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The season of Yule is filled with fragrances and flavors! The smell of pine or the taste of a spicy confection inspires in me memories of this magickal time of year.

And despite the name of the holiday of Christmas that falls at this time near the winter solstice, the customs of this season that many consider to be symbolic of Christianity are actually some of the most “pagan rooted” of any season. I’m not going to go into the history of pagan symbols of Yule since that could fill a book. What I would like to reflect on is one of our family Yuletide favorites, the gingerbread folk.

I love these tasty little guys so much that my magickal kitchen gets taken over once a year by gingerbread decor!

Ok, I have more gingerbread pictures of my kitchen, but you get the idea! I’m obsessed.

So how might these spicy cookie kids be considered pagan? Well, first of all, consider the ingredients. Ginger is good for passion, cinnamon love and prosperity, and nutmeg for protection. Every one of the spices in these cookies is related to fiery energy and warmth. What is it we are welcoming back at Yule? Why, it’s the light of the sun, of course! Can’t get much warmer or fiery than old Sol!

So why make these cookies in the shape of people? There may be various reasons for this. Effigies have long been a pagan custom. Think of the corn dollies made during the harvest which are sacrificed to the bonfires the next year. In the case of the gingerbread folk, by eating one a person might be taking into their body a quality such as that fire energy of passion, energy or protection so valued at the darkest, coldest time of year. One old spell suggests that if a woman can get a man to eat one of her gingerbread cookies, the man will fall in love with her. I imagine this could work for both sexes. Worth a try, no!?

There are certainly other spicy cookies and cakes baked at this time of year. The baking of spicy German lebkuchen is an ancient custom, and though the etymology of the name is uncertain it could translate as “life cake”. There’s your tie in with the life giving sun. I also love the custom of wassailing with spiced cider. I hope people still go out into the apple orchards and sing to the trees, wishing them health and a bountiful harvest in the coming year. Now if singing and toasting to a tree isn’t pagan, then I don’t know what is! I plan to sing to and toast my apple trees. I’m beyond caring what the neighbors think.

Consider the story of the Gingerbread Boy: A couple wants a child, mixes some spicy sweet ingredients into a dough and forms it into the shape of a boy, bakes him in the oven, and out pops a live boy who immediately (and magickally, I might add) runs out the door. Go ahead and make all the comparisons you like about the magick of procreation, time in the womb (a bun in the oven) and the trials of parenthood! My favorite version of the story is retold in this version by Jan Brett:

Gingerbread Baby

Some years I bake plain gingerbread folks. Maybe just add some cinnamon candies or raisins or nuts.

Other years I get fancier with the decorations.

Lol – Be creative! Make your gingerbread boy or girl reflect your personality. Offer one of these spicy cookies to someone you are sweet on and see what happens when you focus your intention.

Need a recipe to bake some of your own gingerbread folk? There’s a great one in this new vegan holiday cookbook: Vegan Christmas Cookies and Cocoa

As we welcome back the return of the light and the rebirth of the sun and its yearly cycle, may your year ahead be filled with all good things! And so it is!

Yuletide 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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