Feast

When history adds to your modern practice

Today I dived head first down the rabbit hole of Google Scholar and a wide array of historical academic papers that are available to read. While saving a whole bunch to read later, one caught my eye.

Washing and Bathing in Ancient Ireland

A. T. Lucas

The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

Vol. 95, No. 1/2, Papers in Honour of Liam Price (1965), pp. 65-114

I am relatively well known to be a woman of Feasting, as I consider food, the acts of hospitality and feasting to be a huge part of  my spiritual well being. There is however another portion that is likely not as well known because it’s just not something that I was able to concretely connect as “Gaelic” in my practice. Certainly it is something that has always been a important aspect of my practice, but I chalked up a lot of that to be unique to me. Sometimes, you read something and then you make historical and spiritual connections you didn’t “know” were there but were completely there and now can consider more ways to incorporate it. In this case it’s, Ritual bathing.

Since childhood the pleasure and just comfort of a good hot bath has always had a place in my heart. My household regularly used hot showers and baths as a way to help aid the healing process of headaches, colds, flu, muscle aches, and pretty much everything under the sun. There is the vinegar bath for a bad sunburn. The oatmeal and milk bath for chicken pox. The Epsom salt bath for other illness. When I moved out of my parents house, I started having intense migraines and stumbled on the remedy of showers where you turn the water to as hot as you can stand and then as cold as you can stand, repetitively. You kinda feel like your getting torn apart and are exhausted afterwards but for a long time it was the only relief I could find.  Along my witchcraft path I learned the value of purification baths, and adding a variety of other herbal and stone items for magical purposes. Likewise I discovered that while I sucked a meditation and trance work, I could easily slip into trance and meditation in a steamy shower or bath.

At that time, it made sense to me, in that water, especially running water, is a gateway to the Otherworld, and steam seemed associated with the mist and fog that is also seen in Irish myth and folklore to be a portal to the Otherworld. The act of bathing seemed to create a liminal state of its own that I’ve always felt connected to and it’s been a useful way to de-stress and in general keep emotionally balanced over the years.

But I had never made any stronger connections to Irish mythology or lore until recently. A few years back, my partner was experiencing some intense stress at work. Anyone who has a lot of stress in their lives, know how it just starts to take a toll mentally and physically. For some reason, I called to mind the story of the young Cúchulainn returning from battle still in his battle frenzy and being dunked/bathed in three vats of water to cool his furor and return him to a more human state. I felt a connection with the stresses and dehumanizing aspects that service jobs can reap upon a person and the inhuman state of Cúchulainn in the story. It seemed to me that the act of being bathed ritualistically as the young hound was, was a way of bringing him back into the fold of his people. Bringing him back to peace and civilization in some way. I started to use showering in this way, after work. A way to wash away the grim and rat in a maze feelings that Corporate America can bring, and return to a state of comfort, balance and humanity. It helped. It became sacred and essential in our comfort rituals.

The article highlights some facets of bathing and washing in Ancient Ireland and in Irish myth that I hadn’t taken the time to ponder before. In particular it’s connections with hospitality and even feasting(!).

It outlines various examples of how a bath was one of the requisite amenities given to a guest as part of the rules of hospitality. We are given the example of the bad hospitality of King Bres Mac Mac Eladain who had a poet of the Tuatha dé Dannan visit. He was conveyed to a small house which was narrow, dark and dim, there was neither fire, nor bath, nor bed. Three small cakes, and they dry, were brought to him on a little dish. The next day he rose and he was not pleased. From this and the other examples tales of Cúchulainn, King Donn, Mael Dúin, being greeted with lavish beautiful welcomings the included lovely women to bath them, the argument that having a comfortable and plush bath available for guests was considered the mark of a good household.

Comfort is one of the tenets of hospitality, and while I have generally considered my mother’s propensity for buying copious amounts of soft bath towels and having over flowing baskets of colorful washcloths available, to be her desire for a magazine type home,  I now look at it at it as being very gracious. If I were to show up at my mother’s house unannounced with 5 or more guests unexpected and we all needed showers, she would have clean fresh towels and cloths ready and waiting. I’m afraid I can’t say the same for my own. In fact to own the truth, my house has only a handful of towels and they are almost never all clean at once. Something to consider.

