“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” –Paul Prudhomme
Every sabbat, I try my hand at a new recipe. Beltane, however, just wouldn’t be the same without some Bannock Bread! This is a type of flat (quick) bread that can be made on a campfire or stove top. Much like a dense pancake, this bread can be sweet or savory depending on your taste. Ancient Scots who had to make due with what they had, so original bannocks were heavy with barley or oatmeal dough then cooked on a sandstone which was placed directly onto burning embers. Thus, this is a great bread to use as an offering during a Beltane ritual.
The recipe below provides an easy base, but don’t limit yourself. Try adding fruits like blueberries or pumpkin puree. Perhaps a sprinkle of chia, shucked sunflower, or poppy seeds are more your style! If you want a more savory bread, half the sugar and serve with a sausage gravy. Try different flours, experiment with gluten free options. Fry up one big pan or mini bites! Make it your own. Feel free to taste the bread in its raw doughy form: there are no eggs!
Bannock Bread Recipe
4 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp honey (I always add a bit more to taste)
4 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 cup (+ 1/2 to adjust consistency)
1 tsp vanilla
Oil for frying (I use 2 tsp of Coconut Oil)*
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
1/2 tsp ground cloves (optional)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
Mix and sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter, honey, and vanilla. Slowly add water, mixing gradually until combined. The consistency of the mixture should be sticky and thick like a pizza dough, NOT thin like pancake mix. In a large frying pan, bring the oil to a medium heat and place golf ball-sized portions of dough into the pan. Gently flatten the dough ball into a cake with a spatula.* Fry each side about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest on a plate with a paper towel (to absorb any excess oil). Serve with toppings like fresh jam or a dollop of greek yogurt. Enjoy!
*Bannock tends to soak up a lot of oil, so I choose a healthier option. You do not need a lot of oil, just enough to prevent sticking. A non-stick pan may provide another viable option!
**The first time I made these, they were nearly raw on the inside. So keep flattening the bread during the process. Dense is good, raw not so much.
Also known as May Day, April 30 and May 1 was an ancient observance that marked the beginning of summer. In Ireland, cattle were driven out to their summer pastures and rituals were performed to encourage familial growth and protection. Mass bonfires were kindled: their flames, embers, and ashes the epitome of protective power. Gaelic peoples and their cattle would walk around these bonfires and sometimes leap over the flames for good luck! Houses were decorated with wild May flowers; pastel hues of yellow, pink, and blue. Celebrations also included May Trees (or in some cases Poles or Bushes), which were decorated with flowers and bright ribbons. Ancients also built labyrinths and walked them in silent meditation.
In 2013, I participated in my first Beltane celebration. I had my research, but was I ready to start leaping over bonfires? Not really. Instead, I visited a local coven with some friends. There was feasting, labyrinth walking, and children playing games. It was an amazing opportunity to get involved in my Wiccan community. Later that day, I was still buzzing with energy. I went home with a good friend of mine where we performed a small fire ritual. Since then, I have never missed a chance to celebrate Beltane! As an apartment renter, however, I tend to encounter a few issues along the way. Here are my top three Beltane complications and some solutions I found helpful.
Problem #1: I live in the American South, where I do not have ready access to the nine sacred woods. It seems more appropriate to wildcraft these items, rather than purchase them.
Answer: This has ALWAYS been my biggest problem. Many books insist you need Birch, Oak, Hazel, Rowan, Hawthorne, Willow, Fir, Apple, and Vine. When I was living in the tropics, I was lucky to find three of those! So, what to do? One option is to buy the wood from an online vendor. There are plenty of reputable sites, but this method can get expensive fast. The second option: Use your local flora. Don’t get too bogged down with the Eurocentric specifications, when you have a natural world right outside your window. Each sacred wood is associated with a symbolic element and you can find native trees that correlate to these meanings as well. Using the plants in my area, I came up with: Cedar, Dogwood, Honeysuckle, Magnolia, Oak, Willow (Bottlebrush), Pine, American Holly, and Maple. In the past I even added Palm to my list! Look for nine different trees that represent: female energy, male energy, knowledge, life, fairy magick, death, birth, love, and joy.
Problem #2: I live in a small place and cannot have a bonfire.
