Brightest blessings for a wonderful Samhain one and all. B and I are currently in New York so it's tricky to celebrate right now but we'll make sure we have a drink to toast our missed loved ones tonight and will do something special when we get home. Love and light. Xx
Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Saturday, 13 October 2012
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Autumn is here...
The leaves are starting to turn - golden, bronze, red and copper - and drop to the ground. I am excited to get to the day when they are crunchy and I can kick my way through them.
I truly love this time of year, even though I am filled with apprehension about what it signifies: winter and the cold months. The darkness doesn't suit me - I mourn the loss of the light more with each passing year. It seems to affect me more than it ever used to and I long to hibernate.
But autumn I love.
I am looking forward to the smell of wood-smoke and mulled cider; the sight of an array of pumpkins and gourds decorating the green-grocer's windows; wrapping up warm in my scarf, gloves and boots on a crisp, bright day; and of course my favourite holiday sabbat - Hallowe'en (or Samhain, as I call it).
The countdown to Hallowe'en begins here. Last year I filled this space with autumnal recipes, ideas and rituals for celebrating this magickal time of year. My intention is to do the same this year but I would also love to hear yours - so please do leave comment with a link to your autumnal posts.
Sunday, 30 September 2012
In no particular order, here are some of the things I have been thankful for and enjoyed this September...
A chance to catch up with my favourite girls, at a friend's beautiful wedding.
Seeing 'The Lion King' musical.
A day in Oxford and the chance to snap some portraits for a friend.
Time off work each week - and being able to spend a morning leisurely enjoying a coffee and croissant without having to rush into school. Bliss.
A lovely weekend in glorious Pembrokeshire with my mum.
I feel like I've crammed a lot into this month, in spite of it also including my return to work. Normally that means I have no energy for anything else, but reducing my hours and rethinking my priorities has meant that this year I have thoroughly enjoyed my September. I'm determined that this good balance in my life will continue through the autumn.
What are you thankful for, as this month draws to a close?
Friday, 21 September 2012
Mabon is the celtic name for the Autumn Equinox, which falls this weekend. To be precise, it falls tomorrow - 22nd September 2012 - at 14:49 UTC/GMT. The equinox is the point of equal darkness and light within the day (literally 'equal night') and in the northern hemisphere it will mark the point when darkness begins to win. As of tomorrow, we will have more darkness in our day than light.
So why the apples? In the Celtic wheel of the year, the autumn equinox - or Mabon - marked the harvest of the fruits. Still today, there are celebratory gatherings around the country for the apple harvest: cider tastings, apple days and general merriment and thanksgiving that we have fruit to harvest.
Perhaps more significantly than that, it marks the point in the year when we instinctively know we will be getting little more from the earth - it will get cold and dark and we must gather what we can to keep us going through the winter months.
And this is why I love these apples. Just look at them. A perfect circle, inside which is a perfect star.
The fruits of our labours, inside which are the seeds for our next turn of the wheel. We can learn so much from nature - not least that it is never done. The work and the journey - the life - does not end just because the seasons turn.
As I bite my apple this Mabon, not only will I be giving thanks for the rewards I have earned this year; I will be contemplating the seeds I will sow next. I hope you will be doing the same - and I hope you have a warming glass of mulled cider to do it with.
Brightest Mabon blessings.
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
For the last couple of weeks, we have seen bales of hay being gathered and drying in the fields around us.
The harvests have been happening - wheat, hay, vegetable crops. And the bees have been busy harvesting the last of the pollen from the remaining flowers.
There is a recognisable chill in the air in the mornings and a faint reddish-orange tinge starting to appear on the leaves of some trees.
I'm trying to make the most of the end of summer and appreciating the still-light evenings and slight warmth the sun still possesses. There's no denying, though, that Autumn is around the corner. I am very much looking forward to the new season and cosying down with spiced cider and pumpkin pie. Not long now!
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Monday, 17 September 2012
Calendula - or pot marigold, as it is sometimes known - is one of the most useful flowers you could have in your garden. Although coming to the end of its season now, calendula flowers dry well and can then be stored for later use as needed.
Calendula is best known for its topical uses in treating a variety of skin conditions and ailments. It can be prepared as a bath tea, oil, salve, ointment or cream and there are lots of useful tutorials online to guide you how to do so. One of the simplest preparations is a bath tea which can be made in a tea 'bag' out of a muslin square, tied with cotton. Inside your muslin square, place a few teaspoons or a small handful of dried calendula flower petals, tie with cotton and then place into the bath water. You could add chamomile flowers to your mix for additional skin soothing benefits.
So what is calendula good for?
- Eczema and psoriasis or any other dry skin condition benefits from the soothing action of a calendula cream.
