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Notes from the Apothecary

March 1st, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Dill

Feathery and fragrant, the herb dill is so much more than just a flavouring for fish dishes or pickles. This magical herb has been used for centuries as a medicine, and as a potent tool for magical practitioners. From a muscle toner for Greek athletes, to a medicine for treating boils, this versatile herb is truly fascinating.

The Kitchen Garden

You can find dill growing wild, so if you manage to harvest a few seeds, or purchase some from your local supplier, you could cultivate a little patch of dill yourself. It likes loose soil with good drainage, and you can plant the seeds directly where you want the herb to grow, ideally in a sunny spot. It’s an annual or biennial, which means that at most each plant lasts two years, or two growing seasons. However, it self-seeds, which means that you should get plenty of fresh seedlings the following spring.

The delightful, tiny yellow flowers are a real draw for bees, butterflies and other essential pollinators, so planting dill will definitely increase the number of visitors to your garden. Conversely, dill helps repel aphids and other pests, making it a great companion plant to cabbages, lettuce and many other food crops.

If you don’t have a garden, or quite frankly, the time and energy to grow herbs, dill is widely available at grocery stores as well as herbal retailers.

For culinary purposes, it’s normally the leaves that we’re talking about. Small amounts of leaves can be cut from each plant, so that you don’t kill the plant by harvesting. If you have more leaves than you need to use immediately, put some in a sandwich bag and pop them in the freezer. Don’t forget to label them!

Dill leaves can be added to salads, cheese (such as cottage cheese), soups and other foods as a garnish and to add flavour. Leaves or seeds can be added to a bottle of vinegar to create a unique, flavoured condiment.

The seeds are also used, primarily for flavouring the liquid that pickles are soaked in. Hence the term ‘dill pickles’.

These are but a very few of the culinary uses of dill. It is used all over the world in dishes from curry to crayfish. Because of this, it is relatively cheap, and very easy to get hold of.

The Apothecary

Charlemagne had dill tea made available for his guests who dined with him, to aid their digestion and prevent hiccups. It has been used as a ‘gripe water’ for infants, helping relieve colic and gas, but obviously don’t feed herbal remedies to children without consulting a pediatrician first.

It is normally the seed of dill that is used medicinally, as it has high amounts of the oil anethol, or anethole, also found in anise and caraway. Mrs Grieves recommended it as a stimulant and for easing stomach issues, flatulence and simply as an aromatic.

Modern research has found that the active oil has antimicrobial properties, which are effective against some bacteria, fungi and yeast. It’s even been found to be effective against salmonella in some instances.

It can also be used as an insecticide, which probably explains why it’s effective at repelling certain unwanted critters in our gardens.

Wash your hands after handling dill and don’t use the oil in massage. It causes photosensitivity so can lead to burning. Don’t take if pregnant or breastfeeding, as it can affect the uterus.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Mrs Grieve notes that during the Middle Ages, dill was used by magicians in spells and in charms against witchcraft. If this is true, we can surmise that there is a protective aspect to dill, particularly against supernatural or magical attack. Dill can be used in a poppet to provide protection to the person you are visualising. You could carry a sprig to ward off negative intentions towards yourself, or sprinkle some seeds around yourself and visualise a wall of light rising up from the seeds, protecting you from all harm.

In the bible, the Scribes and Pharisees are berated for paying a ‘tithe’, or tax of rich goods, but neglecting their morals and ethics. One of the items in the tithe is dill, along with mint and cumin, so we can assume that dill was very valuable. This can be translated magically into using the herb for money spells, perhaps a little in your purse to protect your existing funds, or used in a little pouch with other herbs to draw wealth towards you.

Both Culpeper and Cunningham assert that the plant is ruled by the planet Mercury, which one can also extend to include the god the planet is named for. This reaffirms the wealth and money connection, as the Roman god Mercury is strongly connected to financial gain, especially commerce and trading. He is also associated with eloquence, so dill could be used to help you find the words you need in a tricky situation. Linking the two, a charm made with dill is ideal for a sales person, as it will boost the holder’s communication skills and promote wealth coming to them.

Cunningham also states that placing dill in the cradle protects a child, which most likely links back to the herb having been used in children’s medicine for centuries. A sachet under the mattress where the child cannot reach it, or even under the bed or cot itself would be best for safety.

Home and Hearth

Sprinkle dried or fresh dill leaves or seeds around the boundary of your home to keep out unwanted visitors or negative energy. Walk widdershins (anti-clockwise) whist doing this if you feel there is an existing energy you need to banish. Walk deosil (clockwise) if you are wanting to boost the current mood or atmosphere in your home. You can boost the power of this simple spell by adding elemental energies, if appropriate to your path and beliefs. Sprinkle water, salt for earth, carry a candle for fire and walk the boundary again holding a lit incense stick to represent air. Don’t try and carry them all at once! Juggling candles and incense might seem impressive but actually it just leads to burnt fingers and clothing. If you are not mobile, hold the dill or have it near you, and visualise your energy surrounding your home or sacred space.

Once a year (I would do this at Imbolc as I have the idea of early spring cleaning firmly ingrained in my psyche) sweep the boundary and refresh your protective ward.

I Never Knew…

There is a superstition that burning dill leaves will cause thunderstorms to clear up.

Image Credits: Anethum graveolens by Forest and Kim Starr via Wikimedia Commons, copyright 2007; Dill seeds by Arto Alanenpää via Wikimedia Commons, copyright 2008.

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

For Amazon Information Click Images

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Purification Rituals

Purification is important to do on a daily basis, for witches and Pagans alike. Witchcraft is really not different from Pagan religion in general; it is just a special discipline within that religion, like the ancient mysteries.

