Archive for March, 2014

Proper Goodbyes

Week 13 (G): on how to say goodbye to things that no longer serve you (or, a banishing ritual for bad habits, old loves, fears, and other things you wish to be rid of)

I think writing your own rituals is an excellent practice. But I also think that it can be very valuable to find inspiration in the rituals of others. Below is a ritual I wrote in 2012 for Samhain, at a time when I felt that I was being weighed down by collected negativity. I wanted to get rid of bad habits, memories of old lovers, and all the other things that were making me unhappy. I hope this ritual gives you some inspiration for your own. And, if this one resonates with you, please use it. I only ask that you credit me with its creation, modifying as you desire (per my Creative Commons license for all the contents of this blog).

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Light a black candle and call upon Hecate, the crone of the crossroads. She is the keeper of wisdom and this is an excellent sabbat to be seeking it. This is a ritual for saying goodbye, either to people or animals who have gone in search of Summerland, or to old patterns that no longer serve you as well as they once did.

You will need

  • a cauldron
  • a knife or scissors
  • red or black yarn
  • pen and paper
  • one white candle and one black
  • salt and water

Set separate bowls of salt and water on either side of the black candle, with the white candle behind.

On each piece of paper, write a name of someone you wish to be free from, an old habit you wish to be rid of, and the like. Set each piece of paper aside, face down on the ground. As you place turn the papers over, visualize Hecate’s black cloak blotting them out of your life. These things are no longer bound to you. You are no longer bound to them. You are free. Focus on each and then let it disappear into the blackness of her cloak, taking as much time as you need.

When you are finished writing all the things you wish to be rid of, dip your fingertips into the salt and say:

I send my bitterness away
gone it be, by dawn of day.
I ask this salt to take it from me,
to let me heal, to set me free.

Dip your fingertips into the water and say:

I wash grief away with water clear.
I wash and cleanse myself of fear.
And as I wash, I gain new power.
I am reborn, this very hour.

Draw a pentagram on your body, anointing yourself with water at the shoulders, nipples, and third eye in the shape of a pentagram. (I usually use my right hand and start at the left shoulder, moving to the right nipple, third eye, left nipple and right shoulder, then back to the left shoulder to complete the star shape.)

Crumple the paper into tiny balls and drop them in the cauldron, trying not to dwell on any of the things you wrote down. Say:

There once was love where now is grief
with this spell grant me relief
from all your power over me.
This life is mine – I set me free!

Take the yarn (which should be made of natural fibers like cotton, silk, or wool so that it will burn, rather than melt) and cut several nine inch pieces: one length of yarn for each piece of paper. Knot the yarn pieces end to end to form a loop.

Put the yarn around your wrist (depending on how many things you are banishing, you may need to wrap the yarn around your wrist several times so it won’t fall off) and say:

I have carried you all long and far.
Your burden has been my teacher;
I accept your lessons. Now,
it is time I release you. Your presence
no longer serves me.

Use the knife or a pair of scissors to saw through the strands. While you cut away your symbolic bonds, visualize your separation from these problems. When you have cut through all the strands, throw the yarn in the cauldron atop the paper balls.

Drop matches into the cauldron until the paper and yarn catch fire. As they burn, watch the flames and say:

Go back to Hecate, the dark mother,
I call the battle over and won.
Give not these burdens to another
as they dissolve in flames of transformation.
These hardships change in this fire
Hecate, I call upon your might
and though at times, the battle seemed dire
I shall now again find the light.

Blow the ashes into the wind or scatter them in a graveyard. Ideally, leave the cauldron outside overnight, to let your fears dissipate fully.

Smudge your house with sage or your choice of incense. Leave nine cloves as an offering of thanks to Hecate. Eat an apple in her honor, cutting the apple so the pentagram shows. Blow out both candles with a final thanks.

(adapted from rituals in Everyday Magic by Dorothy Morrison and The Wiccan Year by Judy Ann Nock)

Any time you are feeling vulnerable, or feeling like perhaps your burdens are beginning to get the better of you, repeat the following and concentrate on breaking the bonds of fear again. Visualize your fears burning again if it helps.

I am Kali’s black mouth
as She devours the world.
I am Hecate’s dark cloak
as She guards the crossroads.

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Eostre Quiche

I did this last year on a whim, and I think I’ve found my new Eostre tradition: making quiche. Since eggs are a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, and Eostre derives from a root that means “to shine”, what better way to celebrate than making a quiche that showcases the excellence of really good simple ingredients? So happy Vernal Equinox, Eostre, Ostara, Spring, whatever you call today!

