Tag Archives: paganism

Chocolate-Pumpkin Coffee Cake (No Eggs)

So, it’s Beltane. I’m out of eggs. And bread. And company is coming for dinner tonight.
Thank goodness I’m home today. πŸ™‚
 
I mean, okay, yes, technically it’s May First, and even if I’d been doing the Eat From the Larder Challenge this year (I didn’t), it would be fine for me to skip out and get some groceries, it’s cold and rainy and I Don’t Wanna.
 
So I went hunting on The Internet for vegan coffee cakes that I could mess around with, in order to make an easy dessert that I could adapt to feature sour-milk (or kefir, in my case, since I have an over-abundance of the stuff – oh, darn) but that would hold together without any eggs, and without my having to macgyver an egg-substitute out of peanut butter or similar. The below recipe draws heavily on this Chocolate Pecan Cranberry Coffee Cake which, itself, looks really lovely.
Here’s what I came up with, using the above-linked recipe as a starting point:
 
~*~
 
Chocolate-Pumpkin Coffee Cake
 
INGREDIENTS
 
ΒΌ C margarine
1 C pumpkin butter (or other fruit butter)
1 C kefir (you can sub with: sour milk, yoghurt, whey, vegan “milk” with some vinegar in it… whatever’s around)
1 tbsp vanilla
Β½ C granulated sugar
+
2 C flour
ΒΌ C cocoa
1Β½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Β½ tsp salt
+
Β½ C chocolate chips
Β½ C dried cranberries
ΒΌ C crumbled walnuts
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
1) Preheat the oven to 350F
2) Grease a 9″x9″ cake pan
3) Mix the first group of ingredients together in a big bowl
4) Add the second group of ingredients and blend (you can use a fork for this) until smooth
5) Add the third group of ingredients and mix (lightly) until well-distributed[1]
6) Scrap the batter into the cake pan (it will fluff up really fast)
7) Bake for 1 hour OR until it smells done and can pass the fork test[2]
8) Allow to cool (and set) for a few minutes before cutting into squares and serving
 
~*~
 
So there you have it.
I like to make coffee cakes using fruit butter in place of at least some of the sugar. Partly because it makes things slightly less overpoweringly sweet, but mostly because it makes for a velvetier, moister crumb (AKA: helps keep a cake with dried fruit in it from being Too Dry) while also letting me stuff some extra Plant Stuff into our eating. πŸ™‚ Plus it helps act as a binder, which mitigates the No Eggs situation.
 
As a side note, I can’t help smiling a little that the pumpkin butter I made at Samhain is being baked into the cake I’m making on Beltane. Hello, Year Gate, nice to see you again. πŸ™‚
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] It’s May Day, after all – Fair Distribution Of The Tasty Bits! πŸ˜€
 
[2] NOTE: When I say “bake for 1 hour”, I mean “That other recipe says ‘bake for 1 hour’, and so this SHOULD work fine, but my cake is still in the oven, so we’ll see if this works”. Thence: Fork Test + Use Your Nose. Always good to have more than one way to tell. But I’m assuming that it will take about an hour.

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Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance

Hey, Pagans, Heathens, Druids, Goddess-Spiritualists, Witchy-Woo Folks, and others who practice earth-centered religions/spirituality, ancestor veneration, and/or polytheism in Canada:

Please go and take a gander at the Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance. You may wish to sign it yourself, as an individual or as a representative of your particular faith group, circle, kindred, grove, coven, or other congregation.

Thanks,
Meliad.

New Moon – Long Nights Moon Begins (…So Keep on Asking!)

Sick. That’s where I’m at right now. Sick, probably about to start bleeding (if my emotional state is any indication), and feeling like I’m not getting enough done. My head is swirling with all the Things that I need To Do, all the prep for the annual Winter Solstice Partay (baking, cleaning, decorating, making multiple batches of candles), all the knitting (presents for various out-of-town folks), sewing, mending that’s been piling up. I’m dreaming up a massage balm for joint & muscle pain relief (juniper, pine, clary sage, rosemary – a powerful blend when it comes to shooing away nightmares and calming anxiety, too, handy that – maybe why myrrh as a bass note) that should help my wife and, with any luck, a friend in Toronto, too.
 