It is, first of all, a more efficient use of energy. Our energy tends to manifest in cycles, and during each cycle we will experience one or more peaks and troughs of available energy. We have different cycles for different types of energy, but their number is fixed by habit and they tend to operate unobserved by us; we just know when we are ‘up’ or ‘feeling down’. Witches observe their energy cycles by noting when they have trouble keeping to a regular schedule of exercise, or meditation, or ritual, or anything requiring self-discipline. They get to know the sequence of their peaks and troughs of available energy by becoming sensitive to the energy itself.

When our energy becomes old and stale it is called ‘miasma’ in witchcraft, especially when it is connected with a certain place or object. Miasmic energy is very unpleasant and fastens on us. In the effort to get free from it, we resort to mechanical patterns of behavior that expend a lot of nervous energy and so send us into a trough. At last, through some habitual means, we manage to ‘bottom out’ of our trough; by dumping most of our available energy, we get rid of the miasma as well.

The means employed to bottom out varies from person to person: we’ll have a temper tantrum, or take a drink or a drug, or overeat, or go to bed and sleep for hours, or engage in some self-destructive behavior, anything to rid ourselves of the deadly embrace of miasma. Once free again, we slowly recuperate, building up our energy towards the next peak. In this way we can imagine we are making progress for years and really just be turning in a circle.

Witches dare to escape from all habitual prisons, and they escape from this one by renewing their energy through daily rites of self-purification. It’s good to use a number of these so they do not become mechanical habits themselves. The witch purifies herself 1 with the four elements of earth, air, fire and water, and must do so in a state of focused attention, because aether or spirit, the fifth element, manifests as attention and the four elements must come into contact with the fifth if they are to serve spirit, as symbolized in the upright pentagram.

Self-purification is also the first step in preparation for spellwork. First the witch purifies her person, then her other tools. Once purified, a tool (whether wand or athame or the witch herself) can be consecrated and charged. These operations correspond to the three visible phases of the Moon, waxing, full and waning; and also to the eastern, southern and western quarters of the Circle. After a spell is released, it is put out of mind, and this corresponds to the fourth phase, the dark of the Moon, and to the northern quarter of silence.

Here, then, are a number of purification rituals that can be performed at different times of the day or night. It’s good when starting out to perform one in the morning, but as you become more sensitive to the quality of your energy you may choose to self-purify whenever you feel your energy getting old and stale.

(1) For earth and water, dissolve salt in water in a special bowl and anoint your forehead, lips, and heart, saying “With the power of the sea that washes the shores, I am purified.” 2

For air and fire, light incense or sage, wave the sacred smoke on the head and chest, then pass it around the body deosil three times, saying “May I be pure; may all my impurities be burned away, carried away on the incense smoke.” If you have difficulty passing the smudge around your body, a simple expedient would be to place it in a burner close by between you and a fan, then simply turn round three times widdershins (this will send the smoke deosil around your body). This is an example of the right use of technology.

(2) This is a traditional purification before prayer. Pour water from an offering bowl over your hands, holding the bowl first in your power hand and pouring it over your palm, then the back of your hand; then switch the bowl to the other hand and repeat. As you pour the water, say “May I be pure, fit to approach the Gods.” 3 Dry the hands with a clean ritual towel, used only for that purpose.

(3) After performing (2), you can don a headband and a ceremonial robe. The Greeks wore a ribbon headband while praying. 4 While tying the headband, say “I am encircled with the sacred, girded about, encompassed, that my actions here today might be within the sacred way.” While donning the robe, say “The sacred covers me, I am surrounded by the pure.” 5

(4) In the same way, praying while donning amulets or other sacred items helps to purify our energy. While donning an image of Cernunnos, you can say the following: “My lord Cernunnos, I offer you my worship. Watch over me today as I go about my affairs: keep me safe, keep me happy, keep me healthy.” 6

Donning a pentagram or pentacle (encircled pentagram), you could say something like the following: “The elements are joined with the power of spirit. May I be blessed by the four. May I be blessed by spirit. May I be blessed by the five.” 7

(5) The ritual bath. This has been described before, but it is not out of place here. Light a candle in the bathroom and turn off the electric light. Light some incense, not necessarily in the bathroom but somewhere close by so you can smell it burning. Begin filling the tub and cast salt into it three times with your power hand, holding it over your heart first. With the first cast, say “I purify by the Maiden.” With the second, say “I consecrate by the Mother to – ” and name the quality you wish to take into yourself, such as ‘balance’. With the third cast, say “I charge by the Crone.” You can also add a fourth cast for the dark phase, saying nothing. Take the bath by candlelight, staying quiet and aware. When you are finished, thank the elements and the Lady.

(6) Proto-Indo-European self-purification: This rite comes from unpublished material sent to the author by Ceisiwr Serith, with written permission to make use of it in ceremony. It is based on the earliest Indo-European sources available, as supplemented by information from archaeology and anthropology, and attempts to reconstruct religious ritual of the Indo-Europeans before that people separated in their migrations into Hindus, Iranians, Hittites, etc.

“Purification is an act of sacralization. It removes anything that does not belong to the object being purified, or to the purpose to which that object will be put. It thus separates the object from the world. It also simplifies the object. A purified bowl is just a bowl. Everything extraneous has been removed. It therefore perfectly expresses its part of the artos. 8 It comes close to godhood.

“Before any ritual each celebrant purifies himself by pouring a small amount of water into his hands. He allows this to run through his fingers to the ground (or a bowl if indoors). He pours more, and splashes this against his face. He pours again, and rinses his mouth. This is all done in silence, while thinking with each washing “Puros esyem 9 [May I be pure].”