If you think you don’t like quiche, let me tell you: this is not that soggy, goopy, disgusting thing you’re thinking of. This is rich and just the right amount of salty and can be served any number of ways: hot, cold, warm, room temperature, whatever. My girlfriend hated quiche before she tried mine. Now she requests it approximately once every two weeks.

If you like this recipe, credit me and link back to this entry. Feel free to republish or add it to your personal collection. Modify and share as you like (per my Creative Commons license for all the contents of this blog). And, of course, eat.

dividerEostre Quiche

Ingredients
Crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
½ cup canola or olive oil (or other type of oil, if you’re feeling fancy)
2 T milk

Quiche:
6 slices bacon
1 onion, diced and caramelized
1½ oz microgreens
7-9 oz asiago fresco (or your choice of cheese)
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 tsp salt

To prepare the crust: stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the oil and milk. Mix thoroughly and pat into a 9 or 9.5″ pie pan. If you have one, a quiche pan would also work beautifully.

I decided to prick the holes in the shape of a pentacle, because I could.

I decided to prick the holes in the shape of a pentacle.

Prick holes in the crust and bake at 425°F for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool.

To prepare the filling: cook the bacon, caramelize the onion, and grate the cheese. Clearly you must do these all at once or else the recipe won’t work. (Totally kidding.) Once the crust has cooled, sprinkle about half the cheese over the bottom and top with fillings. Spread the remainder of the cheese on top of this beautiful mess.

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A layer of cheese & caramelized onions + bacon piled on the cooled crust.

Whisk the eggs, milk, and cream with the salt in a bowl with high enough sides that you won’t get it all over the counter. (Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything…) Whisk energetically until the edges are frothy. Pour this over all your lovely fillings.

The eggs, milk, & cream will look strange. Don't panic.

When thoroughly beaten, the egg mixture will look strange.

Bake at 350°F for between 30 and 40 minutes. When it’s done, the edges will be set, but the center should still jiggle a little. Cool the quiche for at least 20 minutes before cutting into it (trust me), though letting it cool overnight is ideal. I think quiche is best when served cold or reheated, but maybe that’s just me.

The green will hide the obscene amount of bacon you added, don't worry.

The greens will hide the obscene amount of bacon you added, don’t worry.

You can customize this quiche pretty much any way you like. Don’t have microgreens? Wilt some spinach or add some pea shoots. Don’t like onions? Artichoke hearts are great. Vegetarian? Add mushrooms instead of bacon. Pretty much any kind of cheese works; I’ve had excellent results with various goat cheeses, cheddar, Gruyere, and Manchego. Duck bacon was fantastic in place of regular old pork bacon. Got some extra herbs to use up? Add a small handful of sage or thyme. If you’re feeling fancy with dried spices, smoked paprika is amazing too. You get the idea.

Pair with Joy the Baker’s peanut butter bacon cookies, since you didn’t want to put all twelve slices of bacon in the quiche. Or maybe you did. This is a judgment-free zone.

This recipe is a slightly modified version of The Kitchn’s foolproof quiche recipe, combined with my mother’s press-in crust. Usually I use canola oil, but with the way the olive oil version turned out, I think I’ll probably be using olive oil again.


Glitter and Bunnies and Light, Oh My!

Week 12 (F): fluffy bunnies

Silence, fluffbunny! But wait…what does that mean?

fools

When I call someone a fluffy bunny, I mean that they have a storybook understanding of what it means to be pagan, and that I really can’t stand to be around them for more than five minutes. This is a term that’s considered offensive, but I think it has its practical uses. Here’s what the term “fluffy bunny” means to me:

  1. Someone who is nothing but “love and light”. Optimism is one thing, but to deny all negativity or scariness or intensity is totally unrealistic. That’s just not the way the world works.
  2. Someone who insists on calling themselves a Wiccan, but does not belong to a coven-based hierarchical initiatory tradition. (There’s no shame in being a neo-Wiccan. Really.)
  3. A teenager who claims to be a High Priestess or High Priest. Covens are a major undertaking, and to found one is a huge responsibility that I really don’t think is appropriate for a teenager (or for anyone who’s had less than 10-20 years of working with covens).*
  4. You’ve only read one book. Seriously. Libraries. The internet. No excuse. Even read stuff you don’t agree with: it’s best to critique something when you’ve actually read it, so you don’t come off as an ignorant ass.
  5. Someone who’s in it for the drama. If the only reason you call yourself a witch is to scare people, gtfo. This is a faith, not a fad.
fluffbunny1

but look at me! I am so cute & fluffy!

