Strega Nona Entertaining: Conjuring Creative Fun

From recipes to rituals, I will kindly divine the perfect celebration for you!

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Colleen DuVall

Colleen DuVall

Colleen DuVall has written articles, plays, short films, and a novel. Most recently, her work was featured in Crone Magazine and the Marquette Journal online. She resides with a black cat named Bootsie, who always wants to keep her company at her computer.

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It's all in the Healing

With all of the wacky weather we have been experiencing the globe over, one could get the impression that Mother Nature is royally ticked-off with us. Can you blame her? She's been so often abused, neglected, and taken for granted it is a wonder that we still have a planet fit to live on. What we can do is let her know that we care. Think of it like honoring your own mother on Mother's Day. I am a big fan of building strong energy and channeling it through ecstatic dance and music. I used to attend a great dance in Evanston back in the day, and there's no reason why you couldn't hold your own. For Earth Day this year, try organizing a Trance Dance. As in Transcendental. No, we're not talking about Rave 'Til Dawn. Your mission: find a great space, and create mood lighting. Low lights, candles on the outskirts (safely out of the way), pretty electric glowy lights and lava lamps, would all do the trick. Do you or someone you know have access to a large basement, church space, or school gym? The most important factor is that the space is wide open and that no one has to worry about colliding with objects or each other in it. Elect someone to play DJ for the eve. Make sure in advance that you have a decent sound system. Get a good-sized, unselfconscious group to come on out and let the party begin.

The main idea that everyone should be let in on from the beginning is that you are holding a dance with intent. To send out nurturing energy to help heal our Mother Earth. Send her your love with the energy that you create through your dancing.

Ideally, you move like crazy to a steady mix of New-Agey, Electronica, World music for one to two hours straight. You dance with total abandon, literally stomping your ya-yas out until you are dripping with sweat and reach the equivalent of a runner's high. If you need to cool it down in the midst of your twirling, feel free to strike some good yoga poses in the middle of the circle and catch your breath. See the clear unpolluted waters, protected forests, recycling programs, solar and wind power all happening in your mind's eye. Believe that it can continue to happen– that it is not to late to do our part to have a beneficial, lasting ecological impact on our planet. 

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A Springtime Ceilidh

St. Patty's Day can be an odd time of year for we Irish Wiccans and Pagans. On the one hand, the attraction of all things Irish is strong. First there's that stirring fiddle music and the rumble of the drum. The food is mighty tasty, folks are feeling celebratory, and who doesn't like the color of bright, springy green? On the other, who wants to revere a man for driving the "snakes" out of Ireland, a.k.a. the Druids? There is still a spirited scholarly debate regarding how much damage St. Patrick actually did on his own versus the mythic qualities that surround him to this present day. This presents a quandary, but not one insurmountable. I believe that you can partake in festivities in your own way, honoring your Irish heritage. Perhaps this year is one of the most opportune times, when we have the Irish holiday falling within the same week as the Spring Equinox. If you do up a dinner party combining the two, with a focus on some of the more classic Celtic traditions– problem solved!

Take down your favorite celtic knotwork wall hanging and use it as a tablecloth. Hopefully it is nothing you mind cleaning a little spilled food or drink off of. Decorate the table with fresh cut spring flowers, such as daffodils. Invite about 4 to 6 others to join you and pull up a chair. For your menu, think Celtic-eclectic. This is your very own hybrid holiday, after-all.

Had it with tired old corned beef and cabbage? Give this tempting main course a try: 

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An Imbolc Idea

This winter has been a harsh one thus far, to say the least. Rather than resist it, the best tactic for coping might in fact be facing it head on. Provided that February 2 does not fall into dangerous windchill temps in your neck of the woods, I recommend a meditation by skiing. Cross-country, that is. I will never forget the Saturday afternoon back in high school that I cross-country skied to my best friend's house across a barren cornfield. The weather conditions were ideal. The sun was out and making the snow on the ground glisten. It was warm enough that I could eventually unbutton my long overcoat. I was listening to Pink Floyd's, "Dark Side of the Moon," on my walkman. If that dates me, I don't care. The experience was paradisiacal. 

