american

Book Review – Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: An Introduction to Native American Astrology by Deborah Durbin

December, 2018

Book Review

Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: An Introduction to Native American Astrology
by Deborah Durbin

 

I had a flashback to the 1980’s when I opened this book. I saw the system familiarized in Sun Bear and Wabun’s The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, complete with correspondences to animal totems, plants, crystal and moon correspondences for each astrological sign. So, this book is “New Age;” don’t pick it up thinking that you will learn find a new (or rather, ancient) system of working with cosmic forces here. And you won’t gain any insight into the cultural astronomy or archeoastronomy of the indigenous people of the Americas – the mythic tales of the stars brought down to Earth and how those energies affect human affairs.

That said, you will have a fun tool for broad astrological divination by the equivalent of your sun sign to play with. Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple offers a different lens for examining personality types, strengths and weaknesses, than the zodiac wheel we are used to. Like Sun Bear and Wabun’s book before it, this book uses a Northern American perspective on a seasonal calendar: winter is cold, summer is hot. The calendar wheel is divided into seasonal quadrants with a “ruling” animal totem for each. The wheel is further divided into 12 signs, like the familiar astrological signs, but ruled by animal totems instead of constellations. So, if like me, you are born between April 20th and May 20th, I am a Beaver, member of the Turtle Clan, born under the Frogs Return moon in the Spring Season rule d by spirit-keeper Wabun – Eagle on the East of the Medicine Wheel. My sign is also associated with blue camas plant, the color blue and the mineral chrysocolla. There are many correspondences to investigate here! Interestingly, the description of a Beaver personality was reminiscent of my Taurus self: “slow, methodical, practical, reserved…easygoing and slow to anger, but once roused, they can have a fierce temper…” My compatibility with other signs is similar to my astrological compatibility – I am married to a Snake (Scorpio)!

Durbin has included a section on finding your personal animal totem. She discusses a shadow totem, one that terrifies you, that tests you and teaches you what you need to overcome. Interestingly, mine is Snake, the opposite of my Beaver totem, containing the qualities that Beaver most lacks. And being married to a Snake, I have learned a lot from our differences. She also includes a short section on working with predictive Medicine Wheel astrology by throwing pebbles or shells, noting where they land, and interpreting the energies and qualities of the quadrant and sign in that section of the wheel.

It’s unfortunate that the book purports to be “An Introduction to Native American Astrology.” There are so many beautiful star myths, tales and creation stories in the traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. And the ancient Mayans had a complex astrological and seasonal calendar. And to imply that all Native American cultures used a homogenous system is stereotyping of the worst sort. Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, the book on which this one appears to be based, sourced itself in earth-based cycles rather than representing a specific “Native American” system. Medicine Wheel Plain and Simple is a New Age overlay of North American animal, plant and seasonal symbolism on the common horoscope wheel. But it is fun to play with! If you didn’t come across Sun Bear and Wabun’s book in the 1980’s, this one’s worth a look!

Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need on Amazon

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About the Author:

Susan Rossi is a Practitioner and Teacher of Shamanism. She is a long-time explorer of The Mysteries – the connections between mind, body, spirit and how to live in right relationship to all of the energies streaming through the cosmos. She works with clients as an astrologer, coach, ceremonialist and guide to the wisdom that each of us has the capacity to access. Her focus is on guiding clients to unblock and rediscover their inner wisdom. , exploration of the birth chart, ceremony, legacy writing, hypnotherapy, energetic healing practice and creation of sacred tools are integral pieces of her practice.

Susan trained in Soul Level Astrology with master astrologer Mark Borax. She delights in exploring with individuals the planetary pattern under which their soul choose to incarnate.

Flying to the Heart www.flyingtotheheart.com

Open Channel Astrology: openchannelastrology.com

Celebrating The Old Ways In New Times

December, 2018

Celebrating The Old Ways In New Times for December 2018

Bright Blessings!

Some of us count the start of Winter with Samhain, and we were lucky that we had a warm beginning of Winter here in Central Ohio. One night in Early November though, surrounded by the glory of fall colors in the leaves of the many trees I live amongst, I was out walking the dog, and I felt a chill, and the silence that had fallen upon the body of Mother Earth told me the Cailleach was here.

My husband swears up and down Winter is not here until Solstice time, but I feel her moving across the land, and in my bones and joints. She’s here!

Soon, Yule will be upon us, or Winter Solstice, whichever you celebrate.

