Tag Archives: secular holidays

Full Moon – Frost Moon Crests (Samhain)

Tonight, the full moon is in Taurus – aptly I think) my wife and I are going to have a cozy evening at home, making and mending stuff with the altars lit. My birthday is next week. I’m about to turn 38.
It’s funny (or not). The thing about Scorpio Season is that it’s deep-dive time, it the period where you dredge up stuff that you’ve been hiding from yourself or avoiding looking at and… I always expect that Stuff to be Bad. Stuff that has to be fixed or purged or navigated or mitigated or solved.
I don’t expect it to be something good.
And yet.
Here I am, and the messages I’ve been getting since the sun moved into Scorpio a couple of weeks ago… they’ve all been stuff like “Oh, hey, did we mention that you’re worthy?” or “Maybe it’s actually okay for you to want things, and not just things that you know other people want you to want. Did you consider that?” or “There are actually people in this world who will want to give you the things you want to receive, and who will want to offer you the things you want to access”.
Which is amazing.
And I’m kind of going, like, okay but… what’s the catch. Because there’s gotta be a catch.
And probably there is one.
Like, I’ll have to Let Go of an unhealthy thing that’s part of my core identity (likely), or something like that.
Urgh.
Which is hard, even when the thing you’re letting go of suuuuucks and is bad for you.
Still, it’s nice to think think that maybe the Big Secret I’ve been keeping from myself is actually a positive one. 🙂
 
Samhain came and went. We lit up the altars, made offerings of white wine and Sortilege (and chocolate). We even had NINE trick-or-treaters (which is unheard of in our chunk of the neighbourhood). It made me really happy to ask the kids about their costumes, a lot of-which were cobbled together rather than bought off the rack, which was kind of awesome. (Best one was the zombie-apocalypse survivor in the air filter mask). 🙂
 
In less-woo news: I used a pressure-canner for the first time last weekend! I got to hang out with Lovely People and put up some food that I would normally buy already-in-cans! (We also made strawberry-rhubarb jam with a bit of apple and grated ginger thrown in). I’m excited. Turns out there’s a pressure-canner at the Ottawa Tool Library, too! Am serioulsy considering the benefits of pressure-canning bone stock, long-soaking beans, and maybe curried pumpkin soup (with red lentils, garlic, amaranth, dairy cream or coconut milk, and bone stock – meaning you can make it from field/jack-o-lantern pumpkins as well as pie pumpkins) a couple of times per year. I know that having pints of stock on hand last winter was incredibly helpful when it came to throwing together 20-minute easy meals (AKA: lentil soup, french-onion soup, and other things ending in”soup” that didn’t take a lot of creativity to make happen), but having litres of stock on hand and shelf-stable means a lot more space in the fridge, without losing the fast-and-flexible, bio-accessible goodness that is bone stock. (I’m a bit of a fan).
 
The weather’s cooling down (appropriately, given that we’re in Root Time now), and it’s nice to be cooking slow-braised meals again. I’ve got chicken thighs and late-harvest veggies (potatoes, carrots, kale, onions, garlic) roasting in my iron pot in the oven. I think I’ll maybe bake some apples along-side them in a pie plate for dessert.
I’m starting to work on heavier knitting projects again, too. Still finishing up my second stocking-extension (which I’ve been doing for most of the past year. >.>) but I’ve started up a bulkier, warmer (ish) piece as well, and I’m looking forward to putting some hours in on that one.
 