 

Even if you don't own a pair of skis, there are usually inexpensive options for a daily rent at a supply shop. Or if you are a member of a nature center, such as the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, you may check out a pair for free with your membership. Find your ideal deserted woodsy setting– preferably something straight out of a Robert Frost poem, and get skiing. If you opt for music, your really can't go wrong with the afore-mentioned Pink Floyd. Otherwise, choose something instrumental and soothing that you can clear your mind to. Karen Drucker also has some lovely selections off of her "Songs of the Spirit" CD that could help focus your meditation to the Goddess. Besides clearing your mind and enlivening your soul, your body will get a great workout. If opting for no music, tune into the sounds of wildlife creatures, the swish swish of your skis gliding along at a steady pace, and the occasional soft plump of falling or melting snow. Breathe in deep and let the fresh, clean air open up your lungs. Let the gratitude of being healthy, outside, and able to still enjoy these things fill your heart.

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A Sassy Solstice Soirée

Winter Solstice is a perfect excuse to wind down for the year. It is happily emphasized since I am on Winter Break for school– hibernating more and going out less. For the last seven years and counting, I have held some sort of Winter Solstice gathering for friends and sometimes family. I have hosted sit-down traditional dinners and the more informal drinks and appetizers only fiesta. We have mulled spiced-wine together, played an old parlor game entitled, "The Minister's Cat," and lit candles. One of my favorite theme ideas was putting a spotlight on the sun: I served spicy Indian food for snacks and the soundtrack featured all songs mentioning the sun. There are a seemingly endless supply of these to choose from.

This year, I am taking some advice from an Indianapolis food blogger, featured in the current issue of Midwest Living. Her article, "Holiday Party Tips From Annie Marshall: Eat Drink and Be Merry," is a great approach to a more relaxed get-together. From hanging treats on an "edible cookie tree," to her insistence on serving a signature drink for the event that you can make a nice big batch of in advance, Marshall knows her stuff. Here is her recipe for Cranberry Margaritas:

Stir up a pitcher of these rosy margaritas for your next holiday bash. The Simple Syrup recipe makes enough syrup for 30 margaritas but is easily halved or quartered.

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Stonie Rivera and a Samhain Supper

For this Halloween blog entry of mine, I would like to give our kind attention to a truly fascinating interview subject, Stonie Rivera. Rivera has been a a local legend on the Milwaukee music scene for some time. Her punk bands Dummy Club and the Psycho Bunnies were well-loved and the former performed memorably at last year's, "Lest We Forget" concert at Turner Hall Ballroom, which also highlighted the talents of Die Kreuzen. The following are some of Rivera's thoughts on music, the arts, and running an underground art gallery which also houses a pleasant collection of occult supplies. And oh yes, she is a practicing witch.

 

On her musical influences Rivera had this to share: "My musical background came as a child, my dad was a musician and we always had music on in the house– everything from classical to jazz, Motown, opera, R&B, Soul. Mom was a huge fan of Little Richard & Fats Domino. Growing up in the sixties was an excellent time to really appreciate music. Music became a part of the civil rights and anti-war movements and we grew up in a really intense time of change. My biggest influences were groups like the Ronettes, the Marvelettes, Tina Turner, Ketty Lester, Billie Holiday, and The Rolling Stones."

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Dionysus and the Fermented Grape

Ah the fermented grape. How many ways may I sing your praises? You age to sometimes sweet or paper dry perfection. So many different varietals, so little time. Since the days of ancient Greece, wine has been a heartily enjoyed fruit beverage of choice. Here's a little suggestion for the autumnal equinox: hold an old-fashioned Greek symposium. Invite a round table of your nearest and dearest and pick a good juicy topic of discussion. If you really want to get authentic, take a nod from Plato and get a spirited debate going about the different kinds of love.

Have everyone bring a different bottle of wine. Stick with the Greek theme. An excellent choice is always a fresh and sassy Roditis. Serve feta, Kalamata olives, grapes, pita bread, hummus and a couscous salad with fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Shake up a dipping dressing of yogurt and honey on the side. When the discussion has waned and perhaps people are slurring their words a bit too much to continue to debate intelligently, make a toast to Dionysus, lusty god of wine and the dance.

