Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The delightful smell of sage is one that takes many people back to Holiday meals and warm kitchens. It has an earthy quality that is able to comfort and inspire. I find it interesting that sage is a member of the mint family.

In Europe during the witch hunts, sage was one of those nonsensical “indicators” of witchcraft. Sage in one’s kitchen garden was thought to be a clue that you were a witch even though the whole neighborhood grew sage. It was imagined that, because sage tends to attract toads, it was a favorite of witches.

Sage is also thought to ensure long life. Drinking sage tea or eating sage daily will keep one going into old age. Along those same lines, sage promotes wisdom. In modern Wicca and in hoodoo root work, sage is added to sachets and mojo bags to help people make wise decisions. Carrying a leaf of sage in your pocket on a day when a choice must be made is encouraged. The leaf is also thought to avert the Evil Eye, which may then go back to the ability to choose well. I might suggest doling out sage leaves en mass to our U.S. Congressional representatives right about now.

Dried sage can be added to reversing incenses to clear unwanted conditions. It is important to keep in mind that culinary sage and sagebrush are two different things. When you hear the term “smudging with sage” which has become an unfortunately misunderstood way to accomplish everything from house blessing to self-purification to ghost busting, sagebrush is the herb in use. The tradition of burning sagebrush or soaking in sagebrush infused baths for purification and healing comes from Native American lore and is appropriate in many situations. Unlike sage, sagebrush is not, safe for ingestion in large doses or if pregnant. Sagebrush, in fairness, is a topic for another post.

Sage is thought to be lucky in one’s garden but only if two rules are followed closely, according to Scott Cunningham. First, a stranger must plant the sage for you. And second, you must mix the sage with other herbs (mints work well as do tomatoes) and not devote an entire bed, box or pot to it. He also recommends this sage wishing spell: write your wish on a leaf of sage and tuck it under your pillow for three nights. If, on any of those evenings, you dream of your wish it will materialize. If not, bury the leaf in an isolated part of your yard or at a local park so that your wish doesn’t backfire on you.

Consider using sage this Holiday season with intent to improve health, impart wisdom and ensure long life. Why not nurture the spirit and the body all at the same time? Bon chance ~

Header: Deborah Hall by William Williams c 1766 (note her pet squirrel on a leash)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lundi: Recipes

As the end of the year Holidays rush ever closer, to my mind rather like a herd of galloping horses, time to cook slips away. Putting a healthy meal on the table can seem overwhelming on top of everything else that is expected of us. Shopping, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, connecting – gah! You all are lucky if I get some cookies baked, one is tempted to scream.

As a form of balm, if not a total panacea, HQ will offer simple but hearty recipes on the Mondays before the end of the year. I’ll try to keep to a minimum of easy to get ingredients and if at all possible make it something that can sit on the stove or just spend some time in the oven while you do one or more of the thousand other things that need your attention. Today, I offer my Grandmother’s meatloaf recipe. It’s not fancy; in fact its old-school comfort food. But it is good.

1 pound ground beef
½ envelope dry onion soup mix
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg lightly beaten into
½ cup milk
3/8 cup quick cook oatmeal
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Thoroughly coat the inside of a standard 9” by 5” loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Your hands work best for this. Press the mixture into the loaf pan (you can also shape your mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet if you prefer). Pop into the oven and bake for 1 hour. Immediately drain any fat, then let stand five minutes before removing from the pan and cutting into slices.

This recipe will serve 4 and can easily be doubled with the use of a larger pan, of course.

Serve with a green salad and some crusty bread or baked potatoes. Either way, there’s not much in the way of clean up, which is a huge benefit as well. Bon appetite ~

Header: A Pork Butcher’s Shop by EJ Dambourgez

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Samedi: Desounen

The end has come and the spirits we met over the last two Saturdays have left the loved one for the stars or the sea, the earth or the sky. Or have they? In Voudon practice, one can never be too careful when dealing with the dead. Time to call on the local priest or priestess and make sure things are done properly.

The ritual of Desounen, which comes from the French verb disunir meaning to separate, is performed as close to a person’s death as possible. Minutes ticking away only add to the anxiety of the living and the confusion on the gros bon ange. This spirit doesn’t necessarily know how to – or even that it should – separate from its corps cadavre. It is believed that the gros bon ange will hover about its body and possibly even move around its house like a ghost. It is dangerous to the living in the same way that contagious disease is. The spirit now carries death with it and it needs to be ushered off to Ginen with all haste.

Desounen is a complex ritual that includes saluting the deceased and honoring his or her spirits, including the met tet which is akin to the person’s “guardian lwa”. Both the gros bon ange and the met tet must be appeased and sent on their way or there will be repercussions for the living. Careless family members – wives/husbands and children in particular – will be visited with ill luck and sickness until the ritual is properly taken care of. Very few voudonists would even consider skipping this step so you can imagine the anxiety that a major disaster or epidemic could potentially engender. What if the local priest/priestess is otherwise engaged or injured or dead themselves? This pressure on the deceased’s family makes a very bad situation even worse.

If done in a timely and correct manner, however, Desounen will put the minds of the living at rest and signal readiness for the funeral and the wake thereafter. As with all cultures, but particularly those that live close to the Earth, death is cause for concern and mourning, ritual and gathering. And a chance for renewal as well.

Header: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vendredi: Eight of Clubs

As with all forms of divination, cartomancy requires good judgment on the part of the reader. Even if you know virtually nothing about your querent, the spread of cards you lay out for them will tell you a lot if you are open to their story. When you begin a reading, be sure to sit back and take a moment to evaluate the big picture of the spread. This will allow you to understand what the individual cards are pointing to in the specific case of the reading you are doing and the person you are doing it for. Most cards, remember, can point to different meanings.

