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2020 will be a year that will go down in history as a time when humanity was challenged with a pandemic that tested our skills to bring out the best in ourselves and each other.

This year our Lughnassadh ritual brought out a mix of emotions as we struggled to honor the blessings of the past year. We have been connecting with each other in our coven via the internet for rituals since last spring when social distancing became the norm, and even though we are grateful for Zoom and Skype, it has been obvious that circling online just isn’t the same as it is in person.

Normally we hold hands and hug a lot in our coven. We also gather for ritual out in nature where we can hear the sounds of the leaves rustling and animal cries. Staring at each other on a computer screen reminds us of our separation. Chanting, singing and raising energy have been a real challenge through this format. If we try to join our voices all at once, all we hear is a cacophony of disjointed sounds. So we have learned to adapt. That is what we are being called to do.

For our Lughnassadh ritual we were asked to have present something to illustrate that which we considered to represent our harvest this year. And since we were also celebrating the full moon, our “Claim Time Moon”, we were to bring something to represent that which we wish to claim or manifest for the coming year.

For Lughnassadh we generally craft some corn dollies. To my delight I came across an unopened package of corn husks in my pantry! I still have my flying witch dolly from last year. Looking at her reminded me of the fun we had sitting around the table in the magickal kitchen crafting our dollies amid the laughter and conversation. Thinking about that time seems bitter sweet.

With my corn husks soaking in water, I decided to create dollies to represent both what I was harvesting and what I was claiming. My harvest I represented with a Mother Goddess figure.

I made her to look as if she is cradling her unborn child. At times this year I felt like that child. I got very sick and I recovered thanks to my wonderful family who “mothered” me.

I also took on the role as I “mothered” a large garden. I planted herbs, vegetables, flowers and fruit trees. The garden promises to produce much abundance in the coming years if I continue to play my part and care for it.

The Magickal Orchard
Eggplants are such beautiful veggies!
The bounty of cherry tomatoes!
Of course, lots of lavender

Above all, I have felt the presence of the mother goddess especially during these trying times we’ve been experiencing. When things looked bleak a new baby was born into the family and reminded us of the miracle of new life. When people were acting in fear, others were performing selfless acts of kindness. The mother has been with us.

What I decided to “claim” for the coming year during the Claim Time Moon was the simple ability to be able to join hands and circle in the Oak and Willow Grove as we have done in the past.

Corn and grain, corn and grain, all that falls shall rise again….
Hoof and horn, hoof and horn, all that dies shall be reborn….

I have to admit, crafting these corn dollies this year felt like a magickal act in itself. The focus on my intent put me into a meditative state unlike those times in the past when I created dollies with a group. So there was yet another blessing: remembering the magick in crafting an object for magickal purposes!

What have you harvested this year? And what do you wish to claim for yourself in the coming year?

May the blessings of Lughnassadh shine on you at this harvest time and in the months to come!

💚 Sarina

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Midsomer Altar

At the summer solstice, Litha, or “Midsomer” as I like to call it, I like to harvest herbs I plan to use in the coming year for magickal and healing purposes. The sun is at its peak on this day and the plant world is lush and abundant in its growth.

Some people might wonder, “Why the name Midsomer?“Isn’t this the beginning of summer? It depends on which calendar you use. In the old Celtic calendar summer starts at Bealtaine around the first of May, so the solstice falls midway between the beginning of summer and harvest, near the beginning of August. Makes sense if you live in an agrarian society in ancient Britain!

This year I decided to harvest flowering herbs for my Midsomer Altar, and fragrant herbs for a large smudge stick that would combine the powerful solar energies of this day.

Roses must always be in my bouquets if they are available. Their high vibrational energy is one of the most powerful in the plant kingdom.

Then I filled out the arrangement with solar type flowers (those with ray like petals like the sun ). Sun colored flowers were the next addition. Then there was lavender. I love its shape and scent in a bouquet! And lavender is so healing – perfect for this healing time of year.

Rudbeckia
Lions Tail
Feverfew
Finished altar bouquet

Next, I started gathering my herbs for my special smudge stick. I wanted a really big and fat one! I cut native white sage, 2 kinds of native blue sage, sagebrush, rosemary and lavender.

Rosemary
Lavender
Native sage

I bundled up all my fragrant herbs and I added some red roses as well.

I tied cotton string around the bunch and wound it around and around, up and down several times. Then I tied off the string, trimmed the herb bunch and I will hang the smudge stick to dry before burning it. Any time I need to add a little extra solar like power to an area I will use this smudge. Can’t wait to experience that yummy smell!

Finished smudge stick

Being a green witch, many of my sabbat activities revolve around the plant world. The fae have been good to me this year and I’ve been blessed with an abundance of color and fragrance in my little corner of the planet.

May your blessings be many at Midsomer and throughout the rest of the year!

