Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Best Places to Find Antiques for Altar Tools

Sometimes we don't just want the regular old altar tools. We don't want to pop online to a Wiccan or Pagan shop and order a wand, or a chalice, or whatever else we need. Sometimes we want something special, something with history. The problem is most modern Pagans don't have boxes from Grandma full of old tools. This is where antiques become useful, but unless you know where to go, finding suitable antiques can prove problematic.

 For those who love antiques, searching out the perfect item and getting a good deal can be an exciting and exhilarating moment. However, for those who don’t know where to find antiques, or perhaps don’t understand what an antique is, this search can end is disappointment and sometimes even heartbreak. Before you can begin your search for antiques, you have to know where to go and you’ll certainly need a basic understanding of the term “antique.”

Probably the most persistent myth regarding antiques is the theory that if it is old, it must be rare and valuable. An item that is old isn’t necessarily an “antique.” It’s old. Most of the old items floating around are not really that valuable and they may not even be rare. If it`s neither valuable nor rare, then it cannot be appropriately termed an “antique.”

So, in order to be classified as an antique, the item you’re considering must be of a certain age and must be worth something to someone. Most dealers will not label an item as “antique” until it is at least 45 years of age, so consider that before you head out to shop for antiques. Also take into account the rarity and value of a given item. To some extent, these two things are related. However, a rare item isn’t necessarily valuable. Understanding antiques and their prospective values is somewhat of an art, so if you’re unsure, do your research first and consult an expert.

Once you’ve acquired some basic knowledge, it’s time to start looking for antiques. However, you can’t just head out without some idea of what you’re looking for. There are many antique shops and dealers who specialize in certain items. You don’t end up in a pottery shop when shopping for Victorian furniture. Before you begin your search, you should have some basic idea of the items each shop deals in. This can be done by simply calling ahead.

That said, antique shops are not necessarily the best place to acquire antiques. It may sound counter-intuitive, but in a shop you`re paying a higher price for items the dealer doesn`t want anyway. There are other options that may help you cut costs and offer a better selection.

Estate sales are the perfect place to find interesting antiques, especially if you're looking for glassware (you might find a nice chalice). Estate sales are typically held after a death, divorce, or even large scale move. These sales may have items that are decades or even centuries old for sale at a decent price. Keep in mind, however, that professional dealers also frequent these sales to acquire items for their own collections and to display in their shops. You`ll be competing with these people for the items of your choice, so go prepared.

Flea markets are fun and enjoyable to visit and you might just find what you’re looking for. Often, vendors at flea markets have their items priced lower to attract most customers. You may be able to acquire that unique staff or chlaice for a fraction of what you might pay for it in an antique shop. But make sure you examine the items carefully. Some vendors use flea markets to get rid of damaged merchandise without fully informing the customer.

If you’re looking for antiques at prices you simply can’t beat, rummage around in local yard sales. Yard sales are usually held by people who have no desire to examine their own goods thoroughly and haven’t consulted a professional. You will often find people selling antique glassware, paintings, and even furniture for next to nothing, so take a trip around your area in the spring and summer for the best selection.

Don`t ignore the possibility of finding a valuable antique at your local thrift shop. There are many tales of people finding items worth thousands of dollars for just a few pennies. This is especially true of glassware and other delicate items. You`ll sometimes even find antique books on the shelves of a thrift shop (a good friend of mine found some interesting texts any Pagan would be interested in). However, this is not an easy search, as there will be many items that are not even worth a look. Do some research on the items you`re hunting for so you can quickly identify the real thing. Of course, items as thrift stores tend to be priced cheap, so you probably won’t lose much money even if you make a mistake.

