The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Blessed Samhain - Happy Hallowe'en!

Someone asked me yesterday what - as a witchy person - I do for Halloween.
Well firstly, I call it Samhain (summer's end) and a lot of what I do is pretty much the same as what other people do...

I carve Jack O'Lanterns (but I try to make them friendly) because the folklore behind them, which you can read all about here tells us that they were traditionally carved to provide light and warmth for lost souls. 
All Hallow's Eve is a Sabbat when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is at is thinnest - like at the opposite side of the wheel when we celebrate Beltane - and because of this, it is historically regarded as the one night of the year when the spirits of the dead return to earth. These Jack O'Lanterns are to guide them home. 

At Samhain, another thing I do is honour those who are no longer with us. I do this simply, by having a photograph or memory of them on my altar and lighting a candle. When I drink my mulled cider, I raise a toast to them, in hopes that they are wandering free and happy. 

Finally, as the Sabbat marks the end of the year and the end of the harvest, I try to cook up a feast of food which represents the season. This year we made pumpkin pie and I'll share the recipe with you later this week. We give thanks for all we have harvested during the year that has just passed and talk about our hopes, dreams and wishes for the new year to come. Sometimes we write these down and sometimes we cast them off into the wide world to allow the gods and spirits to help them come to fruition. We have done this in a whole range of ways over the past few years - writing them on a paper lantern and setting it free on the wind, tying them to a feather and casting them downstream, or burying them in the earth as seeds to grow. 

Every hedge, hearth, kitchen, garden or any other kind of witch is different - as a solitary I have made the choice not to follow a ritualised path with ceremonies set out by others. I go with my heart and do what comes naturally each year - I find that it is what is inside that counts. 

Whatever your choices, rituals, traditions, hopes, goals and dreams are at this turn of the wheel, I wish you love, light and laughter as you go about them.

Brightest blessings. 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Countdown to Hallowe'en // Pumpkin and Peanut Curry

Last year I shared with you one of my favourite recipes, for Thai Pumpkin and Prawn curry. This year I have a similarly coconutty-pumpkiny spicy treat, but it is totally veggie and surprisingly yummy. 

Pumpkin and peanut curry

Image courtesy of

You will need: 

* 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
* 1 tsp tomato puree
* Zest and juice of one lime
* 1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (thanks to Miss Claire who suggested using Soy sauce instead, if you are a non-fish-eating veggie)
* 1 tsp sugar
* Small handful fresh coriander
* 2 red chillis, halved and de-seeded
* 4 garlic cloves
* 1 cm piece fresh ginger
* 2 tbsp vegetable oil
* 2 red onions, chopped into fine pieces
* 800 g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into cubes
* 400 ml coconut milk

1. Stir the peanut butter into a jug containing 200ml hot water until it dissolves. Stir in the puree, lime zest and juice, fish sauce and sugar. Set this to one side. 

2. Remove the leaves from the coriander and chop the stalks as finely as possible. Also chop the chilli, garlic and ginger. 

3. Heat the oil in a good sized pan and fry the onions until soft. Add the pumpkin and stir-fry for a few minutes. Stir in the chilli, garlic, ginger and coriander stalks and heat for 1 minute before adding the coconut milk and peanut butter mix. Stir well.

4. Cook at a brisk simmer for about 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the pumpkin is tender. Season to taste by adding more fish sauce (if it needs extra salty flavour) or sugar (if it needs sweetening). 

5. Garnish with coriander and serve with sticky rice or on its own, more like a hearty bowl of soup. 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Countdown to Hallowe'en // Pumpkins

Pumpkins have historically been associated with Hallowe'en and for centuries, pumpkin carving has been a ritual aspect of the holiday in many countries.  

There are many varieties of pumpkin - from tiny to giant - some orange, some striped, some green and many edible. The pumpkin is a member of the cucurbitaceae family, which includes cucumbers, melons and other gourds and squashes. This year we have grown two types of pumpkin, as well as butternut squash. 

