Friday, August 28, 2009

A Hearty Tomato Soup

We're diehard soup lovers here in our house and what better way to use some of the most abundant vegetables of this time of year than in a hearty soup, and in doing so honor the bounty of the harvests that occur between Lammas and Mabon? And as the evenings grow cooler, a hot bowl of soup and a thick slab of bread not only feeds the tummy, but the soul as well.

Delicious Tomato Soup makes 4-6 good size servings

2 28 or 35 ounce cans of organic whole peeled tomatoes
a couple of fresh ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 quarts (8 cups) water or stock
1/2 cup chopped organic parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375f degrees. Drain tomatoes and reserve the liquid. Halve canned ones and put those and the fresh (if using them) in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil, toss, add the thyme and roast. Turning them once or twice, roast for about 30 minutes. If they begin to dry out or stick, add a bit of the tomato liquid as needed.

Put the remaining olive oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook just until it begins to color, in a minute or so. Add the carrots and onions and cook, sprinkling with the salt and pepper, stirring for about five minutes. Stir in the stock or water, along with the contents of the roasting pan and the reserved tomato juice.

Turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat so it bubbles gently. Cover and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

This is an amazingly vivid-colored soup, vibrant with the reds, golds and oranges of autumn and Mabon and it tastes delicious. Serve it with a loaf of buttery rich homemade corn bread and you have a simple, yet perfect, meal for this time of year. Enjoy and rejoice in the impending arrival of the Great Harvest and the autumnal equinox.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Trees 101: The Apple/Crabapple

Apples are an ancient fruit and have long been used in magick. The apple, as everyone knows, was represented in the story of Adam and Eve and is also associated with the Great Mother Goddess. In the folk tales of many cultures, eating an apple opened the gateway to another realm for the lucky person consuming the fruit. Apples symbolize illumination and knowledge and apple wood is believed to make a very powerful wand.

Apple is one of the nine sacred woods of the sabbat fire in which it symbolizes love. Apples are a common ingredient in Pagan ritual and spellwork. Slice an apple in half across its middle and what will you find? The seeds laid out in the shape of the pentagram. Apples are given as offerings to the dead at Samhain to aid them in the process of rebirth. And the game of bobbing for apples at Halloween was first played in ancient times: if you were lucky enough to win, it meant that you would be blessed by the Goddess for a full year.

Apples bring prosperity and the good life and are believed to be good for the digestion.

The apple tree is ruled by Venus and the goddess and its energy is feminine. Apple vibrates to the elements of both air and water. Besides being used for prosperity and a healthy tummy, apples can be used to attract a lover, to cross over into the faery realm and to foster strength and protection.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A New Scott Cunningham Book

Scott Cunningham has a new book due to be released on October 1st of this year, once again published by Llewellyn Books. The manuscript for this book was recently discovered in a battered old manila envelope and was written by Cunningham in the late 70s or early 80s. According to Llewellyn, the new book contains "spells, rituals, invocations and an herbal grimoire, as well as Scott's hand-written notes and hand-drawn symbols, signs and runes."

Scott's books were the very first ones I read when beginning my spiritual path in Wicca and pagan worship, and to this day I still refer to them on a regular basis. His herbal dictionary is indispensable and his incense and oils encyclopedia is also something I could not live without. It's such a shame that such a powerful voice and a gentle, thorough teacher was gone so soon from this plane.

Cuuningham's Book of Shadows: The Path of an American Traditionalist, published by Llewellyn Books, 288 pages, ISBN-13: 9780738719146 is due in stores on October 1, 2009.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cat Nights

I love old witch tales and witch's lore and this is a good one.

The term “Cat Nights” harks back to a rather obscure Irish legend concerning witches and the belief that a witch could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time, August 17, she couldn’t regain her human form.

With only a few hours till it ticks over to the 17th, a word of warning to all you witches out there who have pushed your transfiguration to the limit and were thinking about 'just one more time' might want to give it a bit more thought.

This bit of folklore also led to the idea that a cat has nine lives.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Hunter's Moon
August 11 - September 10

Unlike western astrology which uses the sun and planets to determine a person's personality, Native American astrology uses the moon and elements of the earth in their belief system and I find it very accurate. As someone who loves the earth and all she offers us, I find this very appealing. Having been born under the sixth moon of the year, I am a child of the Hunter's Moon.

Children of the Hunter's Moon vibrate to the element of water and their direction is the west. My animal totem is the wolf, my plant totem is the pine and my mineral totem is turquoise. Although I was obviously born in the summer, my season is autumn as this moon represents the waning light of summer and the very beginning of the darker days of fall. My color, like my stone, is turquoise.

Hunter's Moon children are more likely to be influenced by female energy, with deep insights and intuition. They are very good at organization, bringing all they undertake to fruition and completion, just like a wolf on the hunt. Hunter's Moon people are also, unfortunately, rather smart-mouthed, flippant people who could learn to exercise a bit more tolerance of others. They tend to be solitary people, though they do enjoy the company of others as well.

I have adored turquoise since I was a little girl, so it's no surprise that this is the stone I vibrate to. Turquoise is one of the greatest of all the healing stones and brings clarity to those who carry it. It brings balance (which is often much needed by Hunter's Moon children who are known for going overboard a lot of the time), and it purifies and cleanses.

Pine is a strong tree, providing wood for the lodge and fuel for the fire. It is a tree of life and of strength, yet complementary to this is the color turquoise, the color of water and tranquility.