Answer: I absolutely love the warmth that comes from a roaring fire. Apartment-bound witches like myself, however, lack the ability to stoke up a bonfire. Bonfires require space, a lot of kindling, and caution. The solution is candles… lots and lots of them! Light as many as possible on your altar or around your house. Incorporating the element in this way really helps to get the energy flowing. NEVER leave candles unattended though, especially if you have pets or young children. Another option to consider, is to take a small cauldron outside and burn your sacred wood in the open. Smoke detectors are not fond of inside Beltane celebrations!
Issue #3: What does Beltane mean for the Green Witch?
Answer: It took me quite some time to appreciate the connection between Green Magick and Beltane. For some, fire is associated with destruction, fear, and chaos. No one ever loves hearing about a recent forest fire. Fire, however, is as natural as green growth! It is a type of purification. Mass burning gives plants a chance to regrow and provides the next generations with much needed nutrition. That said, please don’t go out and set your garden aflame! Instead, take the ashes from your Beltane ceremony and sprinkle them around your plants. They will thank you for it.
There are so many crafts, rituals, and recipes associated with Beltane. But to keep this post concise, I will leave it here. For more reading and some fantastic pictures, check out this year’s Beltane Fire Festival in Scotland. Do you have any good memories or advice of Beltane? Share your stories in the comment section below!
“If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft, And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left, Sell one, and with the dole, Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.” –James Terry White (1907), Not by Bread Alone
According to ancient Roman mythology, Hyacinth was a beautiful young man. This mortal was the faithful lover of the god Apollo. As usual, the pantheon of gods was rife with jealously. No one was more envious of their relationship than the West Wind, Zephyr. Enjoying the company of one another, Apollo and Hyacinth started a game of discus. Hyacinth ran to catch the discus, as any fool-hearty lover might to impress their significant other. Zephyr blew Apollo’s discus off course, which mortally wounded the young man. Apollo rushed to his love, denying Pluto claim to the boy’s soul. Instead, Apollo crafted a flower, the hyacinth, from the spilled blood. His tears stained the flower’s petals as sign of his grief. Despite this tragic origin, the hyacinth has often been associated with playfulness, games, and recreation: a reminder of Hyacinth’s impish nature.
Today, I thought it appropriate to write a blog post about a Hyacinth tincture I made a few weeks ago and completed today. A tincture is a concentrated liquid form of an herb or flower (similar to a cooking extract). Tinctures preserve the properties of the herb, while also making them last longer! In fact, alcohol based tinctures have a shelf life of several years. Most tinctures can be used both externally and orally. Always keep in mind, however, to fully research a flower or herb’s toxicity prior to use. I encourage you to try making your own tinctures, as they are very inexpensive (compared to store bought)! They are great for medicinal or ritual purposes. For example, the pink hyacinth flowers I used for my tincture will help in any spells pertaining to recreation or playfulness. Who doesn’t need a little fun in their lives every once in a while?
Below, I have outline the method I find most useful for the process!
-A clean glass jar with a lid
-Consumable 80 proof alcohol (I use vodka)
-Herb/flower of choice (dried or fresh)
Most tinctures have an alcohol base, as it makes them last longer. You can use vodka, rum: really any alcohol except isopropyl! Tinctures can also be made with a glycerine, vinegar, or honey base, but we can leave that for another instructional post.
Fill the jar 3/4 full with the herbs. Do not pack down, movement is necessary!
Fill the jar with alcohol and stir with a clean spoon.
Put the lid on the jar (I use a pickling jar to seal in freshness!). Store the jar in a cool/dry place, shaking daily for at least three weeks. Optimally, store for six weeks.
Strain through a cheesecloth. Store the tincture in a clean glass jar.
NOTE: Alcohol evaporates, so check regularly to make sure the herbs are always completely submerged. Similarly, try not to open the jar often—this could increase the risk of introducing bacteria which can result in mold or fermentation.
If you replicate this recipe with the hyacinth, I would not recommend taking this tincture orally. This flower is sometimes confused with hibiscus which is edible. Many parts of the hyacinth, on the other hand, are poisonous. Although I have not found any warnings against the consumption of the flowers, I would not suggest it. Instead, use this tincture as a perfume.
An athame is one of the “working tools” used in rituals. This is a ritual knife which tends to be double-edged with a dark handle. Even though athames are traditionally double-edged with dark handles, it is important for you to find one that speaks to you. Try not to pick the most ornate or the most expensive, because if you do not see it as an extension of yourself then it never will be.
