Monday, October 31, 2011

Samhain Blessings

A soul, a soul, a soul cake
Please, good missus, a soul cake
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry
Any good thing to make us all merry
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all

~ Folk song

Wishing you a very Blessed Samhain!

I made soul cakes for the very first time this year. In the past I've left out apples and some sort of bread (usually cornbread) for the spirits. This year I wanted to do something a little more special.


1/2 C butter (1 stick)
2 C sifted flour
1/2 C sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1 egg
1 tsp cider vinegar
2-3 Tbl milk
powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

1. Preheat oven to 350 *F
2. Cut butter into flour with pastry blender or large fork.
3. Blend in sugar and spices.
4. Beat eggs, vinegar and milk together in bowl.
5. Mix with flour mixture until stiff dough is formed.
6. Knead thoroughly and roll out 1/4 inch thick.
7. Cut into 3 inch rounds, place on greased baking sheet.
8. Prick several times with a fork.
9. Bake 20-25 minutes.
10. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still warm.

The above is half of the original recipe, so theoretically it should have made only 6 soul cakes, but I got about 13 of them. Maybe I rolled the dough too thin or my cookie cutter wasn't the right size. At any rate, the extras did not go to waste!

I put them in a wooden bowl with an apple (cut horizontally so you can see the pentacle) and set them on the flat offering rock that sits at the entrance of my herb garden. Sustenance for the passing souls as they journey through the veil tonight!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I'll Be at the Ball

The 20th Annual Denver Witches' Ball is TOMORROW NIGHT! Live bands featuring tribal fusion, world groove, Celtic inspired music for dancing, trance drumming, psychic fair, costume contests, and a midnight ritual presented by my friends of Sacred Stone Circle.

AND-- I'll be there! Into the Dawn Designs is part of the Magickal Marketplace again this year. Some of my unique items include--

Hope to see you at the ball!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Witch's Circle: Commitment

There is some interesting conversation going on over at The Deepest Well for the first topic in the newly formed discussion group The Witch's Circle .

In a nutshell, we're asked as pagans-- how committed are we to our path if we have dedicated ourselves to paganism, but haven't renounced our previous faith? In her topic post, Aine says,
"In my opinion, it's too easy to dedicate to something without having to forfeit something else. There is no risk, nothing to lose and because of this, it's too easy to commit."

And, "Commitments are necessary, and sacrifices are a part of life. In your spiritual life, you can't walk two paths at the same time. These paths may run parallel to each other but they are separate."
So I've been chewing on this idea since yesterday. I understand the point, but I'm not sure that I really agree. I have dedicated to my path in ritual, in front of others. I have re-dedicated to my path. I have been part of several rituals where I challenged, guided and then welcomed new dedicants after their year and a day of study. These were rich, emotional, fulfilling rituals with vows that were taken seriously by all involved. But were they incomplete because they didn't include a renouncement of former faith?

I think not. At least for me.

I can't say that I grew up in a very religious family. I remember going to Methodist church when I was very little and I was part of the children's choir for a couple of years. But I don't remember being involved in the church much beyond those years, except for when I would spend the occasional weekend with my Gram and she would take me to her Baptist church.

In my teens and 20's I was confused about religion. I tried finding God by reading the Bible several times, but never made it very far past Genesis. Why was God so down on women? Why was he so angry and vengeful? Where was the love?

In my early 30's I was involved in a 12-steps program, two of those steps stating that I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity, and, being willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God. Wait a minute. I didn't understand God. And I certainly wasn't willing to turn my life over to Him. So I went searching for understanding.

And on my last day as a Christian, I went to Easter services and listened to not one, but two pastors tell me I was an unworthy sinner who needed saved and blah blah blah. It was spring time, a time to be celebrating, and we sang doleful hymns about how Jesus died for our sins and without his sacrifice, we would never make it to heaven and everlasting life. After the service I sat in my car in the church parking lot and cried because I hadn't found God. And I made the decision to explore a different spiritual path, paganism.

Although I didn't state it out loud or during a dedication ritual or in front of witnesses-- I feel that at the moment I decided to pursue a pagan path, I renounced my former (tenuous) faith. I made a choice. I was committed to that choice. And after several years of study, I made a second commitment to my path when I went through a dedication ritual and gave myself to the Lady and the Lord.