All in all, November’s kicking off pretty nicely so far. Here’s hoping it continues in this vein. 🙂
 
~*~
 
Movement: Lots of walking the past two weeks, plus one night out dancing. I’ve got some garden-digging to do in the next 48 hours (weather permitting) to get as’kebwan’/sunchokes in, and that will be… tiring, but good for my arms. 😉
 
Attention: Heh. I’m paying attention to who’s flirting with me, tbh. I second-guess it a lot, but it’s still nice to think people (plural) actually are. 😉
 
Gratitude: Friends who trust me and talk to me when they’re having a hard time. Friends who listen to me when I’m flailing. Friends who bring me food. My lovey, snugly wife who’s been waking up happen this past little while and who makes me breakfast and keeps my leather in good shape. Hardy garden greens still offering up mountains of kale and chard (and sage, and dandelions, and winter savoury, and sorrel) even as the temperature drops. Neighbours who are completely chill about my messy, open-air compost heap. Shop keepers who are patient with my crappy French and ask me what I’m knitting. Schools who call me looking for last-minute (and not-so-last-minute) models, and folks who want me to come in and cover their reception desks more often than expected. Young people who are happy to talk poetry, magic, bdsm, and other fun stuff with me. A relationship with my mom that has vastly improved over the past 10 years. People who blush ever so slightly when they talk to me. Useful poetry critiques on works-in-progress. Easy access to low-scent shampoo (on sale, no less!) and cute treats like violet lipstick and neon pink yarn in my price-range. Having my house back (Harvest Stuff returned to the basement, and held-furniture sent off to its various new homes!) and my dining table accessible again! Witchy femmes (always). ❤
 
Inspiration: Friends who knit. Friends who preserve food in various ways. Poets. Young people full of enthusiasm and wonder. ❤ (Old people full of enthusiasm and wonder, too, though I don't get to see that as often). The nights that are getting longer and coming earlier.
 
Creation: I’m making a Safety Shawl for my next(started this morning) knitting project. Neon pink for brightness and pale turquoise for reflective-throw (if I can find shiny plastic beads or a big spool of reflective-tape ribbon, I will incorporate those as well), because if I’m going to be working in an industrial park this winter (which… is a maybe at this point, rather than a definite) I want some high-visibility thing I can wear so that I don’t get hit by a car while shivering my way to the bus stop. Doing twisted stitches and using thick (ish) yarn so I can get this big blanket-scarf of a thing made by the next New Moon (coming at us juuuust before Sagittarius Season kicks off). Also re-jigging a poem and telling stories with my tarot decks. It’s a good time. 🙂

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Wild Rice Pilaf + Sage Pesto Recipes

So, for the pervy-queer Thanksgiving Potluck, I roasted a turkey (also: my gravy brings all the pervs to the yard, I’m just saying) and made the following vegan dish that is (a) delicious, and (b) does not contain gluten or soy or nuts (though adding walnuts or pecans or even toasted Himalayan Balsam seeds would be an excellent addition) but DOES (c) contain white beans, so it’s definitely not Paleo, but can be made so very, very easily (drop the beans and add a bunch of nuts and/or extra seeds, basically).
 
Wild Rice Pilaf
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 C raw wild rice
4 C water
Pinch salt
+
2 C cooked white kidney beans or other white beans such as Great Northern (I just used 1 tin of same, drained & very well rinsed, but feel free to cook your own)
1/2 C cider vinegar
+
3 C diced butternut squash (I used pre-diced stuff from the store, but you do you)
2-3 sprigs fresh sage, shredded (or used the dried stuff, as you will)
+
2 apples (Cortland recommended, but I used McIntosh and it was just dandy)
1/4 C dried cranberries (sweetened)
1/4 C pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp prepared grainy mustard
1 tsp ground nutmeg (note: if you are going for Super Local, and have these available, you can use dried, ground spice berries in place of the nutmeg. The flavour (in theory – I haven’t tried this yet) is a combination of nutmeg and black pepper and should work well in this dish).
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) In the bottom of a double boiler combine the wild rice, water, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for upwards of an hour.
 
2) In the top of the double boiler, while the wild rice is cooking, combine the diced squash and the sage. Allow to steam for 20-30 minutes. Squash should be easily pierced with a fork, but not straight-up falling apart.
 
3) While the squash is steaming and the wild rice is cooking, in a large (1 gallon would make this very easy) bowl or casserole dish combine the cooked white beans and the cider vinegar.
 
