Monday, October 31, 2011

Just a Word...

A few words of gratitude and thanks to all of you who have been reading Broom With A View in the last year-the journey has been one of amazing discovery. We've done a bit of laughing, shed a tear or two, been outraged, educated and our horizons have expanded all in the space of this little page...and I have been truly blessed by you, through your encouragement and comments. Thank You once again, and here's wishing all of you as much abundance as your heart can hold and imagine in the coming year!


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reflections on Hallowtide

"Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered valleys and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely-hearted living and often return to visit and comfort them."~ Chief Seattle
I think the most wonderfully magickal time of the year is when the Ancestors come back to visit us. We don't really know what goes on beyond the Veil. We  only have our imagination until it's our time to cross over. At Samhain- All Hallows, Hallowe'en- we get a glimpse of what lies beyond when the Veil is at it's thinnest during the year. It's a time that's held mystery and magic in the human mind for ages, a mystical journey each of us eventually takes alone. Until then, our imagination stirs to project our fears of death and the unknown on this last night of the Ancient Celtic Calendar.

 I love Hallowe'en, our Sabbat of Samhain. If I had my way, I'd live in Hallowe'en year 'round-but then again, like all things, it would cease to be special and I guess I wouldn't look forward to it as much as I do. Autumn, from Mabon to Yule -but especially Hallowe'en- is my happy time of year. Even if you drag it out like I do and celebrate the entire season, it's only ten weeks, tops, and it's not nearly enough. I love living in the time of All Hallows, when the trees are flaming torches of red, green, gold, and the dry grass bows low in the chilly mornings, the frost coats the fallen leaves like sugar and the pumpkins are bright orange orbs in the fields. 

Autumn is the season when the daylight becomes scarce and the night grows longer. The sky is often a witch's brew of colors, but at the twilight of the year, my soul is tired after the high revelry of Samhain and I seek out places to nest, to curl in on myself: to   read and reflect. It is my personal Dream Time. I often read by candlelight this time of year, because I so love how the shadows play around the room. I am more comfortable in the semi-darkness than in the stark cold of daylight, and I hunker down with a cup of hot tea and a soft blanket, surrounded by my books.

I love being alive and visiting  Death. I am captivated by the mystery of what lies beyond and am called by spirit voices which beckon me to come and play in the graveyard with them, to run my hands over the cold, worn carved stones and discovery who is there still. I have loved this time of year since I was a child and have never feared what others fear. The Hallowe'en symbols of the season hold some of my dearest childhood memories, as again I am surrounded by the smell of apples cooking, and hot molasses cookies; I hear the clattering of bare bone branches and crinkling corn husks. Somewhere distant the Crone cackles, and the lines around her wisdom-filled eyes deepen. She tosses  her shawl  around me and I become old as she is and as as ageless as the youngest trick-or-treater at the door. It is a day that is not a day, a time outside of time. I keep  Hallowtide  in my heart the same as Charles Dickens wrote of "keeping Christmas".

I knew All Hallows was a holy time- knew it before I knew what holy was. I felt it in the  deepest place my soul dwelled. Before it was named in my consciousness, the sacred waited.
I knew there was a sacred cycle, a holy dance we did around the wheel until we came back to  Hallowtide. No one told me; I simply anticipated it's return. Long before I knew I was a witch, I knew this truth.

Life is a succession of 'little deaths' and rebirths- the dry husk of mortality crumbling so the kernel can be planted with hope of harvest. The seed winters in the earth until spring; life is reborn at the appointed time.  We loose our dead to regain them anew; they are again alive in us, and we are the seeds of their immortality. If we carry those who lie at rest in the grave in our hearts, they will speak to us when we require their wisdom. The voices of the Ancestors come on the wind and they are clothed in Autumn finery. This is the triumph of All Hallows, the continuation of life beyond the supposed finality of the grave. The Ancestors come  when the Portal opens and the Veil is pulled aside at the harvest of the year. They are young and vibrant because Death itself is the Ultimate Healing, transformed back into who they were when the were their most vital. 

What if the soul lives in the present body as a mere outer garment, the better to sleep in until it is ready to go on once again living? When a tree's leaves wither and die, the root system is still alive beneath the ground, unseen by us. It sleeps and regenerates until it knows the Spring is near, when it can burst forth in the newness and celebration  of Life. 

These are the lessons of Life and Death. When we have lived long enough to be the last one standing, we come to the realization that Life is not a personal possession, it is a trusteeship, and we are but unknowing stewards.

This post originally appeared in the Fall/Holiday edition of Witches Hour Magazine. Copyright  Broom With A View and AmethJera/Kate Dennis,September 2011. All Rights Reserved. No copying of this article by any means without expressed written consent of the author.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Who Stole My Halloween?

It's been gray, cold and miserable the last few days, leaving me feeling like it's the middle of January rather than 3 days before Halloween. The usual cure for that form of the blues is an excursion to one of the local malls. And I do mean to use the word 'excursion' rather than 'trip'. A mere trip to the mall means getting into the car and driving for a reasonable amount of time, usually no more than 30 minutes. Riding public transit in this otherwise progressive mid-sized Southern city means boarding the bus a block away from home, riding for nearly an hour through several neighborhoods, apartment complexes and a university campus to a shopping center that is 10 minutes away by car, transferring to a connector bus that will take you Downtown to the transit hub (another 45 minutes. Downtown is 20 minutes from home by car, tops), where you wait 19 minutes for a bus that takes you through several very nice suburban neighborhoods, which in turn takes another hour. See what I mean? That's an excursion. It doesn't matter which mall you go to, they are all roughly two and a half hours away by bus-and that's only one way. Those who work as planners for public transit can't understand why more people don't ride the bus. A month ago I flew to LA from Atlanta in the same length of time. Think about it.

My intentions were to head to Cheesecake Factory for lunch, then cruising the mall to ogle  the Halloween/Autumn/ Thanksgiving stuff, which always cheers me up even if I don't actually purchase anything. I am a window shopper and enjoy just looking...and I admit that I often leave coveting something totally frivolous. If it's on sale-or cheap enough-it may come home to live with me. It's a challenge to justify one more dust collector, but I'm usually up to the challenge, especially if it's something that can double for Halloween and Thanksgiving ( Yes, I do have too many glass, ceramic,wood, resin, porcelain, plastic pumpkins-why do you ask? ) I am rather proud of my collection of  Autumnal arts, and I am actually picky about what I buy. Scoring something new is part of the fun.

I knew this was going to be a dismal day when I found myself walking through stores already decorated for Christmas. Not stores selling things pertaining to Christmas; I mean decorated for it and playing carols over the PA system. I love Burl Ives' singing Have A Holly Jolly Christmas as much as the next guy, but not on October 28th, and especially not when I have traveled two and a half hours to look at Halloween things. Where were the Jack-O-Lanterns, black cats, bats and witches hats?