I feel I renounced the Christian path when I made my choice to pursue paganism, but I don't renounce God or Jesus. I believe They are just different aspects of the Lord that I now honor. Only I know the Lord as Lugh and the Greenman and Hanuman and Father Sky and by other names. They are all different parts of the whole. How can I reject one of the many faces of the Lord, just because I don't connect with that aspect? Instead, I focus on the faces of the God that I do connect with.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Snow of the Season

I've been enjoying a long, leisurely autumn, the trees slowly changing colors this year... but our first snow has officially arrived.

Its lovely and white and slushy and outside, but I fear for the trees. Most have not yet shed their leaves and the heavy, wet snow is dangerously weighing down tree branches everywhere.

Our neighbor has already lost a rather large branch off her elm tree that came crashing down in our yard and crushed part of my laundry line.

Temperatures are supposed to rise to the mid-50's again over the weekend, so the snow won't last long. Hopefully that one branch will be the only casualty.

Monday, October 24, 2011

This Week I Am

Watching: Lots of horror movies! Tis the season, after all! Even if I've seen it a million times, if its a horror movie, I'll probably watch it. I also have some lined up in my Netflix queue, but I have to watch Elizabeth: The Golden Age first. Maybe tonite.

Creating: A tarot box mosaic. Need to make more scarabs. And a million other things before vending at Witches' Ball next Saturday.

Planning: A presentation for my tarot group tomorrow night. Looking at doing some exercises on embodying a tarot card.

Reading: The Druid's Isle by Ellen Evert Hopman. A sequel to the Priestess of the Forest book that got me thinking so much. Wonder if this one will get me thinking too.

Listening: To squirrels chattering and scolding outside. Its a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day, so I have the front door open. The cats are glued to the storm door, watching the squirrels-- not that they'd know what to do with one if they caught one.

Realizing: Returned to my seasonal job today for a short project and got hugs from several people I haven't seen all summer-- made me realize just how much I like my job even though its temporary and made me realize what great people I meet and get to work with there.

Trying: To stay focused and get things done that need doing. Its so easy for me to get distracted.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thoughts on Priestess of the Forest

I finished reading Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey earlier this week and I am still thinking about this book.

What I liked about this book: The way it showed how Druid spirituality was a guiding factor in all parts of people's lives-- not just ritual, but day to day activities, healing, hunting and politics as well. I really liked the way Celtic wisdom was intertwined into the story and how the Druids used every day occurrences as teaching moments.

It was also interesting to see how two different monks approached the Druids regarding the Christian faith. One priest shared Christian teachings by telling stories of his God, as the pagans shared stories about theirs. He spread his faith by breaking bread with the pagans, acknowledging their celebrations and being a loving and compassionate neighbor.

The other priest was all hellfire and brimstone. How he made the Christian faith appealing enough to the pagans to convert them is beyond me. He stirred dissension, he lied, was disrespectful of customs and to women...

I'm still questioning how Christianity ever caught on. I can see how it would be appealing to men, but not women. What was so appealing about it? Because there was one god, not many, to believe in, so it seemed so much more simple? Because of the promise of a rich afterlife for everyone, peasant or king, just for having faith? Would it ever have spread so far if it hadn't used fear and force to convert people?

I think it just emphasizes to me that I really am a pagan, because, even though this book is fiction, it is written by a modern Druid, and the Druid wisdom, teachings, rituals and lifestyle the author shares make complete sense to me and are extremely appealing.

I know I've rambled at bit in this post, but basically what I'm trying to convey is that this book really got me thinking again about my path and why it means so much to me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Leaf Cane

 I am making a Greenman wall plaque for a custom order, but before I can actually start designing the Greenman, I need to make a leaf cane...

I don't use a lot of canes in my work, but I can figure out how to make simple ones like this; it just takes me a while to put them together. I made a Skinner blend of two shades of olive clay (light & dark) and then rolled up the blend to make a plug. Then, I cut the plug apart and added brown clay for the veins of the leaves.

