Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seedlings & Gardens

A short two months ago there was nothing living in my apartment but me.  Now, however, it's a garden inside!  Alyssum grows in one window box, mint in another, viola in a third.  My desert rose is warming up to spring, the violets haven't stopped blooming and the poor, broken aloe I rescued from a friend is coming back slowly but surely. My bamboo is sending roots out everywhere (very fun to watch in the square glass vase with rocks that it's in right now) and in a jiffy seeding tray of 25 pellets my herb garden is springing to life.  Right now the milk thistle is winning the "first to be transplanted" race... it's growing like a weed!  lol  My grandmother always said that a weed was any plant that was growing where you didn't want it.  Her gardens were beautiful, and expansive, in her little mid-west backyard. She had plum trees too, and an elm that I used to climb until the age of the poor tree broke it in half.  Some of my fondest thoughts were in that tree.
Desert Rose in bloom! 

Ok - so today I want to talk about planting your own herb garden and what to plant.  You'd think this was a pretty easy question to answer, I mean... they're herbs.  They're all useful and you can always come up with a reason for them.  But if you're like me then you start looking at seeds and soon your shopping cart has about 100 different herb seeds in it and you're looking at converting a whole room into a greenhouse (my apartment has no balcony so all my planting is indoors this year) and looking at buying potting soil in bulk.  Not useful!  I'd never get around to starting them all for one, and I don't have the windows to do it.  So how do you decide?

Well, I knew what I wanted them for - cooking and teas.  So I pulled out one of my herb guides and went to work putting together a list of 25 herbs that I'd like to grow.  You have to put it in your head that this is not the only growing season and that if you need something that you're not growing, you can find it elsewhere.  For instance - I needed sweet woodruff last year for the may wine for Beltane.  I hadn't planted it because I ran out of room, and because a friend said she had it covered.  And she did - until the deer got to her garden.  So I called around and found a greenhouse that could tell me the history of the plant (original growers, if they used pesticides, etc) and finally found a organic greenhouse that had a healthy crop in stock.  Problem solved!

But this year I am all about my teas and tinctures - and getting better at both.  So I chose a few from the medicinal category and a few from the teas category and got a blend of 21 different seeds to start in my jiffy starter.  (I doubled up on a few that I knew I'd want more of - lavender, yarrow, rosemary and lemon balm - to make 25)  In addition to those I have anise, milk thistle, marigold, astragalus, cayenne, catnip, echincea, burdock, fever few, valerian, chamomile, sage, angelica, lemon bergamot, lemon grass, St. Johnswort and angelica.  It is a very full garden this year!

The more important part for me was to get some plants that I have not worked with before - experimental plants for me.  I never connect more with a plant than when I plant the seed and bring it to life slowly.  It's what I loved most about being in greenhouse in high school - planting seeds and seedlings and watching them become healthy plants.  There is a great feeling of accomplishment watching plants become healthy and alive.  Magically speaking it is a form of fertility - caring for something that is too weak to survive on its own, it needs water and light and heat to grow healthy and strong.  This is the time of year for creation magic - so get creating!  Creating a kitchen witch garden is a great way to get going.

There are about a million ways to magically help your garden grow.  "Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"  With a little water, a lot of light, a little heat and a well timed moon.  ;)   As Pagans we watch the moon quite closely and yes, it does matter when you plant.  As a Druid and a kitchen witch it's important that the ingredients I'm using in my working is well suited to the task at hand. Magical planting helps that a great deal.  As with magical cooking, and pouring your intent into whatever you're making, magical planting is the same thing.  As you set the seeds into the soil imbue them with love and warmth, with the will to grow strong and healthy.  As you tend them during growth place blessings on them.  When I transplant them into the larger pots they'll live in permanently I'll bless them again.  What better way to infuse your cooking, medicines and teas with magic than to use magically reared plants?   And this is what I love about our path.  The tremendous sense of accomplishment that comes from seeing the practical result of your intent.

So get some seeds, watch the moon and grow that magical garden!  You don't have to plant a ton of seeds - a garden can be just one plant.  If you're not sure about this, then pick something you like the look of... lavender is an excellent choice and smells heavenly.  Or sage - always useful!  Marigolds bloom profusely and grow well anywhere.  Study that plant, raise it well and it will help in your magical workings.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesdays... and intent

OK, not as bad as Mondays, but still.  This has been a very doldrums day and an excellent opportunity to look at one of the fundamentals of kitchen witchery, and a good starting place for everything - intent. 

You'll hear tons and tons about intent.  The Secret, What the Bleep, every other book on reiki... they all harp on intent and its ability to change the physical in profound ways.  But when it comes down to it, what are we really taking about?  Are we talking about pushing the idea of what we want out into the cosmos with as much force as we can muster? Are we talking about burning as many candles as possible or a balefire to create enough smoke to carry our desires to the gods? 

For me, not so much.  Intent is will, and will is strong all on its own.  You don't need to send it speeding into the cosmos like a sonic jet or create enough smoke to call the fire department to get it to the gods.  I see intent as an ingredient, like cumin or salt.  You whip up the basics (whether it's a ceremony or a casserole) and then add intent.  It all falls into place after that.  It's the last ingredient, the most important, and the most necessary to anything you're doing magically. 