The Eight of Clubs has some interesting insights that will morph with its place in any given spread. Most prominently it is telling the querent to stay the course and keep his or her nose to the grindstone. Distractions are out there and can be very tempting but beware! Even a short diversion may ruin what has already taken up so much time and effort. Don’t let opportunity slip away for a few hours of enjoyment.

On the other hand, the card may point to an adrenaline junky who loves to live on the edge, particularly with their money. Gambling and speculation may be “in the cards” but depending on the reading and the individual querent, either a weighty warning or a little encouragement should be offered.

No one said this cartomancy thing would be easy. But nothing worthwhile ever is. Bon Vendredi, mes amis ~

Header: The Fortune Teller by Macaari c 1892

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Jeudi: Great Spirits

It is Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. and what better way to give thanks then to return to the roots of the world we live in, for all our ancestors are sacred. Here is a piece of the Hymn to Gaia written by the great Greek story teller Homer:

Gaia, mother of all
Foundation of all, the oldest one
I shall sing to Earth
She feeds everything
That is in the world
Whoever you are
Whether you live upon her sacred ground
Or whether you live along the paths of the sea
You that fly
It is she who nourishes you
From her treasure store
Queen of Earth, through you
Beautiful children and beautiful harvests come
The giving of life
And the taking of life
Both are yours
Happy is the man you honor
The one who has this, has everything

Regardless of where you are, I hope you have much to be thankful for today and always.

Header: Ancient Greek bas-relief

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

I'll just come out and say that I am all for hair removal. I shave and wax with regularity because I am not one of those women that blames society for her grooming habits. To my mind, I want the hair gone and that’s all the reason I need. Then too in all fairness, I’m not that hairy.

Some ladies and an even greater number of men have to make shaving a daily ritual which, admittedly, must get a little old. Allow me to suggest turning a chore into a chance to bolster confidence by participating in it fully, even down to making your own shaving cream. It’s relatively easy, fun in a “play with your food” kind of way and you get to control texture and scent while you infuse your creation with every power that beauty can impart.

Here’s a simple recipe I’ve cobbled together from more than one experiment. These are the basics:

1 ounce cocoa butter
¼ ounce plain yogurt (I like the Greek kind for consistency, if you can find it)
¼ ounce honey
1 tbsp glycerin
1/8 ounce lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together either with a wooden spoon, whisk or preferably with a hand mixer. The use of the mixer aerates the shaving cream to a nice consistency but it is not necessary. Time to add the aromatics, which really can be any of your choice; here are a few of my favorites:

For winter: 1 drop rose essential oil, 1 drop clove essential oil and a capsule of vitamin E oil opened and contents added to the mixture.

For summer: 1 drop jasmine essential oil and 1 drop spearmint essential oil (warning: don’t use this one on your underarms; the scent is really refreshing but the mint stings.)

For a gentleman: 1 drop sandalwood essential oil and 1 drop vanilla essential oil (if you are making the cream for a gay friend, use lavender essential oil instead of vanilla; straight men love vanilla for some reason – go figure).

Mix your essential oils of choice in thoroughly and, if you’re not planning to shave immediately, place the cream in a glass jar with a tight lid. This recipe is for about one luxurious shave (two or three for men) so you can double or even triple it and keep the cream in a cool, dry place for up to a week. It will keep in the frig for two weeks but you will need to let it warm up before using it which changes the consistency which means you’ll have to get out the hand mixer again. I find it’s better to just start from scratch unless you’re shaving daily. A votre santé ~

Header: Lady at Her Toilette by M. Garnier

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The apple, so frequently referred to as "humble", is actually a very complex metaphor in more than one culture, both modern and historical. Cut it in half one way and you reveal what can be interpreted as symbolic female genitalia. Cut it the other way and you've the Wiccans' beloved five pointed star. Surf the web for innumerable images of the Judeo-Christian "fall of man" and find the apple right next to Eve and The Snake. Poor Adam didn't have a chance. Turn it into anything you like: pie, cider, butter, jam, juice, chips. The possibilities are endless. When you step back from it, there is nothing at all humble about this ancient fruit that originated in what is now Kazakhstan (thank you Alton Brown of "Good Eats").

Not surprisingly the apple is often used in magick. It's easy to come by - I remember picking apples as a kid in Washington State - and heartily nutritious as well (despite what the anti-carb crowd would have you believe). It is also a symbol of love and harmony in just about every magickal discipline. In hoodoo practice, the apple is often featured prominently in "sweetening" rituals done to make people get along better and/or fall in love. The forms of this type of root work are innumerable and they vary by region. Some are simple and some are so complex that they must be done by someone other than the couple involved. All share the belief that apples can generate warm feelings.

The simplest working is to cut and apple in two and share the other half with someone you like. Love will bloom between you. A bath in which the water has been sprinkled with apple blossoms will make the bather more attractive and open to a relationship. Hold an apple in your hands until it has warmed while thinking loving thoughts, then give it to someone you fancy. If they eat the apple, they will fall in love with you.

A more complex "sweetener" to be done by a third party goes like this. Get a red apple and a clay pot in which it will fit with room for potting soil and a live plant (or two). Take a piece of paper approximately the size of the apple and write the two individuals' names on the paper, crossing them in an X pattern. Now write your wish for the couple's happiness in a circle around the X (repeat the phrase if need be but don't leave any words out; this takes some planning ahead and practice to get the necessary "perfect" result). Core the apple's center and insert the rolled up paper. Place the apple in the flower pot and then pour some cinnamon powder and a bit of sugar into the hole in the apple. Now cover the apple completely with potting soil and plant a "love" plant such as dill, fern (maiden hair in particular), lavender or violet, in the pot. Water the new plant in, with Holy Water if possible, and give the whole thing to the couple as a gift. As the plant grows, so will the wish for "sweetness" in their relationship imparted to them by you.