Hello, Mall Security? I'd like too report a robbery....Somebody stole my Halloween. There were spun polyester spiderwebs, scarecrows, mummies, Jack-O-Lanterns and homemade tombstones decorating the houses I passed on the way here, so I know I'm not confused about which holiday we're celebrating in a few days. The trees are still thick with colored leaves, and until this morning, it hasn't actually been all that cold. Costumes are being sold in Rite Aid and ghoul make-up is 50% off, but the halls of the local mall are decked with artificial pine, red ribbon,candy canes and snowflakes. And that  empty space that's been therecsince the beginning of the year ? The one that had the 'Coming Soon' sign promising a Halloween Adventure store now has A Christmas To Remember store instead. What happened? Is this a trick?

I feel like Charlie Brown's little sister Sally who misses Tricks and Treats because she's been waiting for the Great Pumpkin with Linus: I want to yell, " I've been robbed!" It was little comfort that the Hallmark store had a half isle of Halloween nick-knacks. Most of them were candles anyway.  I don't think the shelves were empty because the really cool Halloween stuff was gone, rather it looked like it had been moved to make way for all the Christmas junk...and there wasn't a single turkey in sight. Nada. Nothing. At least they had the courtesy to set up the Hanukkah goods in the back of the store
( or they were hiding it). Christmas with all it's red and green ho ho was front and center. What there was of Halloween was behind it, farther inside the store. I don't understand the reasoning behind this marketing strategy, and I've worked retail off and on for years.

The Macy's where I worked  years ago trimmed their store with orange, yellow, red and green leaves. They were scattered inside low display cases and Autumnal garlands hung from the taller displays.The trees-which I knew were really artificial Christmas trees underneath-were hung with colored leaves, tiny pumpkins and bats (which were later replaced with turkeys). There was a spooky woodland theme going, kind of like the haunted forest. A couple of the manikins on the main floor were draped in sheets and dressed in orange and black clothing, or something appropriate for a homecoming/tailgate party. We had a proper recognition of Fall prior to Christmas...which arrived with the Christmas Parade on Black Friday. Last year I missed  the Christmas Parade here because it was held ten days before Thanksgiving.

The retailers and marketing geniuses think that putting all this stuff out early will inspire customers to buy more merchandise sooner, but I think a lot of people are like me. In fact, I know they are, because I overheard several making the same complaint I am right now. I know there is a psychological angle to marketing and presentation, but I can't for the life of me get the gist of what I saw today. Hoping to see some Autumn cheer and being met with Christmas was...underwhelming. It  felt forced-especially seeing sales associates in Halloween costumes working amid Christmas decorations- and very, very artificial and contrived. From working behind the scenes I know it's all an illusion, but out of context, Christmas wasn't bright, shiny and happy. Rather there was the opposite effect-it was contrived and depressing because the thing that's  the real reason for the season ( and no, I don't man Jesus) is Christmas Spirit. We have bought into Charles Dicken's ideal Merry Christmas, and as hard as they tried, it was no where to be found...because it's not Christmas, damnit, it's Halloween. The red and green looks sadly out of place and by December it will be shopworn.

A word to the retail giants: I may buy Christmas presents throughout the year, but I don't buy anything Christmas related until Christmastime. I don't patronize stores that drop Christmas into a slot right after the Columbus Day Sale. I celebrate the beginning of Autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving, so tell Jolly Old St.Nick to park his sleigh for at least a month, tell the herald angels to put a sock in it, and kick Christmas all the way back to the North Pole until Black Friday. Right now give me a Jack-O-Lantern and a handful of gingersnaps and I'll go away happy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beliefnet:Rotten Fruit Is No Treat

I used to enjoy reading because it was one of the few dependable ecumenical sites on the Internet. The joke section, in particular, was off-the-chain hilarious because most of them reflected that kernel of truth about being human that was either ironic or embarrassingly right on. Other sections of the site contained commentary, opinion, self-help articles, wonderful inspirational photographs of far away mystical places, prayers, rites and individual links devoted to specific religions and spiritual traditions. It was a community effort, and well worth the time spent reading. Everyone contributed good fruit to the vineyard worthy of coming to the community table.

As a minister, I spend a lot of time researching and reading on the Internet. It's quick, easy, fun and time efficient because when the research gets ponderous-and it often does- I can flip out of what I'm reading and check my email or catch up on Facebook for a few moments without leaving my desk. In the days prior to surfing the Net, I would have to leave my office and walk  to the Diocesan Library-across the Cathedral commons, up three flights of narrow stairs to the very dark, very dusty and antiquated small library on the top floor of the building that housed the Bishop's office, where I'd usually spend at least an hour before realizing I could not find the information needed in a library. (The visit usually also required an antihistamine due to the dust. ) Satisfying my needs would then require several phone calls to surrounding churches and schools of theology to inquire about a particular book and put it on hold, and a trip to where ever the book was to pick it up...which would pretty much shoot my whole day schedule-wise. It was frustrating and time consuming until the Internet.

The Internet, and Beliefnet in particular, is, as the old saying goes, " A God-send". No more time consuming trips to the library or university. I can usually find what I'm looking for after a few minutes of online searching, with the added bonus of being able to download it for future reference.

Beliefnet was a breath of fresh air in the musty world of theological academia. The site is easy to use and visually pleasing, and you could pick and choose from thousands of items. As with all things, it has changed over the years; some days the gleanings are better than others. They've gone through an airy-fairy New Age period that I personally find a little annoying, but like I keep saying, everyone has something to bring to the table, and if you don't care for it, just don't put it on your plate. Recently, however, some of the offerings have turned troubling; where there was once an attitude of live and let live and a sincere call for tolerance and diversity there is now what seems to be an attack upon religions and spiritual traditions that are outside the mainstream, particularly those that are not decedents of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Where as previously one could find non-judgmental, serious attempts at understanding those whose faith traditions are different than your own, there seems to be an influx of hard-core, fundamentalist Bible-beating which is flirting with being just plain nasty. This morning, for example, I typed in the word 'Halloween" into the search box and got a few fluffy pieces on dressing up your pet and cutest photos ( which I expected to see)...and two which are outrageous attempts at forcing their own beliefs upon the general community.
Frankly, I did expect to see some anti-Halloween rhetoric because in a multifaith venue, you are always going to see something written from someone who disagrees- and that's okay by me, because we don't all have to agree. However, articles like, " Why A Christian Has Nothing To Fear On Halloween", and " Surprise: Halloween's Not A Pagan Festival After All." are not only inflammatory attacks upon the beliefs of others, they are a slap in the face to those who are not Christian-or who choose the secular side of the holiday for whatever reason.

I can sort of forgive the author of the latter piece because it was written by a Roman Catholic priest who is sharing what he believe is The Truth as he has been taught and believes (The article, by the way, is eleven years old. Shouldn't it be archived somewhere instead of being presented as something news worthy today?) The other article, however, contains no byline or author credit and is written in a passive-aggressive tone as a treatise on how to use the holiday as an opportunity to  make doorstep conversions out of unsuspecting children who are out trick or treating.

Excuse me, but aren't these some of the same folks who will not allow a child full membership into their religious communities until said child 'reaches an age of reason', and in fact, keeps them from partaking in the most holy sacrament of communion until adulthood? Yeah, I thought so.

