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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Sweet Skeletons

For those who wish to extend their Halloween/Samhain party celebrations, here's another notion for you:

Mexican Day of the Dead Party
The artwork and decoration for Dia de los Muertos (traditionally Nov. 1st and 2nd) has always been naturally festive. This sacred practice has more to do with customs and community rather than a particular organized religion. It is the answer to the Celtic origins of Halloween, but more so: The Mexican festival is truly a public celebration, not just a private affair. The Catholics may have All  Saint's Day, but this Mexican custom, like many native cultures, is a blending of ancient pagan practice intermeshed with the adoption of Christian symbolism and saints. In many of the whimsical and often beautiful altars on display, there are images of the Virgin Mary or Jesus interspersed amongst the whimsical sugar skulls.

I have one word for you here: skeletons, skeletons, skeletons! You could even recycle some Cinco de Mayo wall hangings if you like, to mix in with the bones. Decorate little sugar skulls and add to your altar/treat table. Have each guest bring a memento from a recently departed loved one to add to the altar space. Light a candle for each, and offer a favorite treat to all of them.

Speaking of treats, whip up some Mexican Hot Chocolate, and have a salsa bar with several degrees of hot to sample with some spicy tacos, nachos, and tortilla chips. Let Mariachi music ring out over your speakers. If that gets too scary for some after a spell, switch over to the Gypsy Kings. Share some tarot readings and ask for advice from a departed loved one. Keep it in the tradition of this honored day. Remember that Halloween can be sweet in more than one way.
(from Rachel Ray)
4 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) chocolate chips
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and 1 cup of water over a medium heat. Whisk constantly but do not boil- about 8 minutes. This makes 4 mugs, so double or quadruple recipe accordingly. To spice things up, add a shot of rum to each mug!

Sugar Skulls
For more Dia de los Muertos ideas and sugar skull instructions, visit:


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Wining and Dining

Beer enthusiasts may beg to differ, but there is no other alcoholic beverage that compliments food more splendidly than wine. For this Autumnal Equinox, get in the kitchen and see what can be whipped up for a pairing feast. To get your party started right, try the following impressive appetizer and welcome your guests with a glass of dry sparkling wine to set a festive tone. I used it  at a fall wine party a few years back, and it was very well-received.

(Serves 6)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fine dried bread crumbs
24 large dates, preferably Medjool
3/4 lb. soft fresh goat cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the dates in a single layer. In a small frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until the bread crumbs are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the bread crumbs to a plate, and let cool.

With a small knife, make a a small lengthwise incision in each date. Carefully remove the pits. Stuff 1 tablespoon of the goat cheese  into the cavity left by each dates's pit. Arrange the dates, with goat cheese side facing upward, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top. (The dates can be prepared up to this point up to 24 hours in advance. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.)

Bake the dates until warmed through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.

For the main dish, cook up your favorite couscous and toss with some stir-fried and roughly chopped fall produce of the harvest. Toss everything together lightly with some extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. Serve it up with a fruity Syrah or Red Zinfandel.

Finish with a dessert plate of assorted apples, grapes, berries and locally-made chocolate. Match with a ruby port or a sassy Riesling. Assign each guest a bottle to bring for one of your courses, and be sure to have some mellow, romantic tunes playing throughout your party. If a round of Indian Leg Wrestling breaks out later, don't say I didn't warn you. ; )

Photo "Wines and Vines," by Xedos4 from

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This may be ambitious for your next Sabbat party, however I must decree it – get out to the country, already! Get rural with it for Lammas. Know someone who lives on a farm, or of one that is open for visits? That is where we should all be this Lughnasadh. Anywhere that offers dining on fresh produce and home-cooking is ideal. Remember, bread and corn are key, in whatever form you enjoy them.

Round-up a group of pals and make a pilgrimage. Bring a big red and white plaid vintage tablecloth to spread out on a picnic bench or the grass. Enjoy barley wine, hard cider, mead, or a local craft ale together. Stroll the grounds and eat outside. For the meat-eaters, it could not get more ritualistic than a sacrificial pig roast. If someone has access to a small tractor (and knows how to drive it), take turns giving each other rides perched atop some hay bales. It is near impossible not to get into the spirit of this day when partaking in these activities. Pick a picturesque spot to watch the sunset together. Listen for the resounding alien hum of the cicadas, and don't forget to take a pause and be thankful for what you have.

If you are not fortunate enough to be friendly with someone who has their own barn and facilities, here are some midwestern farm-themed options for getting away from it all. Take a gander at their websites and/or call first to plan your day trip:

Apple Holler
(Halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee)
A homestyle country restaurant, live entertainment, hay rides and family-friendly fare abound at this Sturtevant staple. A word to the wise: If you don't mind crowds, by all means, go. If not...

Bridge-Between Retreat Center
(Denmark, WI)
Up toward Green Bay in the little town of Denmark, lies this peaceful retreat. They tend a small organic farm with meals available. Llamas, cats, hens, and geese roam the grounds. This is definitely for those looking for little quiet.

Brown Deer Farm
(IL/WI border)
West of Beloit is where you can escape here. A retreat facility, organic farming, and a nature-rich surrounding await.

Country Corner
(Alpha, IL)
President Obama paid a visit here, and this place is hopping all-year round. Look ahead to Halloween-themed fun with their Zombie Quest event. Rentals are available for groups.