Apples, of course, are a signature fruit for the end of the year Holidays. See what sweet offerings you can make with apples, and let me know how they do. Bon chance ~

Header: Adam and Eve by Albrecht Durer

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Samedi: Les Anges

Last Saturday we met the corpse cadavre and the nanm, two of the four components that make up the human being in the world view of Voudon. Today, a look at the Angels, the other two pieces of the puzzle.

The ti bon ange, or the little good angel, is probably an off shoot – at least in part – of Voudon’s contact with the Catholic Church. On the one hand, this angel is a guiding force common to all moralities through out the world. The ti bon ange is what we might call the conscience. It makes a person feel good or guilty about their interactions with others and it tells a person what to embrace and what to avoid. On the other, it is the portion of a person that can be attacked by unseen forces. Unknown and mysterious illnesses are often said to be caused by spirits or even a boko (or bokor – a person who practices magick “with the left hand”) working spells against the ti bon ange.

Of the four animating spirits, the ti bon ange is probably the least feared by the living after death. It escapes the body with the last breath and rises past the stars to greet Bon Dieu or Bondye. Here, in the home of God, the ti bon ange will account for its life on Earth and then drift off into the ether, never to touch the mortal realm again. It is this little twist of a reckoning before God that makes the ti bon ange somewhat similar to the Jewish/Christian/Islamic concept of a soul but only, in all fairness, very vaguely.

The gros bon ange, or the big good angel, is the little piece of Bon Dieu inside us all. It imparts personality, emotions, creativity and the ability to think. It is the part of a person that collects a lifetime worth of experience and knowledge and holds on to that individuality for eternity. It is also the portion of a person that is displaced during possession by a lwa and the part of us that wanders in dreams. The gros bon ange is each person’s portion of immortality.

This angel must be expelled from the body at death through appropriate ritual and burial. Otherwise, it can cause trouble for the living. Ideally the gros bon ange will make its way back to Ginen, which is generally thought to be somewhere under the ocean. This is where the lwa live and where the gros bon ange will reside as an ancestral spirit who, if properly called up, will help its living descendants and, in some cases, become a lwa in its own right.

The spirit world of Voudon is more complex and varied than that of most modern religions, even in reference to a single individual. But that, to my mind, is what makes it so fascinating. Surely each of us is more than one simple soul. Benedictions a vous ~

Header: Ti bon ange card from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot by Sallie Ann Glassman

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vendredi: Seven of Clubs

The Seven of Clubs is an odd bird, as Grandpa used to say. It can go down one of two very clear paths and, as usual, the rest of the cards around it and the nature of the reading in general determine the interpretation.

First, this card may be a sign of unusual good fortune. Something has come to the querent literally “at long last” and his or her hard work is the result of a heady outcome. If this is the indication in your spread, be sure to ask about any partners or assistants in the endeavor. If there are parties involved of the opposite sex to your querent, this person or these people may harbor some jealousy and try to ruin or at least curtail the seeker’s happiness. A gentle warning that does not insult is called for.

On the other hand, the Seven of Clubs may indicate a need for the querent to step back from a project, job or partnership and take a good hard look at its long term value. In this case, the card is a warning. Things are not going the way the querent expected them to and a shift in gears is called for. The Seven of Clubs is not indicating that the endeavor will fail, just that a new tack is required (and potentially a new partner or partners as in the above meaning; look at any face cards near the Seven of Clubs in such cases and asked pointed questions about the people in the seeker’s life).

And so onward, mes amis. Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Le Tireuse des Cartes, French cartoon c 1800

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jeudi: Root Work

Lucid dreaming, spell work, astral projection, divination, cursing, healing and countless other ways of magick require one thing in common: the mindful and continuous shut down of the active conscious brain. I’m not saying that you have to be “unconscious” to make a mojo bag or read the cards for a friend by any means. That’s just silly. But that irritating, chattering, gerbil-on-a-wheel part of your brain that repeats the annoying commercial jingle while it reminds you to buy bread next time you’re at the store and keeps asking “did you unplug the toaster?” has got to be stopped.

The capacity to shut down that part of your consciousness is, for most of us at least, a life long struggle that requires practice. Well, in all fairness, it requires daily practice. Of course we’ve all read metaphysical authors who speak of “some people” who can “go into trance without thinking about it, as if they were switching off a light” or some other predictable metaphor. The reality is that who these people might be remains unstated and frankly, if they’re out there, only these authors seem to have met them. The fictional Merlin/Samantha/Harry Potter doesn’t exist. No amount of Latin or nose twitching is going to alter Newtonian physics or conquer millennia of evolution. Only dedication will. And the dedicated worker must practice.

So here’s what I do. Every night. Regardless. Climbing into bed becomes a ritual in itself that leads, after a lot of practice, to the ability to be able to overcome the Mom voice in my head. At least long enough to accomplish the occasional working of real, honest, magick.

Lie down on your back. That really is the best position for this meditation; flat on your back. Ladies who are pregnant or those with other medical conditions that prohibit lying in that position should modify the meditation appropriately. I liked to lie on my right side back when. Now close your eyes and take in a few deep breaths. Breathe in and out through your nose; those of you who practice yoga probably already have that exercise down. Try to silence your thoughts completely. Concentrate only on your breathing for a moment.

