Where the !&#@ Have I Been?!

How does a person miss the beginning of an entire season, especially fall?  It’s like I woke up one day and was like, “Holy crap!  It’s autumn!”  I would love to say I have some wonderful excuse, some extremely eventful life change that caused me to space out on the passage of time but that’s just not true.  I think I just became disconnected.

The idea of being this disconnected worries me a great deal.  Much of my spiritual practice and beliefs come from a connection to the planet and her cycles.  Staying in sync with Mother Nature is what keeps me balanced and healthy in a world that is anything but. Maybe that’s the problem.  I have not been feeling very balanced or healthy lately. My eating habits have been teetering back and forth between healthful vegan bliss and all out junk food nausea.  My sleeping patterns are shot to hell.  I’m on and off at the gym.  This has been going on for a few months and I have been struggling to put my finger on the reason.  It would make sense that if I am so out of sync with nature’s balanced rhythm that I could miss the continual drop in temperature, the changing colors, and the blanket of leaves that keep settling on my car that eventually my own rhythms would suffer too.

In place of my usual practices of reading, walking, hiking, and spending time in nature, I have been focused on work.  Work, work, work.  When I come home from work I feel tired and frustrated and just want to decompress.  I have spent a lot of time streaming tv shows on Netflix.  I have become less active in general and have not spent much time doing the spiritual things that normally make me feel so fulfilled.  So now the question becomes, how do I become reconnected?  How do I re-establish that balanced connection with the All Mother?  I miss her.  I suppose I can start by spending more time in nature.  It’s a good thing I have a hike planned for this Monday.  Maybe it will be the natural shot in the arm that I need to right my world.

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Clearing The Way For The New Year

This is how I felt by the end of the year.

I don’t know about anyone else, but 2010 was a lousy year for me.  It seemed as if everything I knew and took for granted just fell apart.  In the wake of difficult times, I did what many people do.  I fell into a lot of bad habits and stopped taking care of myself physically and spiritually.  Of course, neglecting myself in such a way has made me feel worse, dragging me into a slump that I am finding hard to shake off.  Normally I look forward to the New Year as an opportunity to start over and to leave old troubles behind.  Filled with renewed energy and a optomistic view, I enjoy lengthy New Year planning rituals.  This year my mind and spirit have felt too heavy to look forward.  It’s as if I’m still dragging the hardships of the old year around, the proverbial albatross around my neck.  I’ve got to find a way to break this!  With Imbolc fast approaching, I can’t think of a better time of year to do a complete lifestyle cleansing.

As part of my Imbolc celebrations, I participate in Pagan Lent, a concept I first read about at School of the Seasons.  According to Waverly Fitzgerald, Pagan Lent is a time to make auspicious changes in our lives by giving up something that is obstructing us and inserting something we want.  I love this concept and have been participating in Pagan Lent for several years.  This year I am going on a lifestyle cleansing.  I will begin with a physical detox plan.  Currently I am researching a plan that will be both effective and safe.  In addition to cleansing my body, I plan to do some space cleaning and stress clearing.  In her fantastic book, Magical Housekeeping, Tess Whitehurst suggests clearing your house of anything that is unused, unloved, or carries memories of unhappy times.  I will be moving into a new apartment midway through the Lent season so this will be a perfect time to follow Tess’s advice.  Once I’ve cleared my body and home, I want to take some time to purify the mind and spirit too.  To this end I plan to introduce some much-needed relaxation activities.  I’m going to begin a daily meditation and yoga routine and make sure that I spend at least 15 minutes outside each day.  It may not sound like a lot, but in the dead of a New England winter, it may be the best I can do.

My goal is welcome the spring as a new person, rejuvenated and renewed.  Then maybe I can start making the most of this great New Year.

Nursing As A Magickal Task

About five weeks ago a good friend of mine was involved in a near-death collision.  He broke his C6 vertebrae, fractured the second metacarpal in his left hand, and suffered all manner of cuts and bruises to the rest of his body.  Although he is healing rapidly and well (thank Goddess and God), he still needs a lot of help around the house.  So I moved in to help nurse him back to health.  Since  the accident I’ve taken over nearly every aspect of the household.

The first ten days were the hardest.  My friend was in constant pain and taking a wide variety of medication.  I was up many a night trying to comfort or console him.  Sometimes I had to make impromptu trips to the emergency room.  He was contrary and irritable (as I’m sure I would be), making it hard to keep the peace in a small house.  This is when I first started speaking to Hestia.  Hestia showed me how to be a conduit for healing energy.  I started using my hands to draw his pain away and down into the Earth while at the same time bringing healing Earth-fire up and into his body. Slowly calm and order began to reign in the house, for which I completely thank Hestia.

Oddly enough the hardest thing for me to deal with has been the cooking.  During the first four weeks of my friend’s recovery, his mother was here to help with the housework.  She was the primary cook.  A week ago she had to return to her home, leaving me to flex my newly developed culinary muscles.  At first the idea of coming up with new and delicious things to eat each day was daunting and stressful.  Then I sat down at the computer and with the help of some great websites found enough recipes to plan a week’s menu.  I was so proud when I read the menu off to my friend and his face lit up with anticipation.  Now I’m beginning to feel empowered in my new role as domestic goddess.  I can feel the positive power that comes from cleaning and organizing a space so that the energy flows well.  I find delight in combining healthy ingredients and creating something appetizing.  In fact, I believe that the magick and love that I put into maintaining this house is part of the reason my friend is healing so well.  Meanwhile, I am discovering a new and powerful part of myself and developing a whole new appreciation for stay-at-home parents!  Here’s to keeping the home fires burning.

