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.

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.

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.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Wiccan Sabbat Ritual Recipes — Harvest Mead Recipe

Harvest Mead is a traditional beverage that is a rich heady blend of fruit and honey and is served at many Wiccan Sabbats. Though primarily designed as a drink to be consumed for ritual purposes, it can be used for any purpose. It can be adapted to a non-alcoholic recipe quite easily.

This recipe has been created specifically with Wiccans and Pagans in mind. It includes the fruits of the fall, or harvest season. It is particularly suited to the Autumnal Equinox and Samhain. For other Sabbats, different fruits and spices can be used.

Traditional Harvest Mead Method

The following ingredients should be gathered close at hand:
  • 3 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 apples
  • 4 cardamoms
  • 3 nutmegs
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 cloves
  • 20 cups water
  • 8 cups honey
  • 2 tablespoons wine yeast blended in ½ cup water
  1. The rind, flesh, and juices of the oranges and lemons should be added to a saucepan, but the white pith should be discarded. Make sure the rind and flesh are coarsely chopped. Chop the apples, discarding the core, and add to the mixture. The cinnamon sticks, cardamoms, cloves and nutmegs, and 10 cups of water should now be added and everything brought to the boil.
  2. The mixture should be simmered for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Strain through cheesecloth, and add an additional 8 to 10 cups of warm water. Stir in the honey, taking care that it blends well. Next add the yeast solution, stirring carefully to ensure that it dissolves properly.
  3. When the yeast solution is thoroughly dissolved, place the fluid in a sterilized container with a fermentation lock. Containers should preferably be new, but they can sometimes be found in second-hand shops. If using a second hand container, ensure that it is thoroughly washed and sterilized.
  4. Place the container in a warm dark place and leave it for at least six months. After about six weeks, small bubbles should be seen rising to the surface. After about six months, this activity should have ceased. If not, the mixture needs a little more time before it is considered ready.
  5. When the mixture has stopped fermenting, it can be decanted into sterile bottles with cork tops. Leave the mixture for a further week to ensure there is no additional fermentation. If there is, this will be indicated by a cork that lifts or pops out completely.
  6. If there is no further fermentation, the mead is ready for consumption.
Non-Alcoholic Harvest Mead Method

This is by far the quickest and least complicated method of making Harvest Mead. It is identical until after the liquid is strained. Then, instead of 8 cups of water, add 4 cups of fruit juice and approximately 4 cups of sparkling water. It is slightly less flavorful than the traditional method, but it has the advantage of being quick and alcohol free, for those who do not consume alcohol.

The juice used should be complementary to the fruits that have already been added to the mixture. Apple, lemon, or orange all work well. A combination of all three is very flavorful. Some people prefer to use a grapefruit juice. Whatever is the favorite juice of those consuming the mead will work fine.

This version of Harvest Mead can also be consumed immediately as fermentation is not required. However, it is best left overnight, at least, to allow the flavors to develop. If it is to be stored, make sure the container is air-tight, as the carbonated water will go ‘flat’ if it is not sealed. As an alternative, the sparkling water can be added immediately before the mead is served.

Harvest Mead is a drink that is quite popular with those who practice Wicca. It can be made just for Sabbats, such as the Autumnal Equinox and Samhain, or it can be consumed all year round. It is full of flavor and a wonderful addition to any table, especially with stuffed potatoes or Harvest Pumpkin Pie.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Wheel of the Year — The Fall Equinox and Its Lore

Often called Mabon or the Fall Equinox, the Autumnal Equinox falls in the second half of September, usually around September 21st. It is often marked on calendars as the “first day of fall.” It is a time when day and night are equal, the last day in the season where the hours of darkness do not overwhelm the hours of light. This is the height of the harvest, the culmination of what began at Lughnasadh. It is a time to think about what we have and to be grateful for it. The Autumnal Equinox is often seen as the Pagan equivalent of Thanksgiving.