I don't care who you are and or what you believe: it is simply inappropriate to attempt to force indoctrination into your faith tradition in this manner. In my opinion it is sleazy, cheesy and tasteless.
Make no mistake, ambushing an unsuspecting, innocent kid who's just out to collect candy and have a little childhood fun with an evangelical rant about why he should come to Jesus is a form of  unethical brainwashing. There is a time and a place for such things- this isn't it.

To me what is most disturbing is that the article is written in the same tone and language as used by most cults:

"However it is ungodly to condemn people. Jesus’ strongest condemnations were for the self-righteous." 

I guess it isn't self-righteous to corner a little kid on your doorstep on Halloween night to proselytize your personal faith. To me, this is truly a " What Would Jesus Do?" moment. It is hardly what most of us picture when Jesus stated, " Let the little children come to me"; it smacks oh-so-slightly of abusing your position as an adult.

"Halloween opens the doors for us to find common ground with others of different faiths, without giving up our own beliefs. Make Halloween an evangelism opportunity – a chance to share God’s love to the neighborhood kids instead of thundering damnation at kindergartners in Barbie costumes --
... and alienating their baffled parents."( 

Interesting twist, don't you think? Passive-aggressive? Not much, she says with a touch of irony. While on the surface this statement sounds perfectly fine and in the spirit of tolerance the codicil of not alienating parents belies a hidden agenda which I find not only distasteful but abhorrent. While I don't find an occasional "God bless you" offensive because it's innocuous and usually well-meaning,
I do object to on the spot public proselytizing  no matter what religion you're pushing.

Picture this: Little Kid costumed as Barbie and Mom ring the doorbell and along with a candy bar they hear, " Hail and welcome! Blessings of Vesta!  Let me tell you about the Lord Cernunnos who died for you at the harvest...." Mom runs screaming from the doorstep dragging Little Kid behind.

Okay, I know you're laughing. It's funny because it's so out of place that it's stupid. At the right time in the appropriate place it would be welcome and loving...but out of context it just sounds...stupid.

I used to enjoy reading Beliefnet because it was inspiring and enlightening. I sincerely hope that because it has proven to be  a wonderful inclusive resource in the past that the folks there take a moment to discern where they have taken a wrong turn- or at least grow some cohonies and stop kowtowing to those of the Religious Right who seek to use it to further their own secret agenda, because right now,like a few others, I'm beginning to smell the not-so-subtle stench of  the rotten fruit.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Souls Embrace

Now that's it's deep into October, the feeling of floating like so many falling leaves is fading. The few days remaining just before the end of the month are always the most magickal for me because the portal to that world beyond our own is opening. There are more than souls that cross the Veil: there are memories.

As the light grows short, the memories grow longer. There are things and people I long for in my life who are gone forever, and I need and want them again... if only for a moment. The re-creation of life from memory as it once was  is easiest at this time of year as we all- knowingly and unknowingly-yearn for the comfort of what used to be. I frequently dream of all the cats I've had over my lifetime who are now dead. Some of them have been gone 20 years or more- Dingle Berry, Kimmie, Weenie, Tinker. They appear singularly and in groups in different dreams, and sometimes I don't recognize them as they look in the dream, but I know who they are by their distinctive personalities. It's the same with humans- They are often shades which never quite manifest in their physical forms, but I know they are there because I feel them. i often dream of being with a certain someone somewhere and awaken to the reality they are dead.

I don't often dream about JD; I have probably only had a handful of dreams about him since he died 14 years ago. I suspect that's because when I could finally put away my own selfish grief I became happy for him: he had simply gone home. The discordant life he'd been living in the last few years was over. He was on a journey somewhere else which transcended this realm of existence. I know he's there, I can feel his presence, although he seems very far away. Sometimes it's a stretch, but we reach for each other across the heavens and our fingertips and hearts touch. At times I have glimpses of what he's doing, and I know he's watching me, too. Very often, especially when I am caught up in some absurdity, I hear him laugh. It's a slightly sarcastic outburst, a single loud,"Ha!", that caps the irony of the situation. It grounds  me and  tempers whatever I'm thinking. Other times I will be meditating or praying, and  hear just a snatch of disembodied guitar music. It's a natural thing for me to hear. Life hasn't changed, it's just transformed to the next level. Eventually we'll get caught up and be together.

I'm still putting myself together for Samhain: the pork roast is in the freezer and the ingredients for pumpkin, cranberry and apple breads are in the fridge. Sometime this week I'll  throw together a batch of sugar cookies to cut out and paint with confectioner's frosting. I'll make up a few trick or treat bags just in case anyone actually shows up at the door this year...and I'll have a real Jack-O-Lantern.

Because I am now on a spiritual journey with truly like-minded individuals, I will be attending my very first public Samhain ritual in my adopted home state. Four years ago I packed my bags and got on a train for a one way trip headed South to my new life...not that there was anything wrong with my old life...It was just something I had needed to do for a long time and I'd finally gotten the right nudge. It hasn't been easy, but there have been absolutely no regrets. Okay, maybe one: I am nearly 1000 miles away from where my ancestors are buried and no one decorates their graves. On Samhain night, I'll put out their photos and trim my altar with flowers and a Jack-O-Lantern then sit with them for awhile to remember. During that time, perhaps they'll come, and our souls will embrace.

Friday, October 21, 2011

From My Personal Grimorie: Baked, Stuffed Pumpkin

An unusual recipe I discovered a few years back. The venison or spicy sausage really compliments the pumpkin. You slice a piece of pumpkin and get some of the filling, and it's wonderfully satisfying. You can add a small bag of mixed vegetables to the stuffing before baking, too.


  • 4 ounce(s) sage sausage, or ground venison
  • 1/2 cup(s) chopped onion
  • 1  (1 1/2-pound ) pumpkin, peeled, seeded, or 4 small individual serving size pumpkins
  • 1/2 cup(s) chopped  apples
  • 1 cup(s) rice or couscous, cooked
  • 1/4 cup(s) dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon(s) fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon(s) fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) fresh ground pepper
  • Chopped, sauteed onion and a clove of garlic

  1. Make the stuffing: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. De-case and crumble the sausage meat or crumble the ground meat and place it in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the sausage until it is almost done -- . Remove the sausage from the pan, increase heat to medium, and add the onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion begins to soften -- 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped apple and sausage and sauté for 3 minutes. . Combine the rice  or couscous, dried cranberries, olive oil, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add meat mixture to the bowl and toss to combine.
  2.  Bake the pumpkins: Evenly fill the hollowed-out pumpkins with the stuffing mixture and place the pumpkins in a shallow baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, bake until the pumpkin (s) are soft but not mushy. Serve immediately.

Some Enchanted Evening

Mine is at times a rather sedate life. I like it that way. On any given Thursday evening you can find me hanging out at an outside table at the Whole Foods sipping over-priced fair trade coffee, reading the local alternative newspaper and people watching.

