life, Neodruidry

Imbolc, and einkorn banana bread

Baking is part of my Imbolc ritual. I don’t consume much butter or milk, so baked goods and flowers are my offerings. This is around the time when I first start noticing new growth and buds on many of my houseplants, so I do some spring cleaning, give everyone a healthy dunk and dose of fertilizer, and bake before my more formalized ritual later in the day.

Yesterday, I offered part of a loaf of banana bread. If you’re egg-free, dairy-free, or just looking for some extremely good banana bread, I’ve got you. It might not be a traditional springtime recipe, but it’s comforting, tasty, and I’ve never had any complaints from anyone — mortal or otherwise.

A slice of banana bread with chocolate chunks.

Egg-free, Dairy-free Banana Bread

  • 2 C einkorn flour
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 3/4 C dairy-free dark chocolate chips or chunks
  • 2 very ripe bananas, peeled (about 1 C of mashed banana)
  • 1/2 C maple syrup
  • 1/2 C avocado oil
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and chocolate chips. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together bananas, maple syrup, and avocado oil.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix together until there are no lumps, but don’t over-mix.
  5. Butter a 9″x5″ loaf plan.
  6. Pour batter into pan, and gently tap the bottom against the counter to free any air bubbles.
  7. Bake banana bread for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Notes:

  • As with any ingredients that aren’t produced domestically, go for chocolate and bananas that are ethically sourced and fair trade.
  • No einkorn? No problem! You can substitute regular flour if you want, just remember that einkorn doesn’t absorb water the same way regular wheat flour does. If you substitute regular wheat flour, you’ll probably need to add another banana or so to the batter for extra moisture.
  • For best results, freeze the bananas first. This will crystallize the water in their cells, rupturing them and giving them a softer, wetter consistency.
  • You can substitute canola, grapeseed, or another neutral-tasting oil for avocado oil, if necessary.

Enjoy, and blessed Imbolc!

Books, life, Neodruidry

Sacred Actions: Yule

This past Sunday, one of my Meetup groups had a meeting to discuss Dana O’Driscoll‘s Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices. Luckily for me, I’d picked up a copy several months ago from Three Witches’ Tea Shop. It’d been in my “to read” pile for a bit, so I was very happy to have the extra encouragement to get into it.

We went over the first high day, Yule. For this time of year, Sacred Actions emphasizes learning one’s place in the consumption web of life — observing your consumption patterns, seeing how you can live in a way that’s more regenerative and nurturing for the Earth and other people, and learning to discern between a need and a want so that there are enough resources for everyone to live comfortably.

This chapter also encourages the reader to take a look at their ecological impact using the Footprint Calculator quiz. Mine came out at a 1.8 — meaning that, if everyone in the world lived like I do, it would take 1.8 Earths to sustain us all. Unfortunately, this number is actually at the lower end of the spectrum, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The discussion was lively and fruitful. It was nice to know that we were all in a similar place — aware of tactics like “greenwashing” and propaganda that emphasizes individual responsibility over corporate abuses, and knowing exactly how difficult it is to engage in ethical consumption within our economic system.

One thing I particularly liked was O’Driscoll’s emphasis on regeneration and nurturing over sustainability. Sustainability is nice, but comes with a pretty heavy subtext. The implication is that we should find a way to do things that allows us to continue to live, consume, and behave in the way to which we’ve become accustomed. This isn’t just impossible, it’s not exactly a noble goal. Instead, we should work toward regeneration — giving back to the planet and exploited people to replace what has already been depleted.

(I could go into a super long and weird discussion about extinct megafauna, human cities, and the importance of poo here, but I will spare you this. Instead, here is a giant gorilla fighting a t-rex:)

The idea that we have a responsibility to more than just the planet was refreshing, too. My ecological footprint is low for someone living in a wealthy, developed nation. I’m not bragging here — the reason it’s low is that disability (and, let’s be real, an at times paralytically rigid sense of ethics) keeps me from engaging much in many aspects of society. The things that make my footprint as large as it is aren’t even things I can control. It’s almost all the snowball effect of having a long, multinational supply chain.

With that in mind, there’s only so much else I can trim. It’s frustrating to look for ways to make your lifestyle more sustainable (read: regenerative), and just get the same bits of advice over and over and over again. Use reusable paper products. (Check.) Use metal straws. (Check.) Compost. (Check.) Instead of this, O’Driscoll’s work provides some other lenses through which to consider sustainability. Even if I can’t change the supply chain that delivers the things I need, I can focus my energy on supporting, regenerating, and nurturing the people involved.