The article also make the connections to prestige and honor to be the first to bath, making several references to chieftains and kings being granted the right to “the first bath and the first drink” at a feast. There is some interesting information that makes a strong case that bathing of somekind (whether full body or hands and feet) were done prior to feasting. This makes sense in a logistical and hygienic sense, as well as adding a layer of ritual cleansing to feasting that just makes energetic sense. It also reminded me a lot of a podcast I was recently recommended, Dark Ages Feasting – The British History Podcast. Which, while predominately looking at Anglo-Saxon traditions, covered the ritual handwashing that took place before eating at a feast. He also pointed out how uncouth many of we modern folks are in comparison, how often do you actually wash your hands before a meal? More things to consider ;

The article only briefly touches on the connection of ritual bathing by women being connected to healing and magic, but there is enough to make note of and keep an eye out in further reading.

There is a lot of minutia of daily life in ancient Ireland, that perhaps not everyone would consider interesting lol, but I love it.  Things like theories of what sort of detergents they used, how they heat their water, what the tubs looked like, the different words that meant different types of bathing. These things don’t necessarily add anything to my modern practice, but they help to provide another piece of the puzzle to a worldview of the past. I feel like that helps to create a depth of understanding that solidifies my modern practice.

If you have made it this far in this much longer ramble than anticipated post, all of this is to say that I recommend the article lol. It has opened some ideas in my head as far as ritual feast  activities, and that I for sure need an lovely washing station in my future feasting hall. It reinforced  my I practice of using bathing for sacred ritual purposes as well as for community and hospitality building in some ways. More food for thought on how to relate to the every day life and I suppose a little window in how I break out academic articles and relate them to my practice.

The Feast of the Dagda

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast (2)

For several years now I have been wanting to hold a feast in honor of the Dagda. Several different variations went through my mind, but for whatever reason they just never came to past. Then in my public priestess community of CAYA Coven I was presented with the opportunity to lead a ritual feast in his honor. Even more exciting this could be an outdoor feast! Early in the year I started plotting out the best way to introduce the Good God to a group of people who may or may not have ever heard of him. How best to honor his name and ensure a good time had by all.

Luckily I had an amazing crew, all of the initiates who are training to be public clergy in CAYA. They all went above and beyond and put such heart into their work it was really touching.

We were gathered in one of my favorite parks where there lives a 100 year old Oak tree. A wonderful tree that I sadly did not get to go visit this trip but love none the less. We spent the day grilling and playing games. Coconut shotput and Tug of Way being the highlights. I had originally dreamed of having a whole pig to roast for the feast but alas my budget at present did not allow for it. However I did go out and purchase the biggest shoulder pork roast I could from the local butcher, ethically sources and top quality. I decided to start cooking it the night before to ensure that it would be done in time for the Feast, and would finish it off over the open flames basting it in fresh apple juice. I have to say that I think it turned out delicious and since there were literally no leftovers and many folks asking for seconds, I think that is a far judgement lol. I will be making that pork again once I get a grill here at the house.

I kept telling myself that it would be a small crowd. Our outdoor rituals are usually smaller more 30-40 people than our indoor rituals that get more 60-80 people. Yet I was surprised, we had quite a turn out! I didn’t do an official head count but I think we were in the 50-60 range. Yet with great joy we made room for all. With equal joy we had more than enough food. There is nothing so sad as a feast where there isn’t enough food for people to eat their fill. And at a Dagda feast? Unthinkable!

There was a fire that was kindled with prayers and juniper burnt upon it for blessing. Offerings were made to the Dagda by all with wonderful words of praise spoken with adoration. There was beer and water on every table. The first round was served, food for everyone and then the stories began. They were tales of hospitality and lessons being generous. Songs were sung and the guitar AND violin played. Seconds and third helpings were served along with a delicious tasty dessert. Divination was cast to see if our offerings were received well and with blessing and what the next months held for the community.  There was much laughter, much conversation, and much enjoyment

I was so pleased and still am. For a public feast I do not think it could have gone any smoother. Thank you again to anyone who attended, to all the lovely people who pitched in and helped to make this dream a reality. Thanks to my beloved Dagda for continuing to teach me the ways of leadership, hospitality and enjoying the lust for life. May I continue to bring you honor and raise your name high. Looking forward to sharing more celebrations and joy with the community and for continued joy in devotion to the Good God.

