Thursday, April 28, 2011

Walkin the Walk, Talkin the Talk

                 In a short few days Beltane will be upon us.  Already our gardens are awakening, the trees have become fragrant and the air carries something with it – the promise of plenty, warmth and birth. 
                There are a hundred different ways to prepare for and celebrate a holy day, and it mostly depends on what your tradition is, what your preferences are, what your coven or grove does, etc.  Being a solitary Druid (and a solitary Kitchen Witch) for many years, it fell to me to decide what ceremonies I wanted to follow.  It fell to me to find a Druid path through Beltane, and bring in the Kitchen Witch elements that always seem to follow me. 

                To be honest, I don’t do the same thing every year – at least, not exactly the same thing.  The rites have similar notes to them, the words are similar, but the rites themselves are organic.  That is something I believe strongly in – the organics of what we do.  I’ve been there for the ceremonies that are identical to the last one, and yes – the words still have power and the energy is still raised but we live, we grow and our needs change.  Our ceremonies ought to do the same. 

                The main focus of my post today though is being what we are – walkin the walk and talkin the talk. 

                Pagan Coming Out Day is May 2nd this year.  (a lot of great authors have written fabulous articles on this: I suggest you meander over to for more information and great links!)  This brings into sharp relief those of us who have come out, what it means for us daily and if we really have come out, or if we hide more than we say we do. 

                I’m out to some of the people I work with – those who don’t know I don’t see all that often and I really couldn’t tell you what their religious preferences are either.   People I’ve worked with in the past knew, but not because I walked up and introduced myself as Erika, the Druid.  They found out after a comment here, a question there.  It was friendly and, thankfully, didn’t affect my work status there.  Like most of us, my friends knew first and it was easy to tell them.  They accepted me for it, and I began practicing with a few of them on a regular basis.  We became something of a coven.  My family, on the other hand, was not as open – my siblings, yes, and oddly my father, but my mother?  No, not in the slightest.  Her resistance was strong and caused a rift between us.  That rift healed though, through discussion and learning.  She overcame her objections and instead asked questions – and not easy questions either but the probing sort that really make you think about your path and what it means.  Telling my mother that I’m a Druid Kitchen Witch really made me explore what it means, what those words mean and what my path is… it helped me understand myself with a depth I hadn’t reached yet and strengthened me on my path in amazing ways. 

                I wear an oak leaf mostly, not a pentacle, although lately I’m sporting a small crystal ball on a silver chain.  Those who know me look over and smile – to everyone else it’s just a pretty crystal.  I don’t actually own a piece of pentacle jewelry… I’ve never felt the call to own one, and none has ever been gifted to me.  Does that make me a bad Pagan?  No, I don’t think so.  I’m Druid – the oak leaf is sacred to us and wearing that leaf reminds me of the sacred in nature, and my connections to the divine. 

                But is it enough to wear symbolic jewelry and say yes if someone asks us if we’re Pagan?  I posted last time about taking it with us, about carrying the sacred with us through our days.   Do our actions speak to our belief in the divinity of nature?  Do we honor our Gods and Goddesses with our words and deeds? 

                No one is perfect, and we will get angry and frustrated during the day.  We will get annoyed and upset.  We will be happy at times and miserable at others.  Walking the walk and talking the talk doesn’t mean you’re always the perfect depiction of your path.  What it means is that you don’t hide who you are to be more “acceptable” to someone else.   I hid what I was for a long time – the first couple years as I was finding my path all those years ago.  I even went so far as to still go to church with my mother when I was out visiting her.  I feared what her Catholicism would say, and the argument that would result.  Before my dedication though, I told her.  It was hard, but I couldn’t decide on my path and be dedicated to it with that hanging over my head.  I emerged on the other side renewed and lighter for having told everyone in my life what my choices were.  I was happier and much more ready for my dedication.   

                This coming Monday will be an epic day for a lot of people.  Multitudes of Pagans across the country and across the world will declare themselves to the world.  Many, many more will keep hiding; will stay ‘in the closet’.  They are just as beautiful and just as special and just as important as those who feel the call to come out.  To me this is as much a Pagan Pride day as a Coming Out day.  There is no gala event where I am – and if I could spare the time off work I’d be in DC for their festivities.  But I will celebrate in my own way, connecting online with people I know, sharing stories and tales and wishing everyone a blessed day.   I will beseech the Goddess to give hope to those who feel they cannot come out, that one day their lives will be in a place that the no longer need to hide. 

