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 has been featured in her new blog, Off The Beaten Path for the Shepherd Express online (http://shepherdexpress.com/blogs-1-1-1-61.html), and the Wisconsin Life radio show for WPR. She recently adopted a little grey and white cat named Tessa, after beloved 22-year-old Bootise passed on.

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Successful divination requires focus, perseverance, and a little faith. Sometimes our paths come to a fork in the road, and much like that forked divining rod, we must follow our strongest intuition. Interestingly, life paths can indeed come full circle. I've come to believe that if we tune into what the divine is trying to whisper in our ears, we will take the paths we are intended to at the right moment in time. Perhaps we aren't ready for a certain direction at a given interval. That doesn't mean that roads aren't meant to be revisited. When I was a young girl, my favorite toy was a tape recorder. I delighted in creating radio plays and acting out favorite movies and TV shows with my closest friends. Conducting interviews was also a beloved pastime.

Flash forward several years later to graduating with a master's in digital communication strategies at Marquette University. Although I have a background in journalism and filmmaking, podcasting was something I naturally gravitated to with my studies and projects. It felt like coming home, and conducting interviews in this medium and editing them was the perfect way to express myself creatively. Since I recently decided to embark on a full-time freelancing career, it seemed like the perfect time to launch a brand new podcast: "Women Who Howl at the Moon."

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At this moment, many of us are being called upon to face our darkest fears. Pandemic nightmares and a lingering threat of impending doom surrounding our very democracy have become the new norm. The furious wildfires of climate change rip through our forests and leave lingering dark smudges carried on clouds which reach far across the nation. People are being attacked for wearing masks to protect others and/or exercise their right to peacefully protest. Instead of being able to come together and find common ground for a common good, we are being driven farther apart by the people elected to publicly serve and protect us.

The Fall Equinox has always been about finding a true balance. Never has this been a more pertinent allegory than right now. We need to work harder together to tame the pandemic. We need to take care of our planet and nurse our Mother Earth back to better health. We can no longer ignore that this is shared space– and if we want to coexist in any harmony, we cannot go through life with blinders on. These are not debates, matters of opinion, or imagined hoaxes. These are undeniable facts that we all need to face, whether some of want to or not. It has little or nothing to do with politics or sensationalized media. It has everything to do with the fate of our country, our world, and our civilization (emphasis on civility). The time for selfishness, greed, and giving in to our darkest impulses is over. The balance needs to be restored with compassion, generosity, and reaching toward a shared higher purpose. This also means taking a deep breath, no matter how weary we are of fighting the good fight. We must roll up our sleeves and meditate on making this balance a reality, in all the millions of seemingly small ways that we still can. We can channel our magical power and energy to bring about this good, but we cannot give up hope. Here is a place to start, this Mabon:

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Let's Talk About Corn, Lugh, and Lammas

I always think of Lammas as a time of outdoor dining, reflection on the year thus far, and most of all—corn! Enjoying a small picnic with your immediate household in the backyard or on a back porch is a perfect way to celebrate Lugh and this start to the harvest season this year. Grains and bread should definitely be on the menu, and there are some fun options to choose from. You could even create an intimate bread baking party with your family, creating a combination of sweet and savory choices.

Grilling local corn in the husks gives it such an amazing added flavor, and the mouth-watering scent it gives off is aromatherapy in itself. Make it the main dish and create a healthy vegetarian meal with side salads tossed with produce from a neighborhood Farmer’s Market. These happen to be some of the better ones in Wisconsin, if you’re in the area.

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Blessings of a Full Moon

This will probably be one of the first 4ths of July in recent history where there will be scant, if any, fireworks celebrations and parades. If they do go on, people are encouraged to participate from their cars, or watch from the safety of their homes. Health officials are definitely discouraging folks from flocking to the beaches and attending large gatherings or picnics, as they would normally do. With so much unrest and anger flying around, in Washington and one’s own neighborhood, one may become overwhelmingly frustrated. The pandemic numbers are soaring in our country every day, without an end in sight. How can we come together and feel celebratory, if even in a tiny group? How can we remind ourselves to feel grateful for what we do have?

This was put into stark, literal perspective for me when my ceiling came crashing down this week. No, I’m not kidding. I suppose it’s apropos that if my world was really going to start to crumble, it would choose to do so in 2020. I mean, why not, right? It started with a crack that quickly grew overhead in our kitchen. Now mind you, the building is older, so this wasn’t really anything new. But the severity of the split was quickly growing. So much so, that in a matter of days, it had started to separate and hang slightly from the ceiling. We pointed it out to our landlord, who agreed to start pricing out some plasterers.