My Initiation Into Kitchen Witchery

I have a secret to confess.  I’m not a very good cook.  At least, I don’t think so.  I mean, I can follow a recipe if given to me and the results will often be palatable or better, but to me that is not cooking.  Cooking is what my friend Meredith does. She can walk into a kitchen – any kitchen – see what’s on the shelves and in the fridge and whip up something delicious. Some people just have a culinary gift.  They have a sixth sense about how flavors and textures should go together and they possess the skills to combine them beautifully.  I am not one of the gifted, which made my decision to begin practicing kitchen witchery a bit daunting.

I’ve been interested in domestic witchcraft for years and have been magickally fortifying my living spaces since I was a neophyte in the Craft.  The one place I never flexed my magickal muscles, however, was the kitchen.  I was always too intimidated.  Then I attended a workshop at this year’s Pagan Pride taught by Dawn Hunt, founder of Cucina Aurora. Her fun and upbeat introduction to kitchen witchery was just what I needed to light my culinary candle and to brush away the cobwebs of fear.

Following Dawn’s example I purchased a cute black apron that has “witch” bedazzled in red across the chest.  This apron has become my ritual robe for performing kitchen witchery.  I also bought a small pumpkin spice-scented, magickal housewarming candle that I light before performing any kitchen magick.  Now I have a little ritual I perform before baking or cooking.  I begin by making sure my kitchen is clean.  That’s a given in my OCD world.  I wash my hands and happily slide into my apron.  Then I light the candle and say a quick prayer to Hestia.  I ask Her to inspire me with Her sacred light and to help me prepare food that is both nourishing and delightful.  When performing longer kitchen rituals I will cast a whole circle and invite the spirit of the elements, as well.

Ritualizing my work in the kitchen has done many things for me.  It has given me structure, which has boosted my confidence.  Now when I prepare food it always feels meaningful and fun.  Working in the kitchen has changed from a domestic chore into a time for personal expression.  I love spending time in the kitchen now and it seems like everything that I produce is touched with a bit of magick and joy, even if I do make a few mistakes. :{  As my confidence in the kitchen grows I hope to become bolder with recipes, learning to branch out and experiment a little.  This is a whole new, delicious path that I’ve embarked on and I can’t wait to see where it leads me.

Seasonal Obsession – Pumpkin

Once used by Europeans to feed pigs, the pumpkin has become the quintessential late fall food.  Between the beginning of October and Thanksgiving you can find any number of dishes featuring this amazing fruit (yes, pumpkins contain the seeds of the plant and, therefore, are technically fruits).  Everything from pancakes to Pop Tarts are flavored with pumpkin.  I’ll admit it – I’m a fan.  I can’t wait to try new pumpkin recipes and to share them with my friends.  This year I stumbled across a real winner at Allrecipes.com – Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins.  And yes, it is as good as it sounds.

I baked these muffins for my coven’s Samhain ritual using the same apples that I harvested and preserved at Mabon. Using these apples created a wonderful spiritual link from one Sabbat to the other.  Following an old Irish tradition described in Edain McCoy’s The Sabbats, I baked small, metal trinkets into some of the muffins.  The person lucky enough to get a trinket in their muffin could use the trinket to divine future events.  It was a fun portion of the ritual, once I made certain everyone was going to eat their muffins slowly enough to avoid a choking hazard! 🙂 I think we may make this an annual part of our ritual.  If you have a favorite pumpkin recipe, please share!

In from the Cold

A few months ago I moved in with my friend, Kristy, in Connecticut.  Kristy has been in her house for almost seven years and during that time she’s taken care of a number of strays, giving them food, water, and outside shelter.  One kitty in particular captured my heart with her friendly behavior and cute antics.  The family named her Octavia because of her Samhain-like colors.

I decided awhile ago that I really wanted to give Octavia a permanent, inside home.  I was going to wait until I was ready to move into my own apartment again but as the temperature has continued to drop I just couldn’t stand the idea of leaving Octavia out in the cold.

So I made a vet appointment for Octavia.  Once she’s had a clean bill of health, Kristy and I are going to bring Octavia in from the cold.  When I am ready to move out, Octavia will come with me.  I’m very happy to be adding this sweet kitty to my four-legged family.

A Mabon Apple Rite

I’m not a solitary Witch.  It’s really important for me to worship and celebrate with others, which is one reason I belong to a coven.  We’re a very tight-knit group but when life gets busy it can be hard to get together for ritual, even the Sabbats. So with classes, work, and other mundane obligations piling up I found myself without a coven to celebrate this latest holy day.  Rather than call the day a waste I decided to find a way to turn the mundane into something sacred.  So I invited my friend, Joseph, to accompany me in one of New England’s most classic fall rites – apple picking.

I had never gone apple picking on a farm before and was just bubbling with excitement when we reached Tougas Family Farm around mid-morning.  The farm was packed with pre-school groups and parents with young children. We were the only adults there without a child in tow.  Seeing all these fresh, bright faces filled me with hope and joy. Perhaps these children, smitten with a farm experience early in their lives, will grow up to appreciate the bounty of nature and the source of their daily nourishment.  It’s a thought. For my part, I couldn’t wait to walk up and down the burgeoning rows and see which varieties were ready to harvest.

Upon entering the orchard I was struck by the beauty of the trees and the fruit.  Everything was perfection.  The fruit was as large as my fist, the red skins a vibrant contrast to the deep green leaves and the bright blue sky. Silently I thanked the Goddess for her bounty and asked for her guidance in choosing the fruit that I would later transform into preserves and desserts.  We picked 25 pounds of the most delectable apples I had ever seen.

Today I turned four of those apples into the best apple crisp that I’ve ever made.  As I sank my teeth into the heavenly, seasonal treat I thanked the Goddess and God for blessings of hearth, home, health, and love.  May these blessings find you this Mabon season, as well.

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