4) Core and dice the apples and add to the bean mixture
 
5) Add the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds and toss it all together like a salad
 
6) Add the cooked squash and sage, as well as the mustard and nutmeg. Toss again then cover with a plate or the lid of the casserole dish.
 
7) When the wild rice is done, add it to the mixture in the large bowl and toss until well-combined. The whole thing should smell gloriously of nutmeg and mustard and apples and all the other good things that are in it.
 
8) Serve hot (ideally) OR chilled.
 
This dish works as both a main and a side.
It goes well with chokecherry chutney and sage pesto (below), too. 😉
 
NOTE: If you want to fancy it up a little:
Leave the squash out (I do still recommend cooking the fresh sage, though) and, instead, bake delecata, sweet-baby, or other miniature squash halves in the oven for an hour while the wild rice is cooking. (When I do this, I splosh a quarter-cup of apple juice into each of the squash cavities so that the flesh is tender and easy to scoop when they’re done). Stuff the squash halves with the wild rice mixture and serve garnished with sprigs of fresh sage. If you wanted to do this as a fancy center-piece dish, I would suggest using something like a cupcake tower to display the stuffed squash halves before plating them at the table.
 
 
Sage Pesto
 
INGREDIENTS:
4C fresh sage
1 C pumpkin seeds
4 cloves garlic
¼ C nutritional yeast
½ C cooked white kidney beans OR cooked green lentils
¼ C apple cider vinegar
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch salt
Grind black pepper
¼ C oil
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) Pulse the pumpkin seeds in a food processor until they are grainy but well-smashed (this takes waaaaaay less time than making pumpkinseed butter, fyi)
 
2) Add the sage, cooked lentils, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper
 
3) Blend until well-combined
 
4) With the motor running, drizzle in the oil
 
5) Spoon into ice-cube trays for freezing (works great) and/or pop some into a half-cup jar for fridge storage (I don’t know how long this will stay fresh, as I keep mine in the freezer to use as-needed, but if you want to serve it with stuffed squash, for example, within a day or two, this is an easy way to do it).
 
This stuff is lovely-and-delicious as the “sauce” for a pasta dish, mixed into scrambled eggs, spread (lightly) onto a chicken/turkey/roast-pork sandwich, blended into a bean dip/spread, stirred into root-veggies blender soups (rutabaga-cauliflower or carrot-apple would both be amazing with this), or, y’know, used as a condiment/topping/garnish for baked miniature winter squash stuffed with wild rice pilaf.

Longest Night, Darkest Night – Ruminations on Winter Solstice

It’s raining here. I’m telling people that I’m pretending we’re in England (it helps that both of my partners are Brits). It’s grey and wet and occasionally even foggy.
Not winter weather by any stretch of the imagination (in spite of a long-gone skiff of snow for Winter Solstice), but it’s still really freaking dark most of the time, and the lack of snow means that street lamps and moonlight aren’t getting a reflective boost from the white stuff that’s (not) on the ground.
It’s really not helping my SAD-affected brain much, I don’t mind telling you.
Consequently, I find myself reflecting more on “dark night of the soul” this MidWinter than in years past.
 