Believe it or not, this is one of the times I am truly in my element. Being single-and pretty much intending to stay that way- I have learned to entertain myself and enjoy my own company. Not that I don't enjoy the company of others.( I'm not that introverted.) Let's just say that you're not going to find me becoming frantic because I find myself with nothing scheduled on a Friday night. There is an entire library of esoteric books to choose from to read, some sort of craft to do ( a la Lois' Cottage) while listening to my extensive CD collection ( current seasonal favorite: Mannheim Steamroller's Halloween, a compilation of delightfully whacked arrangements of macabre classics), any number of social networks where I can delude myself into thinking the 307  people on my friends list really are, blogging or writing magazine articles...and just plain sleeping. Yes, sleeping. It has become one of my favorite things to do in the last few years since I've developed such a fierce case of nighttime insomnia.

Sitting at my favorite metal table in the sidewalk cafe wannabe at Whole Foods I have suddenly found myself next to a dwindling pile of brilliant orange pumpkins. They are artfully arranged and dutifully restocked by a guy named Louie. Louie is probably in his mid-fifties; he has long, stringy, graying hair that he wears stuffed up haphazardly under his official Whole Foods cap. Most appropriately, he has a scarecrow look about him-his layers of clothing hang on a bone thin frame. He wears a perpetual scowl, but is actually very friendly when spoken to- and he is earnestly engaged with his dwindling pile of locavore pumpkins. " A couple more gone." he says to me tonight as I sit cupping my hands around the recycled paper cup holding 12 ounces of freshly brewed coffee from the rain forests of South America, " A few more to go."  Louie is a pumpkin philosopher, and I secretly wonder to myself if he has named his charges, since he seems to notice which ones are missing from the pile. He talks about them as if they are up for adoption rather than for sale. Momentarily I imagine him as Charlie Brown's friend Linus, all grown up, but still tending his serene pumpkin patch at Whole Foods.

On this particular evening as I munch veggie chips and sip politically correct coffee, there is a sharp chill in the air: October has suddenly turned cold in this part of the South. The leaves respond by turning into a riot of color and dropping to the ground. It has been raining this week, and the cold air is also moist; the kind of Autumnal mix that permeates your clothing and skin and makes you shiver-frost on the pumpkin weather. There aren't as many people outside in the seating area tonight, so I can pick up lines of conversation easily as I go back and forth between reading this week's Independent and glancing up to observe those around me. The crowd is usually a mixture of college kids, thirty-somethings stopping off for a quick bite to eat on the way home, assorted esoteric-hippie-dippy types, seniors sharing fellowship over a fresh bakery item, and some wan, hollow-cheeked, pasty looking guy touting the virtues of being vegan. I suspect the latter of actually being an under-cover zombie scouting hopefully for a mother-lode of nutritionally superior brains.

Later, at home, where I am still nursing along that cup of exotic coffee,  checking my social status on Facebook, when I hear the hoarse barking of a fox in the backyard. It is loud and startling, so I spill the last sip of coffee on the worn-out carpet in the room where the laptop resides on a desk that was a roadside rescue. The fox is barking again, excited by something  in the yard. A quick check from the window, and I see the headlights of the radio controlled cars the college students from next door are racing around: they zip about back and forth, with an insect sounding buzz, while their teenage middle eastern drivers laugh and babble in their mother tongue, delighted by these American toys.( Perhaps this is how they learn to drive when they later become taxi drivers to finish putting themselves through school, I muse, shaking my head at the absurdity of the thought and wondering what the Andean natives actually put in the coffee sold at Whole Foods to cause me to have thoughts like these.) It's just one of those weird nights when the eclectic thoughts keep floating through my head as I tap out a blog on the lap top.

There is no rhyme or reason to this evening except that it's once again October, and the darkness comes a little earlier each night, interrupting the circadian rhythm of we humans. We are such creatures of comfortable habit  we forget this happens every year, that we are taken a bit more into the place of darkness each night until it begins to swallow our daylight before the workday is finished. We are so accustomed to our indoor world being illuminated by artificial light that it is disturbing to go out into the twilight. Just a few short months ago we would be enjoying the gift of longer days, when the sun wouldn't set until the evening news came on the TV. We were watching the fireflies blinking; the cicadas were in full voice, and the wind was warm.

Tonight,in the gift of darkness, it is so still that you can hear the leaves falling with a gentle crunch, and the low mumble of the neighbor's television. The air is thin and crisp with just a hint of wood smoke, and the moon is large and low, casting it's light through the trees. In this time out of time, the enchantment of the evening becomes apparent...and the world opens to magic.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Down to the Crossroads

                         I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees...
                        Asked the Lord above for mercy, "Save me if you please."
                                                                                 ~ " Crossroads" by Robert Johnson

Crossroads, by nature, are mysterious. There are are at least a books' worth of legends, stories and myths about the places where roads intersect and cross.

Some day, take the time to stand in the middle of a forlorn crossroads out in the country.  Pretty soon you will realize that it is a place unlike other places. The energy is different at a crossroads: there is a thrum, a vibration that isn't quite typical. I found this out a few years back standing at the crossroads about a quarter mile from where my great grand parents are buried in rural Maryland. The church was making some changes in the cemetery, and I'd gone to check on things. While I was waiting on the sexton to return so we could discuss the removal of the rosebushes my grandparents had lovingly planted on the burial plot, I needed to stretch my legs and began walking up the old road, intending to hike only as far as to the edge of the cornfield that stretched out behind the church. I figured by that time the sexton would be back from his long, leisurely lunch.I soon found myself in the middle of the intersection where the two main roads crossed and became aware in a slight shift in consciousness. Continuing to the other side of the road to allow a hay truck to pass, I walked back out to the center of the intersection and waited.

I don't know what I was waiting for, but something was definitely there- something slightly off kilter, feeling a littler outside of time and space.There was no obvious reason for feeling a shift of consciousness, and it faded as soon as I got about ten feet away. Nothing spooky...just different.

I've come to believe this is simply the nature of crossroads. Humans tend to imbue places with meaning and imprint them. In another era, crossroads were traditionally the place where criminals, those who had committed suicide, and others who could not be buried in consecrated ground according to Church law were buried. Executions frequently took place at the intersection of roads because they were more than likely a distance outside of town. Those executed at the crossroads were usually buried there. The two roads coming together formed a symbolic cross, which was thought to be the next best place in lieu of consecrated ground for burial. That's how crossroads came to be associated with spooks and other metaphysical phenomenon. Superstition grew up around the death-related activity of the crossroads of a bygone era...and superstition, as we all know, is easy to spread and be believed.

Among accounts in Pagan genre, the goddess Hecate rules the crossroads. She appears there with her hounds in the dark of night.
The sound of a dog baying in the night at a crossroad is indelibly etched into our memory thanks to Hollywood horror movies.  Hecate is a Greco-Roman goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy... and crossroads. She's also the protector of gates and walls, although it's unclear to me exactly why: I've never been able to find satisfactory information on this aspect or than an image of her was often placed on the gate to a city or the doorway to a home.Perhaps it is believed that if she could keep evil spirits out of a home, displeasing her could lead to allowing them in also. 