"Dionysus, 

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Party of One: Ganesha

Sometimes I like to go to visit Gods and Goddesses from neighboring friendly pantheons. After attending my first Kirtan chant three years ago, I was introduced to the Hindu God Ganesh, the elephant-headed remover of obstacles. I was instantly drawn to him and "Gan Gan Ganapati" quickly became by personal favorite chant. It resonated on a deeper level of my subconscious. After some research, I discovered that Ganesh has his very own ten day festival every year in India, Ganesh Chaturthi. According to About.com Guide, Sharell Cook, it culminates with a huge celebration on the last day called, Anata Chaturdasi day. Cook notes that the festivities are dependant "on the cycle of the moon." The dates fall a little differently annually, but for 2013 "Ganesh Fest" runs September 9 - September 19. The website, http://goindia.about.com/od/festivalsevents/p/ganeshfestival.htm had some inspiring suggestions for setting up an altar and honoring Ganesh in your own home.

According to Subhamoy Das, also from the goindia site, Ganesh likes offerings of "coconuts, flowers, and camphor." You could also decorate your altar with figures of Ganesh and the color red.

Later in the article, "Ganesh Chaturthi, How to celebrate the great Ganesha festival," by Das, Swami Sivananda recommends, "On the Ganesh Chaturthi day, meditate on the stories connected with Lord Ganesha early in the morning, during the Brahmamuhurta period. Then, after taking a bath, go to the temple and do the prayers of Lord Ganesha. Offer Him some coconut and sweet pudding. Pray with faith and devotion that He may remove all the obstacles that you experience on the spiritual path. Worship Him at home, too. You can get the assistance of a pundit. Have an image of Lord Ganesha in your house. Feel His Presence in it."

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Harvest Some Fun For Lammas

Lammas, or Lughnassadh can easily be a forgotten Wiccan/Pagan holiday. It is not as showy as Samhain, or as lusty and festive as Beltane. But it remains one of the major sabbats, and should be recognized as such. The harvest is a time to gather: thoughts and blessings. It is about taking stock. We are getting ready for the next big seasonal shift. It is actually quite a powerful time, if you stop to ponder it. What better way to celebrate than to host an intimate gathering, simply to bake and break bread together; to just be? 

I would keep this one at four to five guests, tops. You know the old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen! Assign one person on each bread recipe– I have three that you could try. Have a fourth person on oven-tending and clean-up duty. If you have a fifth, let them set up serving plates and make sure everyone's glass stays filled with one of the following: sparkling apple juice, a hearty locally made craft ale, or a nice fruity barley wine. 

These recipes should provide variety for everyone, but please feel free to play with the flours or ingredients to make one vegan. Note that the Bacon Buttermilk Corn Bread should keep the gluten-free folks happy.

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Oh What A Beautiful Solstice

"Oh What a Beautiful Solstice, Oh What a Beautiful Day…"

These are the strains I remember waking to coming from an enthusiastic fellow Pagan Spirit Gathering camper some years back, on the day of the summer solstice. It stuck with me, and I have very fond memories of the experience. The gathering has gotten quite large and sadly, I have not been able to return– but the spirit of PSG stays with me. Drawing on some of that energy and a few of my own Litha gatherings since, here is my idea of the perfect Midsummer camping trip, on a much smaller scale.

I find that state parks have a lot to offer in the way of ample space, good upkeep and natural beauty. I cannot sing the praises enough of my own Wisconsin State Park System! Of course, if you know someone with access to private grounds, by all means, take advantage of that first. But when reserving at a public place, always be sure to request a woodsy, secluded spot, preferably on an end of the campground. You don't want to be sandwiched between others and most park administrative staff that you talk to can tell you of just such a site at their facility. If you find a park with a lake, there are usually the added benefits of a boat or canoe rental opportunity, swimming, and the soothing sounds of the water at night when you are drifting off to sleep.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Editor B
    Editor B says #
    We have our reservations at a state park, and I had some rough idea of how we should celebrate, but you've helped to crystallize t
  • Colleen DuVall
    Colleen DuVall says #
    Glad to hear it!
May Day, May Day: No Parking On The Dance Floor

Whether you refer to it as May Day or Beltane, it is often held as one of the most passionately beloved of all Pagan and Wiccan days. Here are some of the ways that I have enjoyed celebrating 

May 1: Early in the day, clean up your altar. Give it a good dust and polish and make it extra pretty. Then go out and pick some fresh wild or garden flowers or purchase some. Present them to your favorite lust Gods and Goddesses in a water-filled vase on the altar and tie some red and white ribbons at the base. 

