Cauldron to Kitchen

Paganism, food and spirituality

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Selina Rifkin

Selina Rifkin

Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Tellus1.jpgThere is a cookbook titled The Joy of Cooking. It was the go-to book in my mom’s household when I was growing up. Don’t know how to make something? Go look in the book. It had everything from how to cook nearly any kind of meat, [I believe I recall frog legs!] vegetables, pastry, desserts, aspic and an assortment of other things. When I moved out, mom gave me my own copy, and at my request, she gave me another when I got married many years later.

I’m not sure how much she actually felt joy about cooking. She’s an artist and has ADD, and cooking is not one of the things that grabs her attention. In fact, she can find it difficult to remember to eat, with the exception of sweet baked goods. Such was my introduction to cooking. Ie. I learned how to make cookies and bake bread, but had to teach myself to make a pot of soup. I don’t blame her for this lack. She did make food everyday, and if it wasn’t fancy, it was nourishing and I did eat some things that scared my friends: sea food was a regular at our dinner table in Pennsylvania, as was calf’s liver. But she didn’t teach me to cook any of it myself. I don’t think she had the energy, as a single mom, she wanted far more help from me than she got, and she didn’t have the will to fight with me once I hit my teens.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_793px-Johann_Heinrich_Wilhelm_Tischbein_-_Dance_of_the_Fauns_and_the_Meneads_-_WGA22716.jpgListening is more than you being silent when other people talk. It is about giving what is in front of you your complete attention. That might be a person, or it might be a fur friend. It might be a tree, or a plant, or a river. Listening allows the voice of the other to sink into us and become part of who we are.

And that can change who we are.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_praybeads1.jpgIn some ways, I’m glad I wasn’t in CT when Hurricane Sandy ripped through our lives. I have had enough stress in my life, that my adrenals are no longer high functioning. Too much, and I’m a wreck for days. But I’m almost sorry I missed seeing the land spirits save our house.

Gardening is one very effective way of connecting with land spirits, and I’ve been doing that since I moved to Connecticut. We don’t own the wooded lot behind our house, and because our own plot is tiny, we had lots of shade. I longed to grow vegetables, but made do with cherishing native shade perennials. Growing these is a slow process. They take years to spread, and I lost some of what I put in to slugs. My long term goal was to spread them into the woods where non-natives had taken over. I spent a lot of time outside talking to trees, and plants. As my spiritual practice became more defined, I set up a cupped stone as a place to leave libations for the land spirits.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Amanda Smith
    Amanda Smith says #
    I'm sorry that's what you hear because that's not what I'm saying.
  • Amanda Smith
    Amanda Smith says #
    In my practice I don't worship deities. When I cast I don't ask for anything. I don't demand anything. I work in tandem with th
  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    Amanda, I both cast and pray, sometimes even at the same time, but frequently separately. I use the word prayer to describe any
  • Amanda Smith
    Amanda Smith says #
    This is a great post but I have a question. Over the last ten years I've noticed more and more witches using the term praying and
  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin says #
    Well, not all Pagans describe themselves as witches, I don't. Wicca is a very specific tradition, and certainly the best known, bu

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b2ap3_thumbnail_hangingcandle1.jpgNot everyone finds it easy to communicate with the gods, and even when we talk to them, they don’t always answer. And that is perhaps for the best. Being too god-touched makes being in the embodied world difficult. Driving for example demands one be present in one’s body. Raven Kaldera describes different ways of being god-ridden, and one involves being “locked in the trunk.” Raven has a human driver to make sure he gets from place to place, and I’m sure that’s a very good thing for other people on the road.

Our ancestors understand the requirements of embodiment. They’ve been there, and while most of them will never have driven a car – it is, after all, a fairly recent invention – they have used sharp tools, and had to get away from danger. And they want us to succeed. An Ancestor practice is one of the best and dare I say, safest, ways for an inexperienced beginning Pagan to connect with the non-embodied world. This is true because our beloved dead care about us in a most personal way.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_bullcoin.jpgProsperity - a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects

We all want to be happy, and see those we care for to be happy as well. To be successful at what we do, to flourish and thrive is what all humans hope for. But why does it so often involve money? To be sure there are tribes that do not use money. The Bushmen of the Kalahri are happy to be eating ostrich eggs and boar’s heads, cooked in hot sand and embers, and feel extra privileged to get a bite of mostly cooked boar anus or a roasted beetle. Jakob Malas, a Khomani hunter from a section of the Kalahari that is now Gemsbok National Park says "The Kalahari is like a big farmyard, it is not wilderness to us. We know every plant animal and insect, and know how to use them. No other people could ever know and love this farm like us." * They do not feel poor. They have few material possessions, but they dance and sing.

And we might envy that happiness, that simplicity. Life in the Western world is hard apace, and filled with choices and conflicts. We lack the deep knowledge and support of each other that comes with living closely in groups. Modern economists call this social capital. And money can be very hard to think about. My mother, raised during the great depression, used to agonize over balancing her checkbook to the penny. She would sit at the kitchen table and moan and swear. The consequences for not thinking about money are high. We can loose our mode of transportation or our home. But it is worth noting that the consequences for the bushman who fails to think ahead are even higher.

In truth, even in the developed nations, we have the option of checking out of the economy. People have been making communes for generations, some of them non-monetary where resources and labor are pooled for a common goal. And yet only a small portion of the population chooses to do this at any given time.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_fireplace1.jpgThis morning I started a pot of soup. The beef shanks came from a farm where the cows live on grass or hay and, during the summer at least, they spend their days outside in broad fields. The family that runs the farm has been raising and selling meat for a long time. They are all business in their farm store, perhaps even taciturn. But they are efficient, and their prices make up for any perceived grumpiness. But back to the soup…

The shanks get roasted in the oven and then left in the crock pot for a few hours to make stock (damn, I forgot to put in some onions! But there’s time for that.) Then the meat is picked off the bones, and set aside while veggies cook in the stock, and finally the meat goes back in. It’s a slow process. While I do have the capacity to whip up a quick meal – I keep organic frozen veggies handy and often take a day to make frozen entrees ahead of time – soup is just best if one takes some time.

The lush smell of it, the warmth on a single digit day, and the balance of flavors are all important, but the care that went into the making brings just at much to the table. It takes time and attention not just to make the soup, but to choose the ingredients. I’m picky about food. I want my food to be clean and grown by people who care. Some of it I grow myself because I love my garden and I do some canning and other food preservation because it saves us money. The soup is not just ingredients, it is time and labor, not just the act of making, but the labor that paid for the ingredients. How we spend our time and labor shows what we love.

 

And this is where it gets complicated.

 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_cavepainting.jpgOur ancestors told stories; stories that entertained, that showed people how to live, and that explained how the world was ordered. They sat around campfires, and around the work they were doing at the moment and told stories and sang songs. As People became more numerous, they gathered in cities and the stories got bigger, the presentation more formal and particular. The telling moved beyond just one person and others played roles. The stories of how the world was created were acted out yearly and with precision. On flaw in the performance and the players must start again least the world not function as it should.

The priests would enter bringing with them the sounds of chanting and the smell of incense. What storytelling lost in intimacy, public performance made up for in created spectacle. The grand theatre of the temple, housing statuary, and carved with reliefs of the doings of the gods, the choice of time of day, the smell of the sacrifice, and the sound of human voices raised in praise, all enveloped the participants. It allowed them to step out of ordinary time and join in the creation of the world, the crowning of the god-king, and the sparking of the fertility by which humanity survived. And whether around the fire or in the temple grounds, such participation bonded the people to each other and invested them with meaning and purpose. Such is the definition of ritual.

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