                In lieu of a recipe today I’m going to point you to the website of a dear and wonderful woman – Dawn Hunt, at Cucina Aurora (  ).  Wander over, check out her website and buy her cookbook – so many fabulous recipes!   I made the Lemon Raspberry Pudding Pie last weekend and it is divine and cooling in this hot, stormy Spring we’ve been gifted.  Also, her infused olive oils will give you yet another reason to love olive oil! 


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Can you take it with you?

                For most of us, I’d dare say just about everyone reading this blog, our homes are our sanctuaries – our hearths are the calm spot in the craziness of the world.  We find ourselves breathing normally there.  Those places are our quiet. 

sterile office - boo!  hiss!
                So how do we take that with us?  How do we find that calm when we’re not at home, safe by our hearth or happy in our gardens?  It’s not easy, let me tell you. 

                The sacred is everywhere for us, in every tree and rock, in the air that we breathe and the sun we see.  The trick, then, is to remind ourselves of that in places where it’s not so evident that we’re connected to nature.  The stale office with the fluorescent lighting.  Places devoid of life, save the humans rushing around within its walls and the paper flying like gnats through printers and faxes and hands. 
                The first (and easiest) element we have at our disposal in these places is Air.  You’re breathing, aren’t you?  Your body is sacred, isn’t it?  Well… use it.  Take a deep breath and see it carrying out the stresses you feel, anything you don’t want inside you.  Remember that the air you’re breathing was not made, it’s just filtered to within a particle of its existence – but it did come from outside.  So breathe in that life, because it’s still there. 

                I keep a bottle of water sitting on my desk all the time.  Granted, I drink a lot of water to combat the dehydration that comes from being in these types of places, but it’s more than that.  Having a bottle of water beside me reminds me of the element contained in that aluminum casing (eco bottle, yay!) but also I can use the element when I need a boost.  That came from somewhere, and although it has also been treated and “purified” and whatnot – it came from a lake somewhere in the mountains of wherever.  Use it!  Remember the source, drink it in, savor the life that it brings. 

                Earth.  If you’re able, keep a plant at your desk.  You’ll benefit from the O2 it’s putting off and if it’s a blooming plant you’ll benefit from the splash of color too, since every office on the planet (with the exception of companies like Google and Think Geek) has walls the color of putty. (I’ve never understood that, really – it makes me want to bring in my acrylic set and get crackin on a nice mural or something) If you aren’t able to have a plant then at very least have a picture or two of landscapes around you.  Something to remind yourself of the outside.  And take lunches outside as often as you can. J

                Fire. This is not impossible - we have flameless candles now.  And while it’s not quite the same thing, it is building safe and they can be fairly realistic in their flicker and scents.  It might not be dark enough in your office to really see the flicker, but have it where you can see it, even out of the corner of your eye, and remember the feeling of the flame and the heat of fire.

                Now, for those among us who are lucky enough to be able to decorate our offices as we wish and have fountains and whatnot, well, rock on.  On the other end of the spectrum are those of us who are temps, and can’t bring anything in with us that we don’t then take home at the end of the day.  I’ve been a temp, and it’s tough – so I did what I could, using the air and taking 5 min every few hours to meditate and bring in the elements in my mind, invoking their aid.  Don’t be afraid of invoking the elements at work!  Or at DMV, or at the bank or in your car sitting in traffic… we’re Druids and Kitchen Witches.  That is our prayer.  We can be vessels that carry those elements through the day, throughout the world.  Do it now, as you’re reading this.  Think of the elements, think of their cardinal directions, and invoke them to your aid.  Ask politely, but ask – bring them down.

                I can hear what some of you are thinking – invocation without a circle?  Trust me; I’ve gotten strange looks about this one before.  But think about this, and be honest – how many times have you been somewhere and whispered with great emotion and feeling “Goddess help me” or “Brigid bless”?  Is that not an invocation?  Are you not asking for their aid?

                This rolls over into the next part of taking it with you: magic outside of our personal places.  I say personal because I firmly agree with the creators of No Unsacred Place that there is no unsacred place.  (btw, if you haven’t read their blog, you should: it’s wonderful!)  How many of us would admit to working magic in the office place?  Or in our car?  Or at a friend’s home? And I’m not talking anything earth shattering here – I’m not talking about huge ceremonies or banishings or anything like that.  I’m talking about the little stuff – personal protection, boundaries, etc.  And even if you haven’t done it, you’ve thought about it.  You’ve felt the need to cast something in a place “you’re not supposed to” (like the board room) and immediately put that thought out of your mind so as not to be accused of forcing your religion on someone else, to keep that separation of your private life and your job.  But let me ask you this – do you think that the lady down the hall who says a rosary every day at lunch in the privacy of her cubicle thinks twice?  Or what about the guy two rows over who is Muslim and goes to a private area to pray?  Or anyone else in your office with a religious affiliation of any sort who has no qualms about praying over their food before eating in a staff room full of people, or wear the symbol of their religion openly (and sometimes very prominently) at the office?  Do you think the people who keep crosses and calendars about being Christian at their desks visibly think twice?  They don’t, and never will.  So why do we? 

