I have decided to re-dedicate myself to the Pagan path, as I wandered away for some time – due to wrestling with Atheism and Agnosticism. For many years I was a practicing, Solitary witch (or Hedgewitch) – mostly conducting rituals on a needs basis and focusing on herbal lore. When I started questioning religion (at least, organized religion) and found – through research and much “soul-searching” – I discovered that belief and faith had more to do with wishful thinking and less to do with facts.
The problem with facts is, they too can be a process of smoke and mirrors – not necessarily set in stone for eternity – as things change, with new evidence and theories supplanting the old. Of course – there are manifest truths and facts that have been (for the most part) steady throughout history. For me, the bottom line has become – whatever works and “feels” right is good enough until proven otherwise.
The majority of Freethinkers and Secular people would scoff at the idea of placing importance on gut feelings and what feels right. They would probably say that an ideology based on faith and intuition is lazy or obviously influenced by psychology, sociology, customs and tradition – without hard-earned and scrupulously researched knowledge and cold, hard facts.
I’ve lived a Secular life for quite a few years now and still feel that I’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. On the one hand – I think that it’s ludicrous to believe that a loving God or Deity could sit back and watch all the horror going on in the world without stepping in and lending a hand. I’ve discovered that religious systems are so obviously human – with human imperatives and motivations that only serve to protect the powerful and destroy the meek. Bizarre, totalitarian, sexist rules and brutal punishments go hand in hand with greed, murder and fervent religious practices.
The one thing that stands true for me is the spirituality of feeling connected to the earth, the animals and other humans. The religious dogma that parades as spirituality is not what I’m talking about. It’s the magical feeling of creativity and shared experience. It’s the dreams that speak to the subconscious and the emotions associated with kindness, love and true happiness. It’s how music makes us feel; how food, drink and aromas can enchant us and how nature reminds us (sometimes in a cruel way) how finite life is – and yet – how infinite our shared experiences are. Like links in a chain – we pass on our art, reflections and ideas, discoveries, hopes and dreams to each generation throughout history.
I say all this to express my desire to “link” back to the path that I started – with a twist. There’s a side to me that knows that the Deities don’t exist as actual or real people. I don’t believe that they are physically sitting on the clouds watching over us. I do believe (even though I loathe using the word “believe”) that the Deities are archetypes that reflect our desires, dreams, hopes and fears. When I use their names in ritual – I am summoning up the same attributes within my psyche – or asking for these energies in order to emulate the desired outcome.
When we use ritual – we are programming our subconscious, to go about creating the path needed for a desired outcome. Correspondences such as color, objects, seasons etc., are the touchstones that act as symbolic messages – which our subconscious understands. We conduct rituals everyday – in order to go about our daily routines as smoothly as possible. Each step leads to the next which will hopefully complete the cycle and move us forward. When we consciously use ritual in a more stylized format – using touchstones, invocations, creative visualization and so on – we are making an extra effort to program a desired outcome. This sits right for me – right now, at least!
So I will be re-dedicating myself to the path – on October 31st – Halloween (or All Hallows Eve). The Moon will be waning and it will be a Saturday. This is the time of year when the veils between the worlds are thin (according to Folklore). I’ve decided that the Deities I choose will be in accordance with my desired outcomes: a strengthened dedication to my writing career and a letting go of outmoded and negative tendencies. Ganesha and Kali – of the Hindu pantheon.
Since I was a child, I’ve had a special fondness for Ganesha, and was pleasantly surprised to discover as an adult that his festival day is usually on or around my birthday! (September 5th).
Kali is considered the Goddess of Time, Transformation, Power, Creation and Destruction (among other things – such as the Goddess of Cemeteries!). I’ve always had an affinity with her aspect as the Destroyer, and have used her energies in many rituals involving banishment (keeping in mind the Rule Of Three) and transformation.
I will be creating my own ritual oil – using Patchouli, Sandalwood and Star Anise; as well as my own incense made from Dragonsblood, Sandalwood and Red Chili pepper. After a ritual bath and anointing, I will prepare a “feast” in honor of the deities. (At the same time, I will be visualizing my purpose.) I will not eat until after the ritual.
The food and drink will be: Spicy Red Lentils, Steamed Rice, Dark Berry Crumble and a nice, dark Pinot!
I will take photos and post them next week. I will also be using the photos in the Pagan cookbook I am writing for my new novel, “The Willow Lake Group” – which should both be ready for release early 2016!
Ritual and food often go hand in hand, not only for traditional or customary reasons such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, but also for celebration and honoring the deities. For me – even the act of selecting, preparing and eating food has a ritualistic feel to it. Eating healthy, unprocessed food (where possible) seems to warrant a more mindful approach – from growing your own or buying locally to cooking and eating. Sharing food is also a form of ritual – which is what makes food even more enjoyable.
That’s another reason why fast food or junk food is such a blemish on the culinary world. There’s no care or mindfulness involved. Sure, going with friends to get a burger before the game or going out for lunch can be rewarding and can save time. Some would even say that it’s a ritual itself to get certain foods on special days and so on. Apart from the fact that you don’t know what went into the food or who prepared it – you did not “mindfully” select the ingredients – taking into consideration the high levels of fat, salt, sugar or chemicals.
I have learned over the past few months that educating yourself about food, where it comes from, how it’s processed and what it does to your body – helps to ensure that you make more informed decisions. The flow-on effect is maximized health and increased happiness. There’s nothing more satisfying than carefully preparing a wonderful meal with fresh produce and good quality meat, taking time to reflect on what it will do for you as well as how you are supporting local producers and helping the environment.