I’m (still) really enjoying making multi-purpose goodies. Massage balms that help with body pain, but also do some psych work at the same time, or that have aphrodesiac properties mingled with magical traits that make for joyful romances while calming down any feelings of jealousy or insecurity. Beeswax offering candles scented & charged for a particular purpose. That kind of thing. I gleefully threw some money at the Next World Tarot Deck in order to fund its creation and pre-order my deck (I love my Zen Tarot, but this is also glorious, and I want it to exist. In my house, even. Even if her vision of The Chariot reads like The High Priestess to me).
 
I feel like crap, to be honest. My voice is a wreck, I can’t breathe through my nose, and I haven’t been able to kiss my wife on the mouth since some time last week (see: sick). On top of that, I wound up crying my eyes out this morning, ostensibly because of a Thing my wife read to me on facebook (about the value of little birds – literally, like budgies and parotlets and such-like – as individuals), but actually because my brain had been running in circles around all the usual things that it runs in circles around (“Does she love me, and actually want to date me, or is she just faking it in order to get free therapy and secretarial services?” and “What if me People only want me around when I’m amiable and able to take care of them, but not when I’m an emotional wreck and need them to take care of me??”) You know. Anything and everything that can boil down to the horrible fear/belief that “They only like you ’cause you give them stuff”.
Come on, brain, you know better than to believe what your 12-year-old brother said, 20 years ago.
 
Partially because of this crappy mood, and partially because I’m all tarot-excited because of the new deck that will, some day, one day, wing its way to my door, I gave myself a grand cross reading, asking “What do I need?”
 
~*~
 
Fell out of the deck: 6 of Earth.
This is the “check in” card. It’s a card that says “got your back” and “we rely on each other”. It’s a card about security and interdependence (rather than co-dependence OR “gotta do everything myself ’cause nobody’s gonna take care of me” Independence – which is interesting given both my Querant card and my Overarching Influences cards).
 
Querant: King of Air.
This is Lord Domly Dom. The feeling that one must, must, must get EVERYTHING Right, that one has to put up an infalible front, even when one has no idea what one is doing.
 
Situation: Queen of Earth.
I love this card. She’s all about Coming Into Your Own, about being solid (as in certain, but also as in reliable). In this position, she’s all “Honey, everything is fine. I know you’re feeling shaken up right now, but look around you. Stop listening to your Jerk Brain, and remind yourself just how much you actually have. You have a lot.” She is the Mama Self from last New Moon, and I really need to listen to her, especially since my Situational Cross is the 10 of Earth – meaning that, regardless of what my Jerk Brain is telling me, I’ve got a lot of love (and a lot of food, and a lot of cash, and a lot of abundance in general) in my corner – and my Recognizable Influences card is the 9 of Earth: a reminder that what I need is ready and waiting and available, but I’ve got to use my words (and deeds) to access it. (See how that also connects to the Fell Out of the Deck card about needing to check in?)
 
Hidden Influences: 7 of Major Arcana.
Get up, wake up, it’s time to get moving! This is about maintaining focus in order to achieve your goals, and is a call to be brave, bold, and resolute (even though it’s scary – did I mention that I read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic a couple of weeks ago? She says “listen to your curiosity, rather than your fear”, and it’s relevant advice in this context). Self-assertion (using your words – oh look), pushing through your walls and working your will.
 
Past: Page of Earth.
It’s amazing how many Earth cards are in this reading, given that I’m dealing with an emotional, rather than physical, sublect. Amazing, but not actually surprising. My body reacts super phsyically to emotional situations. I burn through calories like an SUV when I’m scared, stressed, panicking, and can’t keep warm no matter how many blankets I heap around me, no matter how hot my skin is to my wife when she curls up with me. Safe, warm, and loved are all the same thing in my body. “Enough” – all that abundance/security stuff that the suit of Earth deals with – means “loved” as well as “fed”. I can give warm-safe-loved-fed to my people really easily, and I get a lot out of it, but it is SO hard to ask for, to say out loud that I need that stuff, too.
I think my Past card is a reference to taking a chance (especially given how afraid I am of screwing it up, now that I’ve put myself out there), and it links up pretty neatly with the “follow your curiosity” stuff attached to my Hidden Influences card.
 
