The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Friday, 30 April 2010


The fire festival Beltane is celebrated on May Eve and May Day, ushering in summer and marking the opposite point of the wheel to Samhain. 

Much like Samhain, in mythology and legend, Beltane marks a time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thin and transitions or communications between the two are believed to be most likely. 

The etymology of the festival's name is from the Old Irish 'beltene' meaning 'bright fire' and traditionally, the bonfires of Beltane were lit as an emblem of purification in preparation for the summer's harvests. 

Nowadays, many of the festivals Gaelic features have been amalgamated with the English and Germanic practices and symbols of 'May Day' which equally celebrates the fertility of the land as summer arrives. 'May blossom' (hawthorn) adorns houses, children dance around the maypole (whose red and white ribbons represent the feminine and masculine elements required for fertility) and an air of gay abandon permeates the celebrations. 

It is a time to ignite your passion and creativity and there's no right or wrong way to do so: beat a drum to envoke the energies of the season; light a bonfire if space permits or an warm coloured candle if not; dance, run and most importantly, give yourself over to instinct and natural desire. Blessed Beltane everyone - enjoy!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Seed Moon

April's full moon is often referred to as the 'seed moon' because the season marks a time of growth, fertility and moving forward. We are encouraged to be bold with our actions, take chances and make the changes we have been planning over the colder months. 

This year I will be taking the symbolic 'planting' to a literal level as I pot up more herbs, some salad leaves and strawberry plants in containers for my teeny tiny garden. My goals for the coming months are to be eating more of my own grown foods, sourcing more local produce and cutting back on meat. I hope these small steps will mark a move towards improving my own health, as well as helping the environment. 

What seeds will you be planting this full moon? 

Friday, 23 April 2010


There are many different varieties of Lavender to be found and perhaps the most easily recognisable are French Lavender seen here...

...and the English variety, below...

With its pretty flowers, found in a range of purple hues, and bee-enticing fragrance, I think Lavender is my favourite garden herb. It is also, without a doubt, one of the most versatile and useful plants you can grow. 

Perhaps not overly associated with culinary uses, Lavender can in fact provide a fragrant twist to some classic confectionery and dessert recipes, such as Lavender shortbread (found here and pictured below), Honey and Lavender ice-cream and Lavender cupcakes.

One way to incorporate a delicate taste of Lavender into your baking is to use Lavender sugar, which can be made following these simple instructions.

1) Take a jar which can be sealed tight and fill with caster sugar.
2) Gather two tablespoons of lavender flowers (either fresh or dried).
3) Place the flowers in a square of muslin cloth and tie using thread.
4) Place the lavender bundle into the jar with the sugar.
5) Leave for two weeks, shaking up every day or so. 

After two weeks your sugar will have a delicate fragrance and can be used in place of caster sugar in your recipes. Some people prefer to place the lavender flowers directly into the sugar for a stronger flavour and pretty, decorative effect. 

More on some of the medicinal properties and other uses of lavender to come.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Creative Spaces

My current workspace at home looks like this...

I find that in order to settle down and be remotely creative I have to have some sources of inspiration and joy around me. Luckily for me, the view outside my window is luscious and green; I look up from my work to see birds flying under the eaves and wild flowers growing in the hedgerow. 

However, I also need a certain prettiness within my space. Eye-candy in the form of cheerful photographs, pretty greetings cards, cut flowers and little boxes covered in decorative wrapping paper are essentials. I cannot bear the thought of a workspace looking cold and corporate. 

These treasure troves of inspirational tidbits over at A Storybook Life are truly beautiful and led me to think about some new ways to organise my creative space at home.

I love the idea of hanging photographs and pretty ribbons on a tree branch for decoration, ensuring that those memories brighten up the home, rather than staying stored away in boxes.

How about you? How do you like to organise your creative spaces at home? I would love for you to share your ideas with me and if anyone wishes to email a picture, I can post it up with a link to your blog or site. 

Brightest blessings and inspirational wishes for within your own little havens of creativity. 

Saturday, 17 April 2010


I have struggled to find words of my own throughout this toughest of weeks. My dear dad departed this world, taking another path to continue his journey. 

Myself and my family watched and waited, praying for him to find peace. Each moment of our day became another step closer to a new, alien life; every word spoken was another emotion experienced. We have all grown and changed within this short time. 

Seeing a loved one battle with an illness which robbed them of the ability to experience life as they once did makes my future path all the more clear. I shall no longer put off those things I want to do; I don't want to say they can wait another year. Life is for living and precious little time we have to do it. 

I will spend more time with my family.
I will enjoy my happy, healthy relationship.
I will make the effort to be creative and express my thoughts.
I will find the time to relax and nurture myself.
I will love with my whole heart.

Friday, 16 April 2010


Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, 
answer that the flower withers, 
but the seed remains  ~ Kahlil Gibran.

Life is eternal, and love is immortal,
and death is only a horizon;
and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight
Rossiter Worthington Raymond.

Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven 
where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us 
to let us know they are happy  ~ Author Unknown.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


Journey's End
In western lands beneath the Sun
The flowers may rise in Spring,
The trees may bud, the waters run,
The merry finches sing.
Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night,
And swaying branches bear
The Elven-stars as jewels white
Amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey's end I lie
In darkness buried deep,
Beyond all towers strong and high,
Beyond all mountains steep,
Above all shadows rides the Sun
And Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
Nor bid the Stars farewell.


Saturday, 10 April 2010

Cleo's Guide to Life

Meow! Salutations! My name is Cleo. Avie and her family are my pets. I have noticed that she has been rather distracted from her job of giving me attention lately and have come to the conclusion that this blog is at fault. So I have taken it hostage. Today I thought I would give you my key steps to the good life.

Here goes...

1. Curiosity is your friend.

Sniff things. Pad them with your paws; feel them with your whiskers; taste them if you fancy. Ask questions about everything! And even though sometimes we make mistakes, this is how we learn and grow. For example, I know now that tasting bumble-bee results in a very swollen face and a trip to the vets. 

2. Stay focussed.

If you want to get to places, you have to concentrate. Put one foot in front of the other and try to stay balanced. Don't be put off if you have to take small steps. Racing ahead will mean you'll fall off the wall. Take in every moment of the journey - you learn as much from that as from reaching your goal. 

3. Be resourceful.

Obviously I much prefer to get my scratches and strokes from the humans, but sometimes you have to make do with what is at hand. A tree branch, car exhaust or new carpet can be just as useful - it's all about thinking outside the cat-carrier.

4. Do your stretches.

Keeping fit and healthy is important so make sure you get regular exercise and lots of fresh air. Look! I can touch my toes. Can you?

5. Relax.

Take some time for yourself in a quiet spot to rest and recuperate. If you can do this in the sunshine, well that's a bonus.

Cleo. x

Friday, 9 April 2010

Nettle Soup

Using some of the nettles I gathered during yesterday's foraging expedition, I made this mineral-rich soup.

You only need a handful of simple ingredients, as follows:

1/2 a carrier bag of collected nettles (tops and young leaves only)
2 tbsp olive oil (alternatively use 50g butter or margerine)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped or crushed)
1 medium potato (chopped into small cubes)
1 1/2 pints vegetable stock
2 tbsp cream or creme fraiche (alternatively use a cupful of milk)
Salt and black pepper.

*  Wash the nettles thoroughly and discard any thick stems.
*  Heat the oil (or butter) in a large pan and sweat the onions and garlic until soft, but do not allow to brown.
*  Pile in the nettles and stir thoroughly. Leave to sweat for 2 minutes.
*  Add the potatoes and cover with stock.
*  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until tender.
*  Season with salt and black pepper.
*  Blend the soup thoroughly and stir through cream, creme fraiche or milk.
*  Return to the heat but do not allow to boil.
*  Check seasoning and serve with a swirl of cream.

Enjoy - safe in the knowledge that those stinging hairs have miraculously disappeared!

Thursday, 8 April 2010


The village wise-woman of yesteryear would not have had access to online pagan shops, sending her sage bundles and juniper berries via express delivery; nor would folk have a Waitrose or Sainsbury's round the corner to buy pre-packaged bananas which have been flown thousands of miles and had their ripening process artificially sped up with chemicals.

Granted, these are extreme examples, but the principle behind them is simple: today we literally have our food put on our plates. Comparatively few people 'hunt' or 'gather' any more. While many still tend a garden to grow some herbs, vegetables and fruit and some may rear animals for their produce, this is a decreasing number in the UK. I would put money on fewer still going out into the countryside and 'foraging' for their food. 

At this time of year the hedgerows are springing back to life. We see nettles, dandelions and yarrow sprouting up; in a month or so the wild garlic will be out; come summer there will be elderflower to collect and by autumn the rosehips, blackberries and sloes will be ready for harvesting. According to researchers at Emory University, Atlanta, our ancestors ate 200 more plant species than us, gaining five times more micro-nutrients and three times more vitamins as a result.

Today I will focus on the humble nettle, more well known for its infamous sting than its culinary and medicinal properties. In the UK the nettle is ubiquitous, making it a perfect food for wild foraging. You can find them in fields, hedgerows, along pathways and - with all probability - in your own back garden. 

At this time of year, the leaves are tender and fresh, so you can pick the whole stem. You should avoid larger leaves as the plants get bigger, instead choosing only the shoots, and don't pick them once the plant has flowered. Remember to take care whilst picking them as they can give a nasty sting. I recommend wearing tough gloves - the kind of thing you would usually adorn for gardening. 

Once you have gathered enough, there is a variety of culinary uses for these mineral-rich leaves: soups, teas and juices are the most well-known, although our favourite seasonal chef - Hugh Fearnley-Wurnley - has a slightly more ambitious recipe for nettle tagliatelle if you fancy having a go! I'll be posting up a recipe for nettle soup tomorrow.

Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals: they are an important source of beta-carotene, vitamins A, C and E as well as iron, calcium and phosphates. Medically, it is renowned for its astringent, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties all of which combine to recommend it for use as a remedy against hepatic, arthritic and rheumatic conditions, as well as in the treatment of allergies, anaemia and kidney diseases. 

Nettle tea, for example, is useful in the treatment of diseases and inflammations of the urinary tract; it is also said to be helpful in the elimination of viruses and bacterial infections. A nettle infusion or tincture used to wash the scalp is said to help with the regeneration and growth of hair, as well as reducing dandruff. Nettle juice, drunk before meals has the effect of reducing high blood pressure and improving anaemia; it is also of benefit in the case of renal insufficiency to drink one glass per day in the morning. 

Some words of warning!

With any wild foods, it is important that you take due care and consideration when foraging. Firstly, do not gather and eat plants, mushrooms or seeds unless you are 100% certain that you know what they are. Although there is a rich abundance of food sources in our countryside, there are also many highly toxic species to be found. 

Secondly, please be considerate of the environment and tread lightly upon it. There are many creatures who make their homes in hedgerows and fields so take care not to disturb them. Please also be aware that although some plants - like the nettle - are considered ubiquitous weeds, others are rarer and should not be gathered. 

Happy foraging!

A short walk...

...along a path that meandered and twisted, turning into a long sun-kissed stroll.

Who wouldn't want to hang out in a field with these cute little chaps for a while?

I'm not sure who was more curious and keen to have a nosey - them or us.

And while we were out and about enjoying the, surprisingly warm, spring sunshine, we realised that the hedgerows and fields were teeming with clumps of freshly sprouting nettles - a fantastic opportunity for foraging. More to come on that later. 

The blessing of a two week break from school seems truly wonderful today, as I get the chance to enjoy being outdoors in the bright sunlight. Even my marking can be done from my window-seat with the windows wide open and a glass of elderflower cordial. I hope you too get the chance to be outdoors. Enjoy!

Sunday, 4 April 2010


The Fritillaria Meleagris - commonly known as the Snake's Head Lily, Chess Flower, Leper Lily or, simply, Fritillary - is a rare European wild flower usually found in grassy meadows.

Its nodding, bell-shaped flowers are imprinted with a delicate pattern reminiscent of snakeskin or a chequer board. The fritillary's flowers range from this deep mauve shade, through lighter purple tones, to pale creamy white. Even the almost luminous white flowers show the same faint chequered pattern, almost like a watermark upon their fragile petals. 

Now an endangered species in the UK (and much of Europe), it is rare to see these beautiful plants growing in the wild. However, they are still found in the gardens of enthusiasts and I am proud to say this wonderful specimen still flowers at my parents' home.

I planted the bulbs around 14 years ago when I was just a wee girl and it gives me such a thrill to see the delicate flowers still raising their heads, year in year out. 

It is nice to know that, in spite of all the change that occurs in our lives, some things remain constant and true, reminding us that there is stability and security all around us, should we need to ground ourselves every once in a while. 

Saturday, 3 April 2010

3 things

I have been wanting to write this post for a while now and it was the inspirational words of Faerwillow over at ~serendipity~, with her thoughtful 'giveaway' that have provided me with a clear sign to get my thoughts down.

Three is a number which many would say they find magickal or sacred. In physics, we consider our universe to have three spatial dimensions; many Christians consider the Holy Trinity to represent the three aspects of their deity; in Hinduism, the Trimurti - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - represent 'the creator', 'the preserver' and 'the destroyer' of life and creation. Similarly, Bhuddhists look towards the 'three jewels' for guidance, Judaism is filled with symbolic 'threes' including the three sections of the Hebrew Bible.

In Wicca and neo-paganism there is the Triple-Goddess - three representations of the stages of life the Goddess travels through during the year (maiden, mother and crone) - as well as the threefold law of return by which many choose to live.

Much like Faerwillow, I find that much of my life is influenced by this magickal little number and during this Spring season of renewal I have been reminded of a daily ritual I used to perform, particularly while I was studying at university.

During this time I found that so much of my day was taken up with intellectual pursuits and I felt my life was out of balance as a result. Consequently, I took up the practice of setting myself a 'threefold' task each day. I had to make sure, by the end of the day, I could say I had done three things: one to nourish my body, one to improve my mind and one to soothe my soul or spirit.

This is something I wish to take up again now. As so much of my time is focussed upon teaching others, I wanted to ensure I was also continuing to learn, grow and create myself.

And so today, my three will be as follows...

~ a run through the woodland walkways near my parents' home ~
~ watching this week's fantastic Wonders of the Solar System programme ~
~ photographing my rare Snake's Head Lilies in the garden ~

Don't forget to check out Faerwillow's wonderful post and giveaway right here...

Brightest blessings!
Related Posts with Thumbnailslinkwithin_text='From the same cauldron...'