Imbolc and the First Signs of Spring

It’s hard to believe that spring is around the corner, especially given the harsh winter weather some of us are experiencing now.  However, sleeping under the snow lie the first tender vestiges of warmer days. As much as I love fall and winter, there is something about crocus, tulips and daffodils peaking up through the snow that makes my heart excited for this sign of the renewal cycle of life.

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Imbolc is a celebration of life. The ewes are lambing and fresh milk is flowing. There is hope that the dwindling winter stores of food, will soon be filled again. The brightest green grass, nourished by their blanket of protective snow, now begins to peek up through the brown blades of fall. Trees begin to bud, Dogwood, Buckeye and Wild Plum. Honey bees come out and start pollinating their bright blooms.

The days are now growing longer and the angle of the sun casts a particular light on the stark lemon yellow green leaves of the tall trees. Warm winds rustle their  boughs and song birds begin to take flight.

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In celebration of the very first signs of life returning, our ancestors turned to the Goddess Brigid.  Daughter of the chief of the gods, The Dagda, she was known as the Goddess of childbirth, poets, healing and inspiration.  She is part of the Triple Aspect of the Goddess, the Mother as she represents the birth of new life.

Things you can do to celebrate Imbolc:

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Light a simple white or green candle and say:

“I call upon the fire to melt the snow. 

The warmth of the mother to make things grow.”

 

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Make Triple Goddess Moon Cookies! (A great activity with your little ones or yourself alone!)

1 cup (2 sticks/220 grams) butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups (185 grams) flour
1 teaspoon vanilla, lavender or peppermint extract

 

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until fluffy and light. Mix the lemon peel, and salt. In increments, add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix until well blended. Cover and chill thoroughly for at least 2 hours.

(Pre-Heat your oven to 375 degrees)

When the dough is chilled, roll it to a thickness of 1/8 inch, and cut with a crescent moon cookie cutter.

If you can’t find a crescent moon cookie cutter, you can use a circular cookie cutter and cut a curved line in the middle, then roll the excess dough from the cookies and repeat.

Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inches apart.

Bake for 7-12 minutes! (I love my cookies crisp so I live dangerously at the 12 minute mark!)

 

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Take a Nature Walk!

Lastly, take a long walk through nature. Try to find a trail or field if possible but any area with grass and trees will do! Take note of how some creatures and the flora are awakening from their winter sleep. Breath in the clean air and if you wish, say some simple affirmation magic spells.

“As nature awakens, so do I.”

“As the world grows fresh and new, so do I.”

“Nature gets a fresh start, dropping her brown, shriveled mantle, so do I.”

 

Thanks for reading!

Will you share your Imbolc traditions with me?

-Cass

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Pagan Thanksgiving Baking Ritual

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No matter your religious or spiritual preference, if you’re in the US, you’re likely celebrating Thanksgiving today.  Taken at it’s root, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to gather with friends and family and just simply celebrate what we have as opposed to what we do not.

For my family, it’s natural for us to just incorporate Thanksgiving into a Samhain transition into Yule holiday. We are still bountiful for our fall harvests, apples, grains and meats are plentiful.  This holiday just gives me more excuses to bake them and practice my kitchen witchery!

Prosperity and Warmth Spell

Turn on warm and happy music.

Gather your favorite mixing bowl and spoon.

Gather your apples and sugar.

Light a red candle for warmth and love.
Light a green candle for prosperity.

Sprinkle sugar over the apples and say:

These apples who grew so lovely on the tree,

Thank you for coming to me.

May your warmth fill my body.

Like the bounty of your boughs,

May your blessings fill my pantry!

Now as you are mixing and blending the ingredients, focus your intentions on what you are thankful for and what you’d like to see in the next year.  Circle your spoon clockwise in the bowl to bring those things into your life.

As the pie bakes, think of the spell transforming and coming into fruition.

Then when you share the pie with your friends and family, know that you’re sharing your love, blessings and intentions with them.

Happy Thanksgiving Folks!

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Tree of Life Apple Pie

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • About 5 cups thinly sliced apples (peeled and cored), 8-10 medium apples
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • Double pie crust
  • 1 egg white + 1 tablespoon water
  • granulated sugar

 

  1. Mix first 5 ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Roll out and place an uncooked pie crust in the bottom of a deep 9-inch pie plate.
  3. Place the apple mixture in the uncooked pie shell. Place small pieces of butter on top of apple mixture.
  4. Take some pie dough and shape it into the tree trunk, branches and leaves. Start with the trunk and branches, then layer the leaves onto the branches and decoratively around the side of the pie crust.
  5. Mix the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water together in a small bowl and then brush the top with water and sprinkle with sugar before baking.
  6. Bake at 450 for the first 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and continue cooking for an additional 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  7. If the edge of the crust starts to brown more quickly than the center, carefully cover the edge with foil for the last 15-20 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.
  8. Let the pie cool for 10 minutes before serving. Can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature.
  9. Don’t forget the a’la’mode!