This brings us to the Future: 8 of Air.
This is the Guilt card (Ha! The “listen to your fears” card, look at that!). The brain weasel card that says simultaneously “I am (need) waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much for anyone to handle” (femme prolems, amirite?) and “I am never, ever, ever going be (good) enough (to be worthy of receiving what I actually need)”. Eugh. In case you were wondering, I’m totally living in those feelings right now Ick. 😦 So I pulled a Clarification Card, and got the 2 of Earth. Which, yeah… The Two cards are all “getting the hang of this” cards. Actively calling up memories of kindness and care and consistency to use as stepping stones through the mess of my nasty neurotic cycles. Remembering how to keep my feet warm from the inside out.
 
Subjective/Up-Close View: Queen of Fire.
Woohoo! I also love this card. Like the Queen of Earth, she’s a “goal” card for me. She’s “something I would like to be” (as Lenelle Moisse says). I’m surprised to see her in this position, honestly. This slot is often a “how the querant understand the situation” card and, given The Queen of Fire’s assoications with generocity and boldness, I would have expected her to turn up in the Hopes and Fears spot (although that did net me the only other fire card in the reading, so there’s that) rather than this one. That said, when I look her up, she can apparently mean “too demanding”, “pushy”, “lacking confidence” and even “jealous” (Prime poly sin! Bad Girlfriend!) when reversed, which would definitely line up with my Guilt Feelings and my most typical insecurities, even if the card I pulled was upright[1]. So maybe it’s not so shocking that she showed up in this position.
 
Objective/Take-A-Longer-View: Ace of Earth.
Uh…? Probably has to do with the Two of Earth I pulled on my Future card. Like… maybe I’m just having some growing pains, or something?
 
Hopes and Fears: Page of Fire.
Regardless of Footnote One[1], in this position, an upright card usually means a Hope, while a reversed card usually means a Fear.
I tend to take this card at its name – Playfulness – and understand it as “don’t take things so seriously” and “actually enjoy your process” (whatever that process/journey/learning-curve is) rather than constantly fearing the “inevitable” screw-up and wrecking what you’ve got like a self-fulfilling prophecy. But… apparently there is more to this card than just that (no duh, Meliad…) Stuff like: access your courage, let yourself try new things (which directly links to my Past card, as it happens) and, tellingly, Master your internal blocks, transformation immanent. Hmm…
 
Which brings us to the Outcome card: 7 of Water (reversed, so at least this is about Me and My Brain, and not anyone outside of me…).
Augh! WTF??
Yeah. This is an “unfished business” card, but it’s “unfinished” because the querant left it that way. Procrastination, dreaming without action, wanting things but not doing what’s needed to get them. But also: Letting those shitty Jerk Brain voices tell you “how things are” rather than seeing what’s really there.
I pulled a clarification card and got – ACK! – Thunderbolt! Master your internal blocks, Transformation Immanent. I said “This is scary. Can you tell me more?” and pulled another card: Phew! The King of Water. Well, at least that transformation leads somewhere good…
I looked up the 7 of Water to see what else this card might have to say and, unexpectedly, I got messages that linked to my Querant card:
 

We admire order in all its forms and want everything to be just right. The Seven of Cups provides the balance. […] Is everything too controlled and regular? Perhaps you need to let things fall apart a little. When a rigid system breaks up, there can be a tremendous release of creativity. The man on the Seven of Cups is amazed by all the options he has.