Sarina

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So how’s your balance? Not your equilibrium necessarily, but your sense of well-being?

There are two times during the year when we experience an equal number of daylight and nighttime hours. Those times are the vernal or spring equinox, and the autumnal or fall equinox. In the springtime people celebrate Ostara and in the fall they celebrate Mabon. Though each sabbat has a different theme, one thing they do have in common is that they are a time of balance. So exploring your own state of balance and the health of the world around you might be worth some meditation.

When I studied pathology we defined homeostasis as a balance in the systems of the body that produces health. The vernal equinox signals a new growing season as light increases until the summer solstice. There is a natural balance in the cycles of nature.

This year of 2020 seems to be signaling to us Earth dwellers that something is definitely awry. I agree with many that we have mistreated the planet and those living beings we share it with. That this Covid 19 virus that threatens us originated in a meat market in the midst of horrid filth is not surprising. But dwelling on the cause is pointless unless it helps to change future behavior.

As many of our lives have been changed dramatically over the past few weeks (and probably will be for some time to come), we will be forced to consider what we will need to do to adapt and survive: to return to a state of balance. Sadly, some people will hoard food and other necessities, while others will cooperate and share and care.

We won’t be gathering physically for an Ostara ritual this year in my coven. Those that can will connect via the internet. But as a solitary act of ritual observance I would like to suggest the following:

Hold a white jar candle between your hands and visualize the world in a state of balance. This would include the climate and other plant and animal beings which you see in a healthy state of balance. Feel these thoughts and their energy pass through your hands and enter the candle. Light the candle and allow it to burn down in a safe place.

Take a walk in nature. Plant some seeds or bulbs you have brought with you and return over the next few weeks to observe their growth. Of course, if you tend a garden go outside and refresh your spirit there. As they say, “Who plants a garden, plants hope.”

If you are confined to your home, set a daily schedule and stick to it. Plan time for meditation and divination and talk to the god and goddess. Cleanse and feng shui your dwelling place as you bless and ward against negative energy. Do some kitchen witchery and practice other witchy crafts. If you are there with children structure their day and teach them your magickal ways! Celebrate life and growth. Spiral dance with them and sing songs to the Goddess.

Basically do as much as you can that is positive and will help you to remain positive. Like attracts like and your thoughts are things. That is the basic premise of magick.

And one last thing to remember: you have great strength and the power to overcome. There have been some times in my life when I started to give in to feelings of helplessness. Believe it or not, at those times what helped me most was to look at myself in the mirror and say, “Snap out of it! You’re a witch! You’re a child of the Goddess and you have great power!”

May you stay safe and find balance during this time of change. The only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that things change. But don’t forget that we are magickal, and magick is all about change!

Blessings of Balance,

Sarina ☀️🌈🌧

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Need a little magickal grounding with some comfort food? I love potatoes; baked, mashed, fried…in just about every form potatoes are comfort food to me!

It makes sense that potatoes are so grounding. After all, they grow under the ground! There’s that sympathetic magick working for ya. In the case of our celtic culinary creation, colcannon, add a little green in the form of cabbage and you add some growth and prosperity to the mix.

In my vegan version I skip the dairy and use plant based milk and butter. To my way of thinking, the plant based dairy brings more grounding and better karma to boot!

So here is the simple recipe for this savory dish. Feel free to experiment with different types of potatoes and greens (kale works well) and add some herbs if you like.

Colcannon

You will need:

5 lbs of Yukon gold potatoes cut into cubes (I leave the peels on since they are thin and I like the texture)

Half a cabbage cut into thin slices

A stick (1/2 cup) of plant based butter (I like Earth Balance)

Plant based milk such as almond milk ( others can be used but make sure they are unsweetened) to be added if you want a thinner potato mixture.

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Cover the potatoes with water and boil them until they fall apart when stuck with a fork. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot. Mash them vigorously with a hand held potato masher as the remaining steam evaporates. If you need to turn the burner on low to get rid of the remaining steam do so with care. Add the vegan butter that has been cut into pieces and continue mashing. At this point decide if you want to add a little non dairy milk to make the potatoes fluffier. Just add a little at a time so the potatoes don’t get mushy. Now fold in the cabbage and cook the mixture on low for a few minutes to cook the cabbage through. The cabbage should get tender. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.

And there you have it! Let’s celebrate the grounding and bounty of nature. Take a walk on the greening land, and return to a hot bowl of tasty colcannon!

Springtime Blessings,

Sarina

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This morning I woke up in a pissy mood. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s something to do with Mercury retrograde, or it’s maybe the constant dull headache that’s been plaguing me. At any rate, I realized that any good witch would NOT sit around boo-hooing about things, but rather find a way to take charge! Then I remembered my plant ally, lemons. The color lemon yellow is associated with the solar plexus chakra. This is the chakra where we feel happiness and joy, but also where we store our anger.