For years, I have traditionally baked these yummy little scones from Patricia Telesco’s, “Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook.” 

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Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, all! I have always had a special place in my heart for this celebration. For one thing, it shares the same birth year as me, 1970. For another, the idea originated with a Wisconsin U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson. (This courtesy of the Earth Day Network™, http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement) Finally, if you love nature– what better way to revere our Mother Earth than with a hike and a picnic?

As to locations, look into your city, county, or state parks and see who has the best trails. If you are lucky enough to live in a rural or woodsy area and own your abode, blaze a trail of your own. When you return for some hearty fare, stoke a fire pit in the backyard if it has cooled off.

Picnic goodie list:

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It's a Spring Fling Thing

Spring should be a time of flights of fancy. Keep with the vibe of the season and hold a light and high-spirited dinner party for six to eight of your closest. Invite people to wear "welcome spring" accessories– whatever that may mean to them. This could range from a flower demurely tucked behind one's ear to a full on toga. Nudge people not to be bashful with this. If you want to keep things carefree, why not create less work for yourself playing host or hostess? Nothing says less work like a potluck, fey folk. I for one start to crave healthier eating at this time of year like nobody's business. Make it a salad dish to pass theme. Assign some greens, some pastas, and fruits for dessert so that you don't wind up with too much of the same kind. You can provide this naughty and nice low-cal deviled eggs recipe for an appetizer:

DEVILED EGGS WITH PICKLED ONIONS (Fry, 2013)

8 large eggs

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Mate Like A Wolf, Already!

February 14 is drawing nigh and you have a hot date planned. You would like to turn up the heat on the the after-party. Whatever is a romantic Wiccan who wishes to skip the commercialism but honor the day to do you ask? Have no fear, because I have some notions of my own.

First, whether you are going out or strictly staying in for the eve, wear something that makes you feel sexy. Not just what you think your hot date will drool over, but something you can feel both confident and move comfortably in. Nothing kills the mood like self-consciousness. Scent is important. I am a big fan of essential oils because they aren't over-powering and add just the right hint of seduction. Mix your own come-hither blend ahead of time, or if you appreciate musky tones, you cannot beat a pure blend of amber and myrrh. Kuumba Made® is a good natural option.

If it is your own love nest you are heading back to, please be sure to tidy up in advance. Dirty dishes, stinky garbage, and neglected bathrooms all are major anti-aphrodisiacs. So make with the broom in your pre-planning and do put some fresh sheets on the mattress. 

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An Imbolc Gathering

Imbolc is an introspective time of year. Many "I" words come to mind for me: introverted, inside, inquire. If you do not already opt for a solitary ritual on Brighid's special day and would like to mix things up a bit, I would keep the numbers small. An intimate gathering with a few close pals is in order.

 

If you don't have access to a fireplace to build a cozy one in your home, I am a big fan of lighting many white candles in the main area that you will be entertaining. Line a mantlepiece with several small votives and use a larger candle for the table centerpiece. Keep the lights low and make use of your dimmer switches in other rooms.

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This is going to be a banner year for Winter Solstice parties. If superstitious, you can choose to use the following theme on December 21. Or, opt to do a quiet solo meditation on that date. Then when you're still around to enjoy 2013, have a "The Mayans Were Misinformed" hootenanny to ring in the new year.

According to Lee Cart in the Suite 101 website article, "The Sacred Colors of the Ancient Maya," (January 20, 2011), the Mayan colors were red for the east and the birth of the sun, yellow for the south, black for death and the west, and white for north. You can construct an altar with a blue green candle for a centerpiece, as this was the fifth color and direction, believed to connect the other four cardinal elements. Incidentally, east/red was seen as the most important and should be placed at the typical north spot of your construction. Sacred plants and foods to the Mayans were wild corn, bees, flowers and beans. Choose one of each of these items to place at its corresponding color and direction– I would opt for yellow honey instead of actual bees, though.


Clare Green's, "The Ancient Maya Diet," (July 23, 2009) at the Discover Chichenitza website contains helpful menu ideas. Some of the staple foods of the Mayan diet that Green lists are: corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, pineapple, shrimp, avocado, and chocolate. You can use heat and serve products from your local organic food store or try out out some of the fun recipes here: http://car.utsa.edu/Legacy/mayarecipes.htm

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