 

[…The] reversed Seven of Cups can indicate a time when you are finally breaking through a fog of confusion and illusion to focus on your chosen goal. With resolution and purpose, you are now setting your intentions and finding solutions[…]

 
that second one, I think, maybe, links up my “Moment to Moment” (2 of Earth) clarification card, my “Longer View” (Ace of Earth) and my Hopes (Page of Fire) cards somewhat. Master your mental blocks + one step at a time + even though it hurts to grow… basically.
Eugh. Okay. Fuck. I like that interpretation better than any of the others, so I’m going to go with it and hope I’m not just lying to myself.
Right.
 
Advisor: Page of Water.
Jeebus. You notice all the Page cards in this reading? “Essense of transition”. The Page cards are all about growth and change. (I’m surprised the Wheel of Fortune didn’t show up in my spread, yeek…) The Page of Water (surprise, surprise) can be about vulnerability in relation to (in relating to) others. But it also (a) reflects the Page of Fire’s call for Self-Knowledge with a call for Self-Understanding. Know yourself, but don’t be cruel to yourself, give yourself some compassion at this time. It likewise – like all the Pages, really – calls on the Querant to play, dream, and try new things. Like my Situation and Crossing cards, this one says “Honey, the door is right there. The only thing keeping you in that cage is yourself” and (like my Recognizable Influences card) tells me that I need to use my words and express my Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings, if I want to get what I need.
 
Over-Arching Influences: 4 of Earth.
Under-Lying Influences: 4 of Water.

I’m lumping these two together because, holy cats, two Fours?
The Four cards are (a) kind of your first “level up” card in the progression of the minor arcana, but also (b) linked to The Emperor, with self-mastery and breaking your own chains. As “level up” cards, they hook nicely into the three Pages that turned up in my reading, but also as “Emperor” echoes, they both have ties to the repeated call, in this spread, to break through my own bad habits and (mental/emotional) barriers, and stop getting in my own way (a message my cards gave me last New Moon, too).
That’s just taking the “4” part into consideration. The two cards juxtapose with each other in a really interesting way.
The Over-Arching Influences card is “The Miser”, the feeling that the Querant has to “go it alone” or is in a “me against the world, got no back-up” (compare this to the Card that Fell Out of the Deck, why doncha) situation. This is very, very much the feeling I’m dealing with right now. Like “as I’m typing this” right now.
The Under-Lying Influences card – rather than being the 4 of Fire (all call to connect with others) – is the 4 of Water.
The Four of Earth is an easy (and familiar) one for me to interpret. It basically lives in my brain. The Four of Water is more difficult.
In my deck – which is based on Buddhism (and as such tends to glorify detachment, um) – this card is a call to turn inwards and find (maybe fill?) the well of your own strength. It’s a self-reliance card, just like the 4 of Earth, but it’s coming from a space of calm and certainty rather than a place of fear and resentment. In other decks (and other interpretations), it means something much different: A call to count your blessings (as with my Situation and Crossing cards) and be aware of what’s available to you (as with my Advisor card). It can also be an indication that the Querant is sick and tired of the status quo – that it’s time to “get up off the nail”, as Amanda Palmer puts it in The Art of Asking and stop hurting yourself through your own in/actions. Sometimes it even echoes the Four of Earth, alluding to feelings of disillusionment or having been let down (“Nobody cares about me. It’s me against the world”) but… I would like to think that this isn’t what the card means in this spread, in this position, right now.
Given everything else in the reading, I’m inclined to interpret this card as “You need to walk yourself through this, and not let your Jerk Brain be your emotional boss, BUT in order to do that, you can’t just be all “go it alone”/”I don’t need anybody, anyway” (that will totally back-fire). You need to be aware of what’s really going on, what’s around you, WHO is around you to support you, and you need to be willing to do the one-step-at-a-time scary/healing work of asking for what you need, and what you want.”
Even when you think nobody’s available to support you.
Even when you think the people who say they’ve got your back are lying or, at best, offering support without knowing how badly, or how much, you need them (and will therefore disappear as soon you show them the depths of that need / how broken you are /etc).
 
~*~
That was actually a really helpful, articulate reading. Way easier to understand than a lot of readings I’ve done in the past six months.
 