My great great maternal grandmother was a full-blooded Native American, and while I know very little about her (as the unspeakable stigma attached to a white man marrying a person of color back in the late 19th century caused my family to permanently disengage from them both), I feel her blood coursing through my pagan veins. Much of what I believe and what I engage in on a spiritual level is directly related to traditional Native American beliefs and always has been. And as I celebrate yet another birthday, I honor my ancestors who through their own lives here on this earth, helped to shape and make me the person I am today.

Blessed Be to all my family through the ages, Blessed Be to my readers, and Blessed Be to everyone else who is celebrating their birthday today. By honoring where you come from, you honor the person you are today and the person you will become through your years on this journey.

Happy birthday to me! (and my cake made by David and Griffin was delicious)!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Future Besom

Back in 2003, David and I planted six 15 foot birch trees, each with multiple gnarly trunks, in a small grove at the back of our property where we abut a wetland. The trees love it there in the sun, and with their feet perpetually wet and happy our little grove has grown to unbelievable heights in just six short years. The trees are close to double their size and are lush and full, with the tips of their branches beginning to touch, like old acquaintances gently reaching out to greet one another. I adore walking through them, with the sun dappling their leaves (and my head) and their pale pinkish bark peeling so beautifully from their crooked trunks (I save it, tree nerd that I am). If I have any complaint, it's the damn mosquitoes back there, courtesy of the water, that are so thick you feel as though you're walking through a living, buzzing black haze. But even the bugs and their itchy welts can't keep me from my beloved birches, my favorite tree of them all (and that's saying something since I simply adore all trees). But, as usual, I digress.

I would never pull a living branch from a tree, but I have for the last few years been gathering the slender fallen twigs from my birches in the hopes of one day having enough to make a nice full besom to use as a ceremonial energy cleansing broom for circle. And after all this time, all that patient gathering and waiting (and just itching to pluck some lovely little shoots from my living trees to speed up the process) I finally have just about enough birch twigs to make the brush of my besom.

I still need a handle though and wish to make that part of the besom from an oak branch. A few months ago when I said that I had just about enough birch to get started (and on one of our many trips to Home Depot even picked up what I thought was just the right natural twine for binding it), David, on a solo Saturday morning walk, picked up three or four lovely and fat oak branches he found on the ground and brought them home for me. And as much as I loved him for it, and also loved the branches, I just couldn't bring myself to consider any of them for my besom. I really need to go and find the branches myself, to feel their energy calling to me, to instinctively know which one is the right one for my needs. And so I still need to take a walk of my own through the woods and find my oak handle for myself.

But my besom is coming soon, very soon. My years of gathering are finally coming to fruition and then I will finally have it made and it will be wonderful! And every time I hold it in my hands, I'll feel the life force and energy of my precious birches and think of all that has come to pass during the time I have spent collecting their many branches: seasons changing, family changing (children growing older, a beloved pet passing and two new ones joining us) happiness felt, sorrow endured, and in spite of it all, life always, always marching forward. This besom will hold a lot of power to push the negative energy from our humble home.

Stay tuned for photos of my besom!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Full Sturgeon Moon

Today is the full moon (again!) and this one, as are all the moons, is known by many names depending on who bestowed its name on it. The fishing tribes named this moon the Full Sturgeon Moon as it's at this time of year that this fish is in great abundance, especially in the Great Lakes region. It is also known as the Full Red Moon because of the reddish hue the moon appears to have as it rises in the evening, due to haze caused by the heat and humidity this time of year. The Green Corn Moon, the Corn Moon, the Thunder Moon, the Black Cherries Moon and the Grain Moon are more names this moon is known by. My absolute favorite name for this month's moon is the Geese Shed Feathers Moon. How cute is that? The neo-pagan name for August's full moon is the Lightning Moon.

Tonight there is a penumbral eclipse of the moon which will be visible in both eastern and central North America. The moon will enter penumbra at 7:01 PM EDT and will leave it at 10:17 PM EDT.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Today is Lammas (or Lughnasadh if you prefer the Celtic version of the name), the first of the three harvest festivals and the Sabbats that honor them. The word Lammas is believed to be derived from the "loaf mass," the old European celebration where bread from the first wheat harvested was baked into loaves of fresh bread. The name Lughnasadh comes from the Celtic god of light, fire and the sun: Lugh. Because the light is now beginning to fade, this holiday marks the day of his demise. This isn't at all a sad thing, however, as his sacrifice reaps the bounty of the coming harvests.

Grain is the most important aspect of this holiday and baking bread is a tradition. Today I baked two loaves of a light yeast-free bread as I'm unfortunately allergic to yeast. I made them plain this year, but sometimes I add fresh herbs or chopped and dried fruits. This is an easy-to-make recipe, quicker than yeast bread, but richer and denser than a typical loafcake type bread.

YEAST FREE BREAD makes one loaf

3 cups organic white flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 slightly beaten jumbo-sized egg
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) organic butter, melted
2 cups dried chopped fruit, optional
fresh crumbled or chopped dried herbs to taste, optional

In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients together. If adding dried fruit or herbs, add now to the dry ingredients. Combine milk, egg and butter in a separate bowl. Pour over flour mixture and mix just until moistened and well-combined. Do not beat with a mixer, this must be done by hand to ensure the batter stays light and is not overworked. Turn batter into a greased and lightly floured 9 1/2 x 5 1/2" loaf pan. Bake at 350f degrees for about one hour. Remove from the oven when golden and a smooth bladed knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool and remove from pan to continue cooling.

Enjoy the grain harvest this Lammas with this lovely (and quick) loaf of bread.
Blessed be.