If you’re willing to take a risk, invest some time, and truly search for antiques, you can probably acquire much of what you’re searching for at relatively cheap prices. Search yard and garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and even your mother’s attic for items that are old, rare, and valuable. Keep in mind, however, that if these resources yield no results, you can always check your local antique shop or dealer. If they don’t have something, they may be able to find it for you. If you’re willing to pay the price.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stained Glass for Beginners

I've been getting a lot of questions about Pagan crafts lately, so I though I'd share one of my favorites. I enjoy stained glass, especially when I use it to create images that fit well in my temple. I have an entire Wheel of the Year display made entirely of glass. It took a long time to create, but it was well worth the effort. If you want to get started with stained glass, start small. You can take a class if you like, or you can try to get started on your own.

The art of stained glass can be an exciting hobby. Stained glass can be used to create beautiful items that you can keep for yourself or give as gifts to those you care about. However, stained glass is a complex art that requires years of practice to master. If you’re just starting out, you’ll need time, patience, and the right tools.

Traditional stained glass pieces are created using lead. However, for the beginner, this may be a little too complex. It might be better to use the copper tape method for constructing your stained glass pieces. Copper tape is easier to work with and gives beautiful results. If you’re worried about your project having adequate strength, consider using leaded edging.
Keep in mind that most of the tools and supplies listed are not safe for children. You should only work with stained glass in a well-ventilated area free of children and pets. Also be very careful when handling glass. Broken tiles are sharp and glass chips are equally dangerous.

Tools for Your Project

Regardless of construction technique, you will need certain tools and supplies to get started. Most craft and hobby stores will have what you’re looking for. If not, looked for a stained glass supply store. You can even order supplies online if you have to. When you do find a supplier, make a comprehensive list to avoid multiple trips to the same store. Some of the items you might include on that list are:
  • Glass in a variety of colors
  • Glasscutter (as sharp as you can find)
  • Copper tape (available in rolls)
  • Snips
  • Flux
  • Soldering iron
  • Plastic boning tool
  • Backing board
  • Pushpins (longer is generally better)
  • Painter’s tape
You will also need a water-cooled electric grinder. Look for once specifically designed to smooth the edges of glass. It is essential that your grinder is water-cooled to prevent overheating and possible injury.

Creating a Pattern for Your Project

In order to create beautiful stained glass projects, you should have a pattern firmly in your mind before beginning. This pattern can be anything you can imagine. However, if you’re just a beginner, you might want to consider a pattern that has large blocks of color. A pattern with a great many small areas is much harder and should be left until you have gained some experience. Also be wary of selecting a pattern with uneven edges. These are difficult for even experienced craftsmen. Instead, look for a pattern that is entirely round or oval.

Draw your pattern on a piece of paper to scale. If you’re hoping to assemble your stained glass project on the paper, use a fine tipped pen, preferably black. This will show through most glass and allow you to position each piece correctly. If you have a large project with many different pieces, consider marking each part of your project with a number. You can then use your painter’s tape to label individual glass pieces, making it easier to reassemble your project when you are ready to solder everything in place.

Cutting and Grinding Your Glass Pieces

Take each individual piece of glass and lay it out on your pattern. Use a fine tipped pen and mark the glass precisely. Take your time because glass it delicate and difficult to repair. If you break too many pieces or cut them incorrectly, you’ll have to make another trip to the craft supply store. Remember that even an expert will make some mistakes, so always have extra glass on hand.

Use your glasscutter to gently score the glass exactly where you marked, but be careful to make only a single score. While supporting the piece of glass you intend to keep, gently tap the surrounding area until it snaps off. With your snips, remove any excess glass. Do not use your hands or you may cut yourself. Repeat with the remaining glass pieces until you have all the pieces required to complete your work.

It is often tempting to look at your glass pieces and assume they’re smooth enough for assembly. They’re not, no matter how careful you were when cutting your glass pieces. And if they’re not smooth, they will not adhere to your copper tape. To make sure you have perfectly smooth glass, use your water-cooled electric grinder. Grind each individual piece until smooth to the touch. Place finished pieces onto your backing board for assembly. You might want to practice on a few scrap pieces first, just to get the hang of using a grinder.