For many years, I have completely removed myself from the traditional American holiday processions. I simply don’t have the time, money, or patience for the craziness. Aside from a meal, a ritual, and a gift for my husband, I don’t do a thing anymore because I am so exhausted from doing Christmas professionally for over a decade. I also have a lot of friends, and cannot afford to buy for all of them, so I don’t buy for anybody. I have not sent holiday cards in close to fifteen years.

For some odd reason, this year, I bought a box of cards to send. I might not send many, and might just send them to my husband’s immediate family. The whole thing made me think, and wonder about how our tradition of gifts got started? I know it originated in Pagan times, but I wanted to look further into the practice.

Speaking of things that can be given as gifts, first, I’d like to review a new product I think many of you would love.

 

Megge on Audio

I had the privilege of reviewing Megge of Burydown, and interviewing author Rebecca Kightlinger earlier this year. The link to the article and review of the book can be found here:

http://paganpages.org/content/2018/04/celebrating-the-old-ways-in-new-times-38/

Luckily, Kightlinger contacted me last month and offered the opportunity to review her book, Megge of Burydown on Audible, a product found through Amazon.

I have never been one for books on tape because I am hard of hearing, but I figured I would give this a go because I like Kightlinger and I love doing reviews.

I, of course, rely very heavily on reading lips in conversations, and use closed captioning/subtitles when watching films, but the speech was clear. My husband, who has normal hearing, said the sound was crisp and perfect. The narration was very good, and I can see why people love these products.

This is the perfect gift because you can have the link for this sent to an ipad or cell phone, and take it anywhere you go. This is perfect for road trips, the commute to and from work, and even in the car waiting for the kids to get out of school. It is also perfect because you can plug your headphones in, and listen on walks places, lunch breaks, while shopping, or anywhere you want to go.

This is the perfect product to give as a gift for the holidays to yourself or anybody on your gift list!

Here is the link so you may purchase Kightlinger’s book on Audible.

https://www.audible.com/search?keywords=megge+of+burydown&ref=a_hp_t1_header_search

 

Presents were Wrapped by the Chimney

So why DO we do gifts during holiday time? I have always questioned it. Especially with the mainstream faiths. It is supposed to be a religious holiday, and for many people, it is all about buying things and attending parties, it seems.

Well, surprisingly, there are different reasons given.

Some Xtians say they give gifts in remembrance of the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh given by the Three Wise Men to Jesus. Some say it is in honor of St. Nicholas, who they believe was morphed into Santa Claus.

Gift giving this time of year predates that. Think back to old Roman times

 

IO- Saturnalia!

 

 

Saturnalia ran from December 17-December 23, and honored the Roman god Saturn. He was the god of agriculture and time, and the event had originally begun as a single day, and they decided to expand on a good thing, and keep the fun going.

Saturn was the god of many things, including agriculture, and Saturnalia was considered both a time to give thanks for harvest and sowing, and a time to reflect on what was considered a golden era- when Saturn ruled. He was overthrown, and kept bound as he was seen as having capacity to be very cruel. During the festival, his bounds were taken off, freeing him for the celebrations.

Ironically, our gift giving might stem from gifts given during Saturnalia, but our style of doing so in no way resembles Saturnalian gifts.

The gifts given by them were sometimes gag gifts, and sometimes candles known as cerei, to signify the strengthening sun. They also gave something referred to as Sigillaria- which was wax or terracotta figurines. Mentioned by Macrobious in the fifth century in his publication Saturnalia, one speaker in the book says sigillaria are substitutes for human sacrifice victims, and another speaker states they are playthings for kids. It is speculated there was a time human sacrifices were made, and that practice was replaced by animal sacrifice, and the figurines.

The word Sigillaria refers to the last day of Saturnalia, the gifts given, and the word sigillarius referred to the crafts persons/ vendors who made and sold the Sigillaria. The vendors set up temporary tables and vendors booths and sold their wares for four days. This sounds just like the crafts fairs and street fairs we have today!

Money was also given to servants by their employers, and this was sometimes used to buy offerings to give at the Temple of Saturn. Today, we have holiday bonuses, and can thank the Ancient Romans for starting that practice.

The employers would also reverse roles, and host dinners for their employees.

Notice I am not referring to them as masters and slaves, as many are overly fond of when referring to ancient Pagans. I have been wondering just WHO cooked the foods, and catered the parties that could become lavish? I highly doubt the employers who had chefs year round became overnight chefs themselves.