“Each celebrant then robes himself.” 10

The Threshold

The sacred household in antiquity corresponded to the human body, and the household familiars corresponded to the internal spirits that accompanied each human soul through life. The house, therefore, was like a temple and contained elements reflecting both male and female bodies. As such, it served as an interface between the human body (the temple of the soul and internal spirits) and our local cosmos (that is, the solar system as seen from the Earth). The solar system is too large for the individual to contact directly, so the sacred household was used as an interface between the two, an instrument amplifying outgoing human energies and de-amplifying incoming cosmic energies from the Earth, Moon, Sun and planets. In this way the sacred household, like the solar system itself, acts like an electrical transformer; its physical features transform incoming and outgoing energies for the bodies of the residents, while the familiar spirits inhabiting those features do the same for the souls and internal spirits of the residents.

The threshold of a house corresponds to the body’s sense-organs and the organs of breath and speech. These are our main interfaces with the outer world as we go through the day, and the doors and windows of a house are magically connected to them. This is especially true of the front door, and Pagans always kept a little shrine there to the threshold guardian. For the Romans, this was the God Janus, who had two faces, one looking outward and the other inward. If you hang a God-face close to your front door, you can imagine His head imbedded in the outer wall, with His other face looking outward on the outside world. Janus is the God of endings and beginnings, and his festival was held on January 9th, in between the ending/beginning of the solar year (coinciding with the new moon or Kalends of January) and the ending/beginning of the sacral year (1st of March). From that vantage, he is looking at them both. He was also honored at the Kalends, celebrated at the new moon of each month, as well as at the beginning of every important new undertaking.

As Jews came to inherit the position of mercantile carriers held in earlier times by the Phoenicians, the empire adopted their seven-day weekly cycle. As we still follow this custom today, it seems appropriate to celebrate Janus at the beginning of each week as well as at the monthly calends. Another reason for honoring Janus on the day of the Sun is that the Sun is also a threshold guardian who looks down on us protectively but also looks outward, into the stellar world, keeping vigilant watch against the wild spirits of the outer spaces.

Every God has something to teach, and Janus teaches us to direct our attention outward and inward at the same time, so we can guard the thresholds of our own personal temple and its indwelling spirits. When we honor our threshold guardian on Sunday or at the beginning of a month, year, or new undertaking, we should ask for his help in learning how to develop the double-face so we can be effective household guardians of our own inner temple. Looking out and in at the same time means while we watch the outer world we monitor our inner reactions to it, and while we are immersed in our moods and thoughts we keep part of our attention on the outer world. If we do the former we will prevent spirits of negativity from entering, and if we do the latter it will serve to eject negative spirits who are already inside.

When entering or leaving our homes, we should touch the doorframe while thinking of the threshold guardian, as a way of acknowledging his presence and of asking him to keep everything safe. The ancient Hebrews followed this custom when they were Pagans, and later changed it into touching the mezuzah.

My own invocation to the threshold guardian goes like this:

“Honor and thanks to you, Janus,

For guarding the threshold of my home.

May only harmonious beings enter here,

And may the discordant depart !

Open this week [month, etc.] for me on blessings,

And teach me to look out and in as you do,

That I may guard the door to my inner home,

For I too am a threshold guardian.”

The Hearth

As I mentioned in Part 1, ‘sacra privata’ is the term used by the ancient Romans for their household religion; it means ‘the sacred private things’ (as in Greek, there is no word for

‘things’, so literally it means ‘the sacred privates’).

While the threshold is where the home interacts with the outer world, the hearth is the center of the home and corresponds to the human heart, which was regarded as the seat of

memory. It is therefore the place where the ancestors are contacted, the door down to theUnderworld or Summerland, and the dwelling-place of an important familiar called the Lar familiaris by the Romans.

In the Italian witchcraft tradition, the lar is the primal ancestor and is responsible for keeping the family together, on occasions when the dead visit the living as well as when loved ones are ready to reincarnate, returning to Earth in the family or clan line. The stregha therefore prayed to the lar to reunite them with loved ones in future lives so they could meet, know each other, and love again.

The easiest way to understand the concept of a primal ancestor is to think of him or her as

an Adam or Eve for your particular family. Pagan peoples like the Greeks did not believe that all of mankind was descended from a single human couple. The Athenians, for instance, believed their first ancestors to have sprung from the soil of Attica; thus, they had always dwelt where they lived. Many a Latin and Greek noble or royal family traced its descent from a hero and a nymph, themselves children of one or another God or Goddess. The primal ancestors had great influence over their descendants and long ago evolved into daimones (the rough Celtic equivalent would be the sidhe).

In ancient Roman religion, on the other hand, the genius of the pater familias (the father-

head of the household) became the lar familiaris after the latter’s death, or possibly he was absorbed into a composite of the genii of all preceding heads of the family. But whether we think of the lar familiaris as an original ancestor or comprising one or more genii of deceased forefathers, he watches over the vitality of the family line, which includes its virility, fertility and ‘heart’. Similarly, each man’s genius, assigned at birth, performs the same service for him, as does every woman’s Juno.

As the household seat of memory, the hearth was the place where families gathered on

special occasions to tell tales of the ancestors and the old days, meetings called ‘treguendas’ in the stregheria tradition. The sacred hearthfire itself was the hearth guardian, and was traditionally tended by the lady of the house, who officiated as her priestess. This fire Goddess guarded the seat of memory (for without remembrance there is no family and no home) and, as sacred fire, communicated the family’s prayers to the Earth deities. In the Baltic tradition her name was Gabija, which means ‘the covered one.’ The Celtic equivalent of Gabija would be Brigid, who was also the blacksmith’s fire and presided over crafts. In Rome she was known as Vesta, and in Greece, Hestia.

I honor the hearth guardian, along with my lar, on Friday, the day commonly used to worship the Earth Goddesses. When I have a stove but no fireplace, I place her shrine close to the stove and light a candle whenever I am cooking, with the words, “I cook with Brigid’s fire”. On Fridays I burn a candle and incense to her and offer salt, bread and pure water.