This brings us to the main purpose of the athame, to direct one’s energy. The other uses witches tend to ascribe to the athame, making symbolic cuts and casting a circle, are both related to directing one’s energy. A circle is cast by directing one’s protective energy down to the physical plane. A symbolic cut is done the same way, by directing one’s energy through two physical or symbolic mediums. This means that the athame itself does not wield power, instead YOU are the one that ascribes power to it. This is another reason why you should pick one that really resonates with you, because it is an extension of your energy. Due to the general purpose of the athame, it is reasonable to interchange the wand and athame or even get rid of them altogether and use one’s hand to direct energy.
The athame (just like anything else) absorbs the energy around it. This is why it is important for your athame not to be used to actually cut anything. It is made for ritual purposes, and ritual is where it should remain. It is also a good idea to carry your athame with you and let it get to know your energy. However, it is wise to carry your athame with you when in the comfort of your own home, because unless you have a concealed weapons permit, it is illegal to carry it out in public.
The athame (like the wand) is of masculine nature due to the phallic symbol it embodies. It is important to remember this when consecrating and naming your tool. (Yes you may name your athame and tell it it’s purpose). When consecrating your athame you may invite the male counterpart (or specific male deity) to empower your tool.
In Wicca some have their ideas of what is right or wrong, but this circle believes that what is right is what YOU hold to be true. If you use an athame, wand, or finger as long as you do it with good intention then you are doing it right.
What type of athame do you have? How did you consecrate it? If you do not have one, why?
This is a continuation of the ritual from Imbolc and the first update. I will jump right in and discuss some of the magickal properties of the plants that have sprouted.
Parsley, as is often the case with green herbs, can be used to increase prosperity. Further, parsley can be used to purify oneself or end misfortune when added to a bath. For the home, parsley can calm and protect as well as create a general sense of well being. When used in spell work, strength and vitality are increased after an illness. However, some sources consider parsley to be an evil herb and cutting the plant may be also cutting back your luck and/or love! Parsley is masculine, is under the rule of Mercury and the element of air.
Parsley must go to the devil and back nine times before sprouting
– Folk saying (concerning the time it takes to sprout)
Two types of peppers were planted (Serrano Chili and Jalapeno). Not much about the magickal properties of these specific peppers could be found, however there is some information concerning chili peppers in general. Chili peppers can be used to break a hex as well as in fidelity and love spell work. Dried peppers or seeds can be added to love spells to increase passion in a relationship. Peppers are masculine, ruled by Mars, and (not surprisingly) under the element of fire.
It is better to eat pepper and be happy, than eat honey and be sad – African Proverb
Marigold is mainly used for love and attraction spell work. It can be used to attract respect, admiration, new love or add life to a current relationship. Marigold can be placed above the bed to cause prophetic dreams, or under the bed for protection. One of the major magickal properties of marigold is related to psychic energies as it can help with prophesy and clairvoyance.
Calendula (marigold) strengthens the heart exceedingly – Culpepper
Hopefully this inspires some to plant some of these magickal herbs for your own spell work.
March 1st marked the day of Matronalia. Matronalia was an annual festival of women originally held in ancient Rome. The Goddess Juno Luciana was worshiped to watch over married women and those in the throws of pregnancy. Women would often pray at Juno’s altar for a safe delivery and healthy child, for the gift to bear a child, and couples would pray to be blessed with a happy marriage. Throughout the day women, including slaves, were treated especially well. Husbands would give their wives gifts, and the women of the household would give the female slaves the day off and were allowed to participate in the feast that evening.
Matronalia may have eventually led to the celebration of Mother’s Day in Europe which spread globally, though Matronalia seems to have more of a focus on all women, or the Matriarchs of a household, instead of specifically mothers. In the United States, however, Mother’s Day is held in May and is celebrated in honor of the humanitarian work carried out by women during the Civil War.
In honor of Matronalia some of the members of the Circle dedicated altars to the important women in their lives and Juno herself. Following are pictures from Luna’s altar. Six candles were placed to represent Juno and Jupiter and four important and influential women in Luna’s life. Yellow roses were placed on the altar because they are Luna’s mother’s favorite flower. The roses will later be turned into rose water for anointing purposes as they were asked to be blessed by Juno and Luna’s mother.