Winter Solstice touches on a lot of things, even when you don’t have a wedding anniversary and a multi-faith extended family thrown into the mix. The beginning of the real Long Dark, the time of killing cold (this year’s weird-ass weather notwithstanding), and the months-long slog to get from here to Spring Equinox (or even Imbolg, when we’ll actually see that the days are for-real getting longer again). The technical beginning of the lengthening days (although see above on that front) and the celebratory stuff that comes with that[1]. The chance to honour the darkness as pro/creative space, the origin of al things. A time for reflection and meditation – whether we’re talking about Root Time, or candle-light vigils, or even just the more secular considerations that come up around the dark end of the year as the calendar is about to turn over. It’s all sorts of things.
But it’s also a period of stress (E.G.: getting together with Family of Origin – or not being invited to do so, for that matter – is a thing that us Queerdos, in particular, have to deal with in a lot of cases) and, frequently, loneliness, and even the gathering of chosen families – where we get to be our Whole Selves with people who really do love us – can still involve big emotional crashes in the lulls between get-togethers. I’ve been feeling it a lot this year – in spite of numerous Good Things going on… but:
I woke up this morning feeling lighter. Still exhausted, still sore, still slightly ambivalent about Weird Christmas[2], but feeling so much more hopeful than I have in ages. I don’t actually know what’s causing this. I mean, yes, it might be the subtle energies of marginally longer days starting to happen. It might be all of this planetary love stuff going on, but I suspect it has more to do with getting “I Love You”s in the mail (and the house), plus catching myself out on one of my (old, stupid) patterns while actually having an idea of what the outcome will be if I let it go (again, in this situation – all that “healing happens in spirals” stuff is so irritatingly true, I can’t even tell you).
 
Yesterday, I dropped in at my wife’s workshop for a visit and, upon learning that I’d spent much of my own work-day ruminating about The Things, she said “I don’t want you to just go home and fret”. I told her “Sometimes I learn things when I do that”.
I know I have a bad habit of fretting about the precarious What Ifs of life, and occasionally fail to enjoy the beauty and the wonder and the joy of things because I’m troubled by the things that could destroy them. It’s not a good thing to do, and it makes my life sadder, to be sure, and it’s frustrating (when I catch myself at it) to know that I’m doing it to myself.
Even still, it’s also important to take that time, dig down into the dark twisty hidden parts of your own brain, and see what you can haul into the light.
We’re in Root Time now, have been (technically)for a while, so maybe it’s no surprise that I’ve been gnawing on the roots of my own fears, trying to find where they begin, trying to figure out (again, always again) how to put them to rest.
Regarding my particular set of “dark night of the soul” revelations, I’m flinging myself into Miss Sugar’s “New Year, New You” online course (again) to see if I can use magic to push the odds in my favour when it comes to dealing with my personal deamons.
Wish me luck!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Although I kind of wonder if that big celebration of light and heat and merriment, with its accompanying high-calorie feasting, isn’t a way to kick off the dark-and-cold time where we’ll be mostly eating root veggies and huddling around the fire, and give us some momentum (and extra fat AKA insulation and reserves) to help get us through the worst of it.
 
[2] Christmas isn’t my Holy Day. I haven’t ID’d as Christian for something like 20 years at this point, and the whole Bethlehem Story stopped resonating with me, even as a form of annual nostalgia, at some point in my early-mid 20s. So the 25th of December qua Christmas is basically an extension of Winter Solstice Festivities (e.g.: Mothers’ Night, the Norse celebration of ancestor-women that, iirc, falls on the first full moon after Winter Solstice – handily the 25th of December this year) combined with the usual families, feasting, and generalized washailing that goes on between the 20th of December and the 5th (or so) of January. But this year – possibly due to the combination of Zero Snow, double-digit (above freezing) temperatures, and my (multi-faith) relatives doing Xmas in Calgary this year – I feel pretty much nothing-what-so-ever about the actual 25th of December. Which doesn’t mean I’m not cooking a duck and watching movies with my metamours, it just means that it feels really weird to feel NOTHING about this particular date.

