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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

The secular media finally seems to be cottoning to something that pagans have always known: that the sunsteads and evendays (that's “solstices” and “equinoxes” in Witch) are intrinsically noteworthy events, something to celebrate.

(A cute little graphic popped up today when I turned on the computer: a large blue Earth—pale blue on one side, dark blue on the other, right down the middle—flanked by a smaller yellow Sun and full Moon. A nice visual shorthand, although of course the Moon isn't full, and has nothing to do with Evenday anyway. I suppose the image makes sense if we read Sun and Moon, respectively, as “Day” and “Night.”)

For cowans, who measure days from midnight, today is Equinox Day, and the Eve of the Equinox would have been last night.

Some of us see it differently.

Astronomical Equinox comes tonight at 8:03 local time, after local sunset: hence, for those of us who—like the Hwicce, the historic tribe of Witches—reckon the religious day from Sundown, the Evenday itself begins tonight.

That's why we've scheduled our 42th Annual Harvest Supper for tonight. (Welcome to Paganistan, the Land of Long-Lived Covens.) Think Witches' Thanksgiving: a ritual held around a table, with lots of singing, toasts, autumn flowers, and enough steaming, good food to feed at least a couple brigades of the Wiccan army. It's our last outdoor feast of the year, with wild geese skeining overhead, leaves beginning their change, and a wee nip in the air.

Since the official leap into Autumn falls during the feast itself this year, we'll be able to have a countdown, too: a modern tradition, but a good one.

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 Taking Time To Be Thankful: Surviving A Wild Turkey Attack | by Carie  Fisher | Mission.org | Medium

Well, next time you come to Paganistan, you won't have any trouble picking out the Witch houses.

Just look for the turkey out front.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my neighbor next-door titled “Visitor.” Curious, I opened it, only to find a photo of a turkey standing in my front yard.

This is strange. Though I've lived here for more than 30 years, I've never seen any turkeys around here before: unsurprisingly, since I live in a densely urban neighborhood with no nearby wild spaces. Even the River is more than a mile away.

I made a point of bringing it up to the coven at our May Eve get-together because my covensib Z has had a guardian turkey at her place for over a year now. (In fact, we were meeting at her house that night.) Sometime last Spring, a male turkey decided that her front yard was his territory, and he's been there more or less ever since. Her husband has befriended the turkey, and feeds him regularly. Otherwise, though, the turkey is very protective of his territory—we call him the Attack Turkey—and has been known (on more than one occasion) to chase off Amazon deliverymen. (I presume that this represents territorial defense rather than commercial preference, though with turkeys, it's hard to say.)

After I'd told the tale, my covensib A laughed. Turns out, a turkey had just shown up in her yard for the first time a few days previous. This would ordinarily be a little less surprising than in Z's instance, or mine, since she lives in a wooded area backing on a lake. Still, though she's lived there for more than two years, she's never seen a turkey there before.

Well, you know witches: hedge-straddlers all, one foot in the Tame and one in the Wild. Somehow, I can't help but think of the Temple of Juno in Rome with its protective flock of guardian geese, which managed to raise the alarm during a Celtic raid on the city and so save the temple treasure.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

42 years ago, back before Paganistan was even called Paganistan, a few of us got together just before the Vernal Equinox to dye up a few dozen eggs using only natural dyestocks.

We've done the same every year since and, 42 years on, we're still doing it. Since the demise of the Wiccan Church of Minnesota's May Lottery—remind me to to tell you that story some time—it's the oldest ongoing tradition observed in the local pagan community.

1980. I had blown into town the previous year, ostensibly for post-graduate study at the U, but in actuality looking for my People. Knight, Tanith, Volkhvy and I had decided to try putting together a coven. When Ostara rolled around, we got together to dye up a batch of eggs using the natural dyestocks that I'd been reading about in Venetia Newall's magisterial An Egg at Easter. It seemed an appropriately witchy way to welcome in Spring.

That first year, we used just two dyestocks, onionskins and tumeric. (Depending on how you do it, these produce a range of colors from pale yellow to deep Minoan red.) Natural egg-dyes are mostly heat-applied: you throw the dye-stocks into the pot as the eggs are boiling. The results were breathtaking, infinitely more beautiful than the insipid food-color pastels of my youth: rich, gutsy Earth-Mother colors, tribal colors, pagan colors.

(As it turns out, my great grandmother used some of the same dyestocks for her eggs that we do for ours, but I didn't find this out until later. Now there's a pagan parable for you: knowledge lost, knowledge regained.)

So today's the day, Egg-Dye Sunday, one of my favorite days of the year. (Usually it's the Sunday before Ostara, but next weekend some of us will be out at Paganicon 2022 instead. Pagans haven't survived all these years without being flexible.)

The house fills up with people, the tables fill up with food. (It wouldn't be a pagan holiday without a potluck.) The windows steam up; the volume of a house-full of pagans all talking at once is ear-splitting. By the time we've finished, we'll have dyed up scores of dozens of eggs, the kitchen floor, and the snow in the backyard. It's our annual act of collective alchemy, transmuting Winter lead into Summer gold.

