The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Blessed Samhain

Happy Hallowe'en

or (for those of you who follow the Wheel of the Year)
Happy New Year's Eve!

Samhain marks the last turn of the wheel - the final harvest and the dying of the year. The ends of the crops have been gathered, the light is leaving those of us in the Northern Hemisphere and the time for spiritual 'hibernation' is upon us. Long, dark and cold nights wait on the other side of this eve.

However, it is not a time to be sad; rather to celebrate the achievements of the year just past and to honour the earth for the fruits it has provided for us over the summer months. Sitting opposite Beltane (the festival of light and fertility) on the wheel, Samhain marks the contradictory forces of darkness and death. Said to fall at the time when the veil between this earthly world and the Otherworld is at its thinnest, the feast of Samhain traditionally also honours the dead and is a night for remembering ancestors and loved ones who have left us. It is tradition to set a place for those absent friends at the table before enjoying a Samhain meal. 

Some people celebrate Samhain with a ritual to mark the passing of the old year and these rituals are as varied as the individuals who celebrate the festival. You could create a representative 'wheel of the year' with symbolic markers for the sabbats and burn it to mark the end of the year. 

These pictures show an edible version of this ritual: a sabbat cake! Each sabbat is marked on the cake with a leaf, flower or seed which reflects the season - we have a miniature eggshell for Ostara, a holly leaf for Yule and a lavendar sprig for the first harvest of Lammas, for example. Samhain here is shown by an autumn leaf. Instead of being burned, the wheel of the year will be gobbled up!

This year will be the first in a long time that I will celebrate Samhain alone - although I did have family to share an early feast of pumpkin curry with yesterday (more on that recipe to come, I feel). Traditionally I carve my pumpkin and let the light shine like a miniature beacon in the window, to guide the way for spirits; warm a pot of mulled cider and complete a small ritual which acknowledges the year past and sets forth my hopes for the year to come. Tonight I will be quietly contemplating everything that this toughest of years has brought to my family and honouring my dad, so recently passed, with a simple prayer. 

Brightest blessings to you all.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Almost every day I am encountering a new face or page here in blogland and I am so touched that more and more like-minded people are stumbling over to Hearthwitch Cottage by chance, and sticking around to see what is happening. I know, I know...not much of late...but it is half-term so hopefully - hopefully - I will be here a with a little bit more regularity.

It is, however, with great cheer and gratitude that today I post of the wonderful gift of knowing that someone has read my humble little musings....and acknowledged them with a fantabulous award - or three!

Aine over at The Deepest Well and Aelwyn down at Hedgewitch Hollow (both beautifully named ladies with absolutely stunning blogs) have been kind enough to bestow these three thoughtful awards...

With these awards comes the challenge to list 7 things about oneself that other bloggers may not yet know.
Here goes...

1. I teach English to secondary school children (aged 11-18).
And, oh, I wish it was with a proper blackboard and chalk!

Doris Day in 'Teacher's Pet'

2. I love dystopian literature and film
(helps me feel marginally better about the world we live in today)

3. Currently, I can't get this off my record player...

The cover of Wriggle Out The Restless

Find them here...This is the Kit and watch their awesomeness on video here.

4. I have travelled all over the world but my favourite trip was when I journeyed through China, Mongolia and Siberia by train and stayed in a ger in the Mongolian desert.
(I'm getting itchy feet as we speak)

5. Over the years I have had several tattoos and piercings, which surprises a lot of people because I don't think I look the type!

6. I love drawing, but I haven't done any for a long time...this is starting to make me a little sad.

7. I am a currently a bit obsessed with cookery programmes, espeically Masterchef. In fact, B and I are going to the Masterchef Live Show in London next month, just to revel in our culinary geekiness!

The rules that came with these awards link back to the bloggers who nominated me....Check.
To list 7 things about myself that other bloggers may not yet know....Check.
Pass these awards along to 15 other bloggers.... Hmmm. The way I feel about this is that I cannot possibly choose 15 blogs. I love following and reading the blogs that I follow and read because I think they are all stylish, versatile and lovely! So if you are reading this, please feel free to take these awards as directed to you and take part in the fun bit...sharing lots of cool facts about yourself with us all.