Okay – jumping off the soap-box now!
I stuck with the planking – now increased to ten reps of fifteen second holds per day – as well as the elliptical. I’m noticing the benefits and hope to be able to increase to twenty seconds the week after next. I was ill with some kind of virus on wednesday and thursday – so I didn’t exercise on those days. I’m making up for it this weekend. I just came straight home from work on those days and went to bed, getting up later for soup – before going back to bed again.
I feel that I was fighting off that virus or whatever it was – for weeks. I had issues with low-grade fevers and tiredness, but it was staved off by eating healthy foods and boosting my immune system with Vitamin C and Now’s “AlliBiotic” softgels:
I was really only down for the count for two days and feel a lot better now. Eating well and exercising regularly really does keep you healthier all round. Other improvements include no more swollen legs or ankles (which means better circulation and lowered blood pressure), no more gasping for breath when using the stairs or walking anywhere, no more headaches or body aches, increased stamina and no more drowsy afternoons. I am more alert, more productive, more creative and do not feel so depressed or moody. They’re all big deals in my book!
Here’s some of what I prepared last week:
I ran out of potatoes – so I only had three small, golden potatoes for the chips. I added a large sweet potato and a large zucchini – all sliced thinly and tossed in olive oil with a little salt, cracked black pepper and a handful of dried parsley. I spread them on a baking sheet and placed them in the oven (preheated at 395 degrees – could’ve been hotter) – then baked for approx 30 minutes. I put each fillet of Tilapia (seasoned with garlic salt) on a square of foil, topped with some thinly sliced onions, a couple of slices of lemon and a knob of butter. Then I wrapped each piece of fish like a parcel, put them on another baking sheet and placed it in the oven (10 minutes after placing the veggie chips in the oven) – letting them cook for approx 20 minutes. Delicious!
These were supposed to be a loaf of Zucchini Bread – but I don’t have a loaf pan. (She hangs her head in shame!)
Here’s the recipe:
Coconut Zucchini Muffins
6 pastured eggs
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup coconut flour
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 Tbsp fresh or dried parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Mix the eggs, apple cider vinegar and zucchini in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the coconut flour, sea salt, parsley, garlic powder and baking soda.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to combine
Spoon into a greased muffin pan (I used a 12 muffin pan).
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Allow to cool completely before serving.
Lovely (and naughty) with butter!
I researched this dish – as there is a lot of contention re: how it should be made, what country it comes from, whether Borscht should contain meat or not and so on. I’ve always associated it with Russia – but apparently it’s more likely to be a Polish dish. Usually associated with Christmas (vegetarian version – which is what I made, although with Beef broth) – it’s also made for Easter, with lamb or beef. It’s like a sweet and sour soup – with beetroot and lots of cabbage, so I think I might put less cabbage next time. The following recipe was gleaned from several recipes I found.
2 quarts beef broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, trimmed, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded
1 bay leaf
2 grains Allspice
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp brown sugar (I used Coconut sugar)
3 peeled beets, one grated
Few sprigs of Dill
2-3 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup sour cream – or non-fat Yogurt
1. Cut 2 of the beetroots into small dice and set the rest aside. Melt the butter in a large pan, and soften the onion over a gentle heat for 5 minutes.
2. Add the carrot, leek, celery, diced beetroot, allspice and bay leaf and stir well to coat with butter. Cook for another 10 minutes, adding a little stock if the vegetables begin to look dry.
3. Pour in the rest of the stock and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the cabbage, garlic and grated beetroot. Cook until all the vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).
4. Add the vinegar, sugar, pepper and a pinch of salt and taste. Add a little more of any of these if necessary, then serve with a dollop of sour cream, a sprig of dill, (I didn’t dollop or dill it up!) and some Polish bread on the side. (I served with a light rye)
I used the muffin pan a lot last week! These were very messy – but worth it. I either had two for breakfast – or took them as a snack on the days I had a Smoothie for breakfast. They were nice and fresh with the veggies – and might be even nicer with some cooked turkey through them. I used twelve eggs – but shared them with my husband. As they make twelve muffins – each one is approx the value of one egg.
Veggie Egg Muffins
Grease the muffin pan well – probably need to line them as they leave a mess. It took ages to clean the #@!*&% thing!
Pre-heat oven to 390 degrees
12 eggs (I used free range)
1 Bell pepper (I used red) – chopped
6 Green Onions, chopped
4 Roma tomatoes chopped (or whatever tomatoes you like)
1 tsp Salt
1 Cup sharp cheddar cheese
12 slices sharp cheddar cheese (from a block – I used a nice White Vermont)
Red cayenne pepper for sprinking
One handful of fresh or dried parsley
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. (Pretty easy!) Spoon mixture into the muffin pan. Top each one (optional) with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese and sprinkle with red cayenne pepper. Put in the oven for 20 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch. Store in the fridge!
Now for something semi-naughty!
These were wonderfully decadent – and not too naughty – due to semi-sweet chocolate chips. *sigh*
Choc Chip Banana Muffins
4 Ripe bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used Coconut sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 cup muffin pan.
*This is a one bowl recipe – no need to use two bowls – Yay!
Peel bananas and mash in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir until combined. Add the sifted flour, baking soda and chocolate chips. Stir just until most of the flour is incorporated.
Spoon into the muffin pan. Put in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
These were wonderfully moist. I had one – Robert had five! Naughty Robert!
Well – here’s my menu for the week – and as always, stay happy and healthy!