Each candle had the name of the person or deity represented carved into it using the Theban alphabet. Though this took some time, it seemed important for the candle to know who it was representing and to absorb the energy of the user. In the evening the candles were lit, and some meditation took place where the women were thanked.
Have you ever celebrated Matronalia? What was your experience?
The Circle of the PussyWillows is proud to officially welcome our newest member Soleil Autumnrosa. On February 18th, a new moon, Soleil conducted the final induction ceremony: the Dedication Ritual.
While the Dedication Ritual is a relatively private affair among circle members, we wanted to share some details with our readers. Enthusiastically, Soleil also provided us with pictures from her ceremony, so that we could share her experience.
The Dedication Ritual must be done on the new moon. The significance of the new moon is that it is a time of new beginnings. This time is perfect for a dedication to a circle because while you are still your unique self, you have begun a new chapter with others. The one performing the ritual is dedicating oneself to this new beginning.
The Dedication Ritual requires several specific items. For example, strawberries are used as the primary offering, alongside a libation of wine. The strawberry represents dedication, new beginnings, and feminine nature, which corresponds neatly with the purpose of the ceremony. Similarly, members use Nag Champa incense, comprised of Frangipani and Sandalwood. This combination of scents has magickal properties associated with shelter and protection, purification, meditation, and brings the devotee closer to the Divine.
By far, however, the most meaningful item present upon the altar during the Dedication Ritual are the branches of Pussy Willows. Foremost, Pussy Willows represent the earliest signs of Spring. The Dedication Ritual takes place during the season of Imbolc, when Pussy Willows begin to bloom and the earth sheds the final weeks of winter.
The Pussy Willow is also symbolic of the future, reminding us there are goals to attained. The flowering tree renews and revitalizes, awakening our inner hopes, joys, and inspirations. Our circle unites under these ideals and ultimately commits to sharing these principles with others.
As all good witches do, Soleil made this ritual uniquely her own. She used dirt to represent earth, a bowl of water for water, a blue candle for air, and a red candle for fire. For the libation, she used beer instead of wine, to preserve the ceremony’s historical authenticity. Soleil’s spectacular photographs document the beauty and sincerity of the Dedication Ritual. Thanks to you, Soleil, for your photo contribution and welcome to the Circle of the PussyWillows!
If you have any questions or comments, please share your thoughts in the section below!
“The tulip is, among flowers, what the peacock is among birds. A tulip lacks scent, a peacock has an unpleasant voice. The one takes pride in its garb, the other in its tail.” -French Proverb
For centuries, tulips splattered color across the fields of Persia and Turkey. These flowers were the inspiration for noble and elegant art pieces across Asia and Europe. Europeans mistakenly gave tulips their name, from the Turkish tradition of wearing tulips in the turban. Tulip = Turban? Not too far a stretch! The flower’s popularity spread quickly during the 17th century, particularly in the Netherlands. Tulips are now grown throughout the world, but most people still identify cultivated varieties as common “Dutch tulips.”
The symbolic meaning of tulips is generally means “a perfect love.” Very befitting as a live Valentine’s Day gift! Like many flowers, different colors carry their own significance. Red tulips strongly associated with true love, while purple represents royalty. Yellow tulips once are now a common expression for cheerful thoughts and playful love. White tulips can send a message of forgiveness and variegated tulips, once among the most popular varieties, mean “You have beautiful eyes.” While it is easy to go on forever assigning symbolic meaning to flowers, it may suffice to move on to the significance of color magick.
With any sort of flower, you can use the different colored variations in color magick. With tulips, for example, a witch can use a dark strain such as “Queen of the Night” for full moon rituals or bright red or pink flowers for spells to increase passion.
Adding color to your altar is simple. You can use clothing, altar cloths, candles, or flowers in colors associated with the intent of your spell or ritual. Some witches even write their spells using special ink or colored pencils with a corresponding color palate. Below is a small reference table of colors and their meanings. TheMagickalCat has a splendid article for color correspondences. I have included their table for your use when gathering/working with the natural world.
Violet: Spirituality, connection to higher self, Goddess, insight, clarity, tension.
White: All purpose, unity, purity, cleansing, peace, balance, spirituality, healing, innocence, rain, magick involving young children, truth, consecration, balancing the aura.
Yellow: Pleasure, success, happiness, learning, memory, concentration, persuasion, inspiration, imagination, solar magick, charm, confidence, air element, travel, flexibility.