I picture people running around for days before the dinners, getting things done in advance, and then paying people to cater those parties for them. Furthermore, recall, at one time, the festival was for a day, then it was extended to three days, and finally five days. Can you imagine people who never cooked or cleaned or did a thing for themselves all year would magically become Betty Crocker for five days? They had some form of help somehow, I am thinking.

Today, we have something similar. While schools and places of business are closed for the day of the holiday, food service staff still work the day of all around the world.

Times may have changed, but how much have humans changed?

So, I write that employers hosted for employees.

Gift giving was a big part of the holiday, and although we do our gift giving differently, we can thank the Ancient Romans for this tradition for the winter holidays.

 

Today

Today, many feel stress and strain to give gifts, some statistics state some people spend around $1,000 for all the gifts they give. Economically, retail establishments market and sell things for Xmas as early as Samhain, or even beforehand, and the day after Thanksgiving begins a mad dash of insanity while people fight, scream, and plow their way through the holiday.

Actually…some shops start their Black Friday sales the day OF Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving this year, before our guests arrived, just for the heck of it, we went to Wal Mart at about 3:45 P.M. There were not a ton of shoppers, but there was a ton of staff. They had set up massive amounts of displays of things they had covered with plastic. I asked if they were getting set up for tomorrow. They said no, that the sale started at 6 P.M. TODAY. I jokingly told them to try not to get trampled, and they did not laugh. My husband said “Let’s get out of here!”

We joked about it at dinner later, and friends informed me that Black Friday sales are basically a conspiracy. I was told they set out things they had in the back they had not been able to sell. They said prices had been marked up right before Black Friday, and dropped to the original price that had not been inflated. They also told me they set out older merch they want to clear out so they can bring in new items. I was told you do not save money at Black Friday sales, and you are not getting anything worth fighting the crowds for.

I did a bit of reading. Stores also create an illusion of scarcity, which makes people FIGHT each other for an item. A store might be out of an item, but it is because they deliberately understock of something they believe a LOT of people want, and this is so they can spike the price, based on supply and demand. One of my favorite holiday films is based on this. Jingle All the Way with Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger is about two dads in a battle to get the last of a certain toy for their kids, and the ridiculous, hilarious messes they get themselves into- all because they both failed to plan ahead to buy their kids gift in advance.

If you wait until AFTER Christmas, you will get a better price because they slash the inflated prices. You might save yourself the trouble of lines at stores, and just nab gift cards for everybody.

A lot of people refuse to give money or gift cards at holiday time, and I have literally been told this- because they take pride in filling up the underside of the tree with gifts, and they enjoy watching their loved ones rip open presents, and exclaim how much they love what has been bought for them. Parents often use it as a sign of wealth and to give themselves a pat on the back for what great providers they are. This is no longer about taking care of your family, but it is a way of making yourself feel good. It’s also a way to compare yourself with others and measure whether you feel you are coming out ahead of everybody else.

Need I remind people just how very much waste we have in our landfills right now, and how polluted we have made Mother Earth? Even just not using all that packaging waste from one time uses at holiday time would drastically reduce waste.

I cannot tell you how many children cry because mom and dad did not buy them what they wanted for the holiday, and how many people save money year-round to buy things they feel will make their loved ones pleased. My Granny, for example gathered gifts all year, and stashed them in a box in her closet. She kept Christmas wrap on hand, and would wrap the gifts and label them the minute she got them home. It would be 99 degrees and Summertime outside, and Granny was nabbing and wrapping Christmas gifts.

All of these things have created an unhealthy expectation and a sense of entitlement for us culturally. Due to this, and various other reasons, some people do not give gifts for the winter holiday.

For example, some Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some Pentecostals do not give or receive Christmas gifts. I have been told Jehovah’s Witnesses also do not celebrate Halloween, and this is due to their understanding it is a Pagan holiday. I had thought perhaps the Amish do not give gifts, but indeed they do! I read that they tend to give more simple gifts, however, and the practice of children setting out a special plate for their parents to fill with nuts and goodies observed. The article I read said parents will give toys their kids want, but it’s not like the toys we have for non-Amish mainstream American kids in stores. They do the handmade toys, and games.