                I’ve been working at work for a few years now, quietly and privately, but I do.  And I’ll admit it too.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, pushed, irritated, generally awful, I’ll cast a little clearing and calming spell around my desk or do a quick centering and grounding.  Do my co-workers know what I’m doing?  No.  To them I’m just taking a few minutes to breathe.  What I’m doing does not affect them – I’m not casting anything on them.  I’m casting on myself.  Someone did ask me once what I was doing.  I said “centering my thoughts.”  They just nodded and walked on.  No muss, no fuss.  

my feet, flat on the floor. :)
                Now obviously you can’t go walking a circle, calling the quarters and chanting in your office.  (unless you have a windowless office with a solid door, then maybe yeah, you can, but most of us? Not so much.)  So those of us in cubes (or like me, in an open room with no cubes and a lot of desks and windows) have to be a little subtle about this.  Personally, I place both feet flat on the floor and place my hands palm up on the tops of my thighs.  I breathe in and out a few times, slowing my thoughts.  I envision a circle forming around me and once it is complete I envision the elements coming in and resting in their proper places.  (this all happens pretty quickly, but I’ve been doing it a while.  It’ll come faster as you do it more often, like anything else) Then I breathe in the elements, one by one, till the light around me is white – then I release the circle and go back to work.  Simple, quiet, and effective for me.  You might find that there’s something else that works for you and that’s fine… this is personal, and you need to find what strikes a chord with you.  It might be this invocation – it might be something else.  All told this invocation can be done in about 5 min, maybe less, but it can take as long as you’d like it to take, or go as quickly as you’d like.  That’s part of the beauty of this particular rite.  It is fluid in the best way. 

                Below is a list of links to 5 min stretches you can do at your desk.  I highly recommend stretching!  When you’re doing your stretches, breathe in and see that air, that breath of life from the planet’s lungs filling every inch of you as you open up your body and joints.   Likewise with all the elements – see them flowing into the far reaches of your body as you stretch.  You’ll feel amazing and full of life when you’re done. (and I bet you have a better work day too!)

(photo awesomeness made using my iPhone and Instagram

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Clearing a path for the Wheel to turn (or, don’t be holy day road kill)

                In a short time we will be standing at the gates of Beltane, readying ourselves for the Wheel to turn again and bring in the period of fertility and rebirth for which we light the fires.  

                But are we ready for it?  

                A few years ago I had a truly disappointing Beltane.  Looking at it then I blamed a myriad of elements for the lack of complete success of the circle, but then I thought about it a little more and a thought occurred to me – was I ready for it?  Had I made room in myself for the Wheel to turn, or was the Wheel stuck in mire in my soul?  Turns out, it was stuck. 

                Now yes, the Wheel turns with or without us.  We could wake up on Beltane, have some massive emergency (Goddess forbid, but life happens) and spend the whole of the day dealing with mundane necessities and not spending it celebrating our holy day.  You could remember for two seconds before collapsing into bed to thank the Goddess and God for Beltane and then pass out from the exhaustion of the day and Beltane would still have happened – the Wheel would still have turned.  (I’m reminded of the Grinch here… “It came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags!” I have a soft spot for animated Dr. Seuss) But seriously, it still comes, even without chalice and broom and ceremony. 

                However, we have a choice here – the Wheel can turn without us, with us, or over us.  What happened to me was the last option, over me.  I wasn’t ready, I hadn’t prepared for it, and the Gods knew that.  When I was being taught, for the short time I had a teacher in the Druidic arts, I was taught to meditate and clear my mind and heart before entering the circle of stones and so to be perfectly open to the voices of the Gods.  I learned that this means more than a quick grounding before you walk into the circle.  That is like standing at the door to a friend’s house and remembering that you’re covered with mud, so you flick a little off before you enter.  Not totally useful.  

                What this means is spending time in the days leading up to the holy day in meditation (however long you need – minutes, hours, moments) cleaning house on your soul.  When spring comes we throw open the windows, get out the brooms and mops and clean house.  We sweep and dust and clear out the staleness of winter, readying our homes for the warmth of spring and the beauty of the sun.  But how often do we do that to our souls?  We throw out things we haven’t used in a while when we spring clean, but do we also let go of the emotional connections we might have to those things?  When we give away what we’re not using to those who can use it, do we let go of that energy too or do we hold on to it, leaving a loose end flopping around?  How many cobwebs are in your soul that you could wipe away to let in the sun?  