Now begin to systematically relax the muscles in your body while fighting the urge to consciously think about what you are doing. Start at your feet, work up through your calves, knees and thighs, relax your butt, your pelvis, your abdomen. Work up to your chest and feel your breathing slow down. Now your shoulders, down your arms to your hands and back up to your neck. Sometimes this is the hardest part of all, getting your shoulders and neck to relax; keep breathing and stop thinking. Progress upward and relax your jaw, your tongue, your face, your eyes, your forehead, your scalp. By now your breathing should be deep and slow. Without allowing your “inner voice” to disturb your peace, sink into the mat or mattress beneath you, breath and allow your subconscious to go wherever it wants to go. Try to hang in this space without thought for as long as you can but, once you are thoroughly relaxed, don’t force it. When it’s time to come out of your meditation and go to sleep, do so. You can come back to the exercise tomorrow night.

That’s it. If you are willing to do some version of this exercise consistently, I can guarantee that you will have more success concentrating in all aspects of your life. The mind is a creature of habit. Force it into some good habits and the benefits are surprising. As an aside, this is also a great way to wind up a workout, allowing your body some moments to completely relax once you have finish. Just be sure to keep warm as you may feel a bit chilly during the meditation.

Give it a try. If nothing else, this exercise is a great sleep aid that has no ill effects. And that in itself is a bonus in our hectic, modern world.

Header: Girl Asleep by Johannes Vermeer

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

As I mentioned yesterday it’s cold where I live. Like down to single-digits-at-night cold. Along with the cold weather comes the dry air. In the summer we have a (relatively) fair amount of humidity but once the snow starts falling all bets are off. The humidifier goes on, of course, but it really can’t keep up. Our hair goes limp, our skin crackles and my daughter has to be more diligent about oiling her cello. How did Stephen Maturin ever keep his in descent condition at sea I have to wonder?

For those of you in similar climes now is the time to listen to your skin and your hair. Today, let’s talk about the skin on your body. If it’s really chilly where you are, put away the milks and the creams and head straight for the butter: body butter. It is rather a jarring term but of course it refers to consistency and not content (although certain Arctic tribes have been known to smear themselves with butter made from reindeer milk to keep skin insulated from the harsh winter elements).

Here, then, is my all time favorite recipe for body butter. The base comes from the good folks at Reader’s Digest but you can add or subtract essential oils to get the scent and treatment you need. I like to use rose oil, which is calming to the skin and has a relaxing scent, chamomile oil, which helps alleviate any itching brought on by dry spots, and jasmine oil because I can’t get enough of it. Tuberose is even better as scents go but I find it is hard to come by and can irritate my skin. A tuberose candle is a nice alternative if you’re craving that lush, romantic scent.

¼ cup grated shea butter
1 tbsp grated beeswax
½ cup avocado oil
2 tbsps olive oil
3 tbsps vegetable glycerine
10 drops rose essential oil
10 drops jasmine essential oil
10 drops chamomile essential oil

Put the first four ingredients in a ban Marie over simmering water and heat them very gently until they are all liquid. Remove the bowl of your double boiler from the heat and set aside to cool – but not harden.

Whisk in the glycerine and then add each of your essential oils in turn, mixing after each addition. Pour into a shallow, wide-mouthed jar with a tight seal (small canning jars are great) and store in a cool, dark place. Use within four weeks.

If you are just not the kind to make your own body butter (lets face it, much like Jack Aubrey, most of us have “not a moment to lose” in any given day), Bliss makes a delightful unscented body butter just perfect for adding your own scents to. Find it here at Sephora. If things are really out of hand and you have pealing or cracking due to dry skin, look for Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Cream at the market. It too is made with shea butter with the added bonus of oatmeal (healing and soothing) and menthol (calming). It’s got a slight medicinal scent but the addition of five drops each of the essential oils in the recipe above (or others of your choice) will mask that completely.

Remember that if you are prone to breakouts on your backside, body butter is not the moisturizer of choice for your butt. What to do? Treat it just like your face. Seriously. Use your facial moisturizer on your behind and watch those spots disappear. If that doesn’t work, use your facial cleanser and even toner on your derrière prior to moisturizing. Trust me; it works. A votre santé ~

Header: La Bella by Titian

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

As the cold settles in (it was 14 degrees Fahrenheit when I took my daughter to school at 8:45 this morning) I turn to the warm fragrances and tastes of what is generally referred to in European influenced societies as “Holiday food”. The spices used in things like pumpkin pie, turkey stuffing/dressing, gingerbread and so many other end of the year celebratory foods are also quite magickal in their own right. But that, of course, comes as no surprise.

Cloves have been used extensively as a winter spice for hundreds of years. They have a warm aroma that calms but with just enough bite to give one the energy they need to face cold, dark days. In hoodoo, both whole cloves and clove oil are used for gambling luck, money and friendship-drawing and to stop malicious gossip.

Gambling halls in southeastern Louisiana were “smudged” with an incense made of cloves, wintergreen, cinnamon and camphor to bring in good trade. Whole cloves were carried by gamblers to bring luck. Cloves burned as an incense by themselves are said to draw in wealth, purify the air and drive off crossed conditions. Scott Cunningham says the scent can also comfort the bereaved.

Pushing whole, dried cloves into a red candle while concentrating on stopping malicious gossip against you, then burning the candle until it goes out is said to be a fool-proof charm against other people’s lies. Some workers even say that doing this ritual will bring your enemies closer to your circle of friends.

Bringing in and keeping friendships is another use for cloves. To keep a friend for life, make two necklaces with small flannel bags filled with cloves and tied to strings. You and your friend should each wear a necklace until the strings break. You will always be good friends.