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast (1)

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast - 5

 

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast - 3

 

Wisdom of the serpent be
Wisdom of bull be thine,
Wisdom of valiant eagle.
Voice of swan be thine,
Voice of honey be thine
Voice of the Shining Youth.
Bounty of sea be thine,
Bounty of land be thine
Bounty of the All Father, ever sustaining.

Adapted from the Carmina Gadelica

Starting something new…

arms_open_by_waitingforemma-d4chrhkArms Open by ~WaitingForEmma on deviantART

For several years now a project, an idea, has been brewing in my mind. A growing desire to create a space for something that I need, while providing that same space for others who may also need. All the way back in 2011 when I wrote “Carving out more Worship”  it was this new space and project that was on my mind. Now I am literally days away from enacting it. 2013 it seems, is the year of fulfilling a lot of promises, and making vows.

As those of you who read this odd little blog may know or at least summize, I am a public priestess. For several years now I have worked with CAYA Coven and the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe putting on countless rituals. No literally countless, I have loss track. Our Coven puts on 8 sabbats, 9-13 full moon rituals, 8 pan-dianic sabbats, and a smattering of other rituals in the minuscule inbetweens. Learning ritual coordination and creation in this dynamic group with Yeshe Rabbit’s excellent example has been one of the highlights and true blessings of my public priestess path.

Even with all those rituals, and the calendar year packed, I still felt little tug that something was missing. See CAYA rituals are fantastic, and dynamic and always changing. Always learning. With all those people with their different ideas, paths, and ways the stream of creativity is truly astounding. But on the flip side CAYA rituals are eclectic, and interfaith and most the time do not speak to my specific path. They certainly fulfill my community needs but I knew that I would eventually need to be more of a public priestesses for my gods specifically, in some way.

When you are elbow deep in public ritual it’s hard not to start creating your own, imagining different flavors you would try, the things that are important to you, the things you would probably not do. And as a Celtic Polytheist who has yet to experience a Celtic-centered ritual that she was truly happy with, the thought “put up or shut up” began to circle round and joined forces with another reality.

In the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe every HPS is expected to create and maintain a project that benefits and brings forth the Divine Feminine into the world. These are our Legacies. For the past two years my Legacy was High Priestessing the Goddess Sabbats that the Tribe put on. That meant maintaining, coordinating, and helping wherever needed with the 8 sabbats we put on every year. The “put up or shut up” had teamed up with a whisper of  “what if you did your own rituals for your Legacy?” The threads began to come together.

During my many Dark Moon outings with Temple Witch to our beloved beach another tugging became known. That of the soul satisfying rush of worshiping outside. There are many pagans whose path is not nature based, I’m not one of them. The three realms, Land, Sea, and Sky, and the mysteries and balance found within them are things that get my blood up. Nothing so easily puts me into alignment than being in the alignment of the realms. It feels whole and right to create a relationship with the local places. To see the subtle changes of a place. To notice when people have been less than kind to it, to do what you can to make amends (cleaning up trash).

Another layer, perhaps the most eye opening layer, was the freedom that came with worshiping freely within the eyesight and earshot of whomever. Creating the normalcy of it all.

I have to say I am damn lucky to live in the part of the country where that is even possible. Where no one intrudes and asks what I’m doing while bent over intently by my serpentine rock altar.  And while a few eyebrows may be raised as Temple and I wander out into the cold waves with out silver chalice singing our songs and laughing, no one heckles. No one shouts. There is no danger.

That’s simply not true everywhere.

In Florida, Kyjra Withers has been experiencing escalating attacks on her home.  While it there is no official stance on who or why, but evidence seems to point to her being targeting for her being an out witch. It’s sort of hard to imagine such things happening now and in this country. Especially when you live in a liberal area, and work at a metaphysical store, and in general have never experienced any harassment for being a pagan.

The knowledge of this inspires a sense of responsibility in me. That this freedom, that should be available to all, needs to be utilized, cared for and nurtured. Because it needs to be protected. It needs to grow.

Thus were the small pieces that came together and became a vision for rituals, for a platform that I’m calling the Temple of the Open Sky.

