Tag Archives: kitchen witch

At Samhain We Eat the Nasty Bits

A raw turkey heart rests in the palm of my hand

A raw turkey heart rests in the palm of my hand

This morning, I finally took the liver and heart – from the turkey I roasted a few weeks ago – out of the fridge. I gave them a wash, and fried them up in butter (lots of butter) with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.

I put a slice of each on a tiny plate – technically I think it’s for putting spent teabags on, but here we are – and put the plate on my altar. Blew kisses to my People.

On Samhain we eat the Nasty Bits.

Or at least I’m trying this out, this year, and rather like the idea of keeping it up as a tradition. The heart, tongue, and one kidney of our long-ago pig (half-pig, from a local farmer who does humanely raised livestock) are finally being put to use. Being slow-cooked overnight and turned into a stew – with garden herbs and CSA veggies and cranberries and a wedge of baked squash to serve it in – for after Ritual tomorrow.

I’ve been eating turkey giblets since I was a kid. Which is one reason to be enjoying them on Samhain. I learned to cook them, to love the smell of fried liver with garlic, from my Dad, who died more than twenty years ago, when I was barely out of my teens. When I had a Chinese grocer up the street from me, I used to buy trays of chicken hearts to fry up just like this.

Our pig’s liver became fancy Liver Mousse, and when I don’t have that I use chicken livers.

I’ve been eating beef heart for years, and using it in stews and even a steak and kidney pie or two, and gods know I eat a lot of sausages.

So I’m no stranger to offal. At least not the tamer bits that you can routinely find at the grocery store.

But I’ve been squeamish about the tongue (too much like kissing? Too much like eating a piece of my own mouth?) and the heart of this pig – the heart, in particular, because it’s literally so similar to my own that the valves are interchangeable – since they arrived in my freezer order. And that was many years ago.

What foods make you squeamish? Make you stare your own mortal embodiment in the face?

I make a beet salad – a way to use up a few dark red beets, when I don’t have to worry about them staining everything else red – that I call “bowl of jewels” when I’m in mixed company, but that my wife has informed me makes her think of chunks of raw meat.

Which: Yes, actually, that’s what it’s supposed to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I make pumpkin cupcakes and baked apples. We have a giant, discounted box of mini chocolate bars sitting in the bottom of our pantry like most of our neighbours. But it’s increasingly important to me to make Samhain not just about sugar and spice, when it comes to food.

To be able to say “Take, this, eat this. This tongue that once tasted, as you taste it now”. To say “This heart that once beat, as your beats now”. And, okay, sure, I have no idea how to make kidney function sound profound, but you get the idea. This person, who was alive, who was killed – even if not by you, maybe especially if not by you – is keeping you alive right now. Life to death to life.

And, yeah, you can do fun things with it. Like “Whoever gets the bay leaf in their stew gets Bonus Prosperity in the coming year”. You can snap a year’s collection of wishbones and make some magic. Read the future in the guts and seeds of your jack-o-lantern or the patterns you see in kidney fat and tongue tendon.

But at the roots of this is a veil thinned by a lot of death happening at once. Every neighbourhood / village / extended-family-household slaughtering some of the herd to make sure everyone else – the humans, and the rest of the herd – have enough food to make it through the winter.

I don’t want to forget that.

W is for Witching – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Yet another post to finish off last year’s PBP.
When I say “witching”, I mean it in the [Tiffany Aching Discworld Subseries] sense of the word, rather than the “synonym for Wicca” sense of the word.
Witching means, yes, doing magic spells[1], but it also means way more than that. It means Knowing The Herbs and what to do with them – medicinally (and culinary-wise) as well as magically. It means listening more than talking, and lending an ear to people who need it. It means doing a lot of schlepping and hand-holding and toenail clipping and other stuff that is not glamourous at all for people who you may or may not actually like as people.

