep the fey as well as your human guests enchanted.

There are so many little things to do in the mundane world that attract the fey. Perhaps the best idea of all is to allow these magickal creatures to speak to you in meditation – they will let you know what they want (believe me!).

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Jan. 27th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 January 27
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

NGC 3239 and SN 2012A
Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, University of Arizona 

 

Explanation: About 40,000 light-years across, pretty, irregular galaxy NGC 3239 lies near the center of this lovely field of galaxies in the galaxy rich constellation Leo. At a distance of only 25 million light-years it dominates the frame, sporting a peculiar arrangement of structures, young blue star clusters and star forming regions, suggesting that NGC 3239 (aka Arp 263) is the result of a galaxy merger. Appearing nearly on top of the pretty galaxy is a bright, spiky, foreground star, a nearby member of our own Milky Way galaxy almost directly along our line-of-sight to NGC 3239. Still, NGC 3239 is notable for hosting this year’s first confirmed supernova, designated SN 2012A. It was discovered early this month by supernova hunters Bob Moore, Jack Newton, and Tim Puckett. Indicated in a cropped version of the wider image, SN 2012A is just below and right of the bright foreground star. Of course, based on the light-travel time to NGC 3239, the supernova explosion itself occurred 25 million years ago, triggered by the core collapse of a massive star.

Special Kitty for January 27th

Claude, the Cat of the Day
Name: Claude
Age: Six years old
Gender: Male
Kind: Siamese cross
Home: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Introducing Claude, a.k.a. Mr. Bumbles, a siamese cross. I recently had the pleasure of getting him to replace my poor pixie-bob, Mickey Mouse, that had to be put down due to cancer. Claude’s prior family had allergy issues, and needed a good home for the big guy. I was the lucky one. Claude is getting used to his new home and dad, and his sister Daisy Mae (though that process is taking a little longer). Claude is a bona fide lap cat, often sleeping with all four legs in the air. He has already discovered that my king size bed is an improvement over his cat bed. He’s helped me in getting over my loss, with his antics and head-butting routine, and I look forward to many years of fun with this big pile of love!