To make an attractive pomander ball which can be given as a gift and will encourage ongoing friendship, select an unusually beautiful orange and then wrap a lovely ribbon around it twice, like a gift box. Tie that in a knotted bow with long tails for carrying or even hanging. Now stud the orange with dried cloves all around in as even and pretty a pattern as possible. Give the pomander as a present and as the fruit begins to desiccate (a good number of cloves will keep it from actually rotting) it will release the scent of orange and cloves while cementing your friendship with the lucky recipient. It’s a perfect project for the Holidays (and, as an aside, an inexpensive and inconspicuous way for the kids to get in good with their teachers).

Prior to the dawn of antibiotics, clove oil was used as an antiseptic with surprisingly favorable results. Clove oil was also used as an anesthetic; dropped onto a decaying tooth, it would ease the pain for a time. My great grandmother, who never lived in town but always “out on the farm”, would drop clove oil on a rotten tooth in preparation to kill the root, which she did with carbolic acid. I am not making that up. Just so you know, this last paragraph is chock full of uses for clove oil (and carbolic acid for that matter) that I do not recommend. See a dentist s’il vous plait. Bon chance et subsistence chaude ~

Header: Landscape with Ice by Hendrik Avercamp c 17th century

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lundi: Recipes

My daughters like to cook as much as I do and they both tend to be pretty adventurous in the kitchen. It was no surprise to me, then, when one of them decided she would try to make today’s recipe, a desert known as a Hot Lemon Puff. The nice thing about this recipe is the key ingredient. Even though our ability to get really good, fresh fruits and vegetables has long since passed up here, we can always get nice lemons and limes, even in the dead of winter.

Lemons are used for cleansing in hoodoo and are considered a repellent of the Evil Eye. A lemon tree near the front door, provided it is fruitful, will draw good luck and keep crossed conditions away from the home. Eating lemons is thought to give a person a fresh start as the lemon does its cleansing work inside the body.

So hear is today’s warm but refreshing recipe. It’s not only a nice desert but can also be eaten as a revitalizing breakfast. What a great way to start out a great day.

8 eggs, separated
1 ¼ cups sugar
The juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
A pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and then grease a 9 inch casserole with butter, including the sides.

Separate the eggs. Place the yokes in a ban Marie and beat rapidly with a whisk until warm and frothy. Don’t walk away or your yokes will scramble, which is not what you want here. Add the sugar, lemon rind and juice and continue to cook over the simmering water while stirring constantly. When the mixture is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon, remove from the heat.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and then fold gently into the egg yoke mixture until they are thoroughly blended. Pour the whole into your casserole. Place the dish in your preheated oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Bake 40 minutes or until firm and puffy rather like a soufflé. Serve this delightfully creamy dish warm. Bon appetite ~

Header: Woman Cooking Eggs by Diego Velazquez

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Samedi: La Corps et Le Nanm

Every metaphysical discipline (I like to call them that because I think of the phrase as more inclusive than the word “religion”) has its own mythology of the soul. What happens to a person or animal or both after death is an important part of human thought, and must have given our ancestors a lot to debate about. Some animating force leaves a person when they die. But what is it and what happens next. Voudon, of course, has an answer that satisfies its world view and this Samedi and next we will meet the four components that make up the body and spirit of a voudonist.

The belief that all things, rocks, trees, water, bugs, animals, humans and so much more are part of the great God known as the Bon Dieu or Bondye is central to Voudon. There is nothing and no one left out. Bon Dieu animates us all but is so far from us, so busy with an entire Universe of worries and joys, that it (God is not thought of as male or female in Voudon) cannot do more than simply give us a bit of its energy and then let the intercession of both good and bad spirits help us along through life.

There are four components to the human creature, most of which are shared by other life on Earth with the important exception of just one. We will talk about the spiritual components next week. For today let us look at the mortal/physical portions of all things.

First is the body in which we abide known as the corps cadavre. It is not hard to imagine that this refers to the physical body which begins to deteriorate almost immediately after death. Corps cadavre literally translated means “body corpse” and at that point the meaning is clear. We are walking around in an animated shell, beautiful, strong, capable and intricate, but destined to rot from the inside out. Though not pretty, the concept is certainly honest.

The nanm is usually translated from Creole/kreyol as “soul” but this is deceptive. In fact, the nanm is an Earth-bound, animating force shared by all creatures on our planet. It allows us to move, talk and function while alive. When we die it quickly and without encouragement returns to the Earth from which it came. The idea of the nanm is not necessarily from either African or European spiritual traditions and could very well have come from the native Arawak and Taino people that originally inhabited Hispaniola.

And so we will end for today. Bon Samedi ~

Header: Photograph by the amazing Conrad Louis-Charles; visit his website here

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vendredi: Six of Clubs

More talk of divination with cards is in order as we have once again come around to Friday. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Unlike the Five of Clubs, which can be ambiguous at best and completely puzzling at worst, the Six of the same suit is pretty straight forward and almost universally accepted in its meaning. The card indicates success in money matters. It may mean a better job or a raise at the job one is currently involved in. It may mean the sale of property or something that the querent put effort into like a book, an art piece or a restored motor vehicle for instance. It certainly indicates relief after a time of financial need. The closer the card is to a card that apparently represents the querent, the faster the financial good fortune will manifest.

We’re almost half way through the suit of Clubs now and we will continue to forge ahead each Friday until we come to her King. Then we will discuss a divination spread you can use to practice with while we move on to our next suit, the deceptively benevolent Hearts. Appréciez votre Vendredi ~

Header: A Fortune Teller at Venice by Pietro Longhi

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jeudi: Root Work

Over the summer a very dear friend had a relative who was ill with an aggressive form of cancer. Illness hit my friend’s relative all of a sudden so to speak and, though she was not a young woman, she certainly was not someone of whom people would say “she had a long life”. My friend’s relative was ready to fight the invader in her body, and my friend wanted her to have every advantage possible.