- Healing and soothing chapped skin such as nappy rash or chapped lips.
- A salve is useful for treating and promoting healing in minor cuts and abrasions.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce the redness and discomfort associated with sunburn.
- More rarely, it can be used internally to treat inflamed mucous membranes.
Although calendula is considered non-toxic and safe to use topically, even on small children, it should not be taken internally during pregnancy.
Saturday, 1 September 2012
I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who have continued visiting Hearthwitch Cottage and for those of you who have left such positive, thoughtful comments over the past week since I returned, I am very grateful.
Dragonfly J at Witchery Grove was kind enough to nominate me for a blog award earlier in the week, which is very kind of her. I have been blogging now for almost three years so many of these blog awards have come around and I've taken part in the past. I thought that this time, rather than doing the same again, I would take the opportunity to set up a little 'meeting circle' for like-minded bloggers.
I will name a few blogs which I have discovered and enjoy reading and hopefully it will give my readers some new places to fly over and visit. If I mention you here, consider it a 'passing of the broomstick': you can then take the opportunity to do the same on your own sites and hopefully it will encourage others to fly further afield and get to know others. Do let people know you are mentioning them with a comment or message on their site, so they can join in the fun.
So, without further ado...I introduce to you...
~ Zoe at Gypsie Sister for inspirational hand-made things, pretty photographs and thoughtful observations. ~
~ Cottage Tails for down-to-Earth stories of home life, the natural world and growing your own. ~
~ Yonks, who I have only just discovered, but who takes marvellous photographs and an eye for vintage pretty things. ~
~ Yarrow at The Holistic Home for nourishing recipes and a menagerie of adorable animals. ~
~ Robin Larkspur at Wiccan Writes for an insightful commentary on the life of a solitary Wiccan. ~
There are so, so many more wonderful blogs out there but that will do for a start.
Labels: merry meet
Friday, 31 August 2012
Tonight's full moon is in fact a Blue Moon - one of those special occurrences when we have two full moons in one month.
The term 'Blue Moon' has been around for centuries - cropping up in almanacs, folklore and stories for around 400 years. The relative rarity of the event gave rise to the phrase, 'Once in a blue moon' which we still use today when something happens rarely. Because of this unusualness, a Blue Moon was considered to be very special and amongst pagan communities, a deeply magickal event. One view is that the Blue Moon marks a time of heightened or clearer communication between ourselves and the Goddess - particularly the 'Crone' form of the Goddess who embodies the great wisdom which comes with age and the passage of time.
As I have spoken about before here, I tend to feel heightened emotion around the time of any full moon. My sensitivity peaks and at times I feel like something beyond me is making feel inexplicably sad or anxious. Every time, I am unaware as to why or how I am behaving differently and it is usually afterwards that I realise it is the full moon and I should have gotten used to it by now!
Do any of you experience this - the sensation that, like the moon, you are full to the brim and about to bubble over? I'd be interested to hear your stories.
Brightest full moon blessings.
Saturday, 25 August 2012
As a hearthwitch - a lone practitioner who follows her instincts along the path, rather than any guidance from a book or instructor - I don't usually have a formal altar set up. I do, however, nearly always have a little corner of my home with a few everyday items, that will be my place for quiet reflection and small rituals.
In summer, any 'altar' I have will usually be a small table or perhaps the 'hearth' itself, upon which sit a few small items to represent each of the elements something which reflects the season for which I am giving thanks. At times, dependent on the rituals I am conducting or the things most prevalent in my mind, I may also have other things, such as photographs of loved ones or small pieces of paper upon which I have written lists of intentions and hopes.
For those of you who are taking your first steps along the pagan or wiccan path, I would urge you to do as feels right for you. Choose items for your altar which reflect your feelings or which you have an instinctive connection with. An altar should - and does - represent who you are and your state of mind, as well as being a practical place in which you will want to feel calm, focused and at ease. Often I feel like my mind is 'cluttered' and I will look at my altar space and think 'No wonder!', for it hasn't been dusted or there are too many objects which have been left there and no longer reflect the goals I wish to achieve or the things I wish to reflect upon and give thanks for.
So, trust your instincts and don't feel like you have to follow anyone else's guidance. Remember, it is your personal space.
With that said, I am happy to share with you some of the items which often find their way onto my altar.
To represent the seasons:
For early Spring or Imbolc - a small vase of snowdrops, white candles.
For late Spring or Ostara - painted eggs, daffodils, yellow candles.
For early Summer or Beltane - a candle decorated with white and red ribbons to represent the 'May pole' and the coming together of the male and female, bright summer flowers, white and red candles.
For Midsummer or Litha - bright summer flowers, green candles