The Temple of the Open Sky is founded on the belief that freedom of religion is a right that needs to be practiced when and where it can be. Here in the SF Bay area we are privileged with a freedom from fear of retaliation for outward expression of differing religious beliefs that is not found elsewhere in the USA, let alone in the World. It is this truth that brought forth that need to create a space where the Gods names were spoken outside of closed doors, without hiding, witnessed under the open sky.

In that vein, the Temple of the Open Sky seeks to create a platform for pagan worship and devotion that is supportive of the many and varying methods of finding the divine. To create a safe container, free from shame, to be out in the world with our spirituality.

For me being a Celtic Polytheist, and the founder of these rituals, it means that for now the rituals are going to be Celtic-centric. I’m not aiming for reconstructionism  but for culturally founded and modernly adapted. But the underlying goal is creating a space for authentic expression of worship and normalization of that worship. In the future I hope that other priests and priestesses in the area might wish to share their rituals, and speak their gods names aloud for all to hear.

An important aspect of the Temple is once again bringing feasting into ritual space. It’s not an easy aspect to work in modern times, especially in public rituals. While it would be easy to host a ritual and feast for a small party in a home when you know how many guests you are expecting, opening things to the public complicates matters. Dietary needs, and just the basics of feeding an unknown number of people quickly turn the idea to a dream out of reach. But the feast is such a central part of the Celtic celebratory ritual, and is the part that I  long for the most. Food being a central foundation of my practice. If we release the idea of trying to feed an unknown number of people without a budget and acknowledge the fact that we will be outside away from a kitchen anyways, an obvious solution presents itself. Picnic! A completely acceptable and long held American tradition, easily rolled into pagan worship. That simplicity really is the structure that I’m building on and hope others will enjoy as well.

But for now it’s just me, which means all Celts. The first ritual is scheduled for this coming Saturday and will be a devoted to Brighid. The next will be in June or July and devoted to Manannan Mac Lir. August or September will be in honor of Epona, and we will end the year feasting to the Dagda.

I plan on posting more about the process, how each of the events go, and even the outlines should anyone be interested in them.

Gotta say I’m a little nervous. But I know this is what I’m suppose to do.

In Honor of Bride

Imbolc has never really been one of my BIG holidays. Usually I note it with leaving out some milk and honey, lighting a candle, saying a prayer and so on. It just always seemed to get overshadowed by Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Bride, or Brighid, while someone I acknowledge and pay respect to, never was a deity I had much contact with. There seems to be much…conflicting information about the “date” of Imbolc. I’ve always gone with the information that I found early in my studies of Irish Folk Traditions which coincides with this lovely site: Là Fhèill Brìghde which states that her Saint day is Feb 1st, with traditional celebrations being on the Eve or the 31st. Now…apparently in other paths and traditions Imbolc is set for the 2nd or today.  Frankly I don’t give much credence to our calendar anyway, at least not spiritually.

So I celebrated yesterday, and in much greater style than ever before. You see Bride had done me a great service and honor last year, and continues to do so. If you follow my tumblr you may remember me saying, I”m a plant killer, and the poor little rosemary bush that was not looking so good. Well the refugees didn’t make it very long, but the rosemary bush survived. I prayed, I watered that little beauty with Bride’s well water, fed it eggshells and coffee. Half of it died, may that half rest in peace, but the other lived on. So it’s a little mangled but ALIVE. And lo what did I spy not but a few days ago?…

Bride's rosemary

It’s blooming!! Two beautiful little periwinkle flowers! Oh I was so happy. I was so happy and I knew. “It’s Imbolc.” And so it was that on Feb 1st, I gathered the supplies and went about having a grand feast for the Fiery Arrow who saved my little plant. Well it’s her little plant now, I hope to keep it growing into a large plant. And from hence forth I shall celebrate Imbolc and Bride at the first blooms of her rosemary bush. I’m quite thrilled about it all.

So first up, I went and walked my ass down to the local store to pick up some milk and supplies for the evening. Traditionally Imbolc was about the “milking”, the time with the cattle and sheep came back into their milk from the dry winter. As I have no cows, sheeps, or goats, and we’ve just established up above that for now Imbolc shall be at the first rosemary bloom, the fact that traditionally people wouldn’t have had enough milk to make fresh cheese at this time isn’t going to get in my way of making fresh cheese. If you have never made fresh cheese I HIGHLY suggest you try it out. It’s wonderful, and easy. Well farmer’s cheese is. I have my lovely friend and high priestess Yeshe Rabbit to thank for introducing me to the wonderful practice of farmer’s cheese for Imbolc. It’s a memory that I cherish.