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A Summer Solstice With Dad

Dads don't always get a fair shake. They have to take a good deal of kidding around, and often aren't as idealized as Moms. They aren't always the first parent that kids run to when they need nurturing or advice. Let's be honest—they often are the recipients of lame gifts. There are ways we can shift some of these attitudes and routines, however. What are the positive aspects of a father? Protection, safety, and security are strong associations. How about gifting you the confidence to do things on your own? Fathers can be great mentors in this regard, teaching you how to master a task, then stepping aside to let you take the wheel. This Summer Solstice think about ways that you can honor the fatherly aspects of the Oak King, the Holly King, and your own Dad.

Consider a cookout or camping trip with your Pop. If you do plan to camp, check your county and state parks' rules ahead of time this summer. Many have changed due to COVID-19, and most campgrounds require you to make a reservation in advance online. It's still all about the outdoors for safety right now, so even if weather is a little dicey, try to plan so that you'll be under a picnic shelter or tarp if necessary. You might need to take a deep breath and be flexible with your plans, if Mother Nature has others in store. Keep the mood light and fun, for everyone's sake. For a really unique theme and an open-minded Dad, try an Incan Summer Solstice ceremony and menu. Bring a locally bought or home-brewed beer, mead, or wine to share with him. Play a favorite card game that you used to growing up (might want to don the face masks for this one, though). To this day, my family is still cultivating some fierce Uno players. Set up a bean bag toss that the young ones can join in. Despite any rumors, badminton remains a nice no-contact sport. Likewise with that old-fashioned croquet set gathering cobwebs in your garage. Enjoy reminiscing about some of your more comic adventures growing up. Share a toast to more good times to come.

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Beltane: Light My Fire

May 1st is always known as the lustiest of the cross-quarter Sabbats: exciting and full of possibilities. I will always remember the very first Beltane ritual circle that I participated in, many moons ago. my whole body was humming. I felt electric and trembling with excitement, realizing how powerful and deep this magical life could be. It was on that night that I decided to follow a Pagan and Eclectic Wiccan path. It resonated with me completely on every level, especially after being on a personal spiritual quest for the year or two prior. This Beltane make a point to rekindle and stoke that fire with you and your romantic partner. Fires always require a little TLC, but the end results are always so worth it.

Set the Stage

First, think about setting the stage. I have some good notions for starting this special day out just right. This would include the baking of some homemade Beltane scones for breakfast and getting your kitchen smelling heavenly. A clean living space is definitely a sexier one, so be sure to take care of that, too. Another task that would surely lift your spirits, is crafting a May Day basket for your significant other, or someone you know who would really appreciate it. A neighbor on their own during quarantine would probably love to receive a surprise gift like this on their front porch.

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Have a Cool Earth Day, No Matter What Your Circumstance

During a stay-at-home order, if it’s not a complete lockdown, reminding yourself there is still an outside beyond your four walls has become imperative. Unfortunately, some areas, including my own in Wisconsin, have had to close our beautiful state parks in order to protect them. They were being flooded with folks desperate for nature and something to do. Although the majority were most likely there with good intentions and to appreciate the parks respectfully, some were definitely not practicing good social distancing guidelines with their fellow park-goers and worse still, were littering and vandalizing. Not cool. This has also been the case with many of our national parks. Sadly, some park workers were starting to test positive for COVID-19. Interestingly, in places now temporarily closed like Yosemite, the animals are having a party. Bears are out and about in high numbers without the usual throng of visitors. At Kruger National Park in South Africa, a whole pride of lions were happily lounging in the sun all along what would normally be frequently traveled road.

I see my friends online, myself and my significant other have become creative as to how, when and where we seek refuge off the beaten path into the woods, prairies, and meadows. The heart of the city can feel not unlike navigating a minefield in pandemic conditions. If you want to go out for a walk on a nice day, a drive to less-populated area is key. Do some research online ahead of time and find out what is and is not available to the public in your area currently. Even if state parks are closed, many smaller county parks remain open. Try to plan to your visit so it wouldn’t be at a peak time that everyone would have the same idea to be there. Wear gloves and masks and maintain the safe six-foot distance on all trails when coming into contact with others. Taking the high road has come to mean, “I will be the one to always veer off the trail if necessary,” to me. You can still be friendly and say, “hi.” Just do it from behind your bandanna, please.

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