Daily Archives: July 23, 2012

D is for Dabbling – Pagan Blog Project 2012

In the interest of giving you a break from 24/7 canning recipes, I thought I’d do another Pagan Blog Project entry.

D is for Dabbling

I went with this one because, as evidenced by this blog, I am Not Hard Core.

A lot of the pagan blogs I read are written by professional witches – folks whose art and livelihood are directly related to their Craft and their Spirt Work in one way or another – and I’m surrounded by Pagans who go to annual fests, who help to prepare the festival land, who attend, even run, regular cremonies and services…

I don’t do any of that stuff.

At least not much.

I make candles with an eye to environmentalism (no parafin, no plastic) and, if I’m scenting them, I use combinations that work towards a particular end goal (like my Happy Home candles that use vanilla, sweet orange, and cloves to pull in joy, romance, good sex, and the odd bit of extra cash).

I make soap with similar intentions.

I do divination.

I make a point of getting to know the plants (domestic, feral[1], and wild) in my neighbourhood and, in-so-far as I can, how to use them for different things.

But I don’t do Ritual. I don’t do Spirit Work beyond chatting up my deities and ancestors every now and then and recognizing who’s in and around my house. And I feel like this makes me a dabbler – someone who isn’t really Serious about their religion/Craft/practice.

And, to be honest, it irritates the hell out of me that I feel this way.
Maybe it’s the We’re All Priestesses thing – you know the one. The one where, because Pagans don’t need no clergy to act as a go-between and tell us what the gods are saying… it means we’re ALL supposed to priests, priestesses, and general officiants in the religious ceremonies and rituals we hold.
So if you’re not HPing it on some hill somewhere every full moon, or life-hacking the Universe on your morning comute, then you’re clearly Doin’ It Rong.

Or something.

The essay I linked to, above, talks about how a lot of Neo-Pagan folks are dabblers – a little of this, a little of that – and I’m not totally sure what that means: Is it that a lot of Pagans are somewhere between ‘Eclectic Wiccan’ and ‘Seeker with a bit more focus than usual’ … or does it mean that a lot of Pagans grew up in fairly secular-humanist homes, learning the periodic table of the elements at school, and don’t have umpteen generations of enchanted world view[2] standing, uninterrupted, directly behind us[3] telling us that, yes, sure, things are made from carbon and iron and such-like… But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to go raiding the rowan up the street to make jelly, or that it’s not a good idea to bless the house under your breath at your comings and goings.

The reality is that I think most religious people are “dabblers”.
Most of us aren’t called to religious service – even if “religious service” includes things like being a spirit-worker or an edge-walker[4], rather than a religious ceremonialist (priest/ess) or a minister (religious-based counselor; community leader and help-meet) – in any significant/serious way. Rather we celebrate the feast days, take in the occasional religious service (some of us more frequently than others), and generally have our day-to-day understanding of the world informed by the Cosmology and Axiology of our (however-nominal) faiths.

And that isn’t a bad thing… most of the time.

I know, I know. The whole point of this immanent thealogy stuff is that the gods aren’t distant and unknowable, holiness is everywhere, Goddess is Alive (Magic is Afoot), and all that jazz.
And yet, if all that’s the case – and, yeah, my own experience says that it is – then why Ritual? Why the hierarchy?

Of course I know the answer to that. We all know the answer to that.
In a faith-umbrella made up significantly of socially-awkward people who Never Fit In, whose weapon of choice has, for generations, been vocabulary, “titles are like tits” and having one is a way of saying “I take this seriously (so you need to take me seriously, too)”.

…And part of me is drawn to it for that reason.
For the “take me seriously” reason.
Part of me wants to know what herbs to use, and how to use them safely and accurately and well, in order to cure a sore throat, regulate someone’s period, calm an upset GI track, and similar… not just because it’s damn good stuff to know, but because I want people to turn to me for that kind of information (and, hand-in-hand with that, because I want to actually be able to give them reliable, safe information if they ask).

And that’s fame. That’s pride. That’s prestige.
And part of me wants that.

But, as the witchvox article said, is that really what I want? Not “Do you wanna be well-known and respected” (because, duh), but “Do you wanna have to deal with people doing the same stupid crap over and over and over again because they don’t like what you’re telling them”.

Chez nous, I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series, aloud, to my girlfriend. We’ve just finished Wee Free Men, and are about to start in on A Hat Full of Sky.
I love these books for how well they articulate my own worldview. I wind up sobbing about it every time I read them (which can be a bit of a problem when you’re reading them out loud, I don’t mind telling you). However – as far as relevance to this post goes – one thing that comes up pretty significantly in Hat Full of Sky is the fact that the vast majority of Witching is, basically, doing the clean-up; being Mommy for a population of squabbling, needy people who only listen to you because they find you slightly scary.
And that’s a thankless job if ever there was one, no matter how full your draw-string bag gets on baking day.

So… yeah. I’m a dabbler.
I don’t automatically reach for my sigil pen (or an empty jar and the hairbrush, as is more likely to happen in my case) when something weird is going on or I need a little extra help with something… but I don’t ignore those options, either.
I bless my house and make offerings to my gods and ancestors and everyone… but in a fairly haphazzard way.
I talk to my garden and give it encouragement… but don’t pray over it for an hour when I do the planting.
I don’t walk the edges of the world. I walk the neighbourhood and get to know what’s there.

So be it. That’s what I am.

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Garden escapees, plants like dandelions, plantain, yarrow, and daylilies (among zillions of others) that were brought over and planted by settleres and aren’t native to the area.