Assembling Your Project

You are now ready to assemble your pattern. Adhere the copper tape to the edges of all your glass pieces. Cut out the pieces you need and the boning tool to smooth the tape. Make sure there are no air bubbles or your tape will peel off. Smooth any excess tape around the edges of the glass. When each piece is ready, place it in the correct location on the backing board and secure it using your pushpins.

Begin soldering your glass pieces together. Heat your soldering iron and use just the smallest bit of flux to secure each of your elements together. Don’t solder the pushpins. When your pieces are secure, you can remove the pushpins and solder the length of each seam. Allow the solder to set completely before moving on.

It may take some time to get used to the soldering iron, just as it did with the grinder. Practice on spare glass and expect that the excessive heat will crack the first few pieces. After a while, you’ll get the hang of it.

When all seams have been soldered and the solder is set, you’ll have to turn the piece to solder the back. To do this, you must turn the project over. Do this gently by lifting just one corner. If you have allowed ample time for the solder to set, your project should turn over easily enough. Solder the back of the project in the same manner as the front.

When set, you must edge the entire project with copper tape. This is done in the same way as the individual pieces were edged. However, you should probably use a thicker tape than before, depending on the size of your completed project. Finally, solder well enough to cover the copper tape.

If you don’t like the color of the solder lines, apply a suitable patina. Depending on the patina used, it will either darken or brighten the solder lines, improving the look of your piece. Keep in mind that this is an optional process. You do not need to apply patina to your project if you are satisfied with the look and feel of the solder lines.

Once the solder is set and the patina is dry, your project is complete. Hang it where it will catch the light, changing the location if you are not happy with it. After you’ve completed your first project, you can move on to more complex stained glass projects. With a little practice, you can create lampshades, window hangings, decorative centerpieces, and even complex shapes such as 3D images. I even have a pentacle made of stained glass. Practice a bit, and you'll be able to create anything you like.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wiccan Sabbat Recipes: Desserts for a Yule Party

The holiday season is the perfect time to hold a party, especially a Yule party. Getting friends and family together in one location can bring joy and happiness to both you and your guests. However, all parties require some degree of planning. Inevitably, you must consider what you will serve your guests, and this leads to thoughts of dessert. Dessert is not only the sweetest part of the meal, but it's generally the last, and so leaves the greatest impression upon your guests. Whether you choose an elaborate dessert of something simpler, these suggestions will almost certainly help to make your Yule party a success.

Chocolate Truffle

For many families, the holidays would not be complete without a taste of chocolate truffle. This chocolaty dessert is rich, sweet, and delicious. It would make a wonderful addition to any table. This recipe serves 8 to 12 people.

Preheat over to 425°F. Melt ¼ cup butter in a saucepan. Stir in 1¼ cups chocolate wafer crumbs and 1tbsp sugar. Press into ungreased 8-inch springform pan and set in a piece of foil, pressing foil upwards all the edges to prevent water from leaking. Set the springform pan in another deep pan or roaster.

Melt 1 cup butter in a saucepan and add 3 cups chocolate chips. Stir until melted and poor into a medium bowl. Add 5 eggs, one at a time, beating after each one. Add 1tsp vanilla. Pour over crust in the springform pan. Pour boiling water into roaster or deep pan at least ½ way up the side of the springform pan.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until outer edge of truffle is set; the center will still be soft. Do not over bake. Lift the springform pan out of the water and place on rack to cool. Chill for at least 4 hours before removing truffle from the springform pan.

Melt ½ cup chocolate chips and combine with 3tbsp whipping cream. Stir on low heat until smooth, then poor on top of truffle immediately. Smooth the top and sides and let dry completely.

Beat 1 cup whipping cream, 2tsp sugar, and ½ tsp vanilla until stiff. Drop in puff balls all around the outer edge of the truffle. Dust these puffs with grated chocolate and chill until ready to serve.