Long Nights Moon is a time for reflection, and the dark days between the last sliver of a Balsamic waining moon and the first sliver of the New (meaning now) are a seriously good time to seak out, understand, and compost/transform the unhealthy/unhelpful patterns in one’s life.
This New Moon, in particular, is shifting from Sagittarius (with its sometimes-painful honesty and restlesness) into Capricorn: a sign that calls us us to (a) rededicate to the kind of learning/healing/developing that moves in circles and keeps popping up over and over again (you know, those Fucking Opportunities For Growth that we all love so much), but also to (b) “tighten the net” of support we use to hold each other up – meaning support for us as well as others, kids – and even to (c) move towards goals in small, acheivable steps… All of-which are things that the above spread aludes to quite a bit.
 
This was a good time to do this reading (whether I knew it, or not, when I shuffled those cards). It gave me what I needed, even if I knew parts of it already. (When the tl;dr version is “Honey, you are too insecure. Work on that!”, it can be a bit Thank You, Captain Obvious… But the more in-depth reading was a help. πŸ˜‰ )
 
Anythign weighing on your mind right now? Any brutal truths come up in the past lunar cycle that could be explored more fully while the does her Compost Thing and the Long Nights and waxing Moon give us a boost on both getting the the roots of those things and finding ways to make changes in our lives?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Although, given that this deck doesn’t do “upright” and “reversed” the way most decks seem to (reversed usually means “going on internally” rather than “involves how you related to the outside world”), so an upright position with painful indications can still happen.

Hearth, Hospitality, and Home

My fingers are ringing with the bright chill of peppermint and rosemary essential oils. There’s lavender mixed in there, too, and white vinegar, and salt. I swear, the idea was just to deoderize (ye gods) a tea towel and some of my dish cloths, but I wound up sloshing the last of it across my steps, pouring out protections just ’cause I can.
 
That’s the lovely thing about herbal magic. Generally speaking, if it’ll cure a cold or sanitize a diaper, it’ll probably also work in protection magic. That’s how it goes, right? If mint and birch will open up your lungs again, by breathing the steam or drinking the tea, then maybe hanging a bunch of them (to dry, yeah) over your threshold will keep the sickness from your door in the first place. Maybe it’ll keep other bad stuff away, too.
 
So that – along with putting the coffee on – was what I did before 8am this morning. (I know, I know, a whole heap of you folks have to be at a desk by 8am and were doing this with the sun barely over the horizon, but we run on a slightly different schedule here).
 
I’m going to spend the day (a) prepping my set list and numbering chapbooks for my show, but also (b) catching up on various house-wifely and kitchen-witchly tasks that have been needing some attention. Stuff like re-stocking my beeswax candle supply (since I’ll be lighting my altars tonight anyway), doing the laundry in the hand-crank machine, feeding & weeding the garden, patching my wife’s skirt, plus the usual daily tasks like dishes (endless dishes…) and dinner.
 

 
Maybe it’s because Mercury is (fucking finally) out of Retrograde, and the conversations are flowing more freely again, or maybe it’s because I just read S. Bear Bergman’s Blood, Marriage, Wine, and Glitter, but I’ve been thinking (and talking) a lot about hearth, hospitality, and family of late:
Talking with a friend, as I taught her to spin, about “career housewifery” and how some people are happiest and most fulfilled when their paid work is, at most, part-time and, frequently, piecework or casual hours.
Talking with my mom about both my sister’s new baby and my (and my wife’s) new, recently-relocated girlfriend and realizing that my mom is handling the reality of my polyamoury really quite well.
Understanding, more and more, how much hospitality matters to me, how much it feeds me on an emotional, heart-and-soul level, as well as how much it touches on, and overlaps with, my faith and what, in turn, that means in terms of being welcoming and offering people my spare bed to sleep on, whether or not I necessarily want to hang with them for the next 72 hours, or whatever. All that stuff from The Oddyssey, where you invite someone[1] in, feed them a really good meal, and then get around to “So, who are you, anyway?” that’s really relevant here.
 