With fireplaces, a more complete cult of the sacred hearthfire can be performed, taken from the Baltic rites of Gabija:

While the fire is being built, all present maintain a respectful silence and face towards the hearth.

While the fire is going, a large bowl of water is set out by the fire so Gabija can bathe and refresh herself, with the words “Fiery one, bathe, refresh yourself!”

While cooking, the mistress of the household from time to time throws scraps of food into the fire as offerings to Gabija, saying “Gabija, be satisfied.”

At night when it is time to retire, the fire on the hearth is banked; that is, more fuel is added and then it is covered with ashes so it will not throw off sparks. This practice was the reason the hearth Goddess was called ‘the covered one’. The mistress was naturally concerned to bank the fire correctly so Gabija would not get angry and ‘take a walk’ in the night, burning down the house! So, while banking the fire, she would pray to the Goddess like this:

Holy Lady,

I loose you skillfully,

lest you be angry !

Holy Gabija,

be peaceful in this place !

Live with us peacefully,

Holy Gabija !

The only respectful way to put the hearthfire out is with pure water.

These rituals could, I believe, be easily adapted to the Celtic tradition, substituting the name of Brigid (‘Breed’) for that of Gabija.

Holding a Dumb Supper

I recently held my first dumb supper for ancestors for the season. Following Norse and Baltic traditions, I hold a number of these between Mabon and Samhain, culminating with the great dumb supper on Samhain or Hallowe’en, October 31st.

Throughout most of the year I keep my photographs of parents, grandparents and other dear dead in a walk-in closet shrine. The reason I do this is so the photos will stay fresh for me instead of becoming invisible like most of the pictures on the walls of my living room. When it’s time to hold the first dumb supper, I bring the photos out and arrange them in a semicircle on the hearth (my apartment is blessed with a small fireplace, with a brick hearth in front of it). Next to them is a tall candle holder with a red candle in it, and a statue of my primal ancestor. This is a somewhat crudely carved shepherd, ithyphallic, pouring wine from a wineskin into a chalice. 11

As it gets close to sunset, I begin preparing the meal. For my first dumb supper I chose red foods; that is, they were all red to start with, though only some of them were red after being cooked!

I began by turning off the kitchen light and lighting the candle in front of my hearth guardian, the Goddess Brighid, who is the spirit of the household fire. As I lit the candle, I said “Honor to fire, honor to Brighid, honor to the hearth.”

I then put two red potatoes on to boil, sliced and diced two salad tomatoes, and opened a can of red kidney beans. I took out two lamb blade chops and dusted one side of them with oregano, cloves, pepper and a little garlic powder.

As the light waned, I lit another candle from the hearth guardian’s candle and placed it on the windowsill to serve as a beacon guiding the dead to my home.

After the potatoes had boiled a while, I put the lamb chops in the top of the oven and turned on the overhead broiler to 375 to briefly brown the tops. I set the kidney beans boiling and prepared the skillet for the diced tomatoes, melting some margarine in it.

These preparations done, I went into the living room and lit the candle on the fireplace hearth, saying the following to the photos:

“Shades of the dead, who still remember this house, honored ancestors, grandfather, grandmother, father, mother [naming them], who are worthy of eternal remembrance, and all your relatives and children whom death has taken from us, I invite you to this annual feast. May it be as pleasant for you as our memories of you are sweet to us!”

Lighting some aromatic herbs, I said:

“Let us 12 remember those who perished by fire and those who have drowned. We remember those who have had to die far from their homes, and those who have perished without a trace.”

I now returned to the kitchen and finished preparing the meal, switching the oven dial to baking and turning the heat down to around 325. When all was ready, I brought the plates into the living room, setting the ancestors’ down inside the curve of the semicircle of photos, and my own on a small table nearby. According to tradition, no silverware is set out for the ancestors. I brought in two glasses of cranberry juice (red again) and set one for them and one for myself. Then I said:

“Shades of the dead, honored ancestors, sit, eat and drink as the Gods allow!”

I sat down myself and ate in silence, looking at the photos of the dead and occasionally raising my glass to one of them. As I toasted them in turn, I remembered something about each of them, some brief, cherished memory, and I longed for those old times when we were together in the flesh.

For dessert we had bowls of raspberry sherbet. Afterwards I lingered a little in their company. When a polite length of time had passed, I rose and said:

“Shades of the dead, honored ancestors, this dumb supper is over. Go your ways now where your destiny leads you, and remember to do no harm to anything in the streets or fields.”

Then I extinguished the candle and said

“There is, there is not even a spirit here.”

Finally, I took away the dead’s food and disposed of it. It cannot be eaten but must be returned somehow to the land. I poured out the cranberry juice into the earth, saying “return to the elements whence you came.” I let the sherbet melt down the sink drain, which leads to the sea. As for the solid fare, I would have liked to dig a hole and bury it, but my apartment managers might not understand, so I was forced to simply throw it away. This was the only part of the dumb supper that I regretted.

Back inside once again, I extinguished the candle in the window, saying (as ever) “honor to fire,” and then the hearth guardian’s candle by the stove, saying “honor to the hearth, honor to Brighid, honor to fire.”

The dumb supper was over.

The prayers and basic ritual are derived from Pagan Lithuanian practice, with the name of the Celtic hearth Goddess Brighid substituted for the Baltic Gabija. Lithuania was the last Pagan country in Europe, and only began to be (forcibly) Christianized at the beginning of the 15th century. Consequently, much that has been lost in the pre-Christian traditions of other countries can still be found there, and in the land of their neighbors to the north, Latvia. For more information check out their website at www.romuva.lt.

