Samhain Pork and Apple Stew

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I have published holiday feast menus on my blog before, but a while back I was thinking that I should post some more simple, frugal ideas. What if I was short on both money and time? What if I needed to make it a one-dish meal? With these criteria, what kind of dish could I bring to the family table that would honor the Ancestors at Samhain and the spirit of the season?

Pork was a sacred food to both Germanic and Celtic peoples in ancient times. You can use a tougher (and less expensive) cut of meat for this, since it will be stewing over several hours. The humble apple is iconic of the Celtic Otherworld, a theme that is also reflected in the Norse role of Idunna as guardian of the golden apples of youth, and the Roman Pomona’s domain over fruit and orchards. To round out the meal, any root vegetable you have on hand would be suitable, as is befitting of a stew. Turnips and parsnips have been eaten since ancient times. Use whatever root vegetable is best available to you.

The apple cider base and choice of spices are what makes this stew stand out from the everyday mundane meal. Sage was a sacred herb to many cultures and has been used since ancient times for warding off evil and promoting longevity. Thyme has the magical properties of promoting courage and preventing nightmares. The cloves have protective qualities as well, not to mention it enhances the flavor of the apples. These spices are commonly in a frugal cook’s pantry already, for cooking Thanksgiving dishes.

So layer this Samhain meal in your slow cooker around lunch time, and get on with your other holiday plans.

Samhain Pork & Apple Stew
1 1/2 lbs. pork roast, cubed
2 T. grease or oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 or 2 c. chopped root vegetable (carrots, parsnips, turnips, etc.)
2 tart green apples, peeled, cored and quartered
3/4 c. apple cider (or juice)
1/2 tsp. thyme
pinch cloves (or allspice)
1/4 tsp. sage

Heat your grease in large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onions, apples, and root vegetable to skillet and cook, stirring often, until onions are getting a little brown. Pour into the bottom of a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker. Add more grease to the skillet if necessary and add cubed pork. Brown pork all over, adding salt and pepper. Layer pork over the fruit-veg. mixture in the slow cooker. Add apple cider, thyme, allspice and sage to skillet. Bring to a simmer, scraping up brown bits on bottom of skillet and pour into the slow cooker. Cover and slow-cook until pork is tender, 6-7 hours on low.
Serves 6.

Samhain Pork and Apple Stew

no-sew poppet

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The use of poppets in folk magic goes back to ancient times. Though the material of choice back then was wax, practitioners have adapted through the ages to make poppets out of anything handy; plant material, yarn, and often cloth.

This method of image magic can be used for any number of goals that you can think of, but the poppet is generally used to represent a person; what is done to the poppet is done to the person in sympathetic magic. The inside of the poppet should contain a taglock of the subject of the spell, and can include other items that are involved in the goal (healing herbs, for example), and other stuffing as needed like cotton, wool, or plant materials.

Even if you can’t sew, there is a simple way to make a poppet. You’ll need a handkerchief, bandana, or just a square of fabric, the taglock and other stuffing mentioned above, and a length of string. ( If you don’t have string, rubber bands will work, but the advantage of string is that you can add knot magic to your working.) First, find the center of your cloth. Roll the outer edges toward the center. Now open up a little space in the middle and stuff. Fold over, spread out the poppet’s arms, and tie off the head. (Draw on a face and other details if you like.) Take the end strings and criss-cross in the front and tie in the back, under the arms. While doing so, you can say, “Criss-cross, cloth and moss. This I claim, _____ is your name.” or other words of your choosing, followed by the specifics of your spell.

no-sew poppet

Pagan Medallions

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Most of the time, I don’t wear jewelry unless it is meaningful to me in some way; my wedding band, a gift from one of my children, or something that reminds me of my spirituality. Pagan jewelry and pendants are not something you can get at any corner jewelry or department store. You usually have to seek out a new age or occult shop to find them. Whereas, other religions can find their symbolic jewelry, pendants and medallions anywhere. It’s not fair, I know. But think of it this way; it just gives us more opportunities for craft projects! You can make your own Pagan medallions depicting any deity. It takes surprisingly few materials and is relatively inexpensive.

