“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.
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.
“And thus the snowdrop, like the bow That spans the cloudy sky, Becomes a symbol whence we know That brighter days are nigh.” –George Wilson
In the midst of a silent Winter, the land sleeps. Blankets of snow cover the ground and the nights grow longer. For months, the world passes by in uneven shades of black and white. A day arrives when man begins to forget the gentler days of warmth. Doubt convinces him that Spring has abandoned the land. It is in this bleak moment, the snowdrop suddenly blooms.
In 1753, Carl Linnaeus scientifically classified the snowdrop as Galanthusnivalis. Galanthus is from the Greek words gala, meaning “milk,” and anthos, meaning “flower.” The following word nivalis means “of the snow,” thus roughly translates into English as “milk flower of the snow.” This small bulb plant, dark green and white, symbolizes Spring’s arrival, new hope, and lasting endurance. While this blog post is primarily interested in the magickal properties of the snowdrop, it is always worthwhile to explore a plant’s origins and folklore.
One Christian folk myth, entitled “How the Snowdrop Became,” illustrates how the snowdrop became a symbol of hope and endurance. The tale is describes how an angel turned falling snowflakes into snowdrop flowers to give Adam and Eve as a sign of hope before evicting them from the Garden of Eden.
Another legend, from Romania, takes a different approach to the flower’s origins. The myth coincides with the Spring celebration known as Mărțișor. The story has been shared through generations and changed over time, but the common tale as told today follows:
“Long ago, when the Sun appeared each year to warm the earth in the form of a beautiful young girl, the people loved her dearly and looked forward to her appearance with joy. When she stepped onto the earth, birds began to sing and roots stirred under the ground. One year however, the monster of Winter, known as a Zmeu, lay in wait for the young Sun and took her prisoner. No ray of brightness could escape from the thick, stone walls of his castle dungeon. That year, Winter did not lose his iron grip on the soil, the earth stood hard and grey and the people suffered. A young Hero, who loved the Sun dearly and saw the plight that the earth would face without her, set out to sort out the Zmeu and lured it from its castle walls. The two fought bitterly and the Hero managed to set the Sun free. He warmed himself with her kiss as she rose into the sky and the icy winds became Spring breezes. But the poor Hero was grievously wounded and despite the Sun’s warmth, he fell to the ground. Each drop of blood as it fell, melted the snow beneath him and the first snowdrops began to grow, opening their white petals as the Sun reached her zenith.”
In modern times, it is still a tradition at the Mârtisor Festival, for women to receive charms with red and white threads. Sometimes with tiny red and white dolls attached. If this red and white practice of dolls, snowdrops, and spring all seems vaguely familiar to some readers, perhaps it is not too far a stretch to link Mârtisor with the Wiccan sabbat, Imbolc.
A sign of spring in Europe and the Americas, snowdrops can form expansive carpets of white. These displays attract enormous crowds of sightseers to gardens and festivals. The most notable modern event concerning snowdrops is Scotland’s Snowdrop Festival, which is held for weeks on end between February and March. Such a little flower can fascinate millions of people worldwide for generations. This brings me to a very serious point. A few wild snowdrop species are threatened by loss of habitat and human consumption. Please do not needlessly pick the flowers! If you must use a plant’s magickal properties for spellwork, always ask for the plant’s permission. Talk to your blossoming neighbors and show them the respect any innocent deserves. Instead of cutting flowers and putting them in a vase, plant them in the yard or a container. Below is a brief introduction to the planting and care of snowdrops. If you have additional questions or comments on this plant, leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Planting Instructions for Snowdrops:
First, the propagation of the bulbs. Always buy your bulbs from an accredited source! A good nursery will provide you with a healthy set to get you started and ensure you a full crop. Some suppliers sell clumps of bulbs in full growth (also known as “in the green”), while others sell dormant bulbs (a phase in the plants life when the leaves have withered).
The snowdrop does not do well in warm, tropical climates. The Hardiness Zone depends on the species of Snowdrop, but USDA typically recommends Zones 3-8 for most varieties. If you live outside these zones, there is a little trick to try! Buy the bulbs in the green and cool them by sticking them in your freezer for six weeks. Some nurseries will even do this for you. After this process, pot them and watch them grow. Keep in mind, the bulbs need to be dug up and chilled again for next year.
Snowdrops enjoy full sun to partial shade. Heat, however, will shorten their bloom period, cause them to wilt, and go into dormancy. They bloom between late winter and early spring. They will flourish while there is still snow on the ground and a dusting of snow will not bother them at all.
Snowdrops like a neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH and rich but well drained soil. Plant bulbs point up, about three to five inches apart and two inches deep. Try not to crowd them too much either. Water well and keep watering weekly. Unlike tulips and daffodils, snowdrops do not linger long once they have bloomed. For the most part, snowdrops take care of themselves during dormancy.
If your soil is lean, consider fertilizer after flowering. As the bulb grows into clumps, there may be less blooms— At this point, consider digging up the bulbs and dividing the clumps for more little snowdrops. Replant immediately.
Unfortunately, snails and slugs will eat their way through the flower’s leaves. To prevent this, try setting up some copper barriers around your plot. Luckily, snowdrops are resistant to larger animals such as deer, rabbits, and groundhogs (except maybe kitty cats and the fairies)! Everyone will enjoy these elegant flowers.
Finally, as a medical warning, some people get a skin irritation from contact with the bulbs. All parts of the Galanthus are mildly toxic if ingested, so it is not recommended for teas, although many Green Witches have made Snowdrop Essence without complication.
Pax et bonum,
“Alluding to the colour of the flowers. The snow-drop, Winter’s timid child, Awakes to life bedew’d with tears; And flings around its fragrance mild, And where no rival flowrets bloom, Amidst the bare and chilling gloom, A beauteous gem appears!”
–THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS (1839)
Information gathered from personal experience and several sources through public access. For reference and further reading:
*Nature Lovers from Amazon Online