So much of my day-to-day work/Work is… care-taking. The sheer weight of gratitude when my girfriend gets the interview, my friends (plural) come out of their surgeries safely, my brother gets to change streams, my extended fam gets to keep its reunion for another year. That my devotional candles include my gods, my ancestors, and one dedicated to “family and friends” – to my leather/glitter family close and distant. That the garden I plant, that is connected to and is-flat-out my gods (Misha, Mattaer, in particular), that connects me to my farming (and primarily maternal, though paternal too) ancestors, that I harvest with feeding The Multitude in mind, that it was built by that family (the soil, the bedframes, even some of the plants). That the garden I planted for beauty and the bees is made up almost exculsively of plants given to me by glitter-fam, wine-kin, leather-crew.
 

“Masha, my own, my littlest sister,” the matron called down. “Take this with you.”
She bit off her yarn in her teeth and tossed the red ball to Marya, who caught it and squeezed it like fruit at the market. The yarn was softer than any wool, expertly spun, thick.
“It will always lead you back, to your country, to your home. I make all my children’s stockings with the stuff, so they will know how to come home[…]”
Deathless (Catherynne M. Valente)

 
A million years ago (AKA 2004), in an entirely different house and an entirely different life, or close to it, I commented to one of my witchy friends who’d come for Summer Solstice (a week after I’d moved in) that my religion is garden-kitchen-table religion. It’s the feasting and the feeding, the communion of wine-and-weeding, weekly brunches in untidy homes because family doesn’t care about the mess; of potluck feasting and gifted jars of fruit-butter; of “I can stretch dinner for an extra person” and “Ye gods, please take this bag of zucchini/rhubarb/mint/tomatoes off my hands”. It’s the holiness, and wholeness, that are passed hand-to-hand along with the gravy, the green beans, the goodie bags. It’s the protections stirred into the soup, spun into the yarn, sewn into the patches. Every stitch to keep you safe and bring you home again.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] And, yes, there’s a bit of a “vetting process” as to whom you invite in. In the case of Ancient Greek Nobility, it was “Does he [always he] own his own his own warship? If yes, clearly he’s The Right Sort.” But it’s just as easily understood as Bear’s “shaking the queer tree” method of couch-surfing and finding couches for others to surf based on having a friend in common, wherein said friend’s existence is a tacit approval of both the person who needs the couch and the person who has one available.

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

Beltane and the full Leaf Moon have happened over the same weekend. We slept with the bedroom window open (a bit) last night, and the furnace is officially off. The garden is planted with red russian kale, various rainbow chards, fava beans, cilantro, and a couple of kinds of peas. It’s warm enough that I’m inclined to push a few squash seeds into the soil and see if they’ll wake up along with everybody else (although I think it would be wise to hold off on that for at least a week, so that the leafy greens and so-on have a head start on the Butternuts and Pumpkins that can, and will, eat every available patch of earth aforded them).
I’m excited about growing my own food, in (hopefully!) actual significant quantities, again! I’m hopeful about being able to can tomatoes and freeze greens from my own garden (as well as from the farmer’s market, but still).
I also (finally, after years of intending to do so) placed an order for half a pig. I opted for half a pig instead of the equivalent in pounds-of-meat (but including beef and chicken as well) because, frankly, it’s about $400 less expensive which, in and of itself, will make doing this again next year a LOT more possible. It still only works out to about 1.5lbs of meat (not including stuff like bones and leaf lard) per week, and I’ll be suplementing that with not-nearly-so-ethical stuff like Traditionally Raised and/or Free From goodies from the grocery store, or definitely ethical stuff like the meat at Seed To Sausage (which is actually a lot more expensive than my half-pig price per pound, but whatever – ther apple-and-sage AND their red-wine-and-garlic sausages are both outstanding, so).
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So that’s where things are at on the food front.
 