Materials:
a bezel
deity image
small scissors
mod podge
small paintbrush
(pourable) liquid glaze

Use an internet image search to look up a deity image for your medallion. I especially like the classic look of Johannes Gehrts’ Norse deities. Save the image you want and use a photo editing website like pixlr-o-matic or befunky to change the tint of your image to your liking. Shrink it to the size you need and print it out. Using small scissors, carefully cut out your image to fit the inside of the bezel. Brush a thin layer of mod podge on the inside of your bezel. Press the image into the bezel. Use the blunt end of your paintbrush to make sure its pressed down on the edges and all over. Brush a thin layer of mod podge over the image. Now this is very important: let it dry thoroughly and completely. When image is dry, carefully pour the liquid glaze into the bezel to cover the image evenly, turning the bezel back and forth to make the glaze go where you want it. Do not try to use a paintbrush or other tool to move the glaze around. Lay your medallion somewhere that it won’t be disturbed for at least 24 hours. Don’t be tempted to touch the surface too soon, or it will leave a fingerprint. When medallion is completely dry, attach to a necklace or bracelet.

 Pagan Medallions

the importance of worship

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I write this mainly for new Pagans, but we all need reminders now and then…

Beliefs are only ideas floating around in your head, unless put them into practice. It is important to practice your spirituality through worship. Now, don’t misunderstand… when I say “worship” I mean it in the Pagan sense; hailing to, offering libations, and praising with arms raised, talking to the gods and spirits… not bending down with clasped hands and pleading prayers. Its important to practice your beliefs through worship even if (or especially if) you’re feeling a bit agnostic about the existence of the gods/spirits. Many Pagans struggle with feelings of agnosticism. If this is you, tell yourself that the gods are a metaphor for life and practice worship as an act of connection and comfort (or even psychological experiment). Many people who have done this have experienced dreams, visions, and other mystical experiences that have enriched their spirituality.

Some would say that worship strengthens the gods. Others say that the gods are powerful and do not in any way need our worship. But even gods desire the give and take of “social interaction” that worship provides. Think of it as being like a social call to elder family members. If you don’t ever visit your kinfolks, they will be like strangers to you. If you stay away, never visit nor call, over the years you will lose contact and not even know if they are still alive. So it is with the gods, and it is up to us to make first contact and to keep it going. We are strengthened by worship; it gives us a feeling of well being and connection and builds upon our relationship with the spirit kindred.

Worship doesn’t have to be elaborate rituals. It can be as simple as hailing a deity, pouring libations or lighting incense, and giving thanks or sharing a joy. If you’re not comfortable with spontaneous prayers, you can memorize something simple (like Sigrdrifa’s Prayer) and use it often. Do the gods tire of hearing the same prayer over and over? I think not any more that we would tire of a loved ones voice reciting a favorite poem.

To get things going, or revive your practice, see these articles: A Heathen Kitchen Witch’s Blót, Celtic Pagan Daily Spirituality – when there’s no time for ritual, and Celtic Paganism in daily practice. Many of the ideas listed there could apply to other cultures as well, with a few adaptations. If you cook often, see my article Stovetop Hearth Rites to bring worship into your time spent in the kitchen. If you think you’d like using prayer beads, see my system of Druid Prayer Beads. The prayers from it can be used individually, and are actually a song.

So get out there and practice, and keep at it. If you tire of one way of worship, change it up. Good worship should leave you feeling energized and whole. The options are as plentiful as the spirits.

revering nature

Autumn Equinox Magic Book

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I made this little booklet as a short and simple introduction for children to some Autumn Equinox themes in Druid/Heathen tradition.

Print out, color, cut away the margins and fold into a book. For folding instructions see my article magic one-sheet-of-paper mini book.

Autumn Equinox magic book

Kids’ Activities for the Autumn Equinox

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EXPLANATION & INFORMATION

Look for these illustrated books at your local library to teach your children about the Autumn Equinox and some general traditions associated with it in various cultures:

STORIES

  • Wild Child” by Lynn Plourde (for ages 3 – 8)

ACTIVITIES

  • Help grown-ups with bringing in the harvest (or shopping for it at the farmer’s market) and with cooking the Harvest Feast.
  • Have your own Autumn Equinox ritual.
  • Heathens honor the Álfar (Elves) at Haustblót (Autumn Sacrifice). The Álfar are ancestral fathers and nature spirits. Make a little altar in your backyard with a flat stone and offer baked treats and other goodies.

CRAFTS

  • Make a harvest necklace; soak a variety of large beans until they are soft enough to be pierced through with a needle, and string the beans onto dental floss.
  • With help from a grown-up, make a bread cornucopia. Fill it with local fruits and veggies to be the centerpiece of your harvest supper.

Kid's Activities for Autumn Equinox