Hecate is  most popularly portrayed as a crone and the patron of witches, accompanied by her 'hell hounds', which  are believed to be representative of lost, roaming souls- no doubt another invention of the early Christian Church to make her worship less palatable to the country folk. Farther back in history, she was portrayed as a virgin goddess, a patron to women in childbirth, who were often attended by midwives who were revered as part of the legendary cunning folk.

Whatever it is that gives crossroads a different feel- superstition, ley lines, energy vortex- it is certainly there for me. In this season when the Veil is thin, perhaps visiting a crossroads would be just the place to encounter the Crone Goddess.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Bestest Tricky-Treating Ever

My personal history of trick or treating is abysmal. I remember one year going to five or six houses with my Grandmother in tow and getting a piece of bubble gum and five whole pennies while Mom had a beer with the neighbors; another year I went out with some friends and we braved going to the house of a particularly cantankerous old lady (rumored to be a witch, of course) and got invited in for some home-made ginger spice cake and a cup of cider instead of being shoved in the oven and eaten ( Less exciting but more rewarding.) I have a few spotty memories of going around with neighborhood kids whose names I can't recall. At that time, treats were handed out in small bags and usually contained four or five pieces of candy and a lollipop, or you got a candy bar and an apple. We didn't come home with ten pounds of treats in a pillow case, but no one worried about tainted treats or razor blades then, either. The local volunteer fire company used to sponsor a community Halloween Party, and everyone would go there after making the rounds in their immediate area. Kids didn't pile into a car then and have their parents drive from neighborhood to neighborhood collecting their stash. They went to their friend's and neighbor's houses- and only to the houses with their lights on.

The most decorating anyone ever did when I was a kid was taping a few thin card stock cut-outs in to the windows. There were no Halloween lights- lights were reserved strictly for Christmas. There were no elaborate yard decorations. I loved to decorate for Halloween, there was always something slightly naughty and taboo about it. The choices were restricted to witches, skeletons, bats and scarecrows. Occasionally there was something outside the norm, such as a monster or a haunted house, and the majority of these early decorations came in limited colors- black, orange and white, green and yellow. I think the graphics for many of the decorations of my childhood were fantastic, and I still do.There was never anything too gross, maybe a skeleton had an rolling eyeball or was wearing a tattered vest, that was about it in the fright department.

My first yard decorations were made from the Styrofoam packing material from my new stereo system and a couple of pieces of cast-off plywood. This I managed to construct into  three reasonable facsimiles of  head stones, which I planted at the end of a hole made by removing a few pieces of turf from the front lawn and raking up the earth underneath to look like a new grave. The addition of the shovel and an old (lit) kerosene railroad lamp made it more realistic. I cut bats out of black construction paper, tied strings to them, then hung them from a low branch of the huge maple. A dry cleaning bag made a terrific ghost after dark. I stuffed some old clothes and added on an old Jack-O-Lantern candy bucket for a head and had a scarecrow...and of course there was a real Jack-O-Lantern carved from a pumpkin and carefully lined with aluminum foil to boost the illumination and keep the pumpkin from burning. I learned early on that if you put the candle you were going to use in a drinking glass, the wind couldn't blow it out. A few years later I added a blow-up skeleton which I hung on fishing line so it looked like it was running through the yard.

My best ally was imagination. We lived on a corner lot, so the yard was visible from two sides and lit by a couple of street lamps on poles. The maple tree shaded most of the decorated area, so the light danced across the open grave and the flame from the kerosene lamp- kept low- danced in the breeze and gave a spooky illumination to the area. I used to hang the speaker from the stereo up so they were in front of the windows, and played A Thrilling, Chilling Halloween from Hallmark on the cassette player so the place had the right atmosphere. The display grew year by year, and one year my Grandfather decided to cook hot dogs on a grill in the front yard to hand out to the kids with a cup of hot chocolate ( it was pretty cold in our part of the North by October 31st!) The neighborhood kids learned that our house was one of the safe ones. I think we had one of the best displays in the neighborhood because it wasn't too scary for the little kids...and we had a lot of kids, usually around 250. They returned each year, and there were whole families that came to pose together and take photos over the course of a decade. It was a wonderful way for the neighborhood to come together. One little tyke ran back up the side walk to me and setting down his goody sack to dig through it,"This place is the bestest tricky-treating ever!"he said, dropping a miniature Baby Ruth into my hand before running back to his mother who waited at the end of the side walk.

There were a couple of sparse years during the mid 1980's when money was tight- I didn't pack bags and could only give out two pieces of bubble gum because that's all we could afford. I'm sure the kids thought we were being cheap, but the fact was we were eating spaghetti twice a week to stretch our food budget and installed a wood burning stove in the basement to replace the oil furnace because oil was so expensive...and we nearly froze that year. It was so cold in the house we slept in sleeping bags under the covers in our beds, fully clothed. Giving away two pieces of  bubble gum that year was a luxury- and at least we gave something away, because as I remember, the street was awfully dark that year. People weren't driving their kids around much, either, because there were gas rationing lines and you could only fill up the tank once or twice in a week.

I always made sure I had Halloween off from work. A couple of times I sacrificed two days of vacation just to be off on that day so I could take my time decorating the yard. The year I worked on Halloween day I regretted it. My relief was late and I had to work three hours longer than scheduled. The buses were off schedule, too that night. It was getting dark and the kids were already on the street when I got home. The yard wasn't decorated: I remember throwing a single string of  purple lights onto the branches of a sapling in the front yard and plugging in a plastic blow-mold pumpkin because there wasn't time to carve a Jack-O-Lantern. The kids came-but they were disappointed there were no real yard decorations. I pretended that I had planned to go 'minimalist' that year in anticipation of returning with a bigger and better display the next year. Deep inside I felt an emptiness. This was Halloween? It was the night I looked forward to all year, and it was nearly over before I got home from work. After the kids went in for the night I turned off the lights, took the plastic JOL inside and called a friend to go out to dinner with me. It was a solemn evening even in good company. That night I dreamed of being unable to get home in time for Halloween and missing the day altogether. In my dream I would get off the bus and run the entire length of the neighborhood to get home...and there were no trick or treaters. It was too late. I was too late and had missed Halloween. The dream had a foreboding feel to it, and the worst part of it was that it kept repeating, just like in the Bill Murray movie Ground Hog Day. I would get off the bus and run the length of the neighborhood, and couldn't find the house, or I'd get lost on a side street, and it would get dark before I could get home. I still occasionally have this dream; it's the only repeating nightmare I've ever had, and every time I have it, it's the same: I awake feeling cheated out of  the one thing that gives me joy during the year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

From My Personal Grimorie: Samhain Oil

This oil may be used to bless your altar or other items such as altar tools. Use it to anoint candles or in a water-based potpourri burner. It can also be used to anoint  individuals, but I would recommend diluting it with an unscented carrier oil such as grape seed oil.

This oil has a dry, musky base note,  with citrus fruit middle notes and a sharp lemon top note. Imagine musky mulled cider, it's a seasonal  harvest scent.