Plum Pudding

Plum pudding is a traditional dessert for many Yule feasts and continues to be popular to this day. This recipe serves 12 to 15 people, and is often the crowing glory of a Yule dinner.

Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl: 2 cups raisins, 1 cup currants, 1 cup ground almonds, ½ cup chopped glazed cherries, ½ cup mixed peel, 4 chopped glazed pineapple rings, ½ shredded coconut, ½ cup flour. Stir until fruit is coated with flour.

Add the following ingredients and mix well: 1 cup chopped beef suet, 1½ cups dry bread crumbs, 2tsp baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, 1tsp salt, 1tsp cinnamon, 1tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp ginger, ¾ cup flour.

Beat 3 large eggs in a small bowl until just frothy and add milk. Pour this over the fruit mixture and stir until just moistened. Turn entire mixture into a greased 2L pudding pan, cover with a double square of greased foil, and tie the sides down with string. Place in a steamer with boiling water, ensuring the water comes at least ½ way up the sides of the pudding pan. Steam, keeping the pudding covered, for 3 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the level high enough. Cool and serve with your choice of traditional holiday sauces, such as rum sauce or pastel hard sauce.

Whipped Shortbread

A tray of cookies and confections can make a wonderful dessert, especially for cocktail parties, and whipped shortbread is a cookie that should never be ignored. With its melt in your mouth flavor and smooth texture, this cookie will be a favorite of all your guests.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cream 1 cup softened butter and ½ cup sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add 1½ cups flour and ½ cup cornstarch gradually, but don't stop beating the mixture. When it's light and fluffy again, drop the batter by teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. If you like, take a piece of milk or dark chocolate and press it into the cookies while they're still hot. Cool on a wire rack before serving. This recipe makes approximately 2½ dozen cookies.

There are many more ideas for Yule desserts. From chocolate chiffon pie to Yule cakes, each and every dessert has something to offer your Yule party. You might want to consider a pie table, confection trays, or any number of combinations for offering desserts. Take into account your preparation time, the tastes of your guests, and the type of party you're having, then choose the dessert that will best compliment your own Yule festivities. Your guests will thank you for it.

First published at Helium: Delicious Desserts for a Holiday Party

Friday, October 25, 2013

Touching Auras: The Aura of a Baby

After being asked to explain and describe a baby's aura and how to influence it more times than I can remember, I've decided to write it down and make it available through Amazon and other retailers. It's a short e-book, only 5000 words, and is based on my own experiences with my two young children.

Babies, like adults, have auras. It might be harder to see, but it is there. Parents and caregivers can learn to use their own auras to influence the auras of newborns and infants. Children can be calmed, encouraged, and even taught life lessons through the interactions of auras.

Also covered here are basic lessons on how to see and interpret the aura. Though it is not necessary to be able to see the aura of your child to influence it, seeing the telltale glow of your baby's aura can be satisfying. You can learn how to do this with Touching Auras: The Aura of a Baby.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Building a Vegetable A-Frame for Your Garden

Like many Pagans, I enjoy my garden. But now the end of summer has passed us by. Fall has arrived and the garden has been mostly harvested. The little that's left will be harvested within the next two weeks. After that, winter will cover the land with snow and outdoor gardening will come to a halt until spring. But there are still things to do. The garden must be prepared so it's ready to go once the snow melts. One of the things I have to do is build a few A-frames to support some of the vegetables I'll grow next year.

Materials Needed for Building the Vegetable A-Frame

There are several items that you’ll need if you want to construct a vegetable A-frame. You should first purchase 7 1x4s and trim them to 6 feet in length. The lumberyard is usually more than willing to trim them down for you if necessary. If you want your A-frame to last for several years, you’ll want to purchase treated lumber that can withstand exposure to the elements. You can also use untreated lumber if you prefer.