[2] Enchanted “hearth spirits” or Enchanted “saints and guardian angels” or Enchanted “little people roaming at large” or whatever. Pick your favourite.

[3] And those of us who do – I’m thinking Quebec – aren’t necessarily looking at it too closely because it’s still “what [your] backwards, hyper-Catholic great aunt did”… It’s too close for a self-conscious NeoPagan to be comfortable with (or so I hear from the few folks I know who are looking into this stuff).

[4] When I say “edge-walker” I mean people who help the passage between “human-alive” and “human-not-alive”, more than anything else. People who are pulled to the sides of the dying and/or who get chatted at by ghosts with something they need to say, but also those who are called to be midwives and doulas, who know how to do herbal birth control, abortion, and so on, who help folks bring (or not bring) other people into the world.

The Parade of Peaches Continues (Peach Butter Recipe)

I have just started the peach butter.

Peaches aren’t exactly local to Ottawa. We’ve got plums and pears for sure, but peaches aren’t nearly cold-hardy enough to pop up regularly. (Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Reliance or maybe (maybe) a Harrow Beauty – or a Harcot or Goldcot appricot tree, for that matter – growing in a sheltered back yard somewhere around here).
None the less, they are very, very prevalent in Niagara and so I’ve been taking advantage of their being shipped into the rest of the province just now.

I didn’t make much of anything with peaches last year (well, that’s not quite true…) and I was more than a little sad about it. Plus, honestly, I love mangoes to bits and find that peaches, apricots, and nectarines can all, to some degree or other, be substituted for mango in recipes that I’m trying to make more local-foody.
Thense my recent Tomato-Peach salsa (I like the peach-mango salsa from PC, and I thought I’d try making something along those lines of my own) and the spicy peach-apricot chutney (inspired by variou mango chutneys I’ve enjoyed in the past) that I made last year.

The peach butter that I’m making today, however, is like yesterday’s Balsamic Peach pickles: Purely done in the interest of making something deliciously peachy so that when winter hits we’ve got a taste of summer to serve up.
(I actually have a little bit of the pickling solution left over from the peach pickles, and I think it’s going to be a glaze for some pork sausages or something. It’s way too tasty to pass up. 😉

So. Peach Butter.

Like apple butter (and pear butter and even tomato butter, which I’m sorely tempted to try), Peach Butter is somewhere between “jam” and “sauce”. It has a much lower sugar content[1] than jam – rather than 1:1, it’s somewhat closer to… 1:8 (or even 1:12) sugar to fruit. (I based my sugar:fruit ratio on this recipe from Food In Jars, by the way). If you’re avoiding processed sugars, fruit butters can be a good way to go, and they’re thick-and-sticky enough that they can work as a binder (sort of) in vegan recipes.

I’m making my peach butter in a crock pot – because I can just set it up, leave the lid a bit askew to let the steam escape, and let it do its thing without worrying about anything scorching – and expect to get about 3C of butter from 6C pureed peaches by the end of the day.

My recipe for Peach Butter is as follows:


Peach Butter


6 C purreed peaches[2] (pitted, but peels included)
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C pear cider vinegar (any mild vinegar will do, mind you)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract (amaretto, bourbon, dark rum, or tripple sec would work here, as well)
1/2 tsp each: nutmeg, ginger
Pinch salt


1) Pit and dice the peaches
2) Throw them in a food processor if you want a particularly smooth butter (which I do)
3) Once you have six cups of purree, throw the peaches, and all the other ingredients, into a slow cooker
4) Stir briefly (until well-mixed)
5) Plug in the slow-cooker and set it on “low”, leaving the lid slightly askew (or propped open with a wooden spoon) to allow the steam to escape
6) Let it do its thing for 8-12 hours
7) Use a drink-mixer (hand-blender, imersion blender, whatever you want to call it) to further purree the butter once it’s cooked
8) Sterilize your jars (I am using three 1C jars) in a steam bath
9) Scoop the butter into the sterlized jars using a wide-mouth funnel
10) Process, upside down, in a boiling-water/steam bath for 20 minutes[3]


You can serve this stuff on toast or crepes, mix it into yoghurt for a simple breakfast/snack, bake it into coffee cake, layer it with custard in a trifle… or you can spread it over chicken with a little black pepper (as a savoury rub for the BBQ), offer it as a dip/spread with a cheese plate, or throw it into a crock pot with a few other goodies (fresh chopped tomatoes, a fig compote, whatever) in order to add flavour (and fruit/veggies) to pulled pork or some other slow-cooked delicacy.

And there you have it.

Tomorrow, I’m going to try making apple butter using the fallen apples from two local trees – one around the corner from me (probably a relative of McIntosh, going by the colour if nothing else) and one from up in the Glebe near Fifth Avenue (round, yellow apples, no idea what variety). I’ll be using basically the same recipe as I used for the peach butter, but may include a full 1/4 C of maple syrup and will be using cinamon and cloves for the spices. Come October, I’ll probably do the same thing with pumpkin, just to see if I can. 😉

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] While you boil the liquid off, which means the concentration of fruit sugar goes up as it cook, I still took a bit of a precaution and added a quarter cup of pear-cider vinegar to my mix in the interest of lowering the pH a little.

[2] Which is about… 12-15 large peaches… I used 8 small peaches and 8 large peaches, which is what I had available.

[3] Butter needs to be processed for a lot longer than jam – probably because of the higher pH (though I’m guessing on that one).