X is for Xmas – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Yes, I know, I’m more than a year late. But I’m doing it.
“X is for Xmas”. Why would I choose “xmas” for a Pagan blog project.
Well, you can blame the CBC for this one.
A couple of days ago (possibly on a slow news day), they ran a spot on the radio about “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays”. Now, on the one hand, I understand why people who do celebrate Christmas in the “Jesus is Born” sense of the word would perhaps appreciate it if their holy day wasn’t so overwhelmingly coopted by consumerist crap. I can totally get behind that[1]. On the other hand, I’m a member of a religious community (or “umbrella-termed group”, more accurately) made up of numerous different small-population faiths, all of whom get lumped together under the heading of “Pagan” (there’s just over a quarter-million of us in Canada, as of the 2011 Census). For some of us, the month of December is no big deal but, for many of us (and many of you reading this, I’m sure), December means celebrating Winter Solstice with longest night vigils and returning light parties. The trappings of our temperate climate midwinter festivals – and for good reason – look a lot like the trappings that people outside of our faiths probably think of as “Xmas Stuff”.
Winter Solstice falls between the 20th and 22nd (or so) of December. Unlike the lunar-cyclic feasts (like Diwali[2] and Hanukkah), it doesn’t move around. It’s always right next to Christmas. Combine this with a population that, even now, is still largely comprised of converts and, frankly, most of those converts grew up with feasting, presents, music, and candle-light around this time of year, even if our parents called it something different.
For those reasons, I really apreciate “Happy Holidays”. If I answer someone’s friendly “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Solstice”, I really do get looked at like I’ve grown a second, rather ugly, head. “Happy Holidays” lets me wish people a wonderful season of light, regardless of which one they’re celelbrating, without either (A) guessing them wrong, (B) pretending I’m something I’m not, or (C) having to do a lot of explaining to get rid of those Weird Looks.
 
Works for me.
 
But that still doesn’t explain “Xmas”.
If you look at the tags, I have one for “secular holidays”. Primarily, the secular holiday in question is “xmas”. Well, let’s break it down:
On Solstice, I kiss my wife (it’s our aniversary on December 21st), feast my nearest and dearest, hand out presents to people I care about, fill my house with people, lit candles, and food, and light up my altars in thanks for abundance and good people in my life.
On xmas, I kiss my wife (’cause why ever not?), feast with my family of origin, or hers, or potentially both, hand out presents to people I care about, and help fill someone else’s house with people (and potentially lit candles, if I happen to bring some over). My relatives sometimes go to church (for Christmas), but I join them after.
 
Xmas is a place where I can meet my relatives in the middle, take part in my family’s “special day” without having to pretend to be something I’m not or have to do a lot of explaining.
 
So, there you go. 🙂
 

 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] And there are lots of ways for individuals who celebrate Christmas to shut out that consumerist crap – like staying out of the malls and turning off the TV. Focus on the people who are important to you, and on spending time with (rather than money on?) them. You know how that goes. 🙂
If you’re into the socially-acceptable-excuse-to-give-presents stuff (you would not be alone if you were), try doing DIY or all-second-hand goodies for everyone on your list, or opting to give entertaining-educational gifts like classes (belly-dancing, glass-blowing, cooking, sword-fighting…).
 
[2] Which falls on November’s New Moon.

Getting On With Things (secular xmas edition)

So, this morning just before 7am, I finally got around to incensing my house and setting up the wards, such as they are, on the new place.
I figure that, since we’re heading on the whirlwind tour of the Relatives in the next couple of days, plus having a lot of people over for the housewarming, that I should probably get that done while I still had the chance.
 
I’ve been (re-)using – big surprise – the tissue paper out of our wedding gifts to wrap/decorate the baskets (two cardboard gift boxes plus three repurposed and reuseable mesh waste-paper-baskets) I’ve filled with preserves for 5/6 recipients (the sixth is getting hers in about a week, so I don’t need to do the wrapping just yet).  Everyone is getting a sellection of:
lemon-raspberry-groundcherry curd
balsamic roasted tomato sauce
choke cherry jelly (made with neighbourhood fruit)
pickled rutabaga (we have gone through both of our bottles of this chez nous already, so here’s hoping everyone else likes them as much as I do)
strawberry-rhubarb jam
spicy peach chutney
garlic-dill cucumber pickles
 
 
Now to sort out the last of the stocking-stuffers and pick up some art supplies.  Whee!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Magical Forest Yule Holiday Craft Show –> I’m In It!