Gearing up for Yule! Recipes and Ritual

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Tis’ that time of year again folks!  Bust out the Yule goats, it’s time to celebrate and get fat!

This year Yule begins on Friday the 21st of December and ends on Tuesday January 1st.  By my calculations that is 11 days of celebration opportunities!  11 Days of excessive eating and merry making!  Here are some ideas to get you started.

December is the transition to the new year. The Winter Solstice is here, the longest night of the year. The harvests have been collected and stored away and now it’s time to wait for the longer days of spring to return.

In the dark, windy stormy nights, creatures joined Odin on the “Wild Hunt,” while our ancestors sought warmth at the hearths of their kin. (Odin much resembled Santa if you want to draw a parallel that your children may understand better. Wise old guy, long beard, pointy hat, riding through the winter nights bringing wisdom and gifts.)

Of course there are other traditional stories of Yule. Celtic beliefs for example, one of the best known stories would be the Goddess Dagda, and Brighid.   Brighid’s  teacher of the fire, like the flame of the new light, pierces the darkness of winter, while the Dagda’s cauldron, her womb, assures that nature will once again spring forth to life and provide for all her children.

The Yule log, burned on the Winter Solstice, was a way to entice the sun to return. It symbolized carrying over the flame of the past year into the future year.  The log can vary,  you can choose a huge stump or a small twig.  Encourage your children to decorate it with cotton ribbons or slip notes of gratitude or wishes into the cracks.  The simple act of burning it, surrounded by your family is the symbolic gesture.

Hearth and Home

Decorating your home is a no-brainer. Some of my favorite childhood memories are draping green boughs of pine across the family fireplace and the rich evergreen smell of the “Christmas” tree.  I was raised Christian so that’s what it was called in my childhood home, in my home now that I’ve created with my husband and children, it is the Yule tree.

Here are some common holiday plants, herbs and such and their less mundane meanings:

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Pine:   Ever life, Steadfastness, perseverance and resilience.

A pine branch hung over the entryway will invite joyful energy inside and ward against illness. (Magical hand sanitizer y’all!) The green of the branches helped people to get through the long winter by having hope in the warmth and food that would come in the spring.

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Apples: love, fertility, marriage, beauty, wisdom and immortality.

Add apples slices to a large pot or cauldron of water with cinnamon, start anise, allspice and/or ginger root to infuse your home with sweetness and love.

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Rosemary: remembrance, cleansing and blessings.

Rosemary symbolizes love and loyalty and it may also be gifted to guests for the same purpose.  And of course it’s delicious on turkey!

 

Recipe Time!

Nothing evokes the holiday spirit than cold days and warm nights filled with tables full of food. Harvest time was a time of plenty.  Unlike many believe, it wasn’t until spring time, when the food stores had dwindled down, that many people faced hunger and starvation. Winter cupboards were stocked well and the people celebrated such before the food spoiled.

That may not be as much of an issue today for many of us but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use this opportunity to fill our stomachs! (Please remember those who still face starvation. Why not cook double recipes and deliver the second portions to those in your area who still feel the cold pangs of hunger this season.)

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Let’s start the evening off right with a steaming warm cup of Wassail!

Huzza, Huzza, in our good town
The bread shall be white and the liquor be brown.
So here my old fellow I drink to thee
And the health of each other tree.
Well may ye blow, well may ye bear
Blossom and fruit both apple and pear
So that every bough and every twig
May bend with a burden both fair and big.
May ye bear us and yield us fruit such as stores
That the bags and chambers and house run o’er. 

Wassail

  • 3 red apples
  • 2 tbls butter
  • 1 grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • (Optional)
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cups brandy

Cut each apple in half.  Remove the seeds.  Melt the butter slowly in a large pan and add in the apples, lemon rind, sugar and spices. Allow the flavors to simmer slowly, careful to stir often. (10 minutes) Then add all other liquids (sans the alcoholic ones if you want a kid friendly version!) Bring to a low boil then turn the stove down to low. Allow to simmer 30 mins.  Turn off heat and allow to sit for an additional 30 mins.  Serve warm! Garnish with a stick of cinnamon or an orange wedge!

 

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Time for the main course!