Sometimes this term is slung around as purely derogatory, with no meaning behind it. That’s the point at which the term becomes useless. What a fluffy bunny is not:

  1. A n00b. We were all new once. We were/are all students. It’s the people who refuse to learn that are fluffy bunnies. Someone who is willing to listen and incorporate new information, but may not know very much yet, is not a fluffbunny.
  2. Someone who follows a different path than you. There is no One True Way, no one size fits all; I think that’s one of the main appeals of paganism. Be tolerant.
  3. Someone who admits to not understanding something. None of us know everything. By admitting you don’t understand something, you’re being realistic. The first step to learning is admitting that you don’t understand something. I often tell my students that I’m more interested in seeing the mistakes they make along the way, because it shows they’re learning.
  4. Someone who has experienced persecution and refuses to be quiet about it. Religious persecution is a reality for many of us, and bigotry still exists. People who think persecution of pagans doesn’t exist probably also think we live in a post-racial post-feminist society. *insert gigantic eye roll here*

I was new once, and even then I thought the term “fluffy bunny” was apt for some people. Unpopular opinion: I think it’s useful to have a term to differentiate yourself from others who claim the same label that you may not necessarily respect. I don’t want to be lumped with people I can’t respect just because we claim the same label. I believe in solidarity, but maybe not unconditional solidarity.

And yet. And yet. I’m still conflicted about using term, because I don’t like rigid labels. I believe in the importance of choice, of people being able to claim their own labels. But…maybe labels shouldn’t be claimed uncritically or without thought. This is another one of those posts without a tidy ending and is a subject I’ll probably muse about a bit later.

Tl;dr version: while I absolutely do not believe there is One True Way of being pagan, I do think that some people don’t quite make the cut for people I would be proud to call my fellow pagans. But many do, and those are the ones I want to make connections with, hopefully through the Pagan Blog Project.

* Says the solitary

Further Reading

An Observation About Fluffy Bunnies (Chris K. Underwood)

FluffBunny (RationalWiki)

Fluffy Bunnies (Wicca for the Rest of Us)

Fluffy Bunnies: A Critique of the Term (most of the links on this one are dead, but I think the author makes some valid points, particularly about darkness being a problematic term)

Thoughts on Bashing Fluffy Bunnies (Ben Gruagach)


Overly-Familiar Familiars

Week 11 (F): familiars

To me, a familiar is an animal without which, your practice would be weaker. A traditional familiar is usually a cat, though if you’re a Harry Potter fan you know they can also be toads or rats. My partner and I have two cats, Maya Mae and Emma Rayne, who are wonderful and cuddly but far from being Crookshanks. Emma is irritable and hisses readily when she decides she doesn’t like how you’re breathing. Maya, by contrast, is unfailingly sweet, but perhaps not the smartest catnip addict in the kennel.

the two main furry ladies in my life right now

the two main furry ladies in my life right now (Maya’s on top, Emma’s on bottom)

Gilbert was the cat who was to be my first and (so far only) familiar. When I lived with my parents, I held nighttime rituals out on the driveway. I constructed giant circles of candles that spanned the entire driveway and enclosed me in a circle of light. Within them, I sat and danced and soaked up the moonlight. Every single time I held one of my driveway circles, Gilbert would slink over. He was black with a bit of white on his chest. He would lay on my chest when I laid down after doing yoga, or he’d show up in my meditations.

One time he didn’t come to circle and I panicked. About a week later, I found out he’d been hit by a car and had a broken leg. Luckily, he lived, but his visits to my circles were never the same after that. He had become skittish, and seemed less engaged. Gilbert’s absence left a hole in my practice for a few years following, though I gradually adjusted to not having his presence. Eventually the neighbor that owned him moved away, and to my knowledge Gilbert lived to a happy, if slightly more skittish, old age.

But Gilbert is not the most intuitive animal I’ve ever met. My best friend‘s cat, Elphaba (Elphie for short), always knows when I’m in town. She paces the house, and is waiting by the door when I finally come over. I knew her as a kitten, but she has a better memory than almost any other animal I’ve met. Elphie is what I’d call a wise animal. She’s not my familiar, because she doesn’t live with me, but she’s a damn smart cat. Elphie always knows what’s up.

As for Maya and Emma, my current cats, neither seem terribly interested in the witchy goings-on in our house. Oh sure, Maya and Emma are interested in the candle flame or the ceremonial rattle, but they’re not real familiars. Neither has mystical prowess. What they, along with most animals, do have is empathy. It doesn’t matter if she hissed at me an hour ago, if I’m crying Emma will curl up and squish her way into my side. Maya begs for scritches by shoving her head under my chin. They usually know when I need cuddles, and they readily supply them. Empathy is as important a quality in an animal as magical ability, and I’m grateful for their easy companionship.

Further Reading

Is my Pet a Familiar?