Here is the recipe for the nuts and bolts of what I make.

Pot O' Milk

You start with a pot o’ milk. I bought a full gallon and used about 3/4 of it here in my favorite pot. If you can get your hands on raw milk all the better, sadly that was not going to happen today. Turn the stove on high and wait for that delicious pot of white to start to boil, stirring occasionally. You have to WATCH it. It’s very hard for people like me with no patience. But the reality is that you don’t want you’re milk to scorch or get to a full boil. You just want it to start to bubble a little. It’s gotten to the point where I can hear it. There is a energetic change in the calm cool milk when it’s just about to start boiling. Around the edges is usually where it starts to show first. Just as the tension is high, the bubble beginning to make their way to burst through the surface, some big thing is just around the bend, you can feel it, an explosion, power, something just a bit longer….turn OFF the stove!

And now you add your acid. Could be the juice of a whole lemon, could be apple cider vinegar, could be wine. I’ve done it with all of them. This time I used lemon and apple cider vinegar because my little lemon didn’ t give me enough juice. Stir it around in your warm vat of milk and you should immediately start to see a chemical reaction. Suddenly there will be swaths of yellow watery liquid amoungst clumps of white milk. Keep stirring all is well. Let it sit a bit if needed tell you can clearly see a separation.

The Constitutional Separation of milk and whey

Mmmm curds.

At this point you should have a vat of curds and whey. Yep this is the stuff the Little Miss Muffet ate. Looks tasty no? But wait we aren’t Muffets sitting on our tuffets. We’re here to honor Bride, to offer her some delicious salty creamy white cheese that is flavored with her rosemary and made with love and adoration. So we continue onwards!

Straining the whey from the curd. Now you can use store bought cheesecloth, which…is…well crap to be honest. You’ll have to triple it up if not more to make sure the poorly woven fabric doesn’t lose some precious curd. I’ve heard of people buying the cheapo cloth diapers and using them. I may look into that my self. But for the time being I use a thin loose woven handkerchief that was my grandmothers. I imagine if you could get your hands on handkerchief weight linen or cotton it would be wonderful too. OR if you are a fancy person with lovely different size mesh sieves that works too lol.

Straining with a hanky

Now, I have my colander and such in a bowl, to save the whey. Whey is packed with the nutritional minerals and vitamins, double points for raw milk. I wanted to save it to use in place of the water for my bread recipe and in my cooking, and for an purification bath (it’s great for the skin). Up to you really. I will say that you should not use this whey to water your plants, because it is acid whey (we used acid to separate the milk instead of rennet) and will burn them. If you do want to save it, let me tell you there will be a lot of it!

Ok so, our curds and whey are separated, now what? Now we season! Basically if you want your cheese to be flavored now would be the time.

Almost Cheese

I chopped up some of that lovely rosemary, and salted to taste. Mmmm looking mighty good. Stir it up. Now take the ends of your cloth and pull them together and start twisting the lovely little hobo bag, squeezing out the excess whey.  At this point you have options. You can start eating it now. Leave it as is, and refrigerate it. Or put it in a mold and apply pressure to further solidify the cheese. I went with the latter. Lathered up a regular bowl with a thin coating of lard (you heard that right) and squished that white cheesey goodness in. Covered it with the hanky and weighted it down with the bowl of whey. Put in fridge and by dinner, ta da!

waiting on Cheese

With that setting, I moved on to making bread, cleaning the house, cleaning the altars, sweeping the porches, anointing the doors. Then back into the kitchen for more cooking! It was stewed chipotle beef, mashed taters, and cabbage for the feast. Light the candles, say a petitioning prayer, make offering to the rosemary bush, make offering to Bride, and then sup.

Homemade bread

Bride's plate

Bride's candle on the Altar

The Feast!

All and all it was a lovely day. I felt quite content, and went to bed happy that Bride’s candle would burn throughout the night. Winter barely touched us this year, but I’m hoping Spring will linger and bless us with prosperity. Bright blessings to all!