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Apple and Elderberry Jam

Are you sitting comfortably?
Then I shall begin...

What follows is the incredible tale of how the Hearthwitch Cottage kitchen came to look like a jam-bomb had exploded.

This story begins with around 1lb of elderberries; freshly picked from hedgerow-lined lanes, in the last days of summer. Our little hearth witch protagonist had taken extra special care not to pick more than necessary for she knew the needs of other creatures were far greater than her own. 

Some of the berries had their journey suspended in the enchanted land of frost and ice (they would later be put to good use, adding a sprinkle of sweetness to a sharp apple crumble or two) but the rest were destined for greatness. But what, thought the little hearth witch, would be a fitting finale for these wild berries? 

'Ah ha!' she cried, spying the mound of wind-fall Bramleys on her kitchen table. And thus, a plan was concocted...

Now...the hearth witch had never made jam before and, if she was entirely honest, she would admit that she was a little bit nervous and rather overwhelmed by all the information she read to try and help her brew a batch of deliciously sticky, fruity goodness. How were jars sterilised? What was a 'setting point' and how exactly was a witch to know when the elusive temperature had been reached without a thermometer in the house? Did she really need special jam-making sugar or would ordinary granulated do the job?

With a fretful sigh, the apples were carefully weighed - 1lb was needed to equal the amount of elderberry fruit - chopped and placed in a pan with water to heat and soften.

Next would come the bit about making sure the jars were sterilised...

The hearth witch set about washing the jars in hot soapy water and placed the lids into a pan with water to keep at a boil while she worked. Having read countless instructions (from places like this), our novice jam-maker decided to go for the 'oven-baked' approach and placed her jars, upside down on baking paper, in an oven that had been heated to 170 degrees C. (She was reliably informed that she should ensure her jam was ladled into jars while they were still hot so she left them in the oven until she was finished.)

Meanwhile, the appley-sharpness had bubbled away for ten minutes and the elderberry sweetness added until all fruit was soft and mushy. 2lb of sugar (after resigning herself to the fact that the chances of finding jam-makers' sugar on a Sunday afternoon in rural Wiltshire were slim-to-none, she plumped for ordinary granulated) and 2 tbsp of lemon juice were added and the mixture stirred with care over a low heat until all the sugar had dissolved. At this point, the heat was fired up and the jam was boiled furiously for several minutes until that mysterious, magickal 'setting point' was reached. (For tips on how to do this, see here). 

The hearth witch found that the 'splodge-of-jam-on-cold-plate-in-fridge' method worked far better than the 'waving-spoon-around-outside-kitchen-door' method. Her jam never succeeded in staying on the spoon and her neighbours now think she is a bit strange.

It was within the space of these 10-15 minutes that the hearth witch momentarily awoke from her jam-making reverie and glanced around: her kitchen looked like a jam-bomb had exploded.

She did, however, manage to achieve five jars of sticky (satisfactorily set!) sweetness - as well as a taster pot for herself - all out of an apple windfall and a meander down the lane. 'Quite an extraordinary achievement,' the hearth witch said to herself, as she brushed back her unkempt hair and put her feet up with a cup of tea and a crumpet spread with jam.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Mornings are now edged with chill.

There's crispness in the air.

A crackle and a crinkle.

Wood smoke scents.

And a sense of change and loss.

The wheel has turned. 

Blessed be.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

This... a pretty accurate representation of how tired I feel. 

The worst thing is that I made a promise to myself that I would take time, as the evenings draw in, to make sure I am getting exercise, healthy food and time to myself to do things that I love, away from school work.

I haven't picked my camera up in weeks, haven't set foot in the gym or swimming pool, feel like I have barely seen B, and - as you know - haven't been blogging. Which makes me really, really sad.

Shame on me. 
I do not live to work; I work to live. 

Must try harder...
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