Cranberry Rosemary Sage Pork

2-4 lb pork Roast

2-3 heads of garlic, split into cloves but keep in the skin

1 small sprig sage (even better if from your own herb garden! but if not, that’s ok too!)

1 small sprig rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup brown sugar

olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of dish.)


1 bag fresh cranberries

1 cup sugar

3 cups orange juice

Pre-heat your oven to 350 °

Heat up to hot a large frying pan or a stove top grill. Coat the pork in olive oil and then sear the pork on all sides on the hot pan/grill. Remove pork from grill and place in a olive oil greased baking dish.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper mixture on all sides.  I’m not putting an amount here because your preferences may vary.

Let the roast rest while you prepare the cranberries.

In a medium sauce pot, bring the cranberries, orange juice and sugar to a low boil.  Stir often and let boil for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Back to the pork!

Carefully pour the cranberry mixture over the pork roast so that the cranberries are resting like a moat of tart red goodness around the base of your roast.  Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of brown sugar on top of your roast and add leaves from your sprigs of rosemary and sage on top of the roast as well.  Cover with tin foil or glass baking dish lid and put into your oven.

Roast slowly for 35-40 mins per lb.

Pork is ready when internal temperature is: 145° F. (medium rare) and 160° F (Medium)

Let meat rest for 3 mins, spoon some of the cranberry mixture on top and serve!

 

spiced milk

Time to wind down by the fire. Great to get the kiddos ready for bed.

Spiced Milk

6 Cups of Whole Milk

1 pinch ginger

1 pinch cinnamon

1 pinch nutmeg

1/4 cup honey or brown sugar

Place all in medium sauce pan and bring all ingredients to a boil.  Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, allow to cool some so you don’t burn your tongue off when you take that first sip, skim off the top of the milk (milk scum anyone!?) Pour into individual cups and sprinkle a bit more cinnamon on top.

Serve and enjoy!

 

I hope everyone has enjoyed my Yule blog post! Please comment below if you tried any of these recipes and your thoughts on them.  For us we love all 3 and I’m looking forward to serving them again to my family this holiday season.

Blessed be and Skol.

C.Pennyfeather

Teaching our Children Compassion

compassionMore so than ever…

If anyone has been paying attention to the tumultuous situation in the US right now, we know that we urgently and most critically need to reassure and guide our children.  These are dark times, and yet there is hope. There will always be hope as long as there are those of us to light the flame in the darkness.

Without getting too political because I’m sure everyone has enough of that elsewhere, I am going to focus on ways we can as Pagan families help our children and our communities know that the world can become what we make it.

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Encourage your family to volunteer. Choose whatever area or cause that fits your family. For mine, we love to spend time in nature, so volunteering to clean up a beach, a garden or create more habitat for birds and pollinators makes sense for us.   If you reach out to your local park services, schools or community parks, you can usually find programs to help you do just that.

If you are in the states, here is a good resource to get you started:  https://www.usa.gov/volunteer

There are hundreds of opportunities out there, you just have to set aside time to do them.  I suggest that you bring your children to physically participate rather than just write a check, although checks certainly have their place!  Children however (and dare I say, some adults) need hands on experience. There is something to be said about the sense of pride and accomplishment you feel after a good job well done.

This past weekend, we spent our Sunday, cleaning up and restoring a plot of land at our schools garden. The weather was awesome, not too hot, not too cold, even a few butterflies still flitted around. The girls got their hands dirty clearing weeds, debris and spreading out mulch.  I believe even a few callouses were to be had! Later they both told me how good that this made their hearts feel.  Which made my heart swell with pride.

Even if we can’t control the bigger picture, we sure can control that what is directly around us in a more positive light.

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To Ourselves

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During this time and of course with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season approaching.  Yes, yes, we are Pagan but even so, whether you celebrate Yule, Christmas, Hanuka (anything else I’m forgetting) or nothing at all, you’re still going to be subject to the 24-7 bombardment of merriment.  It’s everywhere! Buy now! Black November! Newest Kids toy! Most wanted! On SALE!

Ugh that stressed me out just typing that.

So during this time have compassion for YOURSELF.

Take time for you.  I know that we’ve all heard that before, and it seems impossible or guilt ridden, but do it.  Give yourself permission to step outside the stream of craziness.  Breathe. Write in your journals, participate in more ceremony, rituals and alter work, if those are your things.

Personally I’ve promised to myself to write more in my journal. It’s something I was slacking on during the past few months due to the business of life getting in my way.

Alter work and journaling, heck just sitting in stillness are my jams. They really calm my soul to be able to think in spiritual ways, the Gods, the Goddesses and intentional thinking, spell work.

