PaganSquare


PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

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Corn and Whiskey: Sacredness and Community Borne from the Earth

A significant portion of my family originated along the borderlands between Scotland and England, mostly in Northumberland and the Scottish Border. A number of them were reivers, opportunistic and clannish cattle- and sheep-thieving mafiosos of the Tudor and Stuart periods. When King James I of England (the VI of Scotland) wrestled them into submission, they migrated at his behest with other lowland Scots into Ulster, Ireland, before eventually immigrating to Turtle Island, settling in what we now call Western North Carolina. Once again, they dwelled in a borderland, a liminal space between the lands still freely occupied by Native peoples in the west and the European colonies in the east. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful region, with rolling ancient mountains and fertile valleys, carved through with rivers and creeks and patches of swamps. They lived in this area from the middle of the 18th century to the early 20th century. For much of this time, they were listed as farmers in tax and census records, like many other settlers of the area.

Corn Goddesses, Myths, and Traditions

Maize, what we Americans call corn (in Europe, corn can mean any grain), was a crucial and sacred crop to many Native tribes. As explained on the Native Languages website: “Corn played an important mythological role in many tribes as well-- in some cultures Corn was a respected deity, while in others, corn was a special gift to the people from the Creator or culture hero.” For the Cherokee, the Goddess Selu is the Corn Woman. She was the first woman Who came into being, and She was ultimately killed by Her twin sons, who feared Her power. Yet, as She died, She taught Her boys how to farm corn so that She could be reborn (“Selu, the Cherokee Corn Mother”). The Iroquois Corn Goddess is Onatah, Who with Her two sisters formed the Deohako, the “Life Supporters” -- more familiar to us settlers as the Three Sisters. In an Iroquois agricultural myth, Onatah was kidnapped and hidden underground, which caused a famine that only ended when She was liberated and returned (“Onatah, the Iroquois Spirit of the Corn”). In both myths, there is a theme of descent into the underworld -- through death in one, and being hidden in the other -- and a reemergence, which we see every year in the farming of maize.

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Our story so far:

Since the 17th century (at least) the rising of the Sun on Yule Morning has been greeted in Shetland with the plaintive and darkly beautiful fiddle tune The Day Dawn. For four hundred years (at least), the tune had words no more than the birdsong which greets the same dawn.

Then, a few years back, Jane Hazelden wrote lyrics for The Day Dawn. They're good, maybe even very good: as good a nutshell definition of Yule as any that ever I've heard and, indeed, better than most.

But they don't quite fit the tune.

To fit her new words to the old fiddle tune, Hazelden has truncated some of the musical phrasing, notably certain repetitions and, in so doing—to my ear, at least—thereby diminished something of the tune's integrity, and dulled something of its luminosity.

(Forgive me, giver, if I destroy the gift, the Goddess once, through Laura Riding, told Robert Graves: It is so nearly what I want, I cannot help but perfect it.)

So I've tweaked Hazelden's lyrics to fit the original tune by matching verbal repetitions to the musical ones.

Well, you be the judge. Maybe you're a fiddler and don't need words at all to sing the Sun his Old Song.

But out on the bridge, singing the Sun up out of the Mississippi valley on Solstice morning, these are the words that I'll be singing myself.

So join me if you will.

 

The Day Dawn

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WeMoon Sweet Potato Cakes

Hearty and oh-so-healthy, these pancakes make for a marvelous full moon meal. Sweet potatoes are truly beneficial to women’s health since they contain estrogen; these tubers are good for you inside and out, as they also give your skin a nice boost. But their main magic for everyone is that they are a grounding tonic. Anytime you feel spacey or out-of-sorts or distracted, this food will serve you well, even if you just bake and eat a sweet potato. For this savory sweet, you will need:

  • 2 large semi-baked sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 large semi-baked russet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 3eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • Chives, sage, and rosemary

Mix the potatoes and carrot in a large bowl. Beat the eggs, then add to the veggie mixture and mix thoroughly. Grind the rosemary and sage to a very fine powder in your mortar and pestle and add in a tablespoon of the herbs; salt and pepper to taste. Shape into round balls, enough for eight mooncakes. Warm the oil slowly until it is nice and hot. Place the balls in the oil and flatten into rounds with a spatula. Cook through until they are golden and beginning to crisp on both sides. Plate up and top with organic yogurt and chives. If you’re feeling decadent, dollop on sour cream, then enjoy with a circle of friends under the sheen of a bright and holy moon.