You’ll also need high quality wood screws. To help prevent rusting, purchase galvanized metal screws. Also make sure you have an electric drill and electric saw (to make your life easier, though you can use hand tools if you prefer), staple gun, tape measure, and two hinges. You can purchase any type of hinges you like, but if you want the A-frame to last, purchase hinges that are designed for outdoor use.

Finally, you’ll need screen for the A-frame. This will allow the vines of the plants to grab on to something. Many people like to use window screen designed to withstand pets. It’s light and easy to cut comes in large enough sizes to cover the A-frames, and it can handle a lot of abuse. If you’re using this type of window screen, you’ll need wire cutters to trim it to size.

Constructing the Vegetable A-Frame

Cut 2 of your 6-foot lumber pieces in half so that you have 4 3-foot pieces. Take 2 3-foot pieces and 2 6-foot pieces and assemble them to make 1 frame. The 3-foot pieces are for the top and bottom, the 6-foot pieces are for the sides. Screw these four pieces together. Repeat so that you have 2 frames. These will be the sides of your A-frame.

Cover each frame with window screen that has been cut to size. Secure the screen using your staple gun. As you do this, pull the screen tight to avoid sagging. You may wish to ask a friend to help you with this step.

Attach the hinges using wood screws to the top of the frames, connecting the frames so that they can be opened or closed at will. It is easiest if the frames are lying on the ground when you do this.

Make feet for your A-frame that can be pushed into the ground for stability. Do this by cutting a 6-foot piece of plywood into 2 3-foot pieces. Then cut each 3-foot piece into 2 1.5-foot pieces, but with a diagonal cut. The pointed part can slide into the ground easier and help you secure your A-frame.

Using wood screws, attach the feet to the A-frame with wood screws, one at each of the four bottom corners. Make sure the pointed end is facing downwards. Once you've done this, your A-frame is ready to go into the garden. Simply open the A-frame up and stand it in the garden, driving the pointed stakes into the ground for stability.

When you place the A-frame in your garden, you can open it as much or as little as you like. Bear in mind, however, that the more you open it, the more stable it will be. If you open it up about 3 feet, the vegetables get the space they need and you get a stable enough A-frame. If you construct this A-frame with the proper materials and store it in a dry place when not in use, it will last you for years.

First published at Helium: How to Build a Vegetable A-Frame for Your Garden

Friday, September 27, 2013

Magickal Exercises — Directing Your Own Energy

The body of energy, comprising primarily of the aura and the chakras, can be used for many things, such as the casting of spells and the performing of rituals. In simple terms, this is done by simply releasing the energy of the body toward a specific goal However, before you can begin working true magick, you must first learn to consciously direct your own energy.

Work With a Friend to Develop Your Magickal Skills

If you have a friend to help you, this exercise can be easy and enjoyable. You can both take turns practicing, and help to monitor each other’s progress. However, you’ll have to be honest with each other during this exercise. Center and ground your own energy before you begin.

Start this exercise by having your friend sit down, back to you, stripped to the waist (or removing as many layers as you’re both comfortable with). With your palm down and fingers together, extend your arm, straight out, and point it as your friend’s back. Keep your fingers at least an inch away from his or her back, or your friend will be able to physically feel what you’re doing.

Slowly move your hand up and down the line of his or her spine. Keep your arm straight and focus on sending your energy down your arm, out your fingers, and into your friend’s back. If you have difficulty doing this, focus on the flow of your breath. This isn’t as hard a technique as it may sound.

Imagine that you’re breathing in colored fog (I use purple, but you can visualize whatever color you like). Breathe this fog deep into your belly, about an inch below your navel. Exhale, but instead of breathing the fog out through your mouth or nose, see it flow down your arm and out your fingers, making contact with your friend’s back.

Have your friend tell you if he or she feels anything. This might be a tingling sensation, or the feeling of hot or cold. Everyone feels energy differently, so your energies might be interpreted in any number of ways. In time, your friend might be able to tell you where your hand is. Keep records on this exercise, and practice often.