So. If I were to give myself a Witching report card? Okay, I’d probably give myself a C-.
I know a little bit about herbs – much of which was learned from my herbalist ex-husband, funnily enough – and the rest of which has largely come from Patricia Telesco, although I’ve made a point of getting to know the neighbours when it comes to the many uses (beyond eating them) of locally available urban-scrub and “ornamental” trees. There’s a lot (understatement) yet for me to learn, I’m very much still just scratching the surface, but I’m there.
I’m… mediocre at lending a hand. To paraphrase Tiffany: I’m “okay when it comes to the occasional extra meal”, or maybe making sure my event venue is wheelchair/mobility-troubles accessible, but not so much when it comes to things like, say, other people’s health care & hygene. The number of times I’ve dealt with a bedpan or similar approaches zero[2].
But man do I ever suck at listening.
Half the time, when I offer an ear, I wonder if I’m really just prying and being nosey, or else wanting an opportunity to play amateur-shrink with my friends. I’ve been known to run right the hell away from information I’ve been asked to hold and help process[3]. I get impatient with people who seem to keep having the same problems without learning from them[4], and it shows.
So this year (2013) I’m trying to do better at that. To be a better friend to my People, to be more aware of what people need (and don’t need) to hear or have a hand with[5], to not make an excuse and bustle off when it’s obvious someone is lonely and needs to chat and I do have the time to listen to them (for a little while).
Wish me luck!
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] Sorry, kids, but in my world “witch” means “spell-crafter” at least as much as anything else.
[2] And I’m rather okay with that, actually.
[3] By people I’ve offered to listen to, I should add. Backing off of that stuff when someone’s putting it on you uninvited is allowed. At least I think so.
[4] In and of itself isn’t such a problem – agian with the boundaries – but letting the impatience show is not so good.
[5] To not put my foot in my mouth, essentially.

Witching – The Soul and Centre of It

So… I’ve been busy. (YAY!) With paying work (YAY!) including a commision from an Etsy customer and a heap of modeling work (that’s gone from one week to three — huzzah!) It’s been a good day.
I’ve also started work on a vegan stew for someone I know, who is dying.
Not so good.
This is a thing about witchcraft that I tend not to hear about much in Ye Olde Blogosphere. It’s a thing that I’m not that good at, but am striving to do better. It’s a thing that my wife does without a second thought.
A big part of Witching – in the Terry Pratchett sense[1] – is being a community care-taker. I frequently suck at being a community care-taker. This thing, where I’m contributing to the meals of someone I know, is one step towards ammending that situation.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series (see here, here, here, and here, if you want them) does a remarkably good job of articulating my personal witch-crafty worldview. You could do worse than checking them out, if you take my meaning.

Hearth and Home and Resistance to Change

So Ghost and I are, by the looks of things, going to get a new apartment. It’s in the same building, just on a different floor and with more space and (by the looks of things) fewer problems. For a good price that we can afford, no less.
You’d think I’d be more excited.
However. I am, despite my Maaka’s best efforts, still fairly resistant to change.
Then again, maybe that’s why we got an affordable two-bedroom apartment in our current building rather than, say, halfway across town.
So, let me put it another way. I’m grateful that our new place fell into our laps the way it did. I’m grateful that it’s close, that it won’t mean boxing things up so much as just carrying them down a few flights of stairs (or, more accurately, elevatoring them down a few floors). We don’t even need to put on coats to do this move.
Which is amazing.
And the added space is amazing.
The potential for a work-room and a storage-closet and (by that token) a living-room that isn’t over-stuffed with work-room-related and occasional-use things is AMAZING.
And yet that doesn’t mean I won’t miss this place, this set of rooms where I came into my own, where I became an Adult – for real – for probably the first time in my life.
I cried a little bit when I gave my boiling water offering today, told my house what a good house it’s been and said Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! for all its given me and been to me.
We don’t even have the new lease signed yet. There’s still bits of Paperwork to be filled out, a little bit of money to change hands, but it’s pretty close to being a done deal.
I’m happy and excited about what we’re gaining in this move. But the sunris, the container garden, the daylight, the balcony, the moonrise, the airiness, the light… Don’t think I don’t sorrow over what we’re leaving behind.
Thank you my house, who is a good house. Thank you for being my shelter.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