The Ancestral Feast Part II

First and foremost, I would like to thank Ms. Dirty for being the inspiration and motivation for Temple Witch and I to get off our duffs and put into motion some of those glorious plans that we frequently yammer on and on about with stars in our eyes. I know that I get so much joy and just momentum seeing the gusto and spirit that you take to all of your workings. Truly I wish you all the blessings that you desire and need.

Now onto the FEAST!

Yesterday I woke up at 7:30 in the A.M. to begin my attack in order to capture that elusive beast called Epic and make him my bitch.  I believe I succeeded. The morning started with more cleaning, the kitchen had to be spotless. I’m not sure who was particular about that in my family was but it was someone lol. I pulled out Grandmama’s fancy white linen table-cloth, the one that last time I used I sadly had no starch (and still don’t), I could feel G-ma’s raised eyebrow at the wrinkles (the woman ironed her sheets). So out came the iron to massacre the dreaded wrinkles. Apparently a host of ants had taken up residence in my iron, so that was an adventure in a half. But soon I had it all straightened out in every sense of the word.

When it became a time were noise was appropriate I began the giant tetris game in my house.  You see our last minute invitation to some of our loved ones, had garnered more enthusiasm than we had dared to hope. So my cozy little apartment, was suddenly going to have to hold a feast for 16! Which makes for a great feast, but means that some maneuvering of furniture had to happen. Luckily I am strong like bull, and made quick work of it. Once the house was in order it was time for the food!

I had to start the Christmas pudding early. Christmas pudding requires a 6 hour water bath, and since the Lumberjack had requested it special I wanted to get it right. The roast only need 4hr, and the Rotkohl about 50 mins. All would be well. Even tho at this point I was oscillating between whether or not there would in fact be enough food for everybody. (It’s one of my greatest fears, not enough food)

I spent some time sprucing up my ancestor altar, saying my prayers to every one of my Beloved Dead and a few to those that I don’t know. Made sure that everyone was feeling comfortable for the night ahead, Grandma requested some Irish Coffee for the evening. Something I would happily oblige. My Grandmother loved Irish Coffee tho it was a treat she reserved for special occasions or when we visited the local Irish cafeteria style restaurant Brennan’s. I’ll never forget the content and happy look that my Grandmother got when she was sipping her Irish Coffee. It’s so easy for me know to see a younger her doing the same. In any event, as a few of her beloved Irish coffee cups have still survived I made a mental note to make sure she got a glass.

After some adventures of her own Temple Witch and the Giant (that’s right I’ve decided your code name shall be the Giant 😉 made their debut. Bringing with them a house full of helpful things to make this feast truly magical. Fancy dishes and platters from the Giants mother’s collection, the Temple Witch’s own punch set, candles to give mood to the occasion. And of course food and booze. Oh what food and booze too!!

Here is just what we started out with! The big ol’ jug was a gift for the Lumberjack, one that he dearly needed after a 13hr day at work and coming home to a raucous feast of 15 people lol. Here is also a shot of some of my Grandmother’s silver that we brought down for the occasion and Temple Witch was kind enough to loving polish up for the night. I personally think it helped add a bit of class to the evening.

Along with the spirits, they also brought a Santa sack full of bread. My Temple Witch is an accomplished baker, and omg does her bread just make the knees go weak. Seriously good stuff, her rolls where the stars of the dinner. The Giant popped out for the special sausage that they had tracked down to please her Portuguese ancestors and brought back 9 lbs of sausage! 9 lbs! My fears of not having enough food where quickly put to rest. It was delicious sausage too.

After some last minute cleaning (vacuuming, toilet scrubbing etc). It was time to decant our Winter’s Brew. Some time ago, hell I don’t remember when. Temple Witch came over with a bottle of brandy and we whipped up another brew (because our Primal Summer turned out sooo good) we laced it with apples, cinnamon, cloves, mugwort, and pomegranate seeds, and had been letting set and get good and ripe.

Here it is first brewed

 

Steeped and Aged

The apples had turned this brackish brown, the pom seeds almost a grey. But the brandy? Oh the brandy was a delightful golden mahogany. Once again we looked at each other conspiring for our next concoction, again concurring that we really should go in halfies on some proper tools (cheese cloth, a larger mouthed jar, strainers). Tho given the day and the honor of the feast using my Grandmother’s handkerchief was completely appropriate.