My friend is herself a wise woman who practices a Wiccan tradition and of course she offered her work in the effort to help her sick relative. As anyone who practices magick of any tradition will tell you, it is advantages to call in a third party when the task seems daunting. Like prayer, spell work is only enhanced by the involvement of other spirits and minds linked to a common goal. My friend asked me to contribute something from my discipline to help the fight. I decided to send along a mojo bag with a bit of a twist that would draw in the ancestral energies of my friend, the sick woman and me as the root worker.

I first gathered my ingredients:

A white candle in a votive and a lighter
Two three by three inch squares of blue silk
A needle and gold thread
A piece of parchment and a pen
A chip of turquoise (protection, courage and healing)
A bit of myrrh resin (healing and protection)
A pinch of dill (healing, removes crossed conditions)

Next I found a quiet spot where I knew I would be undisturbed for an hour or so. Time to begin.

I sewed up a little bag of silk using the gold thread. I put aside six inches of the thread to close up the bag once it was filled. I then pulled out the white candle and, lighting it, spent some time concentrating on the health and well being of my friend’s relative.

(Note: this is the ephemeral part of the work. You have to connect with your spirits (regardless of your religious propensities) and draw that energy through yourself into the work at hand. Practicing simple focus with a candle, rock, card, piece of jewelry etc. can help you achieve this form of “trance state”. You’ll know it when you feel it; but it does take practice.)

Now it was time to rip off a little piece of the parchment paper and draw the protective Norse rune known as Algiz on it with the pen. Algiz represents "protection" and looks like this:While concentrating on healing and recovery, I slipped the parchment into the little bag, followed by the turquoise and the myrrh. I sprinkled these with the dried dill and then tied the bag closed with the gold thread, using three knots while reciting “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” as is customary in hoodoo. (The Wiccan “so mote it be”, Druid “it is done” or any other “binding phrase” is equally appropriate here).

I held the completed mojo in my hands for a while and concentrated yet more on imparting health and vitality to it. Finally I left it with the candle which was allowed to burn out.

The mojo was sent off three days later with instructions to carry it near or on the person and, when healing had been achieved, to bury it in a far corner of the property where the person lived. If they live in an apartment or other rental, the bag can be buried in a houseplant or – in a pinch – burned.

I am happy to report that my friend’s relative is in remission now. Do I believe that my work healed her of its own accord? By no means. Most of that was achieved through her own effort. But, as another friend is fond of saying: “It couldn’t hurt”.

Header: La Virgen de los Doloros, 18th century mural from Pinacoteca de la Casa Profesa, Mexico City, Mexico

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

I spent the entire day Saturday volunteering at the 33rd annual Christmas Towne Bazaar here in Anchorage. It was a lot of fun, especially since my daughter had great success selling the cute and cuddly sea creatures that she knits so my whole family was there.

Anyway, I wore my boots lined with sheerling because it was that kind of cold, blustery, winter day (perfect for a holiday bazaar). What I didn’t think about was that I was wearing my boots under – not over, as usual – my jeans and with short socks. I also didn’t think about the fact that I’m allergic to sheep’s wool and lanolin… You can see this coming up the street, can’t you? I wish I had.

We got home after nine hours, I peeled off my boots and my lower legs looked like raw hamburger. They also itched as if I’d walked through a field of chiggers. It took me until the next day to figure out what I’d done wrong. Thankfully, though, I knew what to do next.

Milk, really regardless of the animal it comes from but cow’s milk specifically, is both mildly astringent and toning. The lactic acids in whole milk calm sensitive skin but rashes need special attention. And that’s where buttermilk comes in. In past times, patients with eczema, hives and even bee stings were treated with buttermilk soaks. Legend has it that there was even buttermilk in the bath scrofulous French Revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat was soaking in when Charlotte Corday stabbed him to death:
A bath in tepid (you don’t want to soak a rash in hot) water to which buttermilk has been added will sooth itching, ease redness and promote faster healing. The best option for this is powdered buttermilk. About two tablespoons for the average sized bathtub will transform the water into a revitalizing pond for your poor skin. It’s not the most aroma-therapeutic bath you’ll ever sit in but you can add dried herbs if you like. I recommend allspice, which is also calming to the complexion (about ½ teaspoon of the powdered variety to the two tablespoons of powdered buttermilk). Alternatively, try wrapping a handful of dried, whole cloves, dried pine sprigs or rosemary leaves in gauze, tying the little bag with string and letting it steep in your bath with you.

If all of this sounds like too many ingredients to track down, or if you can’t find powdered buttermilk (which is more concentrated and less expensive than the “real thing”) Burt’s Bees makes a Buttermilk Bath Soak which is part of their “Baby Bee” line of products. It’s available at the grocery (usually in the organic/whole foods section) and safe for the whole family.

My legs are still a bit crabby, particularly at the end of the day, but they feel a lot better now thanks to the generosity of our friend the cow. Thanks, Bessie; and no offense to any sheep that might be paying attention.

The Valpincon Bather by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres and To Marat by Jacques-Louis David

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

One of the simple joys of a warm climate is that it affords one the ability to grow a jasmine tree. There is nothing (well, almost nothing) in the world more delightful than the scent of fresh jasmine. It lifts the spirits and, particularly in the case of night blooming jasmine, opens up the more amorous receptors in our brains. No wonder jasmine is believed to enhance herbal mixtures intended to insight love as well as ready the sleeper for psychic dreams.

Alas, only fresh jasmine smells so sweet. Once the flowers are dried they have no scent whatsoever. Although they are still potent in workings to encourage love, the psychic component is gone. For that, essential oil of jasmine must be employed. Fortunately, the oil is easy to come by and the organic varieties in particular are pretty honest relative to content (no other essential oils are added for enhanced aroma, etc).