I is for Incense – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Okay, this is a bit of an easy target, but here goes. I is for Incense. I’m sure you’re familiar with the image of the jewelry-bedecked, incense-wreathed Modern (and often very new) Witch. Terry Pratchett has a lot of fun with this image, although I do kind of wonder if it’s still accurate. (See, for example, Miss Sugar’s post where, apparently, they’re all hipsters now? So maybe less with the silver jewelery than when I was a whipper-snapper).
But anyway.
Incense. It’s a great way to energetically clean your house, and I try to do it at least every six weeks or so, plus whenever things are feeling kind of tense and gross and in need of a quick sweep. (Miss Sugar – who I’m apparently internet-stalking today – says that when you can’t physically clean your house, giving it an energetic scrub will go a long way. This seems to be the case, in my experience, so let’s go with it).
The trick with incense is that, well, you burn it. So if you’ve got a particularly sensitive smoke detector, pets with small lungs[1], or are having some respiratory difficulties[2], filling your house with smoke may not be the best plan.
That said, I find that wandering around the place with a burning incense stick, wafting it into all the nooks and crannies, framing my doors, windows, mirrors, drains, and faucets with it and drawing Xs over them with it, while muttering protective incantations (I tend to go with “only love may enter here” because it’s quick, easy, and to-the-point. You may want to use something else).
Now, being a crafty type, something I would like to try is Making My Own Incense.
Big shock.
And I like the idea of making specifically incense cones because they don’t take up much space, you can burn them in a tart-pan if you want to, and – while getting them to stay upright as you wave them around, smoking your house, is a little difficult (maybe I can use some kind of goo/gum to make that happen?), they are generally easier to clean up after than both incense sticks and foil-wrapped bundles of dried herbs. Plus you don’t need to invest in those little charcoal tablets, either, which is handy.
I found the following video tutorial on Youtube:

But, of course, this brings up some questions. Questions like: Do I have to use Makko powder? Really? Can I just use, like, very fine (cedar or other) sawdust, or some kind of flour, instead? You’re basically looking for something that burs evenly and sticks together after it gets a bit wet, right?

This other tutorial – which I can’t embed and which is 17 minutes long (the How To part is actually only about two or three minutes long, starting at minute 13) and talks you through a specific incense – has a different way of doing things that doesn’t call for makko, but does call for a big heap of salt (or sand or what-have-you), a receptical, and a rolled up paper tube. (It’s also about using what you’ve got in your spice cupboard, which – kitchen witch that I am – I rather like).

So that’s a place to start.

I like the idea of making my own incense, mostly because I like to make things in general, but also because it does let me (a) use what I actually have available in my kitchen and/or what I have available as far as what-all’s growing in the neighbourhood, and (b) can taylor my incense to what I want it to do. (I have incense sticks in “purification” but I have no idea what the Active Ingredients in this one are, I’m just kind of taking them on faith, so to speak). So it would be nice to make my own.

Anywhoo. That’s my chatter on incense, one of its uses, and my desire to make some of my own. YAY!

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] And by “small”, I mean “smaller than a very small parrot’s”, because we’ve got a Senegal, and she does just fine, even with incense burning right beside her… though she does tend to make the Smoke Detector noise when we do that.

[2] Like the ones I’m having right now.

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.

Speaking of Pagan Alphabets…

I found this over on Itchy Witch. I think it’s faboo.

B is for Bottle Spells – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Before I identified as a “pagan” or a “neo-pagan” or an “animist” or as “goddess practitioner” or any of the other categories I’ve applied to myself over the years, I identified as a Witch. Not, I add emphatically, as a Wiccan. I don’t think I ever was a Wiccan. But a witch? You bet.
And I defined “witch”, in significant (though not entire) part, as “someone who casts spells; someone who does spell-craft”.

And the spells I do, when I do them, are very much the magical counterpart to my method of cooking. Meaning “What do I have in the fridge?” – although, in the case of spell-craft, it becomes “what do I have in the fridge/cupboard/yarn-bag/beading-kit/etc”. But you get the general idea.

I’ve done magical guerilla knitting (still in progress), and I’ve done wammy-sachets (ages ago), and I’ve done bottle spells. And, by the looks of things, I’m actually kind of good at bottle spells.

Now, I grant you, I’ve only made, like, two of them, and they’ve both been honey-pots. But I’ve made them, and they seem to do the trick.

As far as I understand it, a bottle spell works on either attraction or repulsion.
So if, say, someone in my office[1] is a Horrible Person who goes in for passive aggression, sabotage, malicious gossip[2], or even just eating up your time in a way that is fucking with my own career path, and talking to them about it is only making things worse (and/or I don’t want to waste any more breath on them)…
I could grab some of their hair[4] from off the back of their office chair while they were out of their cubical and either (A) do a honey-pot spell to bring them their dream job[5] OR, (B) I could do a banishing bottle to get them to go the fuck away[6]. Alternatively, I could (C) do a spell on my own cubical and basically work a “don’t look here[7]”… though I’m less sure as to how to do that (I think it involves amaranth and shielding, but I could be wrong) OR (D) make a honey pot for myself (using my own hair, which is easier to get ahold of) and get ME my dream job Somewhere Else[8] the hell away from my irritating and malicious co-worker.