                This coming Beltane marks the beginning of my month of packing as I ready to move back to the east coast.  The movers who are collecting the furniture I’m not taking with me come hard on the heels of Beltane in fact – May 3rd to be exact.  So soon after the holy day I’ll also have a relatively empty apartment, and boxes will take the place of furniture.  This is symbolic for me of letting go of emotions I’ve held on to all winter, clearing out room in my soul for not only the turn of the Wheel but also making room for whatever the Gods will send me when I reach my new home.  

                Every Beltane is different, flavored by the types of people attending the ceremony, the mood of the moment, the weather, the foods, the drink.  I am fortunate to have experienced the lust and the joining of the Beltane fires, and also to practice solitary and open myself to the love of the God and Goddess and their influence in my heart as I danced.  This Beltane I am celebrating with a group of friends and am very much looking forward to the fires and circle.  Will it be as others have been?  Probably not.  This is a new group of people for me, and unless I travel back here next year this will be my only year with them.  It will be unique, as all holy days are, and my soul will be ready for it.  

                Now, since this is a kitchen druid blog, let’s talk food for a minute before I go!  Spring cleaning the house, spring cleaning the soul… what about spring cleaning the body?  Saltwater Bath!   I love these, and magically speaking they’re astounding.  Now, Beltane has a few of its own cleaning rites, one of which I’ve been doing for years.  At dawn, a maiden washes her face in the morning dew to bring beauty and youth through the year – a young man washes his hands to bring strength and honor.  I’ve done this every year for a few now, and it is more for me than the beauty or youth aspect.  It is solemn ritual – you are washing in the water come naturally from the joining of the elements.  Dew is condensation on ground, made more by the coming sun… earth, air, fire, water.  Sitting alone in a field, running my hands over the ground and then over my body is a ritual cleansing and an excellent way to start Beltane.  The night before I’ll take a saltwater bath, usually laced with lavender, oatmeal and honey, to purify myself in preparation for the next day.  If you like you can also eat cleansing foods – cooking with rosemary is excellent for this, as rosemary is a cleansing herb.  Olive oil should be included in your cooking the day before as well.  Other herbs to use the day (or week) before would be herbs of purification, healing and spring – thyme, parsley, anise, peppermint, lavender, allspice, bay, cinnamon and fennel to name a few of my favorites.  When you’re cooking, use ingredients that can only be found in the spring, to bring that warmth and growth inside.  Get garden fresh in your cooking!  It will awaken the season inside of you as you eat and really get you invigorated for the coming festival.  

                Really, the important thing is to be ready for it.  Be ready for the Wheel – not just in thought and word, but in actuality.  Look at the holy day (whichever it may be, this applies to more than just Beltane) and see what it is telling us, what is it heralding?  What lesson are we to take away from it, or perhaps more importantly, what is it trying to tell us?  All of this is as important as memorizing the words to the ceremony or knowing who’s bringing what.  Don’t let the details of planning the day overshadow the importance of the day itself – or the Wheel might turn over you instead of with you. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don't forget the water!

We love watching it fall on leaves, run down our windows... even dance in it from time to time.  There isn't one of us who hasn't enjoyed a rainy day and even that odd moment at an outdoor festival or park where it wasn't really supposed to rain but it did, and the festivities weren't affected at all - you just carried on in the beautiful rain. 

     As far as cooking is concerned, water is a vital ingredient.  We'd be lost without it!  A little steam to help soften our veggies. A few tablespoons to help that marinade along.  A good washing to get our greens ready for salad.  The starting point for boiling anything... water is integral to a working kitchen.  But often we overlook it as an element in what we're cooking.

       Water.  The West point in our circle.  The color blue.  These are things we already know, things that we learn instinctively.  But where does this fit in to our magical cooking?   Water is emotion, love and compassion, it is the carrier of life to all the plants and animals on the earth - our bodies are mostly water.  Just drinking a glass of water is a life saving act.  Cooking with water brings those elements into our foods, a basic element of life added to the dish we're working on. 

So often the first thing we hear when speaking about herbs is their use in teas.  The basis, naturally, is water.  The main vehicle we use to take in the magical and healthful properties of the plants we grow is a vehicle of life and love... is it any wonder a cup of tea makes you feel better?  You're drinking in a warm hug, a soothing cuddle of plants that will aid you in your daily life. 