 

Alternative Giving Solutions

I know this is easy for me to say – because I don’t have children. However, ask anybody who knows me, and they will tell you that I can be a cold-hearted bitch, and I don’t bend to peer pressure. I realize those of you who have kids and families who place demands on you will suffer immensely if you rock the boat, and don’t buy them what they expect you to.

Again, I say, yes, it is easy for me to say, but it wasn’t always so. I slowly distanced myself from the holiday expectations, and you can too, if you decide to. Instead of a ritual, I will include some alternative gift giving suggestions, and talk about my very special, late great Aunt Wanda!

 

Aunt Wanda’s Way

My Aunt Wanda was a strong, and shining influence on me, and the older I get, the more I realize just how much she shaped me.

A member of her local Eagles club, and onetime President of that chapter, she worked her tail off gathering and distributing food around Thanksgiving and Christmas to needy families. She would load her cars trunk up, and she and her best friend Ruthie would do drop offs at residences together.

One year, when mom and I were struggling financially, they showed up with a whole trunk full of food just for us. I have never forgotten this.

If you want to get into the spirit of giving during the holidays, instead of dropping hundreds or thousands on spoiling kids, friends, or family members who already have all they need, why not contribute to some cause that reaches out to those who need help? Here are a few suggestions.

 

Saoirse’s Simple Holiday Gift-Giving Suggestions

  1. Contribute money, items, or your time to a local community organization that gives to those in need. Food, clothing, and home goods are accepted year-round at many sites, and your local city offices can be reached for information if you have no idea who to contact. Gently used items can be donated as well. It’s never a bad time to go through your things and purge every last thing you cannot use that is in decent condition, and donate it someplace. Your house will be cleaner, and somebody else will benefit from what you are no longer using.
  2. Volunteer to work the holiday if your work site allows it. It will give the day off to somebody else who wants the day with family. This is an added bonus if your family annoys the tar out of you, AND you often get time-and-a-half pay! Volunteer to do so early, so you can get out of a family gathering without getting yelled at if needs be! You’re welcome.
  3. Have a White Elephant Gift Exchange. A hilarious article about the rules is provided at this link. You don’t have to do White Elephant’s only at holiday time, and I have done this at “Unbirthday” parties, and everybody has a ball. A spending limit is often set, and sometimes, people have a gag gift be the theme.

https://www.whiteelephantrules.com/

  1. For those who do not have family to gather with – or simply do not want to gather with family – have a friend gathering. I always say friends are the family we choose.
  2. Some people I know adopt a family for holiday time and give things to them. You can also sponsor an animal at an animal shelter, or a zoo for an annual fee.
  3. You can anonymously pay towards somebody’s debt. You can pay off the balance on a child’s overdue lunch account. You can offer money towards somebody’s doctor bill without knowing whose bill it is. You can prepay at a restaurant towards whoever the staff feels is needy. I know how some feel about mainstream churches, but truthfully, many of them do amazing community work. You could always call them and ask what debts some of their members need help with.
  4. OR, you could contact your local Pagan, New Age, or Metaphysical shop, and ask if they accept cash donations.
  5. Leave food outdoors for wildlife. Not all birds migrate to warmer places, and not all animals hibernate. Suet, birdseed, corn on the cob, a salt lick, or even water you ensure does not freeze will be a huge help for the animals during the meager winter months.
  6. On a more self-nurturing note – take the money you would have spent on presents for people who do not need them, and apply towards a bill or debt of your own. If you have neither that need paying down, put the money in a savings account, your 401K, or to buy some investment that will multiply!
  7. Pick one person who you know that gets very little company, and spend time with them. Make it a point to do this regularly instead of just doing a holiday visit

The biggest issue with the “giving season” is it lasts for under two months, and people tend to forget to keep the spirit of giving alive the other ten months of the year!

 

Blessings for your Winter Solstice time holiday, however you celebrate. May the spirit of giving be with you year-round, and the light of the love of your family and friends always warm your heart and days.

Blessed Solstice.

Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of The Queen of the Moon Oracle Deck Created by Stacey Demarco

December, 2018

Review of The Queen of the Moon Oracle Deck

Created by Stacey Demarco

 

 

The Queen of the Moon Oracle is an Oracle deck created by Stacey Demarco, an author and animal activist known as The Modern Witch and the creator of Natureluster, a group which educates people about and connects people to the powers of nature. The Oracle comes in a nice sturdy 4” x 5½” cardboard box with color images on the front and a bit of information about the Oracle on the back. Inside the box are the 44 6” x 9” cards of the deck and the companion guidebook. This hauntingly beautiful Oracle and guidebook were published by Rockpool Publishing, PO Box 252, Summer Hill NSW 2130.