So hang in there folks. Keep being kind. Teach your children to be kind. Teach them to reject the other stuff.  Teach them to be strong in this adversity, and stay safe.

Many blessings.

C.P.

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Suburban Samhain

Samhain

 

About 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter.) Even our modern day clocks “fall back” the following weekend after Samhain.  However Samhain is more than just a split of our year. Samhain is one of the most important holidays of the year if not the most important for many Pagans.  This is the when the thinning of the veils happens, when the separation between the living realm and the spirit realm grows weak.  Missing a loved one or want to reach out to an ancestor in your distant past?

Samhain is the perfect time to reach out and making your connection.

Besides honoring your ancestors, now is also the time ward your home from unwanted spirits or intentions.  In the past, people wore masks and costumes to scare off these sorts of things, now we wear costumes for fun! This is a great way to easily incorporate children into process.  While they are enjoying dressing up for Trick or Treating, you can remind them of the original reason people once had for wearing costumes.

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Another way to help ward your house from any ill will is to plant or keep rosemary near your door.  Rosemary has long been associated with protection of ones physical and spiritual world.  It’s purification properties make it ideal to drive away any negative energy. As a bonus it smells great!  Wrap a few sprigs up with orange ribbon and be festive with it!

In addition to our modern day Trick or Treat costume tradition, the simple act of handing out candy and treats also hearkens back to the days of old.  As part of honoring our ancestors offering food for those who have gone beyond or offering food to those less fortunate than ourselves, we are bringing good fortune to our family and community.

Campfire

Lastly if possible, build a fire or if you have no place to set a bonfire such as a fire pit, use some candles instead.  Light the darkness and guide the good spirits and your ancestors to the flame.  This is when you can tell stories of loved ones and friends who are on the other side.  Make offerings of food and drink. Toast to them! Include your little ones. Tell them your best memories of time spent with their ancestors.  Let them ask questions. My girls are fond of talking to their great grandparents whom they have never even met! I encourage them to share things from their lives with them.  It is always a positive experience for us all.

So this Halloween night, build a big fire, gather around your love ones, make a toast to those who’ve gone before us, dress up and scare away the bad spirits and hand out candy and treats to all you meet.  Celebrate!

 

Blessings and Skol my fellow Suburban Pagans!

What is the Suburban Pagan Family?

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That’s a great question!

Paganism today is so different from the Paganism of 100 years ago.  You will not find most pagans today with ratty robes, warts on their noses, putting eye of newt in a bubbling black cauldron.  In my home, we don’t stuff children in ovens, we stuff fresh bread dough in them! Bread dough that was kneaded by little hands and created with love and thankfulness stirred in.

In the average pagan home, you will find some trappings of the old world and the new. Sunlight plants on a windowsill, glittering crystals and smokey incense (or a misty diffuser!) thoughtfully arranged on a kitchen counter or perhaps bright colorful fabrics and beautiful statues of Gods and Goddess.  Maybe there are soft furs draped across sofa backs and tall drinking horns full of mead. How about an ornate wheel of the year hanging prominently on the wall next to the family portraits?

What if this house was in a densely packed neighborhood?

This is some of what is Paganism today.  This is my kind of Paganism.

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The above example describes my home. The home where I raise and live with my family. It’s complicated and chaotic. It’s peaceful and moving and yes, sometimes difficult and sad.  It is the average family, in an average town in your average neighborhood.  We don’t live in some dark hollow (though I admit that would be nice sometimes!) We interact with our neighbors on a daily basis.  Our children play with all the neighborhood kids.  We host dinners on occasion and enjoy going out on the weekends to hike or visit fun “nerdy” conventions.

Do we stand out in our neighborhood? Yes sometimes we do.  We are in the deep south. I’m in an interracial marriage and instead of a Jesus fish bumper sticker or church logo, my mom issued minivan sports Goddess and Odin ones! Ha!  Sometimes I catch people giving me the strangest looks from my rear view mirror.

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We are also rabid animal and nature lovers.  Well at least I am, my husband takes a more conservative role behind the scenes. I am out front, leading the charge, teaching my children that they should stand up for what they believe in.  Whether it be saving the old trees at the park or their religious freedom.

Generally speaking however, our lives are very tame and no different than our more mainstream neighbors. We celebrate almost all the same holidays even if we call them by different names. We have more Gods and Goddesses to embrace and seek guidance. We believe in magic, both real and implied. I teach my children to honor their ancestors and the magical creatures that surround our home.  We roast marshmallows by the firepit  and discuss the ancient tales that have been passed down from our forefathers.

So what makes the modern pagan family? You do, your family and mine.

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