Spring is a great time of year to focus on water and the magical aid it brings.  We're relying on it to help our plants grow strong, to wash the world clean from the cold of winter and to wake up the sleeping trees.  We look forward to the puddles and the warm rain and ask its blessing on our rebirth. 

Next time you cook, take a moment to acknowledge the water that you're using, thank it and the cardinal direction for their aid in your cooking and see what magic it brings. 


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Practical Application

So much of what we do on a day to day basis is deeply rooted in habit – we get out of bed the same way, we stare unrelentingly at the computer at work the same way, we drive the same routes and have the same thing for lunch.  

the view from the my desk

                It is in this perpetual habit that we lose touch with everything around us.  Look outside for a moment today – either from your office window (if you’re so lucky) of from your car window or even, just for a second, from outside your car before you drive home.  (your co-workers will just thing you’re trying to remember if you forgot anything at your desk)  Notice the color of the light, how the branches look, how the grass looks.  Notice the clouds – how many are there?  Are they light and fluffy or are they stratus?  What color are they?  

the view from my car!

                As a kitchen druid, these are things that I strive to notice every day.  I won’t sit here and tell you that I have no habits that I follow on autopilot – first thing in the morning is a very routine moment for me, as is first thing home from work… those moments when we’re just not quite there after just waking up or after a crazy day at the office.  But breaking that routine, crushing that habit just a little bit to make room for observation… that’s what will help you foster magical intent and power in your hearth work.  

                I’ve been asked before, by a few different people, how I do what I do.  One woman asked me “but how? I mean, how do you ‘work it’?”  Another asked me how I knew what I was doing was working.  Both asked me where I learned this, who taught me, how long it took.  I think they were hoping I would pull out my diploma from Hogwarts or something.  I told them what I tell everyone who asks – I taught myself.  I read, I studied, I meditated and I put real energy into it.  I didn’t come on it one day while walking the dog.  I didn’t happen upon it like one happens upon a shiny stone on the beach.  I’ve been working on this for 12 years and in the last 5 years have really felt the pull to share what I do, and how I do it.  I remember “coming into my power” – it’s a bit like finally learning the words to a tune you’ve always known.  It was just a matter of realizing its shape, its form… learning how to use it, how to direct it and then putting all of that into practical application.  

                Don’t let practical application scare you!  This is how we get to be who we are – and this applies to everything in your life.  I joined a re-creation society 8 years ago and had to make my own clothes.  I was nervous – I was barely good with needle and thread!  They weren’t the best clothes, but I did it… and almost all of the pieces are still wearable!  Granted, I’m much better now than I was but it was the will to do it, to start without knowing the success rate of the final outcome.  Practical application in kitchen druidry is just the same – don’t let it scare you out of trying.  Get in that kitchen!  You don’t need a lot to get started… a wood spoon, a good bowl, your stand mixer.  The point is use what you have.  

                Getting started – Dinner tonight.  Here’s a little assignment for you.  Look at what you have planned for dinner tonight, then look at the ingredients.  Jot them down and then hit the internet.  Look up the magical properties of the spices and herbs in your dinner.  If there aren’t any, then think about what you could add – salt, pepper, garlic… maybe rosemary, ginger, thyme, oregano, parsley… get creative!  Then look at the basis for your dinner. What meat are you serving? What veggies?  Look at the magical properties of your main ingredients and write it down!  Stickie notes work great here, it doesn’t have to be some awesome notebook or something.  Now… put it all together and see what you have.  Is it a prosperity dinner?  Is it a healing meal?  

                Now, start cooking.  Think about the properties of the ingredients as you add them – and look at your notes if you need to.  As you stir, see those properties blending and mixing.  Smell the ingredients complimenting each other, mixing into the finished dish.  See those properties complimenting each other as well.  I’m a big fan of blowing kisses to my dishes as they cook – a little love goes a long way.  Stir in the blessings as you cook!  

eggs - a little seasonal magic!
                As you sit down to eat the finished meal, think about what the food holds.  Think about the properties of the foods all together.  This is more than nourishment for the body – this is nourishment for your soul and your magical life.  Let the food carry blessings for weight loss, for health, for beauty inside as well as out, for prosperity.  Remember, our food can carry a myriad of intentions – clarity of sight, aid in psychic sight, blessings for healing of a wounded heart, bolstering for self esteem.  

                The more you do this, the easier it will become.  And soon, once our herb gardens are developed to where we can begin gathering a little for cooking without harming the plant… well, think of the magic we’ll be using when we use plants we raised ourselves, imparted with magic and raised in a blessed house!