The magnolias bloomed on Beltane. I cna’t tell you how happy this makes me. πŸ˜‰
And both the lilacs and serviceberries are getting ready to go any day now. Apples, I suspect, will take a little bit longer. I have tiny flowers in my front yard (which is shady most of the day, otherwise I might have tulips blooming by now, too) and other bulbs coming up and getting (slowly) ready to bloom. I have PLANS to add morning glories, flax, phlox, columbines, and campanels, and other shade-friendly/tollerant/loving flowers – and a lot of fancy garden soil for top-dressing – to the front yard as well. πŸ™‚ That may be an activity for this afternoon. πŸ˜‰
 
I’m looking at attending this event this year. I’m a little nervous, as I’ve never done this kind of a ritual before, but it also sounds pretty far up my alley. It doesn’t quite have copies of my house keys, but it could, if you know what I’m saying. So, provided I can find transportation, I’m going to get myself registered and give this a whirl. O.O
 
Anyway. There’s bread to make, candles to (finally, eugh) light, seeds to plant, and garden beds to water (although possibly not until after 6pm on that last one – don’t need it all to evaporate on me, right?) so I’m going to skedaddle.
 
Roll on, Summer! πŸ˜€
 
 
TTFN,
Melaid the Birch Maiden.

X is for Xanthra: On Chosen Ancestors – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Xanthra Phillipa MacKay. I never met her. Surprisingly, hadn’t even heard her name until she died in February of 2014. I went in to work one morning, and, when I asked my boss how he’d spent the previous evening, he said “Mourning”. I wrote a little bit about it here. Xanthra MacKay is, among many other things, an artist, a sexworkers’ rights activist, a poet, and dead.
In so many ways, she is my ancestor.
 
And, yes, I’m using her as an example because her name starts with X. This could have just as easily been titled “W is for Wendy Babcock”, “L is for Leslie Feinberg,” “M is for Maria Callas,” “S is for Sappho,” or “N is for Nizzi[1]”. Just as we can choose our families, we can choose, or find, our ancestors as we go.
 
Del has a post on ancestors & beloved dead who are not blood-relatives, and this is, in part, whence this post of mine stems. It also stems from Kathryn Payne’s essay “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep With Women” (in Brazen Femme) wherein she asks her readers “Do you know your lineage?” and last October’s sacred desire ritual at Unholy Harvest wherein we had the opportunity to acknowledge our sex-radical forebearers – our queer and trans (and both), sexworking, and kinky chosen ancestors – our lineage.
 
My ancestors include my bio-relatives, for sure. When I burn candles for the ancestors, I burn them for the people who gave me my face, my skeleton, my skin. But I also burn them for the chosen family who came before. The sisters and grandmothers whom I never knew, but who showed me my reflection in their poetry, their stories. The aunties and uncles and cousins who put words around my queer, bloodsoaked desires and let me name them.
 
So here’s to my ancestors, the ones who bore me and the ones who brought me out.
Thinking of you always.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] A local leatherman we lost to suicide this past year.

Some Thoughts on Year Gates, Preserves, and the Rhythm of My Home

Under different circumstances, I would have done this work back in September. Instead – due to moving, for the most part – I’ve got a couple of litres of diced pears, plus about five pounds of whole tomatoes, sitting in my freezer, waiting to be processed into pear butter and roasted-garlic-balsamic tomato sauce (for which I need to get a LOT more garlic), respectively. I’ve also got four pumpkins – most, if not all, of which will first be carved into Jack-O-Lanterns before being rendered into pumpkin butter (and possibly pie…), and a pound or two of cranberries for making cranberry curd… Although those, at least, is a little closer to “normal” in terms of late-October/early-November canning. Our move is almost done, and – having unearthed my last flat of empty canning jars – I’m looking forward to spending November 1st finishing the 2014 canning extravaganza… a few months later than planned.
 