Color has an effect on our brains and it can produce raw emotion. It can affect an individual’s mood and stimulate even awareness. That said, it is comes as no surprise that color has been used in modern medical, psychiatric, and educational practices. The ancients practiced forms of color magick that many of us are familiar with today. To be successful with this type of magick, keep this in mind: Colors used for spell work should evoke a unique inner response. Each response can be different and vary from person to person. Thus, colors must have meaning to the person using them, in order for color magick to really work. Experiment and see what works for you! If you have worked with color magic or have further questions regarding the topic, please leave your responses in the comment section below.
This is an update on how my little seedlings from Imbolc are doing. To give newcomers a little bit of background, these seeds were planted in the days leading up to Imbolc. They were then dedicated and blessed in a ritual that was performed on Imbolc. For the full reference there are links to the preparation before and after Imbolc. So far only the sage, thyme, basil, and oregano have sprouted. Since these were the first to sprout and announce to the world that they are here, I will write about each of their magickal properties and when the others sprout I will write about them as well.
Why should a man die who has sage in his garden? – proverb
Sage is masculine in nature and associated with the element of air and the planet Jupiter. Sage is commonly used to smudge and purify the body as well as the home. It is also used in magical workings for immortality, longevity, wisdom, protection and the granting of wishes.
Often thyme can be used to promote restful sleep or in healing rituals. Burning thyme in your bowl or cauldron may help give you courage to face a confrontation, as the ancient Romans were known to bathe in thyme before combat to increase courage and strength. Further, carrying around sprigs of thyme in your pocket can aid in developing psychic powers. Thyme is associated with the feminine, the element of water, and is ruled by Venus.
Never enough thyme – proverb
Basil has a long history, but is commonly used to focus the mind and attract peace and harmony. You may place basil in different places within your house for protection. Basil is also used in peacemaking rituals after a quarrel. Basil is associated with the masculine, fire, and the planet Mars.
Magic originating from the Mediterranean area consider oregano a protection herb. Planting oregano around your home helps ward off negative energy. It is associated with the feminine, Aphrodite, and the element air.
This just goes to show that white and green magick really go hand in hand. If it were not for the plants, we would have little power. This is true of all life, we cease to exist without the earth and all that flows from it.
A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them. – Liberty Hyde Bailey
Imbolc is a time for the waning of winter and the impending arrival of spring. A typical altar around this time will carry symbols of both. However, it is important to note that there is no hard and fast line as to what exactly your symbols have to be, nor is there any rule as to what ritual you choose to perform (though there should be some reference to the upcoming warmth and new growth of spring).
I will share with everyone how I chose to set up my altar for Imbolc and the ritual I chose to perform. Feel free to replicate mine, but it is always better to add something personal to make it your own.
I chose to have four white candles (two small pillars and two tapered). The white of the candle was to symbolize the snow of winter and the flame symbolized the warmth of the sun. I also added my daffodil plant and some of the dried flowers from the plant in a separate silver container. Daffodils are one of the traditional flowers of Imbolc (including snowdrops, crocus, any white or yellow flowers, or first flowers of the year) because it is one of the first flowers to bloom after winter. Also their yellow hue alludes to the sun and its warmth.
After I set up my altar, but before I lit the candles, I told the candles what their purpose was. I told them that they were to symbolize the sun, whose warmth and light helps life grow. I called upon the God to bless and empower my candles.
After all my candles were lit, I called upon the Goddess to bless and nurture my seeds so that they may begin a life of their own.
I then thanked the Lord and Lady and continued to let the candles burn. Once they had burned down a little, I took toothpicks and dipped them into the hot wax and placed the toothpicks into each pot. I believe this symbolizes the warming of the earth and will help spark new life into these little seeds.
Many of you may have noticed that I posted this on the 3rd of February, and Imbolc is traditionally reserved for the 2nd of February. I purposely chose not to hold my ritual on the 2nd because there is a full moon on the 3rd. I believe this phase of the moon added some rejuvenating energy to my ritual. I also do not follow the aligning of the Pagan calendar to the Christian one because us Pagans have practiced magick for many many years without it. I think that it is not as important to follow the “day of the Sabbat” as it is to follow what your heart says and what you believe to be true.
I hope this has inspired you to make your own rituals for Imbolc (if you have not already), or to do a ritual now and not worry that you missed the holiday because some calendar says so.