As a part of the Wheel of the Year, the Autumnal Equinox sees the Goddess’s pregnancy advancing. She is still the Mother, but She grows wiser and is the Crone as well. The God becomes the Sorcerer and is poised to leave His physical body. It is not His end, but His beginning. The Goddess mourns Him, but She knows that She carries His child within Her. He will never truly be gone, but will reappear as the Wheel of the Year continues to turn.

The Themes and Practices of Mabon

As this Sabbat is a time of preparation for the resting period that follows Samhain, this is a good time to rid yourself of anything unnecessary and unwanted, a time to lay to rest the quarrels and arguments that have plagued you during the season. Get rid of your guilt, envy, and unwanted feelings, banish those things that are holding you back, keeping you from your true potential. This is the time of year to put your own life back into balance, just as the year is in balance as day and night are equal.

This is the season of balance, healing, and justice. It is common to celebrate these themes with festivals and celebration. It is a time of self-expression, of reclaiming the self before the cold of winter arrives. There are many symbols of the Autumnal Equinox, including:
  • Cornucopia
  • Dried leaves
  • Gourds
  • Grains
  • Turkeys
  • Wheel
The Feast of the Autumn Equinox
 
Lughnasadh and the Autumnal Equinox are very similar, both being harvest festivals, but the Equinox is truly a time of plenty. The foods of Lughnasadh are still available, as are many others that have finally come into season. Fish, oysters, game birds, and various meats are traditional. Vegetables such as turnip, zucchini, and cauliflower are also easily available. If you have wild foods in your area, this is the time to collect them.
 
If you’re looking for a truly traditional feast, serve goose. This goose should be smaller and less fatty than a goose served at Yule. Try serving the goose with cranberries, raspberries, or even rowan for an interesting alternative. Roast your small goose on a rack in your oven with a variety of herbs and spices for flavor.
 
There are many other foods you might try, including:
  • Fish or shellfish cooked in tinfoil with seasonal herbs
  • Fresh vegetables just barely cooked so that they are still crisp
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Fruit Cobbler
  • Fruit preserves
Beverages for the Autumnal Equinox
 
Fruit wines are a popular choice for the Autumnal Equinox, but they do take a few weeks to mature. If you’re making your own fruit wine, start it no later than Lughnasadh to enjoy it by late September. For a quicker alternative, mush some fruit and strain. Add the juice to a chilled sweet wine just before serving. For the non-alcoholic crowd, try chilled fruit juice mixed with sparkling water.
 
If you prefer liqueurs, make a fruit liqueur by adding vodka and fine caster sugar to some chilled fruit juice. Shake this mixture three times a day for eight days and serve chilled. Substitute sparking water for the vodka if your celebration includes children or those who prefer not to drink alcohol. Harvest Mead, both in its alcoholic and non-alcoholic forms, is also an appropriate choice
 
Celebrating Mabon
 
When thinking about September, we tend to associate it with the beginning of fall. But it’s important to remember that this month is also the end of summer. The weather is still usually warm enough to host a celebration outside, even if you do have to put on a sweater before heading out.
 
It’s always fun to go out and look for edible plants, nuts, and berries in your area. However, there are always a few poisonous plants hanging around that look like they might be edible. Take a field guide with you and don’t eat anything you’re unsure of. If you’re involving children in this, don’t let them eat anything until you’ve checked it out. If you’re lucky, you have a berry-picking farm nearby that you can visit. This takes most of the risk out of your little hunt.
 
Conker fighting is a traditional way to pass the time in the fall. Take a horse chestnut and skewer it. Suspend the horse chestnut from a knotted string at least three feet long. Face off with an opponent and try to smash each other’s conkers. The person whose conker breaks first is the loser. This game invites a great deal of hilarity, but you’ll also end up with occasional scraped knuckles from flying conkers. Consider wearing heavy gloves to protect delicate fingers if you’re worried.
 
Remember that you’re about to say goodbye to the warm days of the lighter half of the year. Hold a spiral dance, having all participants dance counterclockwise, in honor the dark half the year that is about to begin. Keep in mind that dances take practice, so you might want to have your dancers rehearse once or twice before the actual day.
 
