Living the Wheel: Seasonal Musings of the Pagan Year

Thoughts and musings of the wheel of the Pagan Year.

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The Hearth: The Heart


The hearth is the symbolic heart of a home. Imagining ourselves dwelling near the hearth we become more ourselves;  more human -- and humane.     ~ Robert Werner


In a world the is frequently out of kilter, the kitchen is as mystical as a monastery.     ~ SBB


   Our homes are the center of our selves. They are our shelter and our sanctuary. They are our retreats, our theaters, our battlegrounds and our experiments. They are both a reflection of who we are as well as the impression of who we wish to be. The home and its center, the hearth, are the very foundation of humanity as we know it.


   Our ancestors were nomads, foraging and gathering as they followed the game herds that supplemented their gleanings. Once plants and then animals became domesticated, our forebears settled themselves, and archaeology has shown us that the literal center of every prehistoric settlement was the fire. Once these fires were placed in tents, huts, longhouses, yurts, the fires were found in the center of the dwelling. Gradually the hearth was moved into its own place, no longer the actual center of the home, and yet, eons later, when one mentions anything about the 'center of the home,' people know immediately, instinctively, that you are speaking of the kitchen. When your family gathers for a holy day, where do you congregate? In my family, we are found crowding the kitchen. If it is an outdoor get together, we are crowded around the fire pit or grill, depending on the location. We as humans are drawn to the comfort of the hearth and what it symbolizes and offers.


   This year's equinox found me working a ten-day stretch, and all my plans for preparing to welcome the season petered out in me crashing on the couch to watch Transformers Prime with my five year old for the last few nights. Today and tomorrow, two precious back-to-back days off are finding me scrambling to make up the difference. While cool breezes drift through my windows I am writing this at the kitchen table. (There, again, the center: I never write anywhere else in my home; even though we have a desk in the living room, my laptop is always at the kitchen table.) The teakettle is heating up, in the oven sweet potato pound cake, Loreena McKennitt is playing on the iPod dock by the sink. Even the cat is here. Granted, she's sleeping on my notes on the table, where she is not supposed to be, but she's in the kitchen. There is an overall purpose to me spending so much time in the kitchen today: I'm making dinners ahead of time to freeze, doing some baking because I can, and my family enjoys baked treats, but if I choose to be honest with myself, I know I'd be here regardless. If I were reading, I'd be sitting in the chair at the end of the table, tucked into the corner. Wasting time with social media? I'd be in the same place. Sarah Ban Breathnach said it most eloquently in Simple Abundance: "I welcome others into my house. Here is the room I am most proud of-- the kitchen, crossroads of friendship and the world's blessing."


   Truth be told, I love my kitchen. One day I will have a kitchen that I can paint sweet butter yellow with robin's egg blue trim, but for now the kitchen I love is a rented one. The walls are white. The floor is black and white tile, and needs to be washed. And yet despite the fact that it is not actually my space, I have made it mine. Bright orange pots hang over the stove, shelves built by my husband display our son's Polish pottery collection and my grandmother's red and white Memory Lane china, and countless dinners have been prepared for the ones I love in this space. Friends sit at our table and drink coffee and swap tales. Next weekend children will sing birthday wishes to my youngest son in this kitchen, Yule will find this kitchen overflowing with platters of cookies at my annual cookie swap. In an abstract sense, the kitchen is never far from my thoughts, as often during the day I will think ahead to the dinner I have to prepare later in the evening.


   We don't always realize how vital the kitchen, the hearth, is to our lives. We don't necessarily need it for nourishment: we can eat out, we can order in, we can throw something frozen in the microwave when we need to eat. It is the space we need, the security of this ancient center of our societies, our cultures, our humanity. The hunger that is resolved is not that of empty stomachs, but aching souls. The food we cook at our hearths nourishes not only bodies but spirits. Subconsciously, our guests respond to our hospitality, not because we are offering them entertainment, but because we are offering them shelter, a space beside our hearth, We don't even realize this. We think we've got a crowd together for a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, and we do, really, but just where are you playing that game? If it's in your living room, where is that room in proximity to the actual center of the house? Does it have a fireplace or wood stove? If you are playing the game at your dining room table, behold: you are still hosting people at the hearth, as the two rooms are not independent of each other. Or, if like me, you have an eat-in kitchen, well, enjoy your time beside the hearth.


   I will leave you today with a blessing from, and a prayer of thanksgiving.




Bless the pantry and every pot.
Bless the oven which cooks my food
and keeps it hot.
Bless each appliance, cupboard, and drawer.
Bless this kitchen, forever more!




Delicious Creator Goddess,


I taste your glory in the tangy crunch of a crisp apple. I taste your glory in the salty tears of emotion. I taste your glory in cool, clear, life giving water. I taste your glory in the heavy sweetness of dark chocolate.


Your glory flavors the early peas and new lettuce of spring, the tomatoes and herbs of my backyard, the mealy goodness of new potatoes and butternut squash, it seeps in my tea and bakes in my peach cobbler. For the nibbles and the feasts of your glory and for my taste buds, I give you thanks.


(Adapted from the Simply in Season cookbook)




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I am a writer and poet living in western Massachusetts. I have a degree in English Lit, with a focus on the nineteenth century, and am working toward a degree in Women's Studies as well. My work has previously appeared in The Pagan Activist, The Pagan Review, GrannyMoon's Morning Feast, and The Montague Reporter. I am currently working on a series of children's books, a novel trilogy, and a poetry manuscript (I simply can't do one thing at a time!). I also have several random fantasy-based short story projects that I attack once in a while.   I am a Dianic Pagan and practice Kitchen Wicca, and am also a Reiki Master. For a glimpse into my own little corner of reality, you can stop in and visit me at Ellie.
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