1 I use ‘her’ for ‘him or her’, etc., in this article.

2 Serith, p. 31. See bibliography.

3 Ibid, p. 32.

4 For an illustration, see the Magician card in the standard Tarot deck.

5 Serith, p.32.

6 Ibid, p. 33.

7 Ibid.

8 The ‘artos’ is the pattern of the universe; the wyrd or rta.

9 Pronounced PUR-os es-YEM.

10 Serith, unpublished material. See bibliography.

11 This is a marvelous scholarly word meaning his penis is erect.

12 The ancestors and myself.

Notes from the Apothecary: Pumpkin

 

 

It’s that magical time of year again, where anything that can be fragranced or flavoured seems to take on the aroma of a combination of vanilla and pumpkin, with the emphasis on the sweetness of this gorgeous gourd. But why do we revere the pumpkin at this time of year? The answer comes from Irish Celtic history, and the seasonal nature of the fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) itself.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Although the pumpkin, like other squashes, originated in North America, it can now be found all over the world. It’s classed as a ‘winter squash’ due to the fruits ripening around autumn and winter time. This is one of the main reasons it is so widely in use throughout Samhain and into the Thanksgiving and Christmas/Yule periods.

 

The fabulous thing about pumpkins is that so much of the plant is edible. You have probably eaten the flesh at some point, either in pies, soup or puddings. You may even have eaten pumpkin seeds, which are tasty roasted and salted or used in baked goods such as bread. But did you know you can even eat the flowers of pumpkins? The only downside to this is, if you eat a pumpkin flower, it cannot then be pollinated and grow into a pumpkin!

 

In Korea and some parts of Africa, even the leaves are eaten. In Zambia, they are boiled and mixed with groundnut paste.

 

Pumpkin is great in sweet or savoury food, and can be combined with other squashes easily. A touch of chilli adds a fiery zing, and other warming spices such as cinnamon transform a very earthy plant into a symbol of fire.

 

Growing pumpkins requires a good bit of space, and although you can start them off indoors, they really need moving outside onto a large pile of compost where they can spread out. We only grow our squashes on the allotment, as there simply isn’t room in the garden; not if we want to have space for anything else!

 

The Apothecary

Because the pumpkin was only discovered upon the exploration of North America, some of the older herbals don’t cover it in great depth. In Mrs Grieves’ Modern Herbal, she lumps the pumpkin in with watermelon, although she does clearly state that it is a very different plant. She says the pumpkin is sometimes known as the melon pumpkin, or ‘millions’; a term which has certainly gone out of fashion today.

 

She states that in combination with other seeds such as melon, cucumber and gourd (Grieves cites this as cucurbita maxima, a south American squash), an emulsion can be formed which is effective for catarrh, bowel problems and fever. She also tells us that melon and pumpkin seeds are good worm remedies, even for tapeworm.

 

For our furry friends, high-fibre pumpkin can be added to the diet of cats or dogs to aid digestion. It is also sometimes fed to poultry to keep up egg production during the colder months. Always speak to your vet before changing your pet’s or livestock’s diet.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

 

 

Pumpkins appear throughout folklore and fairy tales, often in themes of transformation. Think of Cinderella, whisked off to her ball in a coach which only a few minutes before was a giant pumpkin. The pumpkin is a symbol of our hearts’ desires, travelling towards our goals and the transformation of dreams into reality.

 

We mustn’t forget that the coach turned back into the pumpkin at midnight! This reminds us to enjoy what we have while we have it, to grasp the opportunities in front of us as we never know when they might disappear.

 

A piece of pumpkin or pumpkin seeds on your altar represents autumn moving into winter, the final harvest and goals of self-sufficiency; whether literally through living off the land and growing your own food, or through honing your passion into a craft that can support you.

 

I will have pumpkin seeds at north in my sacred space, to remind me of all the ‘seeds’ I have planted this year which I hope will grow into greater things even through the cold months; ideas for songs and poems, research into my ‘magical birds’ book, and plans to save money in preparation for our new baby. These are my seeds, and I need to nurture them. Just like the pumpkin, they need care, attention and feeding! Pumpkins need compost, sunshine and water, whereas my ideas need hard work, time and commitment.

 

Home and Hearth

The archetypal ‘Jack O’ Lantern’ most likely comes from the Irish and Scottish Celts, who would have carved a face into a turnip or swede, placed a light within and used this as an amulet to ward off evil spirits, or possibly as a guiding light for ancestral or guardian spirits. When colonists came to America carrying these traditions with them, they found the larger and softer pumpkin; a much better vehicle for the carved totems! And so the pumpkin became the new guiding light of Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve and eventually, Hallowe’en.

 

It’s only the seeds that you need to remove from a pumpkin in order to leave a space for the light inside, and you can keep a few of these seeds to try and cultivate your own plants next year. If you are able to do this (and I appreciate not everyone has the space to grow a pumpkin plant- they are quite large!) this will create a cyclical connection between this year’s and next year’s magic, cementing continuity and your own connection to the turning season.

 

If this simply isn’t practical, keep a few of the seeds on your altar or in a sacred space, as a reminder of the different stages of life reflected in the changing seasons.

 

If you scrape some of the flesh out as well as the seeds, keep this and cook with it at Samhain. You are making the most of your pumpkin, using as much of it as you can to avoid waste, and you are connecting your magical lantern to your Samhain feasting.

 

The lantern can be placed in a window, or on a doorstep if it is safe to do so. If you use a naked flame such as a candle or tealight, please be aware of animals and children, especially during trick-or-treating! The last thing you want is some small child setting themselves on fire or spilling hot wax on themselves. A great alternative is one of those LED candles which you can now pick up very cheaply.