It was slightly touch-and-go there, for a few days, because my table fee hadn’t arrived in the mail yet, BUT I found out yesterday (!!!) that I do have table-space at the Magical Forest Yule Holiday Craft Show after all. Thank all the gods! 😀
 
In addition to my lovely earring collections, I’ll also be bringing a sellectiohn of pendants PLUS a big basket of 1oz 100%-beeswax tealights ($1 each OR 12 for $10); my 3oz 100%-beeswax votives ($12 for an already-wrapped gift-pack of four), both of which are prepared in metal (reusable/recyclable, petrolium-free) containers; and my usual soaps (unscented, pomander, and winter solstice) and deliciously-scented fizzing bath treats (Elizabeth’s Cookies, Gingersnaps, and Chocolate Chip – not actually edible, just smell like they are).
 
It’ll be awesome. 🙂
 
 
If you’re in Ottawa, I hope to see you there. 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

J is for Journey (and Jack-o-Lantern) – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Hey, folks. So, Samhain just passed. With that in mind, here’s a story for you:

Once upon a time, there lived a man who was very much alone in the world. He had no family. No children to carry his name in their hearts, no knowledge of his own parents let alone his distand ancestors. And he wasn’t particularly sad or tragic, or even unusual in this regard. He lived his life as people do, striving for kindness even if he sometimes missed the mark; working to walk gently in the world and get by; until the day came when he died.
It’s how things go.
Now, normally, when someone dies, there are rites performed. Candles lit and names called to help the dead find their way to the land of the ancestors. But this didn’t happen for Jack. Instead, his soul was set to wander, as if through a dark night, trying to find a path that he couldn’t name.
He wandered through this night, with no-one to walk with him, and the only knowledge he had of the passage of time was that, sometimes, he would stumble into the land of the living again – on nights when the lilacs were blooming and summer’s breath could tickle the back of his neck; or else when the frost turned to laced on the windows and the last of the harvest was coming in. Either way, there were fires lit and he could, for a little while, see where he was going.
And so it happened, on one such night when the veil between the living and the dead was thin, that he stumbled to Kildaer, to the fire that burns there always. And there he met a woman who stood by a glowing forge.
He said “Tell me where I am, for I’ve been lost and wandering so long!”
And she answered “Mine is the path of the living. I keep death from their doors with my healing arts; I keep memories alive with my songs. I cannot lead you home. But,” she added. “I can give you this.”
She reached into the depths of the forge and pulled out a bright coal. She placed it in the man’s cupped hands, where it glowed, but did not burn.
“Fire cleanses, and so it is mine,” she said. “And it grows and consumes like any living thing. But it also knows the road of death. Follow its light,” she told him. “It will guide you on your way and get you home.”
Now the man didn’t know what to make of this. He was still just as lost as ever. But her’s was the first kindness he’d had since his long wanderings had begun, so he thanked her and went on his way.
And it happened that the coal in his hand did, indeed, cast a strange light, which shifted as though with a will of its own, til he saw that he could follow in the direction that it lit.
And so, still lost but no-longer wandering, he walked with a purpose through the dark.
It took many years for the man to find his way, following the light that he carried, and he still moved between worlds when the veils grew thin. Sometimes, people would catch sight of him – a shadowy, half-formed figure; a burning bright light moving through the dark – on the night when the animals were slaughtered and the bonfires lit to cleanse the herds and keep them healthy through the winter.
And so the man, who some called a spirit and some called a ghost and some, surely, feared and called a deamon, came be known as Jack – Jack the Wanderer, Jack of the Lantern. And, as time went on, people began to set their own lights – bright coals burning in the dark beyond their doorways, candles in the windows behind smiling, carven faces – to help him on his way.
Now… Jack of the Lantern has long-since found his way to the land of the ancestors and has surely met all those who went before him. But he is not the only soul to wande in the darkness between the worlds, and so people still leave Jack-o-Lanterns by their doors on Spirit Night, to help the lost ones find their way.
If, some night when the veils are thin, the candle in your own lantern will not stay lit, look up. You may see the flame of it being borne away, and a lost soul, no-longer wandering, but walking with a purpose towards home.