Next I reduced the cane in size, by carefully squeezing, rolling and stretching it. For simplicity's sake, I'm going to leave the cane round and then shape the leaves into teardrops after I slice it.

Now I can move on to creating the actual Greenman design!

Monday, October 17, 2011

This Week I Am

Watching: The leaves turn yellow on the tree in our front yard. And watching the clock.

Thinking: About the pagan roots of Christianity (prompted by the book I'm reading-- see below). Thinking about Jesus as a Sun/Grain God. Wondering how pagans fought for their beliefs back in the early days of the spread of Christianity, and for those who converted, what was the appeal of Christianity over paganism? Or was conversion all just done by force?

Creating: Nothing at the moment, but I need to stain some plaques and start work on some leaf canes for a custom order.

Planning: Waiting for some news, so plans are up in the air right now.

Reading: Priestess of the Forest, a Druid journey by Ellen Evert Hopman. I'm about halfway through it. This is a fiction novel, but I really like it, and it has me thinking about my spiritual beliefs.

Listening: to silence, to help keep me calm... as long as my mind doesn't start chattering madly, then some soothing music will be in order...

Trying: To remember to breathe today. Deeply. And trying to stay busy.

Feeling: Very agitated. Waiting to hear back about a possible job opportunity and my anxiety is getting the best of me, unfortunately. I don't like that I still get this way when it comes to this issue. I had hoped I was past this.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Week I Am

Watching: Morning sunlight flickering through the leaves of the tree in our front yard, always magical.

Thinking: About how fall/winter is a good time to turn inward and do some pagan reading, studying and journaling. Wondering what I should focus on.

Creating: Working on a custom order-- scarab beetle necklace and earrings set. Also working on some art journal pages.

Planning: It's my turn to present at this month's tarot group meeting. I have several different ideas of what I could do, but I need to settle on one and get my presentation put together. Thinking about focusing on exercises that can be done to help clarify meanings of cards that are a challenge to understand.

Reading: Stealing Faces by Michael Prescott. I love good suspense/thrillers and his books are great, if you can stomach the graphic violence. Stayed up until 4:30AM reading his novel Blind Pursuit because it was so riveting. His strong, intelligent female characters are a big plus.

Listening: Last night I was listening to Billy Joel's "The Stranger" CD and thinking, man, I miss the days when music was like that. Also, I think I need more Billy Joel CDs.

Trying: New art journal techniques! Currently fascinated with using alcohol inks for page backgrounds. I have this great alcohol ink faux bleach technique I'm playing with as well.

Feeling: Content. Mellow. Sleepy. Creative. My muse is poking at me-- nice to have her around again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

First Fall Pot o' Chili

While lots of states have been having unseasonally warm temps it seems, it was cold and rainy here in Colorado this weekend. The mountains and foothills even got snow.

Seemed like the perfect time to make our first pot of super beany chili for fall.

I keep experimenting with our recipe and at this point its come a long way from where I started. This year we found canned fire roasted tomatoes at the grocery store and I knew I had to use those in our chili. Plus, I wanted to try black beans along with the chili and dark red kidney beans, so now my super beany chili has gotten even beanier.

Last weekend we got a bushel of roasted green chiles and spent an evening cleaning and bagging them up to freeze. I think we got about 15 snack sized baggies packed full of green chiles stashed away. A generous half cup of them went into the pot of chili for tonight and I've been collecting other recipes for this winter that use green chiles.

Have you cooked up any fall favorites yet this season?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Art Journal Pages

It's been a long while since I posted any of my 52 Weeks Pagan Art Journal pages because... well... its been a long while since I've had any time to do work on any of them. But here are a couple that are in progress.

This is the page I've started for Week 5, theme "A Letter to Myself." I wanted to try using tissue paper for the background to see if I could create some interesting texture for the page and I've crumpled up and then smoothed out some scrapbooking paper for more texture.

This is another incomplete page; the theme for this one is "Earth." The herb images are stamped and then colored with colored pencils. I wanted to add trees somehow and found this cool embossed scrapbook paper that works. Not sure how I want to finish the page, but I think the Ogham will be part of the design by the time its done.

My summer has been crazy, but now that fall is here, hopefully life will slow down and I can do more with my PAJ pages. I miss art journaling.