Lots of options.

I like bottle spells.
I like them because they’re simple to do and you can do them on the fly, largely with whatever’s lying around.
Like most kitchen-magic, they’re basically designed be done when they’re needed, rather than having to wait for the appropriate moon phase or planetary alignment. (Shoaling notwithstanding, I’m not at all a Chaos Magician or any of the other designations found at (what I think is) the more ceremonial end of the spectrum).
I like them because they suit my temperament well.

Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] I don’t actually work at an office, so I figure this is a safe example since my non-existent co-workers are likely to freak out about what I’m theoretically up to.

[2] I differentiate between “gossip” – which gets a bad rap specifically because it’s a mode of information-sharing that isn’t controlled by The Powers That Be[3], but is actually just fine – and “malicious gossip” which is, like, character assassination, tattling, and the kind of triangulation where the point is to break up alliances.

[3] Who gets accused of gossip? Women. Poor people. Mexicans. See what I mean?

[4] Yes, I said “get some of their hair”. By nefarious and secretive means, no less. Deal.

[5] Somewhere else – possibly by including a small map of Argentina or something.

[6] Depending on what I put in the bottle, I could probably get them badly hurt, but I’d rather not have that on my hands, so… “away”.

[7] Why, yes, I do read the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. How did you know?

[8] Like, say, a writing career featuring magic, recipes, polyamoury, and kink…

Birch Leaf Tea

So. While I’m on the subject of local trees coming into bloom, I figured I’d make a note of this stuff. See, way the hell back in August, I did a post about Birch trees. This is something of a follow-up. If “Lady of the Woods” talked about the symbolism of the birch tree, this post is about the medicinal properties of the leaves.

Birch Leaf tea — as in an infusion/tisane of steeped birch leaves — is good for the following:
Breaking up small kidney stones
Blood-thining (like willow bark?)
Relieving bladder and kidney infections
Relieving (mild) insomnia
Breaks down uric acid (which causes gout)
High in Vitamin C

May also ease joint pain (arthritis and rheumatism)
May also help deal with gingivitis(??)

Birch leaves can also be tossed in the bath – or (easier, requires fewer leaves) steeped as an astringent – to help clear up skin problems like eczema and acne
May also help to heal bruises and abraisions (when you mince up the leaves and make a poultice out of them)


How to prepare:
0.5 tbsp DRIED birch leaves in 1C boiling water
Steep for 15 minutes
Drink (up to four times a day)


5-6 fresh YOUNG (small) birch leaves in 1C boiling water
Steep for 10 minutes
Drink (up to four times a day)

Why “young” leaves? Because the bigger/older they get, the more bitter they are.
NOTE: Birch tea is a diuretic — which means you need to up your water intake to prevent dehydration if you’re drinking a heap fo birch tea.

Where my information came from: Dig Herbs and Anita Karlson‘s blog. With some help from an online conversion table. 🙂

Returning to Root Time

It’s that time of year again.
We’ve passed the threshold and are now moving deeper in to the “root” side of the year. We got our first snow (didn’t stick around, but just wait for it) yesterday, no less.

When I say “Root Time”, I mean it in a couple of different ways. I mean, on the one hand, we’re going to be eating a lot of root veggies for the next six months – bring on the beets, celeriac[1], heimischer[2], sunchokes, and salsify[3] – so there’s that.

But it’s also the time of year when we, like the perennials and the bears, hunker down, live off our stores, and turn inward towards our dreams.

Winter is a great time for planning, rehashing, and taking stock.

What do you have left to do as we head towards Winter Solstice and secular New Year’s? What have you accomplished, harvested, and put by over the course of the expansive, fruitful time we’ve just been through?

I’ve increased the number of clients, and frequency of gigs, I have as a model; published a poem (only one, but still); collared my partner and started making a home with her; brought a nationally renowned award-winning author to the stage of my poetry show; learned how to make pickles, jelly, cranberry curd, and chutney; made a functioning Honey Pot; and gotten better at reading tarot cards.

What about you? 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Celery root (om nom nom)

[2] Parsley root (looks like a really pale parsnip, tastes… nutty?)

[3] Looks like a black carrot, tastes a bit like oysters. Who knew?