So cooking with intent - hallmark of a kitchen witch - is like cooking anything else, but with that last ingredient that (pardon the reference) turns it up a notch.  (I know, I know... but it's accurate) To be fair though, it does.  It takes a recipe for oatcakes and turns it into an offering for your ceremony.  It takes a cake and turns it into wishes for a prosperous year on the anniversary of someone's birth.  That is cooking with intent.  That's kitchen witchery.  But it is also knowing when and how to use it.  I'll be honest - if I just want a cup of tea because I want a cup of tea, I can assure you that I'm not cooking with intent.  I'm making a cup of tea.  But if I'm making a pot of tea and I feel the need to make it a little special, then I'm cooking with intent.  I'm pouring whatever it is that needs to be in there for me (or whomever) to drink in there with the tea.  Love, harmony, insight... almost anything really. 

One note though - you cannot do this against someone's will.  Remember the Rede: And Harm Ye None, Do What Ye Will.  If you know that the person sitting across the table from you would not appreciate you doing this, then don't.  If you know it will fall on deaf ears, then don't waste your breath.  (harsh, yes, but true)

So going on the premise that the person you're cooking for is receptive to your efforts, how does this work?  Cooking is a combination of ingredients, time, temperature and methods.  Say you're making a loaf of bread for dinner for a friend who's having a rough time.  As you're pounding the dough, pound in things like compassion, love, clarity, kindness.  As it rises see those attributes rising with it. As it bakes, see those attributes sprouting and warming inside the loaf.  As you serve it, see your friend consuming those attributes (you'll eat them too, so win-win here) and see them taking root in him/her for a greater good. 

Kitchen magic is immediate - you pour in your intent while you cook and then you consume it right away (without burning your mouth) and take into yourself all that you've imbued the food with.  Is it any surprise that wise women of the villages were always cooking?  Always had something on the fire?  Someone would come by and need something, and she'd be ready for them.  (and please, don't think that men can't do this too. go for it guys!)

But the important thing to do is to focus your intent.  Stirring always does it for me - it's a little trance, that fluid repetitive motion that allows me to relax and focus my intentions for the dish.  Likewise, for the meal - because if you're going to imbue a whole meal, make sure you're not overloading anyone.  Like any good feast, keep it balanced. 

There is a lot in our lives that can affect intent.  Sleep, stress, worry... all of this will weaken your focus and allow your intent to be scattered.  Not what you're going for.  I bring this up today because my focus is incredibly lacking today - if I needed to do any working, it would take some serious focus on my part.  But recognizing that is a good thing too... today might just be a down day.  Being a kitchen witch doesn't mean that you're on every day, all day, 365, 24/7.... It means being there when you need to be there, and being able to say "not today" when you're not.  So, on the days that I'm lacking focus I do one simple thing - I pour a request for focus into whatever I'm drinking.  Nothing solid, just liquid, but I pour it in when I'm filling my glass and mostly with water.  I'll also pull out a little lemon and have some warm lemon water.  That does wonders for my energy levels. 

So, in closing, remember your intent when you're cooking for a specific purpose: make it clear, make it balanced, and make sure that the person eating what you're making knows this is happening.


Druids and Kitchen Witches

Druids - what can I say on that topic that hasn't already been said?  Really, the only thing I have to contribute is my own experience with Druidry and its practices.

I've been a Druid for a while now. A few years, really.  What drew me to this was the connection with the earth, the focus on nature and our role there and a strong sense that this was my path.

Then there was another draw... another path "revealed itself" to me.  I put that in quotes because it's not like I found something new and went "oh wow! Lookie!" - it was more a moment of me looking around and saying "oh wait, I've been doing this for a really long time and I didn't know what it was called."  Kitchen witchery.

So I did what every good researcher's daughter does - I went and found books and started reading.  Ellen Dugan was there, as was Patricia Telesco and Scott Cunningham.  Anyone who's been in this for a while knows those names - if you're new, they are kind and easy to follow and authors I heartily recommend. 

So - the crossover.  What it is to be a Druid is to walk the old ways, to know the turn of the Earth and to listen to what she has to say.  It is to know the roots and herbs and plants, to know their uses and to know the practical application therein.  This, to me, is also what it means to be a kitchen witch.  It means knowing when to make an incense and how.  It means that your Book of Shadows looks more like a cookbook than a spell book.  It means that knowing if someone needs "a cup of tea" that a little intent with stirring can go a long way.  It means understanding what it means to put yourself into what you do and work your magic through your hearth.  It is a magic as old as any on this planet and one that women and men have practiced for eternity.  Sound familiar?  Sounds like Druids to me. 

I am sure that there are people who will disagree with me, but no matter.  This is what works for me, quite effectively. 

So what I plan to do here is to post a little about my experience, a little about recipes for food, incense, teas, etc, a little about spell intention (please note, I strongly advocate writing your own spells) and any advice I feel should be passed on to the masses.  Take what you need, leave the rest.  Pass it along to those you think might like it.