(Incidentally, I think I’ve begun to hate the word “nurturing.” I’ve seen it co-opted so many times by new-agey wellness articles about consumerist self-care strategies, I think they’ve ruined it for me. I will, however, continue to use it here for lack of a better term.)

(The phrase “nurturing the people involved” also gives me mental images of someone breastfeeding a forklift operator, but I’m not sure how else to say it. Your mileage will hopefully vary.)

The next step is to engage with the exercises. This means placing one of three ideas at the forefront of my mind for a week at a time. First, emphasizing care for the Earth and all of its inhabitants. Next, will be emphasizing people. After that, ensuring that there is enough for all.

As I write this, news stations are broadcasting about the deaths of workers in an Amazon warehouse that was hit by a tornado. The tornado wasn’t a surprise. People, driven by desperation, went to work. The company higher-ups didn’t see fit to let them stay home. Jeff Bezos says he’s heartbroken about the tragedy, but has yet to commit any actual money to providing for the families of the dead.

In the meantime, Bezos’ Earth Fund has also committed another $443M (USD) to conservation efforts, or roughly 1/500th of his net worth. A net worth that comprises assets gained through exploiting people and the planet.

His attitude and position is not unique. Remember, while you make adjustments to your lifestyle, that the people serving as conduits for environmental and human exploitation are not gods. They have names and addresses. When living sustainably as an individual only goes so far, there is always direct action.

For more information, I recommend episode 320 of The Dollop, The Wobblies Go to Everett.

art, life, Neodruidry

Double it.

We’re at the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, when things often paradoxically feel even colder and grayer than they did in the middle of winter. So why not have a holiday?

Celebrating Imbolc in a city doesn’t really have much of a resemblance to how it’s done traditionally, especially now. There is no lambing season here, and nobody’s gathering. There’s no well here to pray around, nowhere to offer coins or clooties.

I had a small ADF-style ritual, with a glass prep bowl for the well, a small cauldron for a hearth, and my cypress knee for a tree. I offered a bit of blackberry cobbler, fresh from the oven. to Brigid. I put on some Ani DiFranco and read aloud from Jarod K. Anderson’s Field Guide to the Haunted Forest.

When you were born, your enthusiasm was a red flame atop a mountain of fuel. As you age, the fuel burns low. No one warns you. Yet, with intention, you can learn to feed that warming fire long after the fuel you were born with is ash on the wind. Be kind to yourself. Learn this.

They say cut all the wood you think you will need for the night, then double it. Cut it during the daylight when fuel seems irrelevant. Dead limbs hanging low, sun-dried, hungry for fire. The night can be longer than we expect. The wind can be colder than we predict. The dark beneath the trees is absolute. Gather the fuel. Double it.

“The Wood,” Jarod K. Anderson

I’ve never been much for poetry — writing it, I mean. I recently read an article on creativity whose title I forget. (I was one of the ones that calls everything a “hack” and measures it in terms of boosting productivity.) It was mostly forgettable, but there was one bit that stood out: the idea of creating within limits.

Humans build at right angles. We have a sense of geometry, of corners, walls, inside, and outside. If we have rules to play within, we can create amazing things. Strangely, this gets harder when those limits are removed.

I know poetry has rules, I remember spending days on iambic pentameter, sonnets, and rhyming couplets in school. I remember cutting pieces of construction paper into diamonds, to enforce the structure of a diamante poem, lines meant to swell and taper from top, to middle, to bottom. I think I have a harder time with it, though.

Visual art is easy. I can grasp the limits of color mixing, knowing how to blend things so they don’t become muddy, to work wet-on-dry or wet-on-wet, to layer fat and lean. I can see the underpinning geometric shapes. It’s simpler to perceive. I don’t really get poetry the same way.

So, I offered my baking, played someone else’s songs, and read someone else’s poems.

My offerings were accepted. In exchange, the spirits of nature offered me the things symbolized by The Magician (confidence, creativity, manifestation). My ancestors offered my the things symbolized by Justice (cause and effect, balance, fairness). The Shining Ones offered me… also Justice. It looks like I need a lot of it.