 

 

 

 

The lantern guards your space, keeping away unwanted visitors, and guiding your ancestral spirits to where they need to be, including back beyond the veil once the period of Samhain has passed.

 

I Never Knew…

The word ‘pumpkin’ originates from the Greek word pepon, which means ‘large melon’, which may explain how it sometimes ends up under the melon section in older herbals!

 

Image credits: Pumpkins Hancock Shaker Village, public domain; Photograph of a homegrown pumpkin species, “Atlantic Giant”, (cucurbita maxima), copyright Ude 2009 via Wikimedia; Nathan looking at Jack O’ Lantern display in Benalmadena, copyright 2016 Mabh Savage.

 

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About the Author:

 

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

 

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

 


 

We come to that time of year when many lonely souls come to us and ask us to do our magik and a spell to bring love into their lives. Most only need a ‘charm’ or ‘crutch’ in order to help their own self esteems and to bring them out of their shells. There have been times I have been so caught up with helping others bring love into their lives that I have forgotten and neglected my own. Forgotten to even do the little things for those I love.

This month in The Witch’s Cupboard, I want to explore a few of the herbs that have historically been used for love. I want to share ideas to help, enhance, and nurture the loves in our lives, not help others to find it. This column is geared to make our Valentine’s and February a little more special for the ones we love.

There are many, many herbs that have been used throughout time to bring love, enhance sexuality, and woo others. I could write a book on the oddities and spells alone. We are going to go to the cupboard and pull out just a few that are common which can strengthen your love and also bring lasting health benefits. So come into the kitchen, open your cupboard, turn on the stove, and bake some magik with love.

We begin with a very common yet under rated herb, Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, synonym C. zeylanicum).  In Chinese Herbology, it is said Cinnamon are twigs and bark from large tropical trees that warm the body, invigorate the circulation, goes to all 12 channels (meridians) of the body, and harmonizes the energy of the upper and lower body. Cinnamon also reduces allergy reactions. The herb is usually cooked together with other herbs to make tea that regulates the circulation of blood. Cinnamon has also been used for appetite loss, bronchitis, colds, cough, fever, indigestion and other digestive problems, sore throat, diarrhea, and some cancerous tumors. Eastern herbal remedies suggest Cinnamon for heart problems, dental pain, and urinary problems. For those you who use and enjoy medical and therapeutic grade essential oils, cinnamon oil can be used as a sexual stimulate, beneficial for colds, coughs, flu, rheumatism, and circulation. I have also heard it can aid in controlling sugar and certain types of diabetes. But in our magical world, Cinnamon is highly recommended as purification incense prior to sacred work, and increases focus and concentration, while enabling a peaceful mindset for ritual work or divination. With our theme for Valentine’s, Cinnamon is known as an aphrodisiac. When used in spells of sexuality and passion it deepens any meditations on love.

Another common herb in our cupboards is Ginger. Since ancient times, Ginger has been used to help treat arthritis, colic, diarrhea, and heart conditions.  Ginger may decrease joint pain from arthritis, and may have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties that may make it useful for treating heart disease. Ginger is mostly known for its properties to help treat upset stomach and nausea. It is also believed to help the common cold, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and even painful menstrual periods. Magically Ginger is known as a powerful herb/spice. Ginger essential oil is useful in sexuality; love; courage; and money. Eating Ginger before performing spells will lend them power, since you have been “heated up” by the Ginger; this is especially true of love spells.

Since we are in our kitchens and at our cupboards, Something simple that can be done using the herbs/spices above to bring a smile to your loved ones faces is to bake cookies. You can make these simple recipes by adding your own special magical spells that are dear to you while you prepare the dough.

Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 large egg
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
• 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Add the 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended.  Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, and stir in remaining flour.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Combine the 4 tablespoons sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat.  Place balls of dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are beautifully golden.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Soft Ginger Cookies
Ingredients

* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 cup margarine, softened
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1 egg
* 1 tablespoon water
* 1/4 cup molasses
* 2 tablespoons white sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, and then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Next month’s edition of the Witch’s Cupboard will fall upon the Ostara/Spring Equinox rituals and will introduce you to preparing growing your own herbs for the coming Spring/Summer seasons. One I would like to follow along with is lavender because of the many health benefits of its oil. Until next time, happy baking to a healthier you.

Blessed Be,

Namaste Iammu,

Indigo Rainbow

Disclaimer:

Please note that we are not advocating that people stop using their normal medication, but would like to make people aware that some alternative therapies can be very effective to help treat problems and create a healthier, younger and more vital you. Also, it is not recommended to use most herbal supplements during pregnancy, or during breast feeding, or for small children. But then again, although these warnings must be provided, we must ask if the warnings come from experiences using herbs or from a medical community which is afraid we will cure ourselves.

Notes from the Apothecary: Apple
apple1

 

The apple is a fruit that is either revered or maligned, depending on which tradition or religion you look at. For Christians, it is the forbidden fruit, the ultimate temptation in the Garden of Eden. Strangely, the bible itself never names the type of fruit as an apple, and some studies suggest it may actually have been a fig, a pomegranate or even a grape. Despite this, the image of the apple as a fruit of seduction and forbidden knowledge has persisted into the modern age. For the Celts, however, there was nothing sinful about the apple at all. The fruit was associated with the afterlife, yet also with immortality and health. It was also closely associated with the faerie realm, and those who ate an apple whilst in the world of the good neighbours, would never again be able to return.

The Kitchen Garden

There is so much you can do with apples one hardly knows where to begin. For me, it’s my ‘go to’ fruit for jams and jellies. As well as making a fantastic preserve all by itself, it can be added to other fruits low in pectin (the setting agent for jelly and jam) to ease the preserving process. I’ve mixed apple with blackberry, blackcurrants, rowanberries, elderberries and even citrus fruit, all with good results.