The tradition of carving pumpkins is believed to originate from the Irish legend of Jack O'Lantern. Jack was an Irish villain so wicked that neither God nor the devil wanted him. Rejected by both, after his death, Jack wandered the world endlessly, looking for a place to rest, accompanied only by the warmth and light of a single candle in a rotten turnip. The 'Jack O'Lantern' became the symbol of a damned and restless soul.

Irish children used to carve their Jack O'Lanterns from turnips or potatoes but when hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants made their way to North America in the mid-1800s, they found the prolific pumpkins which grew there to be a suitable replacement for their traditional vegetable lanterns. Since then, the popularity of pumpkin carving to celebrate Hallowe'en has spread to many other parts of the world. 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Gratitude Diary - Day Three

Today I am thankful for...

*...feeling inspired about teaching this next term.

*...seeing my Ma and Bro and being able to spend some quality time with them.

*...a very, very, very comfy king size bed to sleep in tonight!

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gratitude Diary - Day Two

Today I am grateful for...

* ...a few precious moments spent at the allotment, to collect some produce to take to my Mum's tomorrow - and seeing that we still have exciting things growing.

* ...sometimes, being in the right place at the right time.

* ...a camera to capture these precious moments and an eye to see them.

*...being thanked for my hard work this term. 

*...that I'm now on holiday from work for just over a week - and I can spend some time with my loved ones.

What are you thankful for? 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Gratitude Diary

My personal task for this week is to keep a 'gratitude diary' - each day I am writing down things that I am grateful for. The idea is that the more you take note of the positives, the more your mind looks for good things and will see more positives. 

Today I have lots of things I am thankful for - here are just a few:

* Hearing this on my way in to work this morning - it brought back happy memories of being at home as a youngster, watching 'Top of the Pops 2' with my dad. An old favourite refreshed in my mind.

* A lovely evening of catching up and laughter with a good friend.
* A night sky so clear that I can see a million stars. 
 * The goodwill of work colleagues who have made me feel very welcome in my new job.
 * A partner who is incredibly supportive of me and my aspirations. 

What are you grateful for today? 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Three Word Thursday

One week left.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Countdown to Hallowe'en // Mulled Cider

One of my absolute favourite autumnal traditions, is making mulled cider - and later on as it gets even colder, mulled wine. 

Served warm, with a stick of cinnamon, mulled cider is a seasonal treat which makes the most of the abundant apple harvests here in the UK at this time of year. 

The recipe is really simple - for every 500 ml of cider (I use dry, rather than sweet), add about 100 ml of apple juice to sweeten it up, a teaspoon of ground mixed spice, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, four or five cloves and a stick of cinnamon. 

Heat the whole mixture through but don't allow to boil.

Enjoy steaming in a big mug and cuddle up under a blanket.


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Countdown to Hallowe'en // Autumnal walks

It's hard to believe we are in October. I mean, considering it is 23 degrees and sunny outside here in the UK, really hard to believe. 

I don't think we had weather this good in the whole of August.
Incredulity at our balmy 'Indian Summer' aside, it is October, which means we are less than a month away from my favourite sabbat: Samhain - or 'Hallowe'en'. 

This month I hope to post more about autumnal traditions, recipes and rituals as we count down to Hallowe'en. Please drop by for a cup of steaming mulled cider and maybe even a slice of pumpkin pie - I look forward to hearing your thoughts and musings, as we tread through this magickal season together.

To begin with, then, an autumnal walk around my local fields. 

Although there is a sadness to see everything dying back and losing its lush green colour, there is also joy as the harvest season draws to a close - a sense of achievement and the knowledge that we will have plenty to keep us going through the winter. 

Within myself I also feel a sense of hurry to make the most of our beautiful surroundings, while it is still warm and light enough to do so. Today it was so warm, in fact, that we even indulged in a little paddle in the river. 

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