Having recently installed the Kitchen Shelf (a small bookcase that I’m using to hold soap-and-candle supplies, as well as frequently-used small appliances, large pots, AND all the preserves I’ve put up in one-cup and half-cup jars[1]), I have to say that I’m pleased with the ammount of canning I’ve done this year.
While, last year, I had an inordinate amount of apple butter (what, like… six litres of the stuff?), this year, it’s been tomato products that have been appearing most frequently. Tomato-peach salsa and regular old crushed tomatoes[2], but also a new bruschetta-in-a-jar recipe (like a chunky version of my tomato sauce, actually), and the impending sauce. I do them, primarily, in one-cup jars because cup of tomato product is plenty for a meal for 3-4 people (meaning: two or three for dinner, and then lunch for my wife the next day) when it’s combined with other fruits/veggies (collards/kale, blanched-and-frozen chard, apples, dried peaches or peppers, winter squash, mushrooms, parsnips, celeriac, you name it), some sausage or a braising cut of pork or beef, and some wild rice or pot barley with black lentils. I’m not the kind of gal who likes her pasta swimming in tomato… but would happily add tomatoes to a pumpkin cream curry over gnocchi, or toss some in with a little cheddar to brighten up a mellow-sweet pot full of romano beans and root veggies.
 
It’s intersting, big ol’ Pagan that I am, to look at the Year Gates and how they manifest in the day-to-day functioning of my (witchy) kitchen. Last April, I spent the month Eating Down the Larder (and whining about it on this blog) in order to prepare my freezer and pantry for the influx of new preserves that start coming in as early as late May (freezing Vietnamese Garlic pesto, for example, or lacto-fermenting grape leaves and garlic mustard for making dolmades later on). Now here I am, days away from Beltane’s mirror gate – Samhain – having realized that I don’t want to start using my 2014 preserves until November has begun[3]. Meaning that I set my preserving schedule by the same clock as the year gates swing. I only just realized that a couple of days ago, but it makes a lot of sense. Shoots-and-Fruits Time is for putting things up, praying for good harvests and plentiful seasons. Root time is for resting, enjoying the fruits of your labours – literally, in this case – and making sure your burrow isn’t completely overwhelmed with Too Much Stuff.
 
This move has involved a lot of paring down – an ongoing process to be sure, to-which our basement hoard can attest – and I see that continuing through the winter as I use up items in my pantry (chocolate sprinkles being added to the cookies I make for winter solstice; imported brown rice being used up and replaced with Saskatchewan-grown wild rice and pot barley) thoat won’t be restocked – and I look forward to using up my 2014 preserves (ideally in a timely fashion wherein there’s enough left in April to *do* the Eat Down the Larder Challenge again, but not so much that I’m drowing in, say, unexpected jam[4]) so that, by the time Beltane rolls around again, I’ll have the space to start building my pantry anew (this time with home-grown produce!).
 
Right now, I’m looking at the overcast (recently – it was quite clear earlier today) skies and thinking that I’ve got an hour – time enough to pack up another (the last?) wagon-load of stuff-to-move and bring it home before I have to start cooking dinner.
Time to get moving. (Ha! See what I did thar?)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] The two-cup/pint jars were about a millimeter too tall to fit on my canning shelves, but I’ve got them in a cupboard with some of the dry-goods, so it’s okay.
 
[2] Which, three years ago, I would never have expected to bother putting up.
 
[3] Which is not actually going to happen, I’ve got a jar of tomatoes that looks like maybe it didn’t seal quite right and, while I’m fairly sure it’s fine (there’s no swelling, for example, it won’t have botulism, not with that much vinegar AND an air leak, but mould? We’ll see how it smells when I open it), it needs to be eaten up if it’s any good, so tonight’s dinner will probably involve (a) diced winter squash, (b) coconut milk and/or yoghurt, and (c) an early-opened pint of diced tomatoes. We shall see.
 
[4] I haven’t actually made much jam this year. Almost none. I’m trying to stick with a mix of savoury-friendly jellies (like crab apple and red currant) fruit curds, and fruit butters (pear and pumpkin, this year, but also a little bit of apricot – all of which I will happily use in weekend pancake recipes and “unexpected company” coffee cakes, as they make for a moist, rich sweetener that doesn’t overwhelm the palate) because I find they’re more versatile. But you get the idea.