As well as preserves, apples make fantastic crumbles, pies and cakes. One of my favourite apple cake recipes can be found here, and is an absolute doddle to make. I use eating apples rather than cooking apples, but experiment and find out what works for you.

 

apple2

 

One of my favourite uses of apples is something I’ve not yet experimented with, and that’s the craft of making cider, or cyder. There is a difference, other than archaic spelling! Cyder is traditionally made from apples that have only been pressed once, rather in the same way that extra virgin olive oil is produced. Cider is made from a repressing of the same apple pulp, mixing it with water. This makes a longer and lighter drink. I’ve always fancied making my own apple press, although I have a friend who uses a hand blender on chopped apples, with some fantastic results! There’s a guide to making your own cider press here at Mother Earth News. If anyone does this or has done this please let me know how it turns out!

The Apothecary

Surely everyone has heard the aphorism, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ The original saying stems from 1866 and was originally, ‘Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.’ Pithy though these little rhymes are, the apple certainly has many qualities that recommend it as a health food, if not actually a cure-all.

The pectin mentioned previously is a type of soluble fibre, and we need fibre for a healthy diet. There is some evidence that pectin can also lower blood pressure and glucose levels. Apples also contain nutrients that promote healthy bones and brain, and they also contain vitamin C which boosts the immune system and keeps cells healthy.

So while apples won’t necessarily keep all ills at bay, they will certainly contribute to good all round health.

The Witch’s Kitchen

The apple appears throughout various myths from many different backgrounds. We briefly mentioned the Celtic links between apples and immortality. In Norse legend, the apple was given to the gods to provide them with eternal youth. Apples also appear associated with fertility, including the gift of an apple being given to one praying for a child. Apples are also associated with the goddess Hel, and possibly her realm of the same name, the ninth of the nine worlds on the world tree, Yggdrasil. Hel is a realm of the dead, so here we have apples associated with fertility and birth, long life, and death and the afterlife. They are a fruit of cycles, circles and representative of all aspects of being. They are of this world and of magical realms, and represent the link between this world and others.

The apple is also a symbol of poetic inspiration. A branch of apple can symbolise a Bardic or Ovate path. If seeking inspiration yourself, a leaf or small twig from an apple tree in your sacred place may help, or place an apple leaf under your pillow and see what dreams may come.

There is an old superstition that if you can peel an apple in one go, without removing the knife until the peel has come off all in one piece, then toss it over your shoulder whilst looking in a mirror, it will fall in the shape of the initial of your loved one to be. The root of this is most likely an older association with prophecy and fortune telling.

 

apple3

 

Apples are strongly associated with magic of all kinds, in fact they are a kind of catalyst. Any spell can be ‘offered’ to an apple tree. Charge items with intent, and hang them from the tree, trusting that the intrinsic magic of the tree will aid your spell. Water the tree, and if your spell is successful, plant an apple pip at some point in the future as thanks.

The apple is a wonderful offering to many gods and goddesses (always research first though!), and also to the good neighbours (fairies), along with butter and milk.

Home and Hearth

Towards the end of summer, or start of winter, make a Wassail Bowl. There is a druidic celebration known as ‘Day of the Apple’ after Samhain, and a Wassail Bowl is one interpretation of the brew that was made at this time to ensure a good apple harvest the following season. You don’t have to wait until Samhain though. As soon as you have good apples, you can roast them, and mix them with ale, cider, honey or sugar (honey is nicer) and spices such as cinnamon or ginger, to make a warming, hearty drink to share with family and friends.

Pass your brew around while you brag and boast; not merely an excuse for showing off, but a serious exercise in sharing your ambitions and achievements with your loved ones and your gods. Any commitments made at this time must be seen through, or a forfeit paid.

I Never Knew…

In Greek mythology, Atalanta, the virgin huntress, was tricked into losing a race by Hippomenes rolling three irresistible golden apples in front of her. She had to marry him, which just shows, keep your mind on the job and your head in the game!

 

(Image credits: Top: Red Delicious, copyright Bangin via Wikimedia; Next, De Klok jam apple and roses, copyright Queeste via Wikimedia; Final, Malus Sylvestris, copyright Per Arvid Åsen via Wikimedia.)

 

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Mabh Savage is a Pagan author and musician, as well as a freelance journalist. She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. Follow Mabh on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

5-Ingredient Insta Pot Rotisserie Chicken

My sister Sue bought me an Insta Pot Pressure Cooker last year for my birthday. I have to admit that until recently, I haven’t used it too much. In my last apartment, there wasn’t enough room for it on my counters – let’s face it, I had no counterspace whatsoever. And I first moved back to Buffalo, I was in the grip of a pretty strong depression that I am just coming out of. I haven’t felt much like cooking – or eating – since I live in a town famed for local food, I have been doing a lot of eating out.

But as the weather has gotten less conducive to getting out and about, I have used the Insta Pot a few times and I am beginning to learn how it works. One thing I do know – I have a lot to learn. Not only is this a pressure cooker but it’s a steamer, a slow-cooker, a deep-fryer and it even bakes cakes!

In the past few months, I have made my mother’s famous meatloaf dinner – the moistest meatloaf known to man, with potatoes and carrots, cooked in only ten minutes! I made a fifteen-minute chicken cacciatore. At Thanksgiving, I did the acorn squash in the Inst Pot – using the steam application – they were done in four minutes! To perfection. Honestly, I’ve never had acorn squash so deliciously good.