Lemons are great at cleansing an area of stuck and murky energy. Squeeze some lemon juice in your bucket with your mop water. Wipe your counters with lemon juice. Boil lemon peel in your kitchen cauldron to cleanse the air and breath in the citrusy scent to cleanse your own energy. Throw the used lemons in your garbage disposal and grind them up to cleanse the drain as well.

Today I put several drops of bergamot essential oil in my difuser for an uplifting effect. I think of bergamot oil as “the happy oil”, and as fate would have it, the bergamot plant is a citrus that is a cross between a type of lemon and orange. Some people call it sweet lemon. Bergamot is also what’s added to tea to make Earl Grey tea. A cup of Earl Grey sounds good right now…I feel better already!

Lemony Blessings,

Sarina

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Now, some of what I’m going to talk about in this post might get a little personal for some of you. You may feel like clicking on past me when you find out what I’m into, but hear me out.

Ok. Here goes. I’m a vegan kitchen witch. I don’t eat animals (meat) or any of their by products (dairy, eggs, etc.) I eat “nothing with a face or a mother”, as my vegan daughter would say. What I DON’T plan to do in this post is to preach at my readers. We all make the decision to go vegan or even to cut back on animal products on our own. There are definite health benefits to a plant based diet, but as a pagan with a nature based spirituality, the fact is that eating a plant based diet is healthier for the planet. And at this moment in time the health of Mama Gaia takes on even more importance than ever.

If you want to know more about the vegan lifestyle, then I can recommend some excellent resources:

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret: https://www.cowspiracy.com/

What the Health (on Netflix)

Game Changers (on Netflix)

And an excellent website with loads of information: https://nutritionfacts.org/

What this vegan kitchen witch DOES plan to do from now on is to post delicious vegan recipes and cooking tips that EVERYONE can enjoy along with the magickal energies that these plant based dishes contain. Stay tuned!

Yummy Plant Based Blessings,

Sarina

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Since I am hosting Imbolc this year at Sycamore Hill, I decided that for our “cakes and ale” part of the ritual to make bannocks, which are a traditional oat cake served at this time of year. These yummy, magickal bannocks will contain minced fresh rosemary and grated orange zest. Rosemary is sacred to Brighid or Brighde as we like to call her, and Imbolc is about honoring Brighde.

In kitchen witchery it’s nice to consider the magickal properties of ingredients in your food. After all, cooking is a form of alchemy! You transform ingredients into something entirely different. Magick!

In these bannocks I figure that the oats are for grounding and stability, the rosemary could be for protection, the orange zest for strength and a positive attitude and then the small bit of sugar adds some sweetness and love!

So here is the recipe:

Rosemary Bannocks

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet or large iron skillet.

Ingredients:

1cup of oat flour (You can make your own by grinding rolled oats in a food processor.)

1cup of old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 tsp salt

3Tb sugar

2Tb minced rosemary

Grated zest of a medium orange

6Tb cold Earth Balance or other plant based butter

1/2 cup of soy milk

1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

2. Cut the Earth Balance into smaller chunks and then mix them into the dry mixture with a pastry blender.

3. Then add the soy milk.

4. Mix the ingredients until you have a dough. Turn the dough onto a surface that has been sprinkled with more oat flour and knead the dough for just about a minute. If the dough seems sticky add more oat flour.

5. You can form the dough into small cakes or divide the dough in half and make two medium sized cakes that you cut into quarters. The idea is to expose enough edges to make a brown and crispy cake.

6. Brush the tops of the bannocks with melted Earth Balance and sprinkle them with sugar.

7. Place the cakes on a greased baking sheet and bake them in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are brown and crispy.

So there you have it! And as an added bonus, these bannocks are vegan and gluten free!
Enjoy!
Savory Blessings
Sarina

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Walking the Spiral

Imbolc is the time in our coven when we welcome new dedicants to the priesthood. This sabbat is a time when we honor the lady Brighid who is the goddess of poetry, smith-work and midwifery. It is a time of new beginnings as represented by the goddess as midwife, and so it is appropriate to start the journey of a year and a day at this time.

Imbolc wall sconce by Mickie Mueller on Etsy

This year we are welcoming a new dedicant and hopefully at this time next year he will be elevated to first degree priest. It’s always exciting to welcome a new person to the priesthood path!

I like to set up an altar to honor Brighid with symbols that represent her. New born animals, the milk that feeds those babies, hence, the milk maids and cow cream pitcher. My fellow priestess and I decided that since red and white are the colors of Imbolc, and since Brighid is a goddess of the hearth and the hearth is the heart of the home where she lights her magick flame, the hearts we see at this time of the year are perfectly fine in our displays. How’s that for witchy logic??