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A Healthy Dose of Self-Care

One of the things that we can always feel grateful for is good health. Without it, we often can't perform the simplest of daily tasks on our to-do list. Because it's such a basic and instinctual need, it's all too easy to take our well-being for granted. With patients exercising a healthy suspicion of certain drugs being over-prescribed by the medical community, it's no surprise that holistic and alternative medicines are being sought out more than ever before. Many therapies and treatments originated in the Far East, such as Qigong, reiki, cupping, and acupuncture.

Needles You Needn't to be Afraid of

Acupuncture can be traced back as far as 6000 BCE, and was first practiced in China substituting long, pointy bones for the needles. The concept behind inserting the needles into the human body to combat anything from stress to pain is intriguing. It all centers around each individual's life force, or "qi," running though the body. When certain areas are in disharmony, your qi cannot easily flow the way it is supposed to. You become blocked and this can lead to chronic discomfort and illness. A set of up to 20 sterilized needles are gently pushed into the skin for up to 30-60 minutes at a time. Acupuncture enthusiasts affirm that it really works for them, and they start to notice the benefits very soon after their first few treatments. Just remember if trying this experience for the first time yourself, it helps to keep your eyes closed and stay in a meditative state—otherwise you can't let the healing work for you and through you!

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Savory Hedgewitch Pie

This recipe is old-school comfort food at its finest and is very filling and festive. Many of us are working mothers with very busy schedules, so this family favorite is good to double up on. Make one to serve piping hot out of the oven and freeze the second for a delicious reheated repast for after school and after work. You will need the following ingredients for one pie:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup carrots, sliced
  • 2⁄3 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
  • 4 to 5 potatoes, boiled
  • 1⁄2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups sautéed ground beef, or soy protein for meat-free options
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
 
Mash the potatoes with unsalted organic butter, adding one splash of milk at a time until you have the desired consistency. Make sure you can get peaks so the pie will be impressively landscaped! Salt and pepper the potatoes to taste. Slowly heat the olive oil in sauté pan and cook the onions until they soften, then fold in and cook your meat or veggie protein. Lastly, add in the carrots, celery, mushrooms, and tomato and cook through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add in your favorite herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary, or whatever your heart desires. Transfer to an oiled pie dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Lastly, spread the mashed potatoes on top, creating peaks and valleys. Dust a sprinkling of parsley and chives on top, then pop into the oven for fifteen minutes. Once the tater topping begins to turn a lovely golden brown on top, remove from the oven. Serve this hearty homemade savory pie in bowls alongside a crisp salad of homegrown greens and allow the coziness to melt all mundane matters away. This dish is good for any day of the week and impressive enough to bake for high holidays.
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A Siberian Witch's Tale

 

On the banks of a great river there once lived a poor fisherman. One day he made, from river clay, a clay man, and left him out in the Sun to dry.

The Sun shone, and the Winds blew. When the clay man was dry, he went to the fisherman's cottage and began to tap on the window.

Tap, tap, tap, he tapped.

The fisherman's wife arose and went to open the door, but the fisherman said:

 

Ignore the man of clay,

and he'll surely go away.

 

The fisherman's wife sat back down, but the clay man did not stop his tapping.

Tap, tap, tap, he tapped.

 

Ignore the man of clay,

and he'll surely go away,

 

said the fisherman again, but the clay man still did not stop his tapping.

Tap, tap, tap, he tapped.

 

Ignore the man of clay,

and he'll surely go away,

 

said the fisherman a third time, but finally the fisherman's wife could bear it no more, and she rose and opened the door.

The clay man entered the cottage and swallowed the fisherman's wife. Then he swallowed the fisherman, and all of their children.

The clay man went through the entire village, eating everyone that he could find: infants in their cradles, children at play, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers. With every person that he ate, he grew larger and more voracious.

Then the clay man saw the beautiful elk. So wide did he open his mouth that his lower jaw reached Earth and his upper jaw Heaven, and he stepped forward, to swallow the beautiful elk whole.

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Bread Is Love; Bake It

The smell of baking bread is incredibly seductive. Try it and you’ll soon see.

Makes one large or two regular loaves.

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