I am on literally dozens of recipe email lists – my inbox is constantly full. I can’t remember when “5-Ingredient Insta Pot Rotisserie Chicken” passed through my email but I know I thought that it sounded fabulous and the picture certainly looked appetizing. I saved it – I even printed it out – and of course, promptly forgot about it. And this very morning – as I live and breathe – I received a recipe for “Insta Pot Vegan Cabbage Detox Soup” from Allrecipes Daily Dish. I am definitely going to try that one! Who doesn’t want to drop a few pounds before the end of the winter months? Or just clean out their systems? That seems like a New Moon kind of thing, doesn’t it? Clean out all the toxins to do magic for the coming month? I love that idea!

Soon after the New Year, I was doing my annual reorganization of notebooks and files and closets and just about everything. Somewhat of a spring cleaning but it happens in the beginning of January. Here in Buffalo, we’re generally more or less snowed in during the winter months – this is a very hard winter, this year – so rather than sit around and watch movies on Netlix or Hulu and munch out, it’s more productive to clean out closets and attics and basements. So, during this process, I found the printed-out recipe of “5-Ingedient Insta Pot Rotisserie Chicken” that I had printed out months ago and I decided to make it. One of the supermarkets near me had roaster chickens on sale for 99 cents a pound, so that worked out perfectly.

As usual, I assembled the ingredients that I would need before I started. I counted six ingredients but maybe the author of the recipe wasn’t counting the chicken. I didn’t have onion salt so I used celery salt. Since it called for two teaspoons of either of them, if onion salt had been on my shelf, I probably would have used a teaspoon of both of them. I didn’t have garlic puree but I always have garlic powder. The recipe didn’t call for pepper but I could not imagine not using freshly ground black pepper. That’s a incredible exclusion, IMHO.

I took the chicken out of its packaging and put it in a mixing bowl. There were giblets, but I put them into a bag and set them into the freezer for future use. Then I whisked together the olive oil, the celery salt, paprika, garlic powder and freshly ground black pepper. It’s really thick. Almost a paste. I was thinking about thinning it out a little bit but I thought – this is the first time using this recipe, let’s see what happens. You know – like when you do a spell the first time. You follow the instructions exactly.

(Except that I didn’t follow them exactly – I added freshly ground pepper!)

After mixing this up, you pour this over the chicken. Since it was so thick, it didn’t really pour very well and I spread it over the entire chicken using my hands (yes, I was wearing gloves) to make sure the seasoning was evenly distributed.

I let it set for a little while so the seasonings could soak in. If I hadn’t been so hungry, I would have stuck it into the fridge for a half an hour to let it marinate. Yeah, I know – the recipe doesn’t say to do that but it just makes sense to me. I was also thinking about other seasonings you could use. Perhaps a mixture of ground parsley, oregano and rosemary with the garlic powder and onion/celery salt mix – or lemon-pepper with the garlic powder and onion salt – and certainly there has to be a way to do this barbecue-style. The possibilities are endless.

Meanwhile, I plugged in the Insta Pot and put a few tablespoons of olive oil into the basin and pressed the Saute app. When the display reads “Hot”, it’s ready. Carefully set the chicken into the hot oil, breast side down, and brown until it’s golden. This should take about five to seven minutes. Then flip the bird – sorry! I couldn’t resist! – and brown the other side. This shouldn’t take as long – five minutes tops.

Once the chicken is browned on both sides, add the chicken broth and cover. Seal the lid and twist the vent toward “sealing”. Set to Manual High Pressure for 25 Minutes.

This is the hard part! You hear the steam and you see it coming out of the vent. And you an hear the broth boiling inside of the pressure cooker. And you watch the numbers ticking off the front of the pot – it seems like they go so slowly! But think about it – twenty-five minutes for a fully roasted chicken isn’t any time at all! You can have pre-dinner drinks with your guests, set the table with your family or take a nice shower by yourself and relax while your dinner is cooking.

Turn the vent to “vent” and let the steam escape. Once it’s all gone, carefully open the Insta Pot. Lift the chicken out – I had to use two utensils to manage it – and set it on a platter. I admit that the picture in the recipe looked better but I was quite pleased.

I served mine with a baked potato and steamed broccoli.

The chicken was so tender, I could cut with my fork. It was really moist and super flavorful. I was disappointed in the skin (I admit it) but I rarely eat skin anymore so that’s not really a problem. But I would say that next time I would use a little more olive oil in the basin of the Insta Pot when I am sautéing, and leave the chicken in there a minute or two longer. Let it fully brown.

But hey! It was great for a first time and I’m real happy with the results! And there’s plenty leftover! I’ll be eating chicken for a few days for sure! Maybe make a chicken soup – or maybe a chicken pot pie – who knows? The possibilities are endless!

The recipe follows. If you don’t have an Insta Pot Pressure Cooker, there’s instructions for doing it in a regular slow cooker or in your oven.

5-Ingredient Insta Pot Rotisserie Chicken

1 5-lb whole chicken

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for browning the chicken

2 teaspoons onion or celery salt

2 teaspoons paprika

1 tablespoon garlic puree or 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup chicken broth

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, onion or celery salt, paprika, and garlic. Pour over chicken.

  2. Drizzle a little olive oil into the Insta Pot, then press the Saute button. Brown the chicken (breast side down) until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Flip and brown 3-5 minutes more. Pour chicken broth into the Insta Pot. Cover, seal the lid, and twist the vent toward ‘sealing’. Set to Manual High Pressure for 25 minutes.

  3. Allow to depressurize naturally, about 15 minutes. Once the floating valve drops, twist the venting knob to allow any last pressure to escape. Remove the lid and transfer chicken to a serving platter.

  4. For Slow Cooker: Place in a slow cooker and cook on Low for 6-8 hours.

  5. For Oven: Bake at 250 degrees F (120 degrees C) for 5 hours or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 180 degrees F (82 degrees C).

References

http://www.kichme.com/recipes/5-ingredient-insta-pot-rotisserie-chicken

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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.

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