First glass of course went to the Ancestors. That was the rule of the evening in fact. And once their’s was poured the rest went in my new schnazzy liquor bottle to charge up on the altar and become even more divine.

 

Yes that is the Glorious Scottish Spoon that Ms. Dirty sent me. It spent the evening being the main serving utensil to the Beloved Dead, a task it was more than up for. The rest of the day was spent in excited anticipation for the evening. As the sun set, we turned on the Christmas lights, and lit the candles around the house. Set out our snacks, and generally admired all our hard work. The house was beautiful. My little house may be small, but it has a big heart. It new that some very important and well loved people were coming for dinner and just seemed to expand and make welcome as much it could. The beasties were on their best behavior and were rewarded in kind. And over all I was just so happy to be able to share the kind of home and welcoming and party that my immediate Ancestors never really had.

My father’s parents were unhappy with the social obligations that they were bound to, and as such occasions (especially later in life) just became those awful things. With the awkward silences, the tension, the feeling caged in. And my mother’s mother, life was so filled with obligations of taking care of everyone and her own yearning for grander things that I just don’t think she ever enjoyed herself when the family was around. This was my chance to have the come and relax, to care for them, to just let them and the whole energetic family line on both sides start to move towards a new way. A comfortable way. A way where feast, family, and holidays means food, laughter, joy, and love. A way where everyone looks forward to it, where the work is not a trail or a martyrdom but a quest where in the end all are victorious. Much of the prep and evening, I spent wishing that my blood family where there.  Because as a little nuclear family, they made those virtues and values a reality. One of these days I’ll get to show and share with my mom and dad how much I learned from them. That and well my dad would have LOVED the food lol.

Our guests arrived, with delicious food in tow. We had kielbasi, guacamole, salmon chowder, good ol’ mashed potatoes, Scottish Stovies, a family Brown Bread, and oh so much more.  The mead flowed, the glogg was made, cider’s were spilled, H.P. Lovecraft was discussed in detail, toasts were had, and in general it was just delightful. There is no doubt in my mind that the Winter Feast is a new tradition that I will gladly uphold. I believe Temple Witch is now scheming about Summer Feast plans, and over all I think all out guests living and not, were happy. As I said last night and I’ll say it again “We win.” lol

The night was merry and bright

 

The Candle that burned all thru the Night

 

Last but not least, I want to share the beautiful prayer that Temple Witch wrote up for our Ancestors, and penned in her stunning hand. Which I have plans on making our feasting prayer for ever Winter’s Feast, from here on out. Beautiful words from a beautiful lady.

In honor of our dear beloved dead we feast this night. 
To all of our dear ones we open our doors and our hearts.
To all those of our blood we open our doors and our hearts.
To all those whose spirits sing as our spirits sing we open our doors and our hearts.
Be welcome this night as we gather.
Partake of our feast, make merry by the light of our candles,
Join us in good cheer and celebration.
As our honored guests, we offer of our hospitality.
Be welcome all. 

And now my lovelies. To put it all back together again! lol To wrap presents, and prepare to head up to the Sierra Mountains. There in those wonderous peaks there is another dinner waiting and presents! Wishing you all a happy and blessed holiday season!

Ancestral Feast Part I

As I catch my breath from walking home from work, up a MASSIVE hill, with a backpack full of groceries, I shall take the time to write a blog post. If you hang around the same internet corners that I do (and you should, they are dark and wonderfully robust) you will have heard that Ms. Dirty threw down a Midwinter Challenge:

 I want to read/hear/see unapologetic, balls-fucking-out hedonism filling up the longest night of your year, and I want it to be truly effin’ special. So this year, my impish pampusky, I’m formally extending an invitation out to you to join us in your first loud-mouthed, rockin’-till-dawn dumb supper.

And really how could I say no? Naturally my little crabby friend, Temple Witch over at Smoke from the Temple, gave me those mischievousness jeweled hairy eyeballs from across the way and I knew it was ON!  So for the past…gods I don’t even fucking know how long at this point, I’ve been scrabbling like a madwoman to prepare for a Feast, send presents, hold ritual, prepare for a coven New Years event, and in general you know keep life rolling along. Yesterday I scrubbed my house within an inch of it’s life. Today I went to work, but I have a few things I can do tonight. One of them involves, this right now, lol. You see Ms. Dirty’s challenge was simple.