Practice Magickal Skills on Your Animal Friends

Not everyone has a friend who will submit to this exercise. If you’re one of those people who simply does not have anyone to practice with, consider a pet. Cats and dogs work best for this exercise, and a patient pet is a better candidate. For cats and smaller dogs, rest them on your lap. For larger dogs, you’ll have to sit them in front of you. The principle is the same. Focus on sending energy into your pet, but without physical contact.

Your pet probably can’t talk, so you’ll have to watch your pet for evidence that they feel something. Signs can be as subtle as falling asleep or as obvious as jumping unexpectedly. You’ll have to keep a record of any signs you suspect might be significant, as Fido may keep you guessing for a while. This method takes a little longer, because of the reduced feedback you may receive, but it does work.

If you want to expand and increase your command of your own energies, you have to work at it. There are many various exercises that can help you do this. All of them have value. Experiment, practice, and have fun as you develop your psychic abilities.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wiccan Sabbat Ritual Recipes — Stuffed Potato Recipes

Potatoes are a traditional food in the fall and winter, when they are in season. Turning a single potato into a full meal is not all that difficult. Stuffed potato recipes are an easy and effective way to do this.

These recipes have been created specifically with Wiccans and Pagans in mind. They include the vegetables and herbs of the season, and so are particularly suited to the Autumnal Equinox and Samhain.

Cheesy Stuffed Potato Recipe

The following ingredients should be gathered close at hand:
  • 4 baking potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons dried chives
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Each potato should be well-scrubbed and patted dry. Before cooking, they should also be pierced several times with a fork to allow for the hot air to escape as they bake. If this is not done, they could easily burst. Microwave all 4 potatoes on high for approximately 10 minutes, or until they are tender. This may take as long as 15 minutes with larger potatoes. Rotate potatoes halfway through cooking time.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F. The butter should be melted in a skillet over low heat in a frying pan. Add onion, cooking until transparent. Slice off the tops of the potatoes and scoop out the insides with a spoon. Place the insides of the potatoes in a small bowl, adding chives, onion, half of the cheddar cheese, all of the sour cream, and the salt and pepper.

  3. Return the mixture to the potato shells and place them all in a medium casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake potatoes until thoroughly heated, approximately 10 minutes.
Vegetable Stuffed Potato Recipe
The following ingredients should be gathered close at hand:
  • 4 baking potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ cup ranch salad dressing
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Each potato should be well-scrubbed and patted dry. Before cooking, they should also be pierced several times with a fork to allow for the hot air to escape as they bake. If this is not done, they could easily burst. Microwave all 4 potatoes on high for approximately 10 minutes, or until they are tender. This may take as long as 15 minutes with larger potatoes. Rotate potatoes halfway through cooking time.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F. The butter should be melted in a skillet over low heat in a frying pan. Add onion, cooking until transparent. Slice off the tops of the potatoes and scoop out the insides with a spoon. Place the insides of the potatoes in a small bowl, adding salad dressing, broccoli, parsley, onion, and salt and pepper.
  3. Brush the outside of the potato skins with the olive oil. Return mixture to the potato shells and place them all in a medium casserole dish. Bake potatoes until thoroughly heated, approximately 10 minutes.
Possible Variations for Stuffed Potato Recipes
To make a more complete meal, diced beef, lamb, pork, or chicken can be added to either of these recipes. Sausage and bacon are also appropriate. For vegetarians, crumbled and fried tofu can be added instead. Also, cheese may be added to the Vegetable Stuffed Potatoes for additional flavor. For the Cheesy Stuffed Potatoes, try substituting blue cheese for the cheddar.
Stuffed potatoes are a favorite of many Wiccans and Pagans around the time of the Autumnal Equinox and Samhain. Though they can be served all year round, in the fall they are especially appropriate, and make a wonderful addition to the ritual feast table, especially when paired with Harvest Mead and Harvest Pumpkin Pie.