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_web3_sm.jpgWhen I first started studying magic – almost 40 years ago now – one of the first things I learned was that doing magic on or for someone without their explicit knowledge and consent was a big no-no. There was potential for creating serious negative energy that could extend beyond the lifetime in which the spell was done, and lead to debts that would need to be repaid in successive lives. Such magic also went against my personal philosophy that I was responsible for myself and my own actions, and the gods would judge and reward me accordingly, and by extension, other people we responsible for their own actions and would be suitably judged and rewarded. In general I have lived by this, doing little magic (what I have done has been successful) and often without formal circle as I tend to work more with meditation and journeying. But I have a close family member who is changing my mind.

As a new teen at age 13, she maintained she was evil. Since I have a degree in psychology, I came to some conclusions about why she kept saying this. But those conclusions were not helpful. The child refused any and all self reflection, clinging to this story as if it were life. Perhaps it was. But we could not allow such a belief to continue, especially in the face of her increasing anger and simmering aggression. She had already done damage to property and struck her mother - the latter I didn’t’ find out until over years later – but the psychic dark cloud that surrounded her was enough to demonstrate that she was drawing on some bad stuff.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_woods2_sm.jpgTo be orderly, tidy, structured would seem to be a human thing as opposed to something natural. A stroll in the woods, a thunderstorm, a wild river; none of these seem at all organized in the way that comes to mind when we used that word. “Organized” is more likely to produce images of a desk with every staple in its place, or a schedule so tight that relaxation time is marked on a calendar. But nature too is organized. In a mature eco-system, each element has a precise role to play. That role is highly efficient in that every plant, every animal, every bacterium performs multiple jobs within the system simply by going about their day.

The elderberry bush produces berries that both feeds birds and humans. It provides shade and shelter for small animals. Its rapidly growing branches create biomass that falls to the ground and nurtures and protects the soil herd.* The creatures the bush shelters poop and pee there, providing nutrients to the bush and the soil herd. The microbiota beneath the bush pull minerals and nitrogen from the soil and give it to the bush in exchange for a bit of carbon sugar that the plant makes special for each type of bacteria. The bacteria also build soil aggregates that retain water, which then nourishes the bush. Myochoriza - thin filaments of fungi – spread their strands between and through the roots, puncturing them and connecting the bush with other plants in the neighborhood. This allows them to share both resources and information.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Hiawatha_M._L._Kirk_-_1910.jpgThe people of standing rock North Dakota won a victory this week. The Army Corps of Engineers denied access to the Dakota pipeline. The pipeline, which is already 90% built, will be rerouted. Although exactly where it will be rerouted is still open to question. The pipeline route now being protested does not go through the current boundaries of the reservation, but the old reservation boundaries. And of course that change of boundary has also been contested, and rightfully so.

What is it like to have the land that was declared to be yours seized out from under you? People who have been affected by eminent domain could give you some answer to that. Although they could not speak to the cultural destruction that has been experienced by Native Americans.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Rianna Stone
    Rianna Stone says #
    Please tell me where you got your information from because I would love to know. You said, and I quote, "Reservations are owned by
  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin says #
    My source is Naomi Schaefer Riley who wrote The New Trail of Tears She spent years visiting reservations and speaking with actual

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b2ap3_thumbnail_web3_sm.jpgBeing an introvert, interacting with other humans is tiring. And yet I must, not only because the world is full of us, and I will be more healthy and live longer if I do, but because we all need each other in order to make our lives better. Every day we get help from others even if we never step outside our home or answer the phone. Short of moving out to the woods, building a shelter and finding all our food – an activity statistically likely to result in death – we are enmeshed in a web of human assistance.

This spring, my husband and I bought a house we are fixing up. We aren’t doing it alone thank the gods. We don’t have the time or skills to do everything that needs doing. We have a plumber, Kenny, and Steve, the fellow who did the gutters, but the fellow who has done a great deal of our work is Rey. Rey and his various helpers have re-roofed the shed in the back of the house, replaced the boards on the deck, cut doors in concrete and brick walls, and installed doors and windows. I too am a maker. I can do construction, sew things, and create art. But I physically cannot do everything. My body is not strong enough to do what Rey and his crew achieve in the space of a few weeks. If I did not have their help, it would take months, if it got done at all. I like very much that my energy is in this house. It is an act of magical creation to transform an space that has been empty and lonely for two years into warm and inviting nest. But it is not my energy alone. Rey enjoys his job. He takes pictures of everything he does. He teaches his helpers how to do things, and he keeps doing it, even when they abandon him to make more money working on their own. He helps me, he helps them. Yes, we pay him, and he pays them. But that doesn’t change the good feelings I have about a man who has made my life better. And he feels good about us too. He’s so happy with the amount of money that we have given him over the summer, that he offered us a half day of work for free. (And for the cynical, no, he doesn’t over-charge for his work.)

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b2ap3_thumbnail_bullcoin_20161103-011534_1.jpgOne of my friends finds the idea that things having prices is downright offensive. College, for example should be free, because you can’t put a price on something that has such a powerful effect on one’s life.  Many of my friends believe the healthcare should be completely free because you can’t put a value on human life. To even attempt to do so is morally wrong. But lets unpack this concept.

To say that all life has infinite value is the same thing as saying it has no value. In the realm of the non-embodied, there may (I wouldn’t know) be no need to pick and choose between one thing or another, or how one spends one’s time (whatever that might mean in such a context). But we live on Earth. If all things are equally valuable, how can we decide how to designate the limited amount of time and energy we have to use? If both Mary and Eva want to spend time with us, how do we decide? One might say “Both!” But it is a fact that spending a bunch of time with Mary and Eva together is not equivalent to spending less time with each of them individually. A judgment must be made. We are limited by our physicality.

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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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