Use dried jasmine in any sachet or mojo you are putting together to attract love, particularly if you are looking for a more cerebral and less “straight to bed” kind of relationship. The flowers, though generally tagged by herbalists as “feminine”, can be used by men or women, gay or straight. Just carrying the dried flowers in a pocket or purse is thought to make one more attractive to both sexes. If you cannot obtain the dried flowers, use the essential oil. Many root workers suggesting adding a bit of dried parsley to your jasmine oil to up its sexual proclivities. I understand that a bottle of jasmine oil that has had parsley soaking in it for a while can be quite potent, and I’m not talking about the smell. You’ve been warned.

Put a fresh sprig of jasmine on your pillow to help you fall asleep and encourage your memory with regard to your dreams. You can also dab a piece of cloth or the corner of your pillowcase with a bit of jasmine oil to achieve the same result. At the very least it will help insomnia.

Finally, some workers swear by jasmine as an incense for money drawing. Burn the incense in your home frequently while concentrating on the amount of money you need. Alternatively, carry dried jasmine in your wallet to ensure that it never completely empties of cash. Bon chance ~

Header: Love’s Young Dream by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lundi: Recipes

As usual, we had a house full of people chez Pauline for Halloween. That included a passel of kids who needed to be stuffed full of good food before they trekked through the snow to get what they really wanted: candy. This not unfamiliar situation required something easy that could literally sit on the stove, be served buffet style and eaten with the oldest utensils provided by the Bon Dieu, our hands. Voilà, tacos.

I make mine with a little twist and like to add a Creole flare by serving them with Zataran’s Spanish Rice. I’m also not too picky about the “taco seasonings” and tend to use the kind from a bag – Lowry’s or Taco Bell are quite tasty and relatively inexpensive. Note that I doubled this recipe for Halloween.

1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bag taco seasoning
½ cup water
¼ cup vodka
¼ cup Bloody Mary Mix (Tabasco’s mix is my favorite)
1 package taco size flour tortillas
1 package crunchy taco shells

Brown the ground beef in oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour off fat and then add the vodka (after turning your burner off momentarily if you are using a gas stove). Let the alcohol deglaze the pan and then add the seasoning, water and Bloody Mary mix. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and cover. This can simmer on the back burner for hours. Add more water if the mixture starts to get a little dry.

For condiments I like:

Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Torn iceberg lettuce
Chopped tomatoes
Diced yellow onion
Sliced jalapenos
Sour cream
Taco sauce (La Victoria medium red is the house favorite)
Salsa (we like the locally made Mexico in Alaska brand)
Pepper sauce (though I’m hooked on Tabasco for just about everything else, I really like Cholula brand from Mexico with Mexican food)

You might also consider:

Grated pepper jack and/or plane jack cheese
Chopped green onion
Sliced avocado or guacamole
Sliced green and/or black olives
Use your imagination!

When it’s time to eat, fill either the hard or soft shells with a little more than a tablespoon of the meat mixture and allow your family and guests to select their condiments before choosing a seat and chowing down. Other variations: fill a hard taco shell and then wrap it in a flour tortilla to avoid your fillings scattering everywhere with that first bite. Add a can of refried beans to the taco meat once it’s done and, using larger flour tortillas, serve burritos.

This feast goes well with just about anything you are drinking but of course a nice Mexican beer would be both authentic and tasty. Bon appetite ~

Header: Medieval cooks from a contemporary manuscript

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dimanche: Swimming

A little cross pollination from Triple P: Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey going for a dip in the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World based on the Aubrey/Maturin novels by the dear Patrick O'Brian.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Samedi: Of Children and the Dead

For the most part it is understood, in “orthodox” Haitian Voudon, New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo that the Barons and the Ghede are the keepers of the cemetery. There is a saying that if the Ghede in general and Baron Samedi’s aspect of Baron Cemetere specifically will not dig the grave then a person cannot die. Though it seems contradictory in modern cultures that keep death at arm’s length, it is a perfectly natural thing for a voudoisant to go to a cemetery and ask the Baron for the life of a sick or injured loved one.

Even more odd to certain minds is the connection between the Ghede and children. Women who have trouble conceiving will frequently make offerings to the Baron and sometimes to his wife, Maman Brigitte. There is a fine line here, however, as Maman Brigitte is at times called the protectress of sex workers who come to her for the blessing of avoiding conception. Either way, Maman Brigitte tends to be thought of as a frank and even filthy talking lady who keeps up with her brother Ghede as far as her openness about sexuality.

The Barons are relied upon as lwa who will listen to and aid the childless. For the most part this is due to their place in the undeniable circle of all things: birth leads to adults who will procreate and procreation leads to death. The Ghede will be left forgotten and alone without the birth of new little humans who will one day join them in the cemetery.

By the same token, many who practice voodoo in all it’s permutations make offerings to the Ghede for the recovery of their sick children. Though the Ghede may seem like the hungry dead to unstudied eyes, they are far from it. These souls would far prefer to see a child grow, succeed, marry and have a family of their own than take them young. The cycle continues and life, in the end, goes on. Bon Samedi ~

Header: Baron LaCroix by Andre Pierre via Haitian Art

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vendredi: Five of Clubs

I hope you had some success with your Halloween divinations. Although all too frequently we, as the ones doing the readings, never really know what became of what we saw in the cards. There are exceptions of course, both good and bad, but generally speaking querents go on their way, sometimes even forgetting what the cards had to say to them.

Today we are looking at the Five of Clubs which can send its own mixed messages now and then. In the vast majority of spreads, this card indicates change. Usually we are talking about financial change that can be as specific as the loss of a job or as vague as a general change in a shopkeeper’s clientele. There is also an overtone of struggle. The feeling is that the querent should guard his wallet and his health for a period that will probably be hinted at by other cards in the spread.

