Monday, September 27, 2010

Cranberry Apple Muffins

I was sick for Mabon so I didn't get to make my traditional oat cakes (which really bummed me out) but David and I are going to be taking a day trip to the beach and some old cemeteries next week for our anniversary and I thought I'd make the cakes then. I adore the beach when the crowds have all gone home for the year and the air is crisp, the breezes cool, the water is starting to look the color of slate and the beach is utterly empty in either direction as far as the eye can see. Follow that with some photo ops in old historic cemeteries and a picnic for two (plus my beloved dogs) and I'm feeling the bliss. I love to bake for a picnic: quiches, breads, salads, some cookies or cakes and tiny treats to be taken out and nibbled here and there throughout the day while we hike. One of my favorite fall breads is really a muffin. I make them in mini muffin cups which makes them the perfect little snack or side to a fuller meal. And they're not too heavy or sweet like a breakfast muffin can be. Tart, freshly harvested apples make these a must-bake for this time of year.

CRANBERRY APPLE MUFFINS makes 12 regular or approximately 24 mini muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup diced tart apple, peeled
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350f degrees. Grease and lightly flour muffin tins, or use paper liner cups. Mix the flours together with the baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. In a seperate bowl, whisk eggs with sugar until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter and the vanilla. Stir in the fruits and nuts (if using) and pour these moist ingredients over the dry ones. Fold just until all ingredients are well mixed and you don't see any dry lumps.

Scoop batter into the muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes for regular-sized muffins, slightly less for minis, or until golden browned on top and firm to the touch. Turn out onto a rack to cool and store in an airtight container for no more than two days. These taste best served warm and please note that they cannot be frozen so eat them quickly and enjoy!

Photo courtesy of bougi on flickr.

Monday, September 20, 2010

More on Mabon

Thinking about working a little magick for Mabon? This is an especially appropriate time to work spells for protection, wealth and prosperity, security and self-confidence. For a simple ritual incense burn freshly dried and ground sage, or if you're a little more motivated, use this wonderful incense recipe which will help you become attuned with the changing of the season and the darkening of the light:

2 parts Frankincense
1 part Sandalwood
1 part Cypress
1 part Juniper
1 part Pine
a few drops Oakmoss essential oil
1 small pinch of pulverized, dried oak leaf

Grind all ingredients fairly fine, add the essential oil, mix well, and burn on a charcoal in a censer.

If you prefer to work with gemstones, there are a few that are associated with this sabbat. Use them on your altar, wear them as jewelry, or carry them in a sacred medicine bag while you walk in the golden yellow woods and honor the aging Goddess.

Carnelian. A red form of chalcedony, carnelian has been worn since ancient Egypt. Worn by those who tend to be shy, it bolsters courage and instills the wearer with self-confidence, as well as protecting them from negative outside influences.

Lapis Lazuli. Another ancient stone, lapis is an uplifting stone that promotes spirituality and enhances psychic awareness. This stone also confers protection to its wearer, keeping them safe both physically and psychically.

Sapphire. Used by those in ancient Greece, the sapphire is potent in aiding meditation, in spells for defensive magick and in attracting money. Wear a sapphire to expand your wisdom, promote a sense of peace and well-being within you, and to keep evil spirits at bay. A necklace or bracelet made of sapphires will attract money to its wearer.

Yellow Agate. Agate is a stone of quiet courage and strength, as well as protection. In ancient Rome, an agate ring was worn on the left hand to ensure the favor of those deities responsible for a bountiful harvest. Wear agate or use it on your altar in protection spells and rituals to be free of negative energy.

Incense recipe courtesy of the late, great Scott Cunningham.
Photo courtesy of Markles55 on flickr.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Bit About Mabon

Is it really Mabon again? Egads, the year flies by, doesn't it? After another summer of intense heat, which is really not to my liking, we are again at that point on the Wheel of the Year where I come alive once more. Autumn is most definitely my season, which is not surprising really as I am a deeply introverted person who spends a great deal of time inside her own head. So it makes perfect sense that I would thrive in that portion of the Earth Wheel where things are becoming quiet and resting within themselves for the dark of winter. Samhain is my favorite sabbat of the year, but Mabon can sort of be viewed as the "gateway" to Samhain, and that's good enough for me.

Mabon, a lesser sabbat, is also known as the Second Harvest Festival (after Lammas). It represents the balance between the darkness and the light; of perfect equality. The foods of Mabon are corn, potatoes, nuts, apples and onions. Bread is, of course, a must. The traditional herbs of this sabbat are thistle, tobacco, myrrh, marigold (to symbolize the last of the bright light) and sage, which should be burned at any rituals. Not surprisingly, the symbols of this sabbat are what we see on every farm stand we pass in our daily travels: gourds, pumpkins, apples, pine cones, and corn stalks. The pomegranate is an important food and decoration for feasts and altars alike, symbolizing fertility, abundance and equanimity.