Because it contains cinnamon oil, there is a possibility of eye or skin irritation. Keep hands away from face, eyes and mucous membranes as it may cause an allergic reaction. Flush the area with cold water and seek medical help if necessary. Do not take internally.Store as you would other oils.

Ingredients to make a 1 ounce bottle of Samhain oil:

  • Sandalwood oil, used as the base- 1/2 ounce.
  • Cinnamon oil, 1/4 oz
  • Cranberry oil,1/8 oz
  • Orange oil, 1/8 oz
  • Lemon oil, 10 drops
You may dilute the sandalwood oil with some unscented oil to both lighten the fragrance or the viscosity, cutting it up to one half with the carrier oil, then proceed to mix, or make half the recipe and pour in 1/2 ounce pf grape seed oil to lighten it.

These oils will layer into yellows, orange and reds and resemble a sunset when first poured into the bottle if not shaken.  Once mixed, the oil is a deep golden amber. Shake it every time prior to use to be sure the ingredients are properly blended; some types of oils do separate upon setting. The oil is clear with no clouding and  with no particulates, so if you do see any 'floaters', either the bottle or one of the oils is contaminated. This would most likely be the cinnamon oil, especially if it is homemade. You may be able to strain the oil and transfer it to a new bottle without it becoming spoiled. Do not use any oil that has turned cloudy or has flecks or floating ribbons because it could signal a possible bacterial contamination.

You may wish to divide up the oil into smaller bottles to use or give as gifts. A few drops can also be added to a scent locket ( see warning above), or diluted with pure olive oil and carried in a receptacle as scented chrism.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Season of Dying

"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"~Poe

Earlier in the day, the hospice nurse and I positioned her to die. We pulled her up in the bed, tucked a pillow under her knees, and under each elbow with her forearms flexed at right angles. There was little to do other than to moisten her lips occasionally-and wait.She was in and out of consciousness all afternoon. I told her she could go to be with her husband, who had died in this same room ten years earlier. We continued to wait. I put R.Carlos Nakai's Canyon Trilogy on the CD player, and the house was instantly filled with the haunting sound of Native American cedar flute. It seemed to be the right thing to do to welcome Death. The music was beautiful and calming. The CD ended, and I left the room to start the music again. When I returned, she was gone. The last piece on that recording is called Homage To The Ancient Ones. I now realize  that during the final notes of the song, she had gone to join them.

My Grandmother died quietly, at home. We discussed the option of hospice after her last hospital stay, when I had to call 911three times  in one day to take her to the ER, and they kept sending her home because there was nothing more they could do for her. At the time there was nothing I could do for her at home, either. The doctors at the hospital were angry because I wouldn't send her to a nursing home: she was and old woman who was dying and taking precious time away from their job of life-saving. There was nothing exciting or dramatic about it, so they didn't have the time. So I said to hell with them and took her home to die. One of the home care nurses call me anonymously and suggested I tell the hospital we'd decided on palliative care. The nurse couldn't recommend it herself, she would have lost her job, I'd have to make the call myself-so I did. I have never regretted making the call.

At the turn of this century, the notion of allowing the terminally ill and elderly to die at home was just beginning to take a firm hold. People had just begun to speak of being caretakers for the dying. It was still an iffy thing to care four your loved one when you knew they weren't going to ever get well again.
We had become a society that banished our dying away from the familiarity and comfort of their normal surroundings because allowing them to die at home was distasteful. Better we should allow others to take care of what we find distressing or disagreeable in our clean, sterile world.

At the turn of the prior century, this would have not been an issue. Family members were expected to die at home, and they did, all the time. It may have been repugnant to care for the dying, but it was the norm. It seems to me we'd come full circle in 100 years.

The year before my Grandmother died, Starhawk, M. Macha Nightmare and friends from the Reclaiming Collective published a remarkable book on crossing over: The Pagan Book of Living and Dying. A compendium of prayers, chants, blessings, rituals and stories all relating to the process of dying and what to do in the time before and afterward, it should be a staple in the library of anyone who directly serves others in a pastoral care setting: High Priest/ess, clergy, healthcare professionals.
I believe this is an important book because we have not only lost touch with Death on a personal basis, but because we ourselves have forgotten how to die. As both a minister and a paramedic, I believe there is a time and black where heroic measures are appropriate, but as a human being who will someday face my own death, I say there is a time to get out of the way and let Death come. I will not pretend that this is a clear-cut issue because there are many factors  in the case of each individual death. But I do believe with all my heart that benevolence, compassion and common sense should win out when the end is near.

Our distaste, and much of our fear, comes not out of the unknown associated with Death, but our societal influences. Prior to World War I, you did not rush your dying Grandmother to the hospital, rather, you kept her at home where she was lovingly attended to by members of her family, friends, and the town doctor. People instinctively knew what to do. There was no panic, no emotional trauma, no hysterics. It was simply another part of life. Our world has changed: the population has exploded. We are no longer being born, living our lives, and then dying in the same community. We have surrendered that which makes us human to an antiseptic modern society where machines and strangers tend to our dying. We have forfeited the holiness of Life itself in order to not get our hands dirty.

It is an irrefutable truth that we all die. In this season where we honor our dead, it is time to consider our own end. It does not have to be left to fate. Discussing death in a realistic way with your loved ones will  bring it back into its rightful place as a part of Living.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's That Time Again, Charlie Brown!

Screech owls hoot. are you listen'in?
Beneath the moon; all is glist'nin--
A real scarey sight; we're happy tonight.
Waitin' in a pumpkin wonderland!
~ " Pumpkin Wonderland" from the Peanuts Book of Pumpkin Carols**

 Every year when the decorations come out, so does my Peanuts Book of Pumpkin Carols. I have a first edition of this little booklet, which was actually meant to be a greeting card produced by Hallmark. The Hallowe'en of my childhood was truly a 'pumpkin wonderland'...Besides some really neat-o decorations when I was 10 years old, we had that brand spakin' new TV special called, " It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", which I watched for the first time on our dinky black and white television set. There was 'good old Charlie Brown', his innocent little sister Sally, child prodigy Linus van Pelt, his erasable big sister Lucy,  neighbor Pig Pen and the whole gang...and of course there was Snoopy as the World War I flying ace drinking root beer behind enemy lines in the French countryside.
Linus, malleable  buddy of Charlie Brown, has been tending his sincere pumpkin patch for 45 years now, and still no Great Pumpkin has appeared. I adore the psychology behind Charles Schultz's creation.  Linus is the Eternal Optimist in each of us sitting in his pumpkin patch: we know something greater than us about to reveal itself, we just don't know when. We know something earth-shattering is about to we wait. And wait. The Sallies  of the world that we've convinced to join us yell for results when they don't receive instant gratification, but the Linus in us is patient and kind, and we continue our sometime lonely vigil waiting for the Ultimate Prize or deity  of a Great Pumpkin to appear before our eyes. Linus and the Great Pumpkin are potential and anticipation made manifest in the heart of our long-lost inner Child. That, I think, is what is at the core of why we love Hallowe'en- something fantastic beyond our wildest dreams could happen if we just believe.