The companion guidebook is the same size as the cards (so everything fits neatly into the beautiful box) and contains 108 pages printed on white paper with an easy-to-read black font, bound in a sturdy glossy softcover with a beautiful card image of the Queen of the Moon on the front cover and a continuation of the starry skies behind the Queen on the back. The companion book begins with a preface written by Demarco, an introduction that offers brief information about the Moon and its phases and a description of some of the correspondences we associate with lunar energy. Next are instructions for using the Oracle including spreads and a simple dedication, and a description of the setup of the deck itself.

There are three categories of cards in the Queen of the Moon Oracle: 28 cards representing a full cycle from the Dark Moon and back to it; 12 cards, called Seasonal Lunar cards, based on the Lakota terms passed down through Native American generations; and 4 other lunar-related cards including 2 astronomical cards. The cards begin with Dark Moon (card 1) and New Moon (card 2), then move on through 6 Waxing Crescent cards, a First Quarter card, 6 Waxing Gibbous cards, a Full Moon card, 6 Waning Gibbous cards, a Last Quarter card, and 6 Waning Crescent cards. The Seasonal Lunar cards follow, offering descriptions of the energies of the Wolf Moon, the Snow Moon, the Flower Moon, and the Harvest Moon to name a few, followed by the Queen of the Moon, the Lunar God, the Blue Moon and the Super Moon. Each card section offers a color image of the card, a keyword, a description of the keyword meaning, an affirmation, a discussion of the individual card meaning and/or the theme of the Moon phase that encourages and supports a useful interpretation, and a suggested companion crystal or metal.

The images on the cards and in the guidebook are created by Kinga Britschgi, a Hungarian-born artist, digital artist, published author, and language teacher who lives in the US with her family. The cards themselves are 3½” x 5”; each card is printed on sturdy cardstock in vibrant glossy color on both the front and the back. The face of each card contains a number at the top, the name of the moon phase, and the keyword also found in the guidebook, along with the sumptuous images. The card art is gorgeous, with jewel-toned colors and images filled with powerful symbolism that instantly attracts me into each card and draws me to learn more about its energies. The art on the back of the cards shows the phases of the moon in a circle on a beautiful blue background. Because of the combination of the glossy finish that allows the cards to slide easily and the sturdy cardstock, even though they are a tiny bit wide for my hands these cards absolutely invite interaction. Shuffling the deck was easy and once the deck was spread before me, the images resonated deeply and powerfully.

The Queen of the Moon Oracle is a useful tool for tapping into the energies of the moon and the lunar cycle and determining how to integrate them into our lives and our goals. Shuffling the cards and drawing a card or a few cards each day, or throwing one of the spreads suggested in the guidebook, would create a spread that offers emotional, spiritual, and energetic messages that would be useful to any seeker. But there is another purpose for this beautiful Oracle: learning about the cycles of the moon and how they affect us. The deck contains a full lunar cycle of 28 days with suggested energies available on each day. Going through the first 28 cards of the Oracle in order and meditating daily on the corresponding card would bring a hugely useful understanding of our planet’s satellite, and would offer suggested focuses for the day, week, and lunar month going forward.

If you are drawn to the Moon, its meanings, its changing appearance in the sky, and the symbolism and effects on our lives that have been passed down through the generations from our ancestors, you will enjoy the Queen of the Moon Oracle.

Queen of the Moon Oracle: Guidance through Lunar and Seasonal Energies (Rockpool Oracle Cards) on Amazon

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About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding on Amazon

The Kitchen Witch

October, 2018

Homemade Apple Pie for Samhain

I always make a sweet treat out of apples for Samhain. It is one of my long-cherished traditions. If I have the time and enough apples, I like to bake an apple pie. I have been baking apple pies for October 31 long before I celebrated Samhain. I used to enjoy a nice slice of warmed apple pie with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream melting over it as I waited for the doorbell to ring on Halloween evening. Trick’r’treaters don’t come to my door anymore nor do I celebrate Halloween like most Americans do. But I still enjoy a piece of luscious apple pie on the thirty-first of every October.