Sometimes, they know me better than I know myself. I know my life hasn’t been balanced lately. I let this lack of balance serve as an excuse for not creating things, largely because I find the prospect intimidating. I haven’t been writing as much. I haven’t been painting as much. I haven’t even been taking as many pictures.

I cracked open a root beer and hallowed the waters of life. I asked the Kindred to bless and imbue it with their blessings and advice, so I might be able to internalize and benefit from it as much as possible.

It’s hard to really find the impetus to kick myself in the ass. To tip the scales and rebalance things. To tap into the confidence to keep from making excuses for myself. Hopefully this helps.

Gather fuel. Double it.

life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

A Soggy Samhain

It was cold and rainy here over the weekend, though that was fine by me — we weren’t exactly spoiled for choice when it came to bonfires and dumb suppers this year. Besides, though rainy weather does my brainmeat up all wretched, it does make me want to clean and air everything out.

So cleaning, cleansing, and refreshing all of my wards is exactly what I did. I would have refreshed my altar too, but I did that on the last new moon — dusting it, wiping it down with a special blend of oils, herbs, and flower water, burning more herbs in my hearth-cauldron, lighting candles, the whole bit.

I often like to take all of the herbs that are getting to be past their peak, ones that I’ve had lingering in my herb jars, drawers, and cabinets for a bit too long, and burn them on Samhain. It just feels right to burn the old herbs, thank them for their usefulness, and either save the ashes (depending on the herbs) for black salt or return them to the soil. I didn’t get to do that this year, but that’s okay — I don’t really have a big stash of old herbs anyhow.

I also filtered the oil I’d started on October’s first full moon, which gave me an inexplicable craving for pizza (courtesy of all of the dittany of Crete. That stuff smells delicious). Now I’ve got a neat little bottle of fresh raven oil chilling in my secret stash, which makes me pretty happy. I’d love to be able to work this combination of herbs into another form — incense, maybe — but many of them are the type that just tends to be throat-pluggingly smoky and bitter when they’re burned. They might work alright if they’re in small amounts and sufficiently worked into a sweeter-smelling base, but that’ll take a little experimentation.

This month came with its usual compliment of especially vivid dreams and messages, but I won’t bore you with those details. I hope the feeling lasts, though. I’m always at least a little sad to see them go once the veil’s no longer as thin.

So how was everyone else’s holiday?

life, Neodruidry

Honoring Balance at Mabon

It’s the Autumnal Equinox, and we’re heading into Libra season. All of the articles, posts, books, and assorted other things I’ve read say that this is a time of balance, of honoring one of only two days when day and night are of equal length. For some of us, it’s a time to prepare — to acknowledge that the dark, cold months are coming, and, while we may not like them, their quiet and rest is what gives us the brighter, warmer seasons ahead.

Mabon is also the second harvest. It’s enjoying the fruits of your labors, and gathering the seeds that will yield next year’s bounty.

It’s party time over here, though.

Sometimes, balance doesn’t look like you’d expect. If you’ve been going through a period of darkness or inactivity, balance can look more like a rush. Achieving balance and experiencing balance aren’t always the same thing — what it takes to reach equilibrium is not always what maintains that equilibrium.

That’s my balance right now. I’ve had an incredible, dramatic upswing over the past week or so — physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m physically stronger than I’ve been since I was a teenager, I’ve reconnected with someone who was very important to me as a child. My mental health is stable enough for me to identify areas that need healing, and work to help them. I feel vital, creative, and validated.

All of which are pretty weird things to associate with the day that marks the Earth’s gradual descent into winter darkness, but I’m not going to knock it.

Even my plants don’t seem to have gotten the message. With this uptick in my own energy, it seems like everything else in my home is being swept along with it. My violets are blooming. My nepenthes is packed with tiny new pitchers. The asst. fern $4.99 is apparently a staghorn that is putting out new fronds faster than I can keep up with — including a very formidable set of shield fronds. My parlor palm is outgrowing everything. My calathea has taken over an entire shelf with leaves like salad plates. My cats are shiny, sassy, and extra playful.

(Kiko found a tomato somewhere, and decided this was her New Favorite Toy. I had very mixed feelings about her smacking an entire-ass tomato around my living room most of the evening, but I also didn’t have the heart to take it from her. This is how badly she has me wrapped around her little pink toebeans.)