In the meantime, life is meant as a celebration. It's one big Hallowe'en party on the level of what taps into that which is still good and child-like within us. Sometimes it taps into what's not-so-good, too, and we take on the persona of  the elitist Lucy, the  meanie who draws a Jack-O-Lantern on the back of Charlie Brown's big pumpkin-shaped head at the party in front of all his friends, and intentionally embarrasses him.( In our current decade Charlie would be so emotionally scarred that he would have to go into therapy for the rest of his life.)

The Great Pumpkin is a very clever portrayal of modern life by Schultz 9who was a   Presbyterian church school teacher in real life  and authored a very funny book about kids and faith called Young Pillars. He had unique insight into what makes us human). He knew we'd come across some scary boogeymen out in the real world while we're collecting  our goodies, but there's safety in numbers as 'the kids' huddle for protection, only to  skitter off to the next house with a glowing porch light as soon as the danger has passed. Isn't that really what we all do in our own big, overwhelming, soul-sucking world?

"  I got a rock..."  Is probably the most iconic Peanuts quote ever, because we all know what it means, and it makes us cringe just a little whenever Charlie says it during the course of an evening of  trick or treating.

I can relate to Charlie's anticipation of getting a fabulous treat in his goodie bag...only to realize that once again, someone has given him a rock instead. It's what happens when your big project doesn't come through, when your prospects fail and when nothing goes right in your life. " I got a rock.." just about says it all when you need that ultimate expression of disappointment. I've been right there next to Charlie Brown with my own bag of rocks-haven't we all?

And yet Linus still sits patiently out in the pumpkin patch year after year as the  harvest moon rises and bathes everything in it's golden light.  There is a bittersweet resignation in his countenance, a determination not to loose faith....and to keep believing in what he knows is true.

*Lyrics found in Hallmark Cards original Peanuts Book of Pumpkin Carols:

**The Pagan has some additional songs in their collection, from a later edition.

Monday, October 10, 2011

From My Personal Grimorie: Recipes for a Dumb Supper

Photo credit Country Living Magazine

I make this menu every year to serve for Samhain night, with the addition of boiled ears of corn and maybe some buttered, mashed turnips. I love the variety of boiled vegetables, all of which can be covered in foil and kept hot in the oven until dinnertime. I usually keep the pork and broth hot in the Crock Pot, but it can also be made in the oven and kept hot in a covered casserole if you don't have a slow cooker. 

It's reminiscent of my Irish heritage and I make it primarily to honor my ancestors. It's a good, heavy stick-to-your- ribs meals like they make in the farm country. My Italian Grandfather made the porchetta, although there's nothing distinctly Italian about it. I imagine it's the kind of dish the Romans would have made during their invasion of the British Isles. The candy apple pie is the only 'modern' recipe, a traditional apple pie with a twist.

It's a fantastic menu for a Dumb Supper. I honestly have no idea where the recipes came from, I inherited a couple of them and collected the others over the years. I've never had a single complaint from the Ancestors in all the time I've been making it! 





Candy Apple Pie

(Tastes like an old fashioned glazed candy apple)


  • 1 3/4 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 20 cinnamon red hot candies
  • 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 Granny Smith apples
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked


  1. Peel and core the apples. Slice thinly.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 c apple juice, candies, food coloring, vanilla, and apples in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer until apples are tender, stirring frequently. Combine remaining 1/4 cup apple juice and corn starch; stir into apple mixture, and cook until thickened. Remove from heat, and let cool.
  3. Spread apple mixture into pie shell, and chill for several hours. Before serving, top with whipped topping and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.
I sprinkle a few red hots on top...not too many, or they'll melt into a beautiful glass red hard shell that you'll need a hammer to crack...NOT KIDDING.
 Apple Spice Cake
(Make a day or two ahead to allow the flavors to blend)


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 apples - peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar for dusting or black walnut.rum glaze
  • 1/2 cup black walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 10 inch tube pan. Cover raisins with warm water, let soak for 10 minutes and then drain. Whisk together flour, spices, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Cream together butter or margarine and sugar. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Stir together soda and 1 tablespoon warm water, and mix into the sugar mixture. Stir in flour mixture, apples, and strained raisins until well blended. Add black walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pan. Once cool, shake pan to loosen cake. Turn onto plate, and dust with confectioners' sugar, or make a simple glaze out of confectioner's sugar, rum, and black walnut flavoring. Sprinkle additional walnuts over glaze.

 Pumpkin Custard Pie

(Store in fridge after baking. It cannot be left out, it will sour!)



  • 1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. In a saucepan, stir the pumpkin over medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until slightly dry and caramelized.
  3. Remove from heat; add the sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Mix well.
  4. Add the eggs, cream and milk. Mix until smooth; pour into pastry lined pie pan.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Allow to completely cool on rack before cutting. 
I refrigerate mine over night before cutting it to be certain it's cold and firm. I use whipped cream and a little cinnamon to decorate it. A dollop of vanilla ice cream almost makes it too rich!

 PA Dutch Baked Apples

(Traditional and good with a scoop of vanilla custard or ice cream.)


  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large baking apples


Combine raisins, nuts and orange peel; set aside. In a saucepan, bring brown sugar, water, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg to a boil*. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Core apples and place in an ungreased 1-1/2-qt. baking dish; fill with raisin mixture. Pour sugar mixture over and around apples. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. 
*You can shortcut this recipe by using maple syrup and a little cinnamon instead. 

 Samhain Pork
(Make it in the slow cooker. It's my Grandfather's Porchetta recipe.)


  • 1 (5 pound) pork butt roast
  • 1 cup smoked ham-flavored broth, made from bullion* 
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 whole onion, chopped in rings
  • 1/4 Table spoon each: fresh rosemary, thyme,dill
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/8 cup white wine, optional


  1. Cut roast in half. Rub each half with herbs and pepper, and place in the slow cooker. Pour broth,water and wine  over the meat. Check later to see if salt is needed. The bullion usually has plenty for me. * If you can't find ham bullion (Check the Spanish food section of your grocery store, make broth from a couple of smoked ham hocks and water.)
  2. Turn the slow cooker to Low, and cover. Cook for 6 to 8 hours, or until the roast is fork tender.
Carefully remove the roast to a cutting board. Pull the meat off the bone with a fork.Shred the meat with a fork or cut it fine, and return it to the broth. Porchetta is served hot on an Italian or French style roll, with a bowl of the broth for dipping ( Think French dip). Left over broth makes a starter for  wonderful bean soup!


(Traditional Irish fare served at Samhain. There are many recipes with variations. This one is from County Mayo.)