This is a sabbat of the solitary and the mysterious. Not sure what to do to celebrate? Try making some homemade wine, or take a walk alone in the woods while gathering dried seeds, leaves, branches and berries. You can use these to adorn your house and your altar. Alternately, you can take some of what you have gathered and visit the graves of loved ones now passed and decorate their headstones with the pinecones, leaves and berries, honoring those who have gone before you as a prelude to Samhain. Bake a loaf of bread- even a quick bread of fruit and nuts is nice- and break a slice into pieces, scattering it outdoors (preferably in the woods or on a harvested field, if possible) as an offering to the Goddess who has now matured into the Crone, as well as to give one last thanks for this past season of abundance. In doing this, you'll also be feeding some hungry wildlife on these first few cooler days and nights.

Whatever you choose to do to celebrate this little sabbat, take a moment to reflect on your life and the passing of another season, another year. Dive into the quiet of your mind for a spell, and revel in the last of the light while welcoming the gentle darkness that is quickly coming.

Photo Courtesy of Linder Rox on flickr.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Moons and Totems 2

Everybody knows their western astrological profile and most people also know their eastern, or Chinese, astrological sign as well, but few know their moon profile from the Native American culture and the totems for each moon. As with the two more mainstream belief systems, the moon totem profiles are not only a very accurate read of an individual's personality, but they also add a rich dimension to who we are and where our weaknesses and powers come from.

Ripening Moon
September 11-October 10

Those who are born under this moon tend to be very giving and gregarious, yet ironically, are also highly solitary, introverted creatures. This craving for solitude is especially strong during the late summer, early fall months when the Ripening Moon person wishes to hide themselves away from people and busy places, preferring instead to nurture their inner selves. These are some very mysterious, dark people with emotions that run very deep.

The element for this moon is water and the animal totem is the black bear, a creature who can be friendly and playful, yet powerful, solitary and intimidating as well. The bear is greatly respected by all Native American tribes. The Ripening Moon's plant totem is bearberry, a plant that produces very tart fruits, but which are medicinally very potent. Bearberry tea is a strong curative for breaking fevers and healing upset stomachs. The mineral totem for this moon is obsidian, a powerful stone used for divination. Gaze into a piece of polished obsidian to receive desired information. This stone can take you into yourself and show you what is needed to move forward on your path. Obsidian is also a very powerful protective stone that will draw harmful energy away from you, absorbing it into itself and eliminating it. Lastly, the color of this moon is dark blue, the color of the deepest rivers and oceans where it is impossible to see completely to their depths, just as it is impossible to fathom completely those people of the Ripening Moon.

Everyone is most compatible with those people born under the moon opposite to their own and the opposite moon of the Ripening Moon is the Fast Waterflow Moon (March 11-April 10).

Photo courtesy of Roy Mac on flickr.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I have a friend who, in the last several months, has not-so-subtly been urged both consciously and subconsciously to begin walking the path of a death midwife. This would be an extraordinary role to undertake, but sadly, not one that I would want for myself as it would require an emotional fortitude that I simply don't possess. That said, however, I have always found the role of the psychopomp to be incredibly interesting.

The psychopomp (from the Greek, pompos, meaning conductor or guide and psyche meaning breath, life, soul or mind) is literally a guide for the soul. The psychopomp's primary function is to escort the dying to their place in the afterlife. They take many forms from animals and angels to humans and mythological creatures, and most of the world's religious texts and sacred narratives, as well as the mythological tales of countless cultures, contain stories of the psychopomp at work. Previously deceased loved ones have also been known to act as psychopomps, arriving at the side of a dying person to lovingly guide them to the other side at the moment of death. A modern day death midwife is someone who helps to assist a person in dying without fear by calmly and gently facilitating their passing, while a modern day psychopomp can communicate with spirit and is able to meet with the soul of the person dying while in an altered state of consciousness and then accompany that soul on its natural journey back to its spiritual home. This is also one of the (many) traditional roles of the sacred shaman.

The shaman bridges the earthly and spiritual realms and travels effortlessly within both. They're not only psychopomps in that they guide the souls of the deceased on their final otherworldly journeys, but they also rescue trapped or fractured souls from the spirit realm. In doing this the shaman heals a human body for whom a portion of its soul has left it for one reason or another and was not able of its own accord to return intact, thus healing body, mind and spirit. The shaman also serves as the communicator between the living and the dead, rather like a sacred medium.

The psychopomp is never judgmental. Their role is simply to serve as the mediator between the conscious and unconscious realms. The Grim Reaper is a psychopomp as well, but to be honest, I think I'd much rather see my father waiting to guide me home, or even Anubis, Hecate or Freyja. And of course, there's always the belief that the Grim Reaper form of the Angel of Death can be bribed or outwitted, thus prolonging one's life. But that's another thought for another day.

Photo courtesy of Jack of Nothing on flickr.