Today, I’ll make offerings of honey, tea, flowers, and incense. I’ll play music, and let the autumnal sunlight in. I’ll give thanks to all of the things that have contributed to this feeling, this harvest, and I’ll find the seeds and hold them safely for next year.

Blessed Mabon, everybody.
(Unless it’s Ostara where you are, then have a blessed that instead.)

Sunset cloud over a calm field.
life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

A Weather Eye

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a Pagan is the fact that my mind and body’s internal cycles don’t really do the whole “seasons” thing.

It isn’t a question of living in a city, or using air conditioning, or things of that nature — the personal rhythms of creation, growth, harvest, and rest are there, just mismatched. Summer is when I’m at my least active, it’s really closer to what should be winter. Heat basically makes me one of those flattened blob people from the old Zoloft commercials.

All of this is to say that I can’t wait for it to be fall. I know pumpkin spice season has apparently officially started, but I’m not even in it for the nutmeg. I can’t wait for cool weather and orange trees. I crave the smell of gently rotting leaves like a lab monkey craves amphetamines. There’s just something in the dirt and the moss and the wind that lights my soul up.

It’s supposed to be below 80°F next Saturday, and I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Should I go looking for the Sykesville monster? Hunt for an outdoor ritual space? Go mushroom spotting? There are so many options. Like a border collie who’s just heard the words, “Want to go for a w-,” I am pawing at the door and wiggling like my life depends on it.

This highlights what I mean, though. Akin to some kind of bizarro-realm iguana, I get more active as things cool off. It throws off my whole jam when it comes to the High Days. I feel like I should be feeling things in spring and summer that my biology doesn’t really get around to until October. Coupled with living in a city, it’s pushed me to find new meanings in holidays and the rhythm of the seasons — not only changing how I celebrate, but pushing things to other days, or even building new celebrations entirely.

Lately, it’s given me a lot to think about the days of the week, and the way each is attributed to a celestial force or deity. Sunday’s the day of the Sun, and best for workings involving success and happiness. Tuesday is Mars’ day, and best for workings for strength, battle, and so forth. It’s something that pops up a lot in various forms of witchcraft, but it’s also something that, in my opinion, it’s okay to dispense with in a lot of cases.

One thing I’ve learned is that, while it’s said that “purely mental magic yields purely mental results,” a solid 80% of it is setting up the right mental space for raising and releasing energy. Herbs, stones, and other materials have their own properties, but much of that can be overshadowed by what they do for you, the worker, on a personal level. (This is where unverified personal gnosis and personal associations come in, and why it’s so important to label them as such — the relationship between you and your materials is deeply subjective, and passing a subjective interpretation off as traditional is confusing, at best, and irresponsible, at worst.)

What all of this means is that, if a specific day, month, or season isn’t drawing the right feeling out of you, listen to yourself. Thursday is supposed to be the day of abundance and increase, but if your payday’s Monday and Thursday is when your bills come due, don’t let a stack of old books tell you how to feel about it. Maybe your prosperity spells will work better for you on a day when you actually feel prosperous. Maybe they’ll work better on a day that traditionally corresponds to them.

I’m old enough now to know that the only thing I can know for certain is that the world is a big, weird place, and it doesn’t like telling anyone the whole story. Old grimoires are the map, but they aren’t the territory. At some point, you have to figure out how to engage with the weird on your — and its — own terms

Here’s to autumn, my dudes.

life, Neodruidry

Lughnasadh, Pandemic Style

Lughnasadh is one of the High Days that falls between the solstice and the equinox. It’s an ancient celebration of the first harvest, but I’m probably not alone in feeling less than enthusiastic about this year. To be honest, I can’t honestly say I “celebrated” it.

The harvest is when you reap what you sow, and we’re reaping a whole lot of bad right now. Unable to get the message, police forces respond to protests against police brutality with increased brutality. Told that we need to wear masks and avoid indoor gatherings to slow the spread of a virus, people vocally rebel by not wearing masks and having rallies indoors. Other countries ostracize the U.S. as if it were a mass of plague rats, and I can’t really blame them. This is what we’ve collectively sown, and what are we harvesting in return?

I made a small offering (some beans I sprouted in a jar), but this Lughnasadh was less about celebration and enjoying the fruits of the first harvest than it was about understanding cause and effect. What we sow, we reap. You can’t meet challenges with brutality and callousness and expect to harvest success.