  • 1 pound cabbage
  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch ground mace
  • 1/2 cup butter


  1. In a large saucepan, boil cabbage until tender; remove and chop or blend well. Set aside and keep warm. Boil potatoes until tender. Remove from heat and drain.
  2. Chop leeks, green parts as well as white, and simmer them in just enough milk to cover, until they are soft.
  3. Season and mash potatoes well. Stir in cooked leeks and milk. Blend in the kale or cabbage and heat until the whole is a pale green fluff. Make a well in the center and pour in the melted butter. Mix well.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Season of the Witch Interview Tips

It stands to reason that with it's association to Halloween, the public interest with The Craft increases exponentially. Paganism, and The Craft in particular, is a hot button topic in the market share of radio, TV and print media during the month of October even though the public knowledge has grown ten fold. Ours is  basically still a Mystery Religion, and an aire of the sensational, the forbidden, the  taboo continues to surround it because it's viewed as something exotic by  the general public. It's quite common for the media to search out witches and Pagans for interviews during this month. Many collage radio stations carry interviews with a witchcraft theme this time of year, and I think that if you have the opportunity to participate at that level, then you should seriously consider it because it's a good way to refute ugly rumors and untruths within the community. I've done this a few times myself, so I'm sharing some ideas.

If the media contacts you for an article in a print publication or the Internet, ask for a copy of the questions you will be answering before hand. You can then thoughtfully answer the questions in a casual but timely manner. Stipulate that your answers may only be edited for clarity and not to change the content. Without sounding like a Deva or being demanding, you can and should request that a codicil or rider be included in print ( email is fine) stipulating reasonable conditions pertaining to the questions you are expected to answer. This keeps every one honest and focused. It also keeps a journalist from rewriting or editing your answers to slant in a direction they choose rather than how you meant them to sound.

Be prepared. Write out some questions and answers you think the journalist will be asking or the public would be interested in reading. It will give you practice and make the interview flow. You will be less likely to be blind-sided or surprised and left to draw a blank if you run the interview in your head a few times before it takes place. Do this even if you agree to a radio or telephone interview. Staying generic is a good practice. however, if you do get into specifics of your personal spiritual practice, then use a disclaimer like, " There are hundreds of variations to the Craft, this is my personal understanding." Actually, it's a good idea to use a well placed phase like this periodically through the process of the interview. It's not meant to water anything down, but rather places things into perspective. You are talking about your personal spiritual practice or your individual tradition and not representing every other Pagan or witch in the community, even though it's likely that is the goal of the interviewer. You can quietly change that perception by making it clear from the onset that you are just one individual among thousands and do not speak for the entire community...because you don't. Make no mistake about it, if you come off sounding like your path is the only path, there will be any number of your brethren waiting to righteously take you to task after the fact, and I may be among them.

Write out a brief statement of your personal beliefs before hand, and take them to the interview with you. It will help to have talking points handy and will jog your memory. It will also keep you to the point and concise. You don't have to give an elaborate explanation of your faith tradition. In fact it's better to just give the highlights because those reading or listening will be more likely to remember what you said accurately. Lengthy answers will only serve to confuse most people. Be short and to the point and you will be less likely to be misunderstood.

Know your audience by knowing the demographic. Don't use arcane or anarchistic language; more than likely most of your audience will not understand what you're talking about. Explain any unfamiliar 'witchy' terms: chances are everyone will be able to imagine what a ritual knife looks like but will be at a loss as to picturing an athame. Take a minute to explain in concrete terms what a grimorie or Book of Shadows really are and you will leave little to an imagination made fertile by Hollywood stereotypes.  Don't leave anything open to interpretation other than what you intend your words to mean. Some interviewers will repeat what you've just said for emphasis and clarity for the audience: if they restate what you said, and it doesn't sound right or ring true, be firm in repeating yourself if necessary, without being confrontational. It is perfectly correct for you to do this. And be particularly aware that the interviewer may incorrectly and quite innocently make a statement linking Satanism and The Craft. This is more likely than not being  made with no malice aforethought; it doesn't mean they are making an accusation or trying to sensationalize the interview by calling you a Devil worshiper- they just may not know the any better. You now have the opportunity to change a pre-conceived notion by calmly stating something like, " You Dan, I'm a Wiccan, and we don't believe in the existence of Satan. The Devil is found in religions stemming from the Abrahamic traditions, but not ours."

Use humor, but don't try to be too clever. Being too cute often turns on you because you sometimes end up sounding like a cloying smart-ass or an overly intellectual know-it-all. Trying too hard often fails. Just be yourself. You don't have to recite your entire curricula vitae for the masses. Stating you are a practicing witch or Pagan, or engaged in an earth-centered religion is often enough to set the course of the interview.  On the other hand, being too serious makes you sound pretentious and dower. Oft times it makes one sound so self-involved that you will not come off as genuine and authentic.

Be honest. Don't invent pedigree or a magickal history you don't actually own. It doesn't make you look more knowledgeable or admirable, it makes you look stupid. Don't say Grandma was a witch in the middle ages or a High Priestess sitting at Uncle Gerald's knee if it's not true. You aren't impressing anyone by spinning a false tale. People can see right through you-especially other Pagans. It does nothing to serve the community if you lie about your background...and being of service to the wider community by being an educator in this instance should be your highest priority, not self aggrandizement. It really should never be 'all about' you if you're not in a situation where you're promoting your business as a tarot reader, etc. You can mention you read cards, but giving what amounts to a plug for your services for hire ( unless you have made that agreement with the interviewer before hand) is not only inappropriate, it's down-right tacky.

And for the love of all the gods, don't show up in your ritual robes or your witchiest wardrobe! I'm not kidding. No matter how freakin' awesome you look in that goddess gown or how adorable you're new witch's hat is, leave it at home. It's really best not to generally perpetuate myths. Some interviewers have the hidden agenda-or not so hidden agenda- of inviting you  for an interview with the intention of making you look like a freak. Don't oblige them. Showing up in the same type of clothing you wear to interview for a job will project the image that you are there to do business...because you are. Channeling Dumbledore or Glenda is just going to make you look goofy.
Wearing your civies with a tasteful piece of Pagan-themed jewelry will identify you nicely. If you insist on wearing that pentagram the size of a hubcap you are defeating the whole purpose of educating the masses without frightening them to death. It is possible to express your faith and individuality without marginalizing yourself and the entire community.

And finally-please, please, please- don't go off on a tangent about the Burning Times, or how the Church has stolen Pagan symbols, or the evils of Christianity, etc. Remember, your mission is to educate and not to offend. You are representing the community-like it or not. There is a very real possibility that you will be the only genuine Witch or Pagan any of your audience is ever exposed to and if you come to the table with an " I'm a witch, whatcha gonna do about it?" or in-your-face attitude, the good and positive of your message will be lost.  Pushing people's buttons will only make them turn a deaf ear to whatever you have to say, no matter how positive or truthful it may be. Being sincere and firmly grounded will give you a much better chance in reaching people and changing their minds.

If at anytime an interviewer tries to ambush you with a negative question, or says something  that you consider out of line and makes you feel uncomfortable, you have the right to end the interview. However, be aware that if you do walk away, you are leaving yourself open to speculation, innuendo and unfair judgement. I'm suggesting it's much better to come straight out and say, " I came here today to discuss modern witchcraft and not the Salem witch trials. Let's stick to the subject we agreed upon." It will not make you look like a bad guy, or project you're being disagreeable. It will lend credibility to your own agenda, which hopefully is first and foremost is the dispelling of negative myths and educating the public about your chosen path.

Good luck, and may you Blessed Be.