Red Barn Farm of Northfield
How much more romantic can you get? Make your own brick oven pizza from their farm fresh, pesticide-free produce. Hand-made vegan-friendly dough and and a fun environment are offered.


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Summer Solstice-Yoga-Kirtan Party

Summer Solstice is traditionally one of the most festive of the Pagan/Wiccan Sabbats of the year. What better way to celebrate than with some Sun Salutations and joyous chants? Depending on whether you have your most energy at sunrise or sunset, plan your party according to your own natural rhythm. Invite your fitness-buff friends. Have everyone bring a yoga mat, lounge-worthy apparel and a healthy snack to share. Lead them through a series of easy postures, including Prayer Pose and Raised Arm Pose. There are some good ideas and tips courtesy of

If you are able to do these outside in your backyard, all the better. If nothing else, open all the windows and let the sunshine in. Be sure to keep you and your guests hydrated with some Sun Tea. If having a morning party, prepare the tea the day before. If holding at sunset, you can start your tea the day of! And the recipe is:

(Adapted from Chef Garlic,
Serves 16
4 family-size tea bags (I know some people prefer one brand over the other, so you can decide which you prefer)
1 1⁄4 cups sugar or sugar substitute to taste
water, to fill container
lemon wedge, for garnish
1 gallon container or jug, with a screw on lid.
     About 9 a.m., fill your pitcher with the water, and tea bags.
(The reason for the screw on top, is so that ants don't get to the tea.) Let the tea sit in the sun for most of the day, a prime full sun location is best. In the summer, the heat from outside can be enough to dissolve the sugar later.
     When done heating, combine the sugar, tea, and more water to make one gallon.
     Serve with thick 1 1/2" wedges of lemon. It usually takes 4-6 hours of being in the sun in order to steep. You can eyeball the tea and bring it in, after the tea looks dark enough.
     Since the tea is best served cold, put it in the fridge right away. It does not last as long as boiled tea for some reason, and I usually leave the tea bags in the jug until the tea is gone. Then, I take the tea bags and sprinkle them in my flower garden, or over my roses.

A rousingly energetic series of Kirtan chants can be shared on the wah! Loops N Grooves recording. A sampling of this inspiring music can be found at

Typically Kirtan is a call/response effort, but with this recording you could sing along, dance, or do whatever moves you. When everyone has reached a sufficient state of bliss, sit down and feast! Blessed be and namaste.

For a list of common Kirtan chant lyrics that you could print out copies of:
For more info about Kirtan:
Photo by ponsuwan at

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The elements of sexy: a clean house, a clean you, light tasty finger food, and good drink. These four basics will engage your senses. Added extras would include some groovy tunes and fresh flowers, of course. You really cannot have too many good smells, sounds, and visuals today.

When cleaning, throw in about five drops of Bergamot essential oil in the mop water and/or for polish on wood. Bergamot is known for it's uplifting qualities, and also blends nicely with lavender. It is always a wise idea to take care of this the night before, so that you can wake to a clear and pleasant space – setting the tone for the day. Decorate your altar in vibrant reds, whites and florals as the last order of business before getting a good sleep. Don't forget to put some clean sheets on the bed (wink wink).

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A Birthday Party for Mother Earth

Our planet needs all the love it can get. Treat her well and she will return the favor. I propose not just doing this, but throwing her a party as well. Round up a group of your closest pals not afraid to use the term "climate change," and volunteer to clean up a park or river in your neighborhood. Bring along the following to store in cars until you are finished with your day project: a loaf of fresh-baked bread, a large bottle of distilled water (plus extra for all of you), a pretty collected stone, a sage stick with matches or a lighter, a birthday cake (also preferably homemade with organic ingredients), a cutting utensil, recycled napkins, and 15 birthday candles. Have everyone attending bring one of the items listed so this is a united group effort.

Most parks should have a grill facility that you could use to set the smudge stick, if not, bring a small plate or dish to let it rest on and ensure that it goes out safely. When you and your amigos have staked out a picnic bench and brought out all of your packed supplies, light the sage stick and smudge each member of your gathering, clearing them of any residual negative energy. Cast a sacred circle around the group in the tradition that you use. Pass around the bread and have everyone break off a small piece. Leave pieces on different areas of the ground within your circle as an offering to earth's fellow creatures. Then pass around the designated water bottle and have each person sprinkle a little on the ground to nourish the grass and soil. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Melinda Judy/Lyndie Diamond
    Melinda Judy/Lyndie Diamond says #
    Great post. I agree we should appreciate mother earth. Nothing could live without her. I'm new to paganism and just wrote this blo
  • Colleen DuVall
    Colleen DuVall says #
    Hi Melinda, Glad you liked it! The person you'd want to contact is Anne Newkirk Niven. Her email is Thank

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I just finished my spring break last week. That doesn't mean I am not still in a spring break frame of mind. You don't have to travel to sunnier locales to get there. Nor do you have to be going back to school, like myself. You can pitch a SPRING BREAK EQUINOX PARTY! Why not revisit your crazy college days and let loose? We will be experiencing the triple whammy of a solar eclipse, (new) Supermoon, and the equinox tomorrow. So we may as well go all out.

First, invite everyone you know. Heck, even invite some people you'd like to know. Let them be aware that no one gets in without donning some beach wear. Bermuda shorts, bathing suits, floppy hats, flip-flops, sunglasses, the works. Next, stock up on your surf music. If you want to keep the tunes flowing all night, mix in some ska, which always has a cheery upbeat party vibe. 

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