Pagans are a young community, and to date, we haven't been very good at building successful institutions. Still, all things considered, 42 years of the All-Natural Pre-Ostara Egg-Dye strikes me as an accomplishment to be proud of.

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 Flaming, Holly-topped Christmas Pudding | English christmas pudding, Christmas  pudding, Christmas favorites

 

Guinness Book of World Records alert: “Best-Aged Plum Pudding.”

My recollection is that we made this batch of plum puddings eight summers ago. Tonight we eat the last one.

It was hot and steamy that night, I remember, just after Midsummer's. (When better to prepare the quintessential food of Midwinter?) The whole coven came over, bringing everything that we needed: dried fruit (raisins black and white, currants, apricots, dried pineapple...), breadcrumbs, butter, date sugar. We chopped, we mixed, we steamed. Voilà: the Sun by Night, the Solar sacrament.

(I remember that we had just been over to the Science Museum in “Saint” Paul to see an exhibit of artifacts from Pompeii. I can distinctly recall being struck by a certain decorative painting, clearly rooted in Bacchic religion, depicting a head crowned with vine leaves. The leaves merged indistinguishably into the figure's hair. Here, I thought, we see the origins of the Green Man/Leaf Face motif so beloved of modern pagans. Pompeii was destroyed in 79 CE; mere decades later, the face composed entirely of leaves emerges—there's a fine example, circa 100 CE, from the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek—a motif which will haunt the Western imagination for the next 2000 years, and emerge as a central icon of the Pagan Revival. We may derive the Green Man as we know him from medieval ecclesiastical sculpture, but his roots are indisputably pagan and indisputably Bacchic.)

Having made the puddings, we let them age. Every full Moon, I'd take them out of the cupboard and irrigate them with brandy. (Talk about Bacchic.) Every year, on Midwinter's Eve, we'd steam one up. As it came in procession from the kitchen, crowned with holly, enhaloed in blue flame, we'd rise to our feet and sing a song of welcome.

Then we'd dive in. O rapture, as the Scarecrow once said.

(Like the very best fruitcake that you've ever had, but hot and melting in the mouth, with a beautiful velvety texture. Ohmigods.)

Later, of course, we'd sing the song for the plum pudding and dance the plum pudding dance. (“I swear, you guys are the only real pagans left in the US,” a friend of mine once quipped after hearing about this.)

So tonight, after singing down the Sun, after lighting the Yule log, after the Dance of the Wheel, after the 13-course Mother Night feast (a course for each Moon of the coming year), we'll top it all off with steaming spoonfuls of the world's best-aged plum pudding, itself the 13th course. Witches being witches, of course, there have been dark jokes about whether or not it will be safe to eat.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Good eye, Anthony: that's the one. You won't be surprised to hear that there's a lot of overlap between the local pagan and Morris
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Over on YouTube there is someone going by the handle MidwestMorrisAle who has several videos of a lumps of plum pudding dance. Is

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

On the morning of Samhain Eve, I go down into the basement to set up for the evening's ritual. Such is the work of a temple's resident priest.

To my astonishment, light is shining—as it seems—from the doorway of the limestone cave over which the Temple of the Moon is built, to which after Sunset we will descend to sing for the dead, and to speak their remembered names.

Did I forget to turn off the light? It seems unlikely. It's been Moons since last I entered the cave. Besides, I'd come down earlier that morning for a Sunrise sweat in the temple sauna; I saw no light-stream then.

Nearing, I find that it is, in fact, Sunlight that I'm seeing.

Low in the sky, the late October Sun sends one long, slanting beam in through the corner of the southeasternmost basement window. It shines in: thick, ancestral, golden.

Shines in, and illumines the Doorstep of the Dead.

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What do you do when you're stuck with a liability?

Gods know, it wouldn't be Harvest Home without a few pumpkin pies—our Equinox feast is basically Witches' Thanksgiving, but with better food and better music—so I opened up a couple of cans of organic pumpkin and set to work.

Ugh.

You'd think that I would know by now: “organic” is no guarantor of anything. The pumpkin looked downright nasty: watery, stringy, brown.

Well, you can only play the hand that you're dealt. I whipped up the eggs with a little brown sugar and added the pumpkin. (It looked a little better once I'd pureed it.) On a whim, I substituted a can of coconut milk for the usual sweetened condensed milk. Taking a page from a friend's playbook, I used Chinese Five Spice powder instead of pumpkin pie spice.

When the pies came out of the oven, I couldn't help but grimace. Pumpkin pies should be an appealing orange-brown color, not greige. To call them “unappetizing” looking would be an understatement.

Next day, I tried a piece for lunch, dreading—in case they weren't good enough to serve to the coven—the prospect of having two whole pies to dispose of.

Much to my relief, it was actually pretty tasty. I even had a second slice, just to make sure.

What do you do when handed a liability? In the Art Magical, we call it Metamorphosis: you transform the liability into an asset.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Most commercial pumpkin pies are way over-nutmeg-ed for my taste. Alas, making things at home is no guarantor, either.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I once had a store bought pumpkin pie that had no flavor at all. It looked pretty, but I couldn't taste it, all I got was texture

Posted by on in Culture Blogs