Apple pie is one of those things that I have been making for so many years that I no longer need to use a recipe anymore. That includes making the pie crust. I had to really think about what I was doing as I was making the pie this time, so I could write down the proper amounts for each ingredient, in order to write this recipe. You know how it is when you “just know” how to do something – you just do it. It’s good to really have to think about what you are doing and why are you doing it every once in a while.

The first thing I do when I am baking any pie is make the pie crust. I learned how to make pie crust from my mother. My mother always used Crisco shortening for her pie crust. I always hated Crisco. Not because of its bland tastelessness but because it was just a pain in the ass. It stuck to the measuring cups, to the spoons, to your fingers. I know that in terms of calories and cholesterol, using a vegetable-based shortening is probably the best choice when it comes to making pastry. But I just don’t like working with it.

I know people who swear by using lard; I used to work in a butcher shop and I would never use pig fat for my pie crust. However, I’ve eaten pies with crusts made with lard and they’ve been wicked good. But the only shortening I use is butter.

I have heard that it’s harder to work with butter than with a vegetable-based shortening – I have never found this to be the case. In fact, since you want all your ingredients to be as cold as possible when you are making a pastry dough, it seems to me that using butter really makes more sense. But to each their own.

The other thing is salted butter versus unsalted butter. Most recipes call for unsalted butter. I use salted butter and reduce the salt in the recipe. But again – to each their own. Some people might even use margarine (!!)

Pie crust is really simple. It’s just flour, a little salt, cut with tiny pieces of butter or some other kind of shortening until it’s uniform and then enough cold water added in to make a pliable crust.

I always put a cup of cold water into the freezer before starting to make sure that the water is as cold as possible. Remember – when you are making pastry crust, cold is your friend. I know people who have marble or granite counter tops because they stay cold. You can also get marble rolling pins. You can chill pie crust for up to three days in the refrigerator and a whole three months in the freezer! So you can make it up ahead if you need to and store it.

The next thing I do is measure the flour and salt into my sifter and sift it into my bowl. For a two-crust pie, I use two and a half cups of flour and one-half teaspoon of salt.

Then I take the butter out of the fridge and I cut it up into tiny pieces. I never used to do this – I used to just chop the butter into quarters or eighths or whatever. But over the years, I have found that cutting the butter up into tiny pieces before adding it to the flour-salt mixture makes it easier to cut in with the pastry cutter.

Put the pieces of butter into the bowl with the flour-salt mixture and, using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like small peas. This takes a while and some might complain that it’s tedious work but my attitude is that it’s meditative and spiritual. Working with any kind of dough makes me think of the various grain goddesses and how vital breadstuffs were to the people who worshiped them – so much so that Isis, for instance, was called “The Lady of Bread”. Bread was life.

When the butter is cut into the flour-salt mixture properly, it should look like this:

Now you want to add the water that’s been chilling in the freezer. You want to add a tablespoon or two at a time, no more than that. I know it seems like there’s barely any water being added to the butter-flour mix at all but believe me, if you add all the water at once, the dough will be tough. You also want to mix the water in quickly and with as few strokes as possible. Add the drops of water around the butter-flour mixture, always dropping them on the driest parts of the dough before mixing quickly.

This is what it looks like when the water is half-way mixed in:

The last thing I do before putting the pie into the oven is cut slits into the top crust to let steam out while it is cooking. Since this pie was being made for Samhain, I made a triple Moon on the top crust. I am not much of an artist, obviously!

The oven is always preheated to 425 degrees. I always put a pizza pan on the rack below the pie, in case the pie drips over during the baking process. This has saved me a lot of cleaning hassle in the past. I leave the pie in the 425 degree oven for five minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for the rest of the cooking period. It will take about an hour to bake, depending on your oven and the amount of apples you put into your pie and how dense they were. You’ll know when the pie is done. The crust will be golden brown and the apples will be glistening inside the slits you made. And the aroma! There is no mistaking that heavenly smell!

The finished pie.

I waited as long as I could and then I cut myself a nice big piece – you know how the first piece never wants to come out in one piece! – and then added a nice scoop of French vanilla ice cream on top of it. OH SWEET GODDESS HOW YUMMY IS THAT?

So. This is my Samhain Apple Pie. I hope you like it and maybe will try it for yourself. I personally think that this turned out to be one of the very best pies that I have made in a long time. The crust was to die for. I never used to be a “crust person” but now I could eat the crust and leave the filling! I just love that buttery, flaky crust!

Until next month, Brightest Blessings and happy cooking!

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About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.