Pretty vague, isn’t it? The cards can be like that but, as you do more and more readings, you will see how the cards in a spread work off one another and tell a story as a group. Of course, these are the meanings I learned to apply to the Five of Clubs. Some root doctors swear finding it in a spread points to a partnership or even marriage that will greatly benefit the querent. Go figure.

Header: Doubtful Fortune by Abraham Solomon

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jeudi: Root Work

Workings don’t have to be complicated. Simply repeating an affirmation – much like a mantra in meditation – can bring tremendous benefits by getting your subconscious mind on board with where your conscious mind wants things to go. You are not so much what you eat, but what you believe you are.

That’s why I love author Silver RavenWolf’s “quickies”. These are scattered throughout her little books on spells for love, prosperity and protection. They give you a an idea for an affirmation, sometimes combined with a task, that you can repeat every time you arrive at one of life’s usually mundane situations like cooking a meal or looking in a mirror.

Here are a few that I like to use not only for myself but to impart to my children as well. These are specific to self-esteem and they all have a motherly quality about them that makes them not only easy but comforting. Try any or all. I think you’ll be pleased with the results:

Every time you look in a mirror, say three good things about yourself.

Each evening, think of one amazing thing that you did that day. Drop a coin in an old jar. When the jar is filled, wrap the coins and give the money to charity.

When you have accomplished something, share the limelight.

Say something nice to a stranger, and say two nice things to someone you know every day.

Each morning or evening, light a candle to signify the joy of life and the availability of universal love.

Remember your manners and your rewards will be doubled.

Simple but powerful, as the best work always is. Silver would be proud, and so would your Mom.

(Silver’s Spells for LOVE is published by Llewellyn and is available at local bookstores and Llewellyn’s website)

Header: A Young Witch from a Medieval manuscript

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

My younger daughter stayed home from school yesterday but, being an antsy redhead with a unique perspective on the wide world, she was done sitting still by noontime. When her father and I returned from the snowy trek to our polling place, we found her on our back deck shoveling snow. She did a bang up job of it too, and Dad only had to help with the really heavy lifting.

Later in the evening she and I were relaxing before dinner and she looked at me with her nose wrinkled. “Ewww. I stink and my pits are sweaty.” “Well you worked hard,” said I. “I know, but ewww!” “Good thing it’s shower night, and you need to use your deodorant,” was my final response.

“Oh yeah,” said she before returning to her new Rick Riordan novel.

The deodorant in question in not the kind you buy in the market. My redhead and her Dad have such sensitive skin that packaged deodorants will cause them a violent and painful rash. Nature – and history – to the rescue of course. As always.

Contrary to popular belief our ancestors were not smelly, knuckle-draggers who couldn’t figure out how to brush their teeth or wash the stink off themselves. They actually did brush and floss and bathe and apply anti-odor preparations that worked surprisingly well. I have a few of these last that will not only make you smell delightful, they won’t interfere with your pores or your cologne and they won’t sting the heck out of your sensitive underarms.

Some modern herbals recommend using alcohol in their deodorant preparations. Personally I won’t do it as I find the alcohol can be just as irritating as the ingredients in store-bought preparations. Why go to all the work only to have a bad reaction? Everyone has to find what works for them though so if you do find a recipe you really like, let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll give you my favorite concoction and follow up in future posts with a few others.

2 tbsps dried rosemary
2 tbsps dried thyme
2 tbsps dried sage
¾ cup witch hazel
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp hempseed essential oil
25 drops citrus seed extract
15 drops lavender essential oil

Put the dried herbs, witch hazel and vinegar in a glass jar with a tight lid. Shake and store in a cool, dry place for two weeks over which period you shake the jar again once a day. Strain the liquid and pour into a glass bottle. Add the oils. Apply to underarms with a cotton square. Shake well before using.

Note that you can also put your deodorant in a glass spray bottle and mist your pits in the morning. I like the direct method but it is an issue of what works best for each individual. While the herbs bring anti-odor properties to the mix, it is the hempseed oil that actually surrounds and neutralizes odor causing bacteria. All are available in health food stores and from purveyors of herbal supplies. À votre santé ~

Header: Three Sisters sketch by Ingres

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The humble parsley, that garnish so often seen on the side of your plate at banquets and wedding feasts, is a conundrum in root work. Magickally speaking, parsley is all over the map. Some won’t touch it, claiming it has evil properties and can be used only in jinxing and death spells. Others swear by it for love and fertility, all though those same workers will usually tell you to stay away from it if you are already in love. Cutting parsley will cut your ties to your lover. Still others use it liberally for luck and protection and there is an entire school of thought that says parsley can be used as a substitute for any money-drawing herb.

For me personally, the jury is out. I tend to stick with the uses our ancient ancestors had for parsley and use it as a general protective herb. When using it in cooking, I always do so with intention, asking the herb to protect whoever eats the dish. Romans would tuck a sprig of fresh parsley into their clothes in the morning for protection and make bracelets of parsley to guard against inebriation. They also garnished food with parsley to keep it from being poisoned. Parsley was frequently chewed to alleviate bad breath which is still worthwhile knowing as it works quite well.

Specific to hoodoo, parsley is an ingredient in a money-drawing floor wash. Put a gallon of water on the boil and add a handful of fresh, chopped parsley, half a handful of cinnamon chips, whole cloves, shavings from a lodestone and magnetic sand. Cool and strain through cheesecloth then mop you hard floors with it, working from the front of your house to the back and concentrating on getting needed cash/drawing customers to your business/renting out your property. Your need should be taken care of within 30 days.

Header: The Nursery by William Merrit Chase