While I have plenty of growth and cause for celebration in my own life, it pales in comparison to what’s happening outside. Even so, that serves as its own reminder to find joy where we can. Even when the world’s on fire, there are small triumphs worth recognizing. There are still new bean sprouts in the jar.

Thanks for indulging my melancholy today. Promise I’ll be less of a buzzkill tomorrow 🧡

life, Neodruidry

The Summer Solstice, and Paying the Rent to Manannán mac Lir

This weekend was the Summer Solstice, one of the High Days for Druids and other neo-Pagans. It’s the longest day of the year — the turning point where the daylight hours begin shortening and the world turns slowly, inevitably, into the restful darkness of winter.

This year, I celebrated by myself. There were plenty of Zoom rituals, streams from Stonehenge, and other online celebrations to take part in, but I wanted to keep my ritual for myself. It’s one thing I’ve found very helpful on my path. The High Days have their traditional meanings, but they just feel different depending on where (and who) you are. A California Solstice feels differently from a Maryland one, and neither is quite the same as a New York one! Celebrating by myself lets my experience shape the ritual, and makes it more relevant and meaningful to me.

(I’m also really self-conscious about screwing up the order or forgetting the wording, so it’s easier if I’m not doing it in front of a crowd.)

*Ahem*

The day before the Solstice, I paid rent to Manannán mac Lir. On the Solstice on the Isle of Mann, worshippers go to the highest hill to make offerings to “pay rent” to the first King of the island. Needless to say, I am not on the Isle of Mann and don’t have a high hill, but I make do. With a bowl, fresh water, a few pinches of Celtic sea salt, and yellow flowers (roses, in this case, and a few drops of sweet ylang ylang), I made my offerings and ad libbed a prayer.

To be honest, I ad lib most of my prayers and ritual work. I might post a spell outline here and there, but rituals? I follow the basic ADF structure, but it’s all improv from there. I’m lucky I can remember my own name half of the time, let alone an entire ritual!

The Solstice is a time of brightness, optimism, and joy, coupled with the acknowledgement that the warmth and light of summer must come to an end. It’s the time when the Oak King and Holly King do battle, and the Holly King emerges victorious. It’s been a little tough to see the brightness and joy this year, but the warmth is there nonetheless.

For anyone who’s missed it, I’m still donating all of the proceeds from tarot readings in my Etsy shop to Black Lives Matter. If you’ve already donated to a Black-led organization of your choice, send me a screencap of the confirmation (redact whatever information you need to) and I’ll happily give you a free 3-card reading at no charge.

May we all have peace and justice as the light wanes and the Earth turns toward repose.

life, Neodruidry

The Return of Spring

Imbolc was this past Saturday.

I celebrated alone, as I often do — as much as I like having other Pagans to share with, i still really enjoy the headspace of a solitary ritual. It can get much more improvisational. If it feels right to do a ritual in the alley next to the dumpster and pour out my nature offerings right where the birds can get them, I can do that. If I want to honor my ancestors by making and offering of some of the really awesome BBQ pizza I reheated from the night before, I can do that. If the spirits move me and I want to cover my floor in newspaper, smear my body with paint, and express myself by doing the worm across a piece of unstretched canvas, I can do that.

Not that I did, or anything. But I could!

Oddly, being able to get out and about more now has given me more of an appreciation for solo rituals. The difference between having to celebrate alone and choosing to do so is much bigger than I thought.

I don’t generally get much opportunity to decorate for the High Days. Kiko would eat whatever I put out, and Pye would throw it on the floor in a fit of pique if he thought his food bowl didn’t contain the right ratio of freeze dried bits to crunchy bits. I love my cats dearly, but they are kind of jerks.

crocus-318293_640

And so, I had a small Imbolc celebration sitting in the big, comfy chair in my living room, with my coffee table as an altar and a very fancy candle I choose specifically as an offering for Brigid. The Nature Spirits received mung beans, my Ancestors received candy, the Shining Ones received bourbon and incense, and the waters of life were the tail end of a bottle of very excellent cucumber, mint, and geranium lemonade. (I’m a sucker for cucumber and herbal flavors.)

It was peaceful. It was low-key. It was just what it needed to be, in a place where the pavement often keeps me from being able to see the first early flowers make an appearance, on a day when the overcast sky seemed to blanket everything in downy gray and the brightness of spring still feels far away.

It was nice.