A ritual is always nice, but not strictly necessary. If you do decide on a ritual, keep in mind that you should focus on the themes of the day and not of performing magick for yourself.
 
Dressing for Mabon
 
Dressing for the Autumnal Equinox is much like dressing for any other Sabbat. Pick something special in colors that both represent and honor the season. For this Equinox, choose clothing in the rich fall colors of yellow, orange, and brown. You could wear ritual robes in these colors or choose something more meaningful to you. Alternatively, you could dress in the God’s color of bright gold or the Goddess’s color of deep autumn red. You might also choose to use these colors to decorate your ritual space.
 
The Autumnal Equinox is a time of balance. It is a time to reflect on the abundance that nature provides and offer up thanks for what we have.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wheel of the Year — Lughnasadh and Its Lore

Lughnasadh, often called Lammas or Loafmas, falls on August 1st. It marks the first harvest of the season and is a time to give thanks. It is the festival of Lugh, Celtic Sun God, and in honor of this one man would often be chosen as King for the day. In ancient times, this King would be given the best foods and would later lead the villagers to the fields to begin the harvest.

As a part of the Wheel of the Year, Lughnasadh is the time when the God, in His aspect as King, watches as the Goddess continues to grow with his child. He watches this with sorrow, sensing that his death will not be long in coming. And yet, Lughnasadh is the season of transformation, when grain becomes bread, and so he knows that he will only be changing form, not vanishing forever.

Themes and Practices of Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh celebrates the death and rebirth of Lugh. It is a time of sacrifice and thanksgiving, and in ancient times true sacrifice often happened at this festival. Today, Wiccans celebrate by sacrificing those things that are inappropriate in life, such as hatred, fear, or illness. Lughnasadh is also about making sure we have given enough for what we have received. It is often easier to think about what we have and what we can get than it is to think about what we have given. Therefore, many Wiccans make it a point to give back on this day in whatever manner they feel is appropriate for them.

There are many symbols that are associated with Lughnasadh. Some of these include:
  • Transformation
  • Bread
  • Corn dollies
  • Gingerbread men representing the Sacrificial King
  • Sheaves of grain
  • Dark green plants such as ferns
The Feast of Lughnasadh
 
The central part of your meal should revolve around grains. Breads, pastries, cookies, and pies are all good ideas. Breads in the shape of men that can be sacrificed (eaten or even thrown into the fire) are especially appropriate.
 
Any game meat can be served at Lughnasadh. Rabbit is traditional, as rabbits would be chased from the fields as the harvest began, but you can use anything you like. Chicken and pork both work well. Vegetables and fruits of the season can be served alongside your meat and bread for a full meal.
 
There are many options for creating a full Lughnasadh feast, including:
  • Meat pies
  • Cornish-style pasties
  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Gooseberries
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Salads made with dark green vegetables and light olive oil dressing
Beverages for Lughnasadh
 
When choosing beverages for this Sabbat, keep in mind the colors of the harvest and the various grains, fruits, and vegetables naturally available. Yellow ales and ciders are popular, as are fruit juices and lemonade. If you want to get a little more festive, consider making Harvest Mead. You’ll have to plan for this in advance, since a good Harvest Mead can’t be made in an hour. If you’re hosting games or other physical activities, have sparkling water on hand to quench thirst.
 
Celebrating Lughnasadh
 
One of the most traditional ways to celebrate Lughnasadh is to make your own Sacrificial King out of cornhusks, straw, or sheaves of grain. Take your straw (or whatever you happen to be using) and gather it together. Fold the entire thing in half and tie off the top so you have a head. Add another tie about midway down the body for a waist. Divide the straw below the waist into two and tie off for legs. Use another bundle of straw to make arms and tie this to the body. To be really traditional, you should use straw to tie the bundle, but I use thread in a matching color. It’s easier to work with and thin enough that you don’t even see it.
 