1. Write down your supper date (deadline: Jan. 19th)
2. Get your research on
3. Circle a few celebratory traditions
4. Make one traditional dish
5. Create an ancestor setting

Well one is taken care of it’s the 22nd, the Winter Solstice itself baby. And for number 2, that’s what this post is about.

My family history…is shady. By shady I mean most of it is unknown to me. You see something happened way back in the day, to the generation of men that fought in WWII. For some reason they decided family heritage was for the birds and better left to rot in a cold dark place. Basically both my grandfathers did not and will not tell bumpkis about their family. But I’ll break down what I know.

My father’s father, grew up somewhere in New England. His mom took his sister and left him with his dad when he was young, and then when he was about 17 his dad gave him $20 and told him never to come back (or so the story goes). He joined the Army and made his way to the West Coast where he met my grandmother. My father to this day does not know what his grandparents names were. And the fact of the matter is my grandfather was a wily fellow. Because not only is there a discrepancy in his middle name but also his birthdate. Was he Wallace Noonen Rogers born May17th or was he Wallace Nowack Rogers born May 18th? Or some combination thereof? My father recalls an incident where he heard the Granda had taken the name Nowack in his writing years (he apparently wrote western and mystery novellas) because someone was already writing under Wallace Noonen. In any event most the family seems to believe that his family was Irish/German. Fine. Not helpful but fine.

So we move on to my father’s mother. First of all she was adopted. Adopted in a time period where there are no birth records from adoption. Frankly that doesn’t bother me. She knew and loved her family very dearly, and my cultural outlook is chockful of the importance of fostering. With that in mind we follow the Wiess family and know they most certainly where German, what part of Germany remains unclear but fine.

On to Mother’s father. Mother’s father is still alive, but is reticence to speak of his family, tho she continues to try. What we do know is the granfather’s father came over to America from Germany. Story says it was during WWII, but I’m skeptical as that would mean my grandfather would have been born in Germany. But I suppose anything is possible. More than that, like names or anything is simply not known. Annoying but ok.

Mom’s mom was a Collins and were predominately of Irish stock. Tho the exact details she’s still trying to get me. I will continue to poke at her.

Out of all of that what we have is a lot of vague German and Irish lol.

For my Irish countryfolk:

  • I have collected some holly, pine and cedar. I haven’t found a good source for ivy as of yet (damn gardeners massacred the poor thing out front). It shall be displayed for them to appreciate. It was tradition in Ireland up until recently that while the men cleaned up the outside of the house, and the women the inside, that the children would go out and collect the decorations predominately Holly and Ivy.
  • I will be making a Christmas Pudding for the occasion, and hopefully will even be able to flambe the thing (YAY! Fire!)
  • After the feast I will have my version of the Laden Table. An Irish Christmas tradition of leaving the door unlocked with a loaf of caraway seed and raisin bread on the table. As well as a pitcher of milk and a lit candle. The idea seems to be leaving it there for Mary or Joseph to come partake or any weary traveller. But to mine Gaelic Pagan eyes I smell the remnants of an older practice. It speaks to the old sense of hospitality, towards mankind as well as Otherkind.

For the German good people

  • I will be making pork roast, Schweinsbraten. No where does it say that this is a traditional Midwinter or Christmas food. BUT Pork is one of the old traditional foods for Yule and winter. Plus it is authentic so I believe it will be well received. Along with our Schweinsbraten, I will be making Rotkohl, which IS traditional for christmas, it’s a red cabbage dish. I may or may not make potato dumplings at this point.
  • I would like to have a version of a yule log, but may not have the time. We do however have a christmas tree, which is a German tradition. Bedecked and bedazzled.
  • We shall have Gluewhein in a plenty!

Tomorrow I will be clearing down my main altar. Moving the Queen and Chieftain for a bit, with their approval, to make room for the ancestor’s place setting. They get the WHOLE big altar. And with the guest list turning all for the positive it shall be needed lol. I’ll finish the cleaning, and make the christmas pudding, and possibly dumplings and anything else I feel called to whip out for the occasion. Expect another post on the morrow, laden with photos of my exploits and mess making 😉

Happy Holidays everyone!!