The idea of taking a year and a day to study for each degree in the priesthood is partly so that the entire wheel of the year can be observed and experienced on the pagan spiritual path. There are facts to be learned, experiences to be had, and activities to participate in throughout the seasons that will transform the dedicant over the course of the year to become a priest or priestess of the God and Goddess.

It has occurred to me that even though we say that the year is like a wheel, it is really not like a circle. Certainly there are cycles that repeat throughout the year, but every year is different. There is growth and change but nothing stays the same. Once the priestess reaches the level of high priestess and clergy does she then just stop learning and growing? I hope not.

To me the year is more like a rotation in a spiral. We strive for an upward spiral to increase in spiritual knowledge and wisdom, but that spiral should never end. Every Imbolc I plan to rededicate to this pagan path as I start yet another year and a day.

Will you take some time during your Imbolc ritual to dedicate yourself to another turn on this spiral path?

As I address the Lady I may say:

Lady Brighid of the Healing Flame,

Bright and shining one, please show the way,

as I continue to walk this spiral path for another year and a day.

May I progress in becoming ever more like You!

So Mote it Be!

Blessed Imbolc,

Sarina ❤️

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Deck the halls! Yuletide approaches! I love the greenery that adorns our homes and stores at this time of year. The Yule tree is symbolic of the green new life that returns with the light of the sun at the solstice.

The song, Deck the Halls, is actually an old Welsh song that was originally sung at New Year. The falalalala warms my pagan heart. What lovelier practice could there be than hanging some magickal greenery about at Midwinter?

Pine is perhaps the most commonly seen greenery at Yule. It can be protective, as well as attract abundance. It’s fresh scent feels cleansing. When you think about the cold wintry weather and how vulnerable we are at this time to the elements and disease, plants that bring abundance and protection would seem magickally useful.

Holly, with its prickly leaves, seems obviously protective. In sympathetic magick the physical qualities of a plant relate to the magickal properties. Those blood red berries not only hint at a warning , but also attract the health and vitality needed to make it through until spring.

Mistletoe is perhaps best known for its use in kissing balls. It is useful in love magick, but once again, protection is one of its key functions in magick. Kissing under the mistletoe, in fact, is supposed to protect a love relationship. Incidentally, mistletoe is quite toxic, so be careful how you use it in spells.

Lastly, one of my favorite Yule herbs is bayberry…as in a real bayberry candle. Be sure you pay for the real thing and not bayberry scented candles if you want to stir up some magick! If you can find pure bayberry essential oil that could serve for annointing a candle, but I found it easier to find the candles. An old colonial charm states:

A bayberry candle when burned to the socket,

Brings health to the home,

And puts money in the pocket!

On Yule I will light my bayberry candle and allow it to burn down in a safe place (my fireplace 😉).

Abundance and protection: these most appreciated gifts of our Yuletide green allies surround us with their blessings! Do you use any other plants at Yule for their magickal energy? If so, please mention them in the comments below.

Let’s deck the halls and drink a toast to the return of the sunlight at Winter Solstice!

Yuletide Blessings,

Sarina

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Ah… the veil is thin at Samhain! Time to commune with the spirits!

Our coven will often celebrate Samhain by casting a permeable circle at the start of our ritual. With a permeable circle spirits and the living alike can enter and leave the circle as they like. At Samhain we invite in the ancestors and call the quarters, being careful to stipulate that only helpful spirits may enter who are there for our highest good. At our Samhain ritual the other night we cast such a circle around the whole property so that we could enter the house from our outdoor circle area in the Oak and Willow Glen to go and eat our dumb supper.

A permeable circle is also a nice way to leave up the enchantment of a sacred space for the spirits to commune for a time past the ritual conducted by the living. At Samhain the idea of leaving up the circle until dawn seems like a cool idea. When hosting a sabbat ritual some of us have been known to go back to the ritual area after all our coven mates have left to further enjoy the enchantment of the circle.

Why not try casting a permeable circle of sacred space to invite in the spirits this Samhain? The idea is to cast a circle as usual but state that the circle is permeable, as well as what time it is to be released.

Here are the words we used to cast our permeable circle:

“Cast a permeable circle
Around I go,
To focus the energy
And help it grow.
To make protection 
Sure and true,
To guard us now in all we do.
And when the sun rises 
This enchantment will cease.
And then at that time
Will the circle release.
Three times around the wheel I go.
And as above,
So below
THE CIRCLE IS CAST!”

When you have finished your ritual be sure to thank all the deities and other spirits you have called in and remind them that they may come and go as they please until the circle is released at dawn.

Need a refresher in casting a circle? Watch our YouTube video:

Casting a Circle to Create Sacred Space

May your Samhain be blessed with a harvest of inspiration and messages from the divine!

Blessed Be!

Sarina

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