Once you have your Sacrificial King, use him to decorate your ritual space. Later, make a game out of slaying the Sacrificial King. Stand him up or tie him to a tree and fire arrows at him. Whoever gets closest to the head or heart wins. Or assign points to certain areas of the body and give everyone three tries. If you can’t fire an arrow, use darts. Just make sure you’re careful with this. You don’t want one of your guests or family members to be hit with an arrow or dart!
 
This Sacrificial King can be used again when the bonfire is lit. Throw him into the fire and see your negative emotions or bad habits burning with him. Keep watching him until he is reduced to ash.
 
Games that honor Lugh are common for a Lughnasadh celebration. Anything that tests a skill can be used as a game. Try archery contests, wrestling, games of chess, poetry readings, or anything else that’s fun and inspires competition. Award prizes for the winners.
 
You will probably also celebrate Lughnasadh with a ritual or ceremony. However, magick not in keeping with the themes of the Sabbat should be avoided. Try to use the Sabbats as a way to honor the Goddess and the God, not practicing magick for your own ends.
 
Dressing for Lughnasadh
 
Get into the spirit of the season by dressing for Lughnasadh. Pick clothing in the traditional colors of yellow and dark green. You might wish to wear ritual robes or something even fancier. Whatever you choose should be comfortable, functional, and possibly even decorated with the symbols of Lughnasadh. You could also choose the colors of the Goddess and the God. The God is often associated with gold, yellow, and orange during this festival while dark green or even red is for the Goddess.
 
Lughnasadh represents the beginning of the harvest season. It is a time to be thankful for what we have and an acknowledgement that everything we are given must be paid for.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Faery Lineage and Irish Mythology — The Flower Fairy

As society changes, so does its mythology. This rule applies equally to the continuous development of the Faery Lineage. With the arrival of the 18th century, the Jacobean Fairy of the previous century changed and adapted, splitting into the Flower Fairy and the Folk Tale Fairy. Both of these forms have endured into modern times, but it is the Flower Fairy that most people envision when they hear the term ‘fairy.’

The Nature of the Flower Fairy

Above all, the tiny Flower Fairy was said to be gentle and generous. Flower Fairies were the gentle spirits of the earth. They were thought to exist wherever nature flourished. They lived in the hills and the mountains, the lakes and the oceans, and they would flit from flower to flower in every garden.

Flower Fairies were passionate in their pursuits. They admired love and beauty, but abhorred ugliness and greed. They held in contempt those who were tightfisted with their time or wealth.

Those humans who left a bit of food or drink for them at night earned their love. They were said to wander the physical realm at night, collecting the last bit of grain from the field, the last fruit off the tree, and the last drop of milk from the pail. They also enjoyed a bit of wine, but Flower Fairies never became intoxicated.

Superstitions Surrounding the Flower Fairy

In 18th century Europe, including Ireland, superstition was still very much a part of daily life. Common knowledge of the era held that the blessings of the Flower Fairy could be brought into a household with a few simple actions.

Those households wishing to draw the Flower Fairies into their homes were advised not to sit up too late, as the fairies might wish to come into their home after dark. They would leave some food or milk for the fairies to dine, and a vessel of clear water for them to bathe. Those who made the effort to provide the fairies with these small comforts were said to be rewarded quite richly in the form of luck and protection.

This charming fairy would endure into the modern era, and continues to be a part of popular mythology. With the rise of Wicca and other Pagan movements in the 20th century, the Flower Fairy was reinvented, slowly becoming the Elemental Fairy.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Faery Lineage and Irish Mythology — The Heroic Faery

In the centuries before the Middle Ages, the Daoine Sidhe began to dwindle and diminish. As this happened, they changed form once again. In time, they became the Heroic Faeries of myth and legend.

The Heroic Faery and the Fenian Heroes

Though they existed during different era, from a mythological standpoint, the Heroic Faeries had much in common with the legendary Fenian Heroes. They both were a form of diminished or fallen gods, descendants of the Tuatha De Danann. Cut lose from what they once were, they became closer to humans than their predecessors ever were. Sometimes, they even became close enough to mate, resulting in human children with faery gifts.

However, there were some key differences between the Fenian Heroes and the Heroic Faery. The Fenian Heroes were true warriors, ready to die for kind and country. The Heroic Faery, on the other hand, could be more accurately describes as aristocrats. They were more likely to spend the day hunting or riding than defending the kingdom, much like the human nobles of the era. They were lovers of the arts, prone to spending the evening indulging in music and dance. The Heroic Faery was a reflection of the nobles of the time, while the Fenian Heroes were the reflection of the warriors of the past.

The Heroic Faery and the Medieval Fairy

By the 11th and 12th centuries, the Heroic Faery had developed to include characters who were fine warriors and champions of the people, as well as patrons of the arts and lovers of cultures. As human culture evolved, so did the Heroic Faery, and the line between warrior and poet began to disappear. It is at this point in time where the Faery Lineage begins to converge.

The Medieval Fairy, a descendant of the Fenian Heroes, had grown to encompass newer legends, such as that of Avalon. However, the characters, while well-versed in the arts of magick, lacked the feel of nobility and aristocracy that the Heroic Faery possessed. The two lines merged, for a time, before they both began to diminish further, changing form once more.

With the passage of time and the changing of the people, the faery changed as well. They slowly dwindled, becoming the Diminutive Fairy.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Beach Spells for Spring and Summer

As the Spring Equinox approaches and the sun begins to warm the earth, our thoughts turn inevitably toward the beach. The beach is a destination, a place to feel the hot sand beneath our fee, the cool water upon our skin, and the powerful sun upon our backs. But it can also be a place to case some simple spells.

The Magick of the Beach

It is difficult to find a more magickal place than a sunny beach. It is one of the few places on earth where all four elements — earth, air, fire, and water — are present at the same time. Earth is the sand beneath your feet. Air is the wind blowing across your cheeks. Fire is the blazing sun. And water is the cool lap of the ocean or lake against your skin.

On land, only a lightning storm combines the four elements in such a natural way. But a lightning storm is harsh and distracting. The beach is gentle and soothing. The perfect place to work some magick.

Simple Spells for the Beach

Simplicity is often the core of powerful magicks. This is especially true of magick at the beach. You can honor the Goddess and the God, in their aspects as water deities, by tossing bread crumbs into the water while your feet are buried in the sand. Do this at sunset or sunrise to invoke Their blessings. It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Find a flat area of sand that will remain fairly undisturbed and draw a symbol to represent something you desire. This may be a career, love, a new home, or anything else you can think of. Draw your chosen symbol with a stick, your finger, or environmentally-safe paint that dissolves in water. Infuse the symbol with your intent as you do this. Allow the symbol to wear away naturally as your spell manifests.

The spot where the water meets the sand has great magickal potential and is symbolic of being between two worlds. Take a seat in the sand where the water washes over the shore and meditate. As you do so, visualize your desires flowing back and forth between these two worlds, passing through you to get to each other. This will help your desires to manifest in your life.

If you’re looking for a talisman or ritual tool, sit at the shoreline and ask the deities of the water to send you a gift. Close your eyes, and if you wait long enough, you might find your request granted. You’ll have to be patient and dedicated for this to work.

Alternatively, you can actively seek out things such as natural ritual tools and talismans. Search along the beach for shells, stones, fossils, or anything else you might find useful. You might even find a hagstone, a stone with a whole worn through the center by the eroding action of water and sand. These are symbols of the Goddess, and can be worn about the neck as talismans of protection and fertility.

There are many other ways you can use the beach as a place of power. You might choose to immerse yourself in the water as an act of purification. You could bury your feet in the sand to fully center and ground yourself. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Basics of Pagan Sex Magick

Sex has incredible power, both in Paganism and life in general. Sexual release can be a very potent catalyst for spells and rituals. The act of controlling this release can raise powerful energy that can be sent toward a specific goal. This is where sex becomes sacred sex.

Though the true study of sex magick can take years, even a lifetime, the very basics can be mastered with a little practice. All it takes is a willing partner and the desire to experiment with combining magick and sex.

Preparing for Sex Magick

Speak to your partner and decide on a precise goal for the spell. It is very important for you both to be in complete agreement. Not only is it polite to discuss the spell with your partner, but it gives the spell more power and focus.

Decide on a symbol to represent your goal. It can be simple or elaborate, colored or black and white, a symbol universally accepted to mean a certain thing or something you’ve created yourself. With your partner, make at least five copies of this symbol; more is better. Don’t use a photocopier. Take the time to place as much of your own personal energy into the symbol as possible.

You and your partner should spend several nights meditating over the symbol you have created. Do this together, linking your chosen symbol to the deepest parts of your subconscious mind. Discuss your thoughts and feelings with your partner. It is essential that your vision of the spell and its intent match your partner’s vision. This may take some time, so be prepared to work on this for several days.

Place your symbols in various spots around the room where you will engage in sacred sex. Take some time to consider the space. You’ll want to ensure that a symbol will always be within easy view. Place symbols on the ceiling, walls, headboard, or anywhere you like. Remember that you’ll probably change positions during your spell, so you may need to make additional copies of your symbol.

Engaging in Sacred Sex

Immediately before you begin your sex magick, refocus your mind on your goal and the symbol you’ve chosen to represent that goal. Then let it go. Don’t consciously try to focus on your spell while you have sex. It is incredibly difficult to experience good sex while focusing on something else, though some advanced tantric masters can do so. Tantra could be described as controlled sacred sex. However, unless you’re a tantric master, just enjoy yourself.

If both you and your partner have properly prepared yourselves, your subconscious minds will already know what to do. The symbols placed around the room will serve as a key to your inner self. As you approach release, gaze at one of these symbols. As both you and your partner achieve sexual release, the energy you have raised will be channelled by your subconscious and begin to move toward your goal.

Sex magick is a fun and vibrant way to cast a spell. However, it is important that you observe magickal ethics at all times. If you do this, you can use sacred sex as a powerful source of energy.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Faery Lineage and Irish Mythology — The Folk Tale Fairy

Mythology is not a stagnant thing. It grows and adapts with society. The Folk Tale Fairy is the result of the diminishing of the Faery Lineage from the great Tuatha De Danann to the Jacobean Fairy. In time, the Jacobean Fairy also changed, becoming the Flower Fairy and the Folk Tale Fairy. Both of these forms have endured into the modern age, but the Folk Tale Fairy evolved into something unique.

Literature and the Folk Tale Fairy

In the 18th century, the world of literature expanded. For the first time in Europe, books were written specifically for children. All manner of creatures, both good and evil, were pull from various mythologies to be adapted to suit children’s stories. From Irish mythology, the Folk Tale Fairy was born.

A great effort was made to ensure the children of the 18th century were taught proper morality. The literature of the time was used to do this, wherever possible. Fairies took on a new form — they became guardians and guides, relentless moralists who were intent on always driving their wards towards virtue.

Out of these tales the Fairy Godmother was born. Writers and poets embraced this new form, turning tale upon tale for the benefit of children.

The Nature of the Folk Tale Fairy

The Folk Tale Fairy didn’t have a single, standard appearance. These fairies could be as tiny as the Flower Fairy, quietly nudging their protégés with careful whispers, heard but not always seen. Folk Tale Fairies could also be larger, sometimes as large as humans. There was no rule.

Regardless of size, Folk Tale Fairies almost always took a direct interest in a specific individual, such as the literary Cinderella. They would hint and prod this individual onto the proper course, but they would never force. It simply wasn’t in their nature.

The Folk Tale Fairy was a gentle and persistent guide, always seeking the path of virtue. This image has endured into the modern era and continues to have a place in popular mythology. The picture of the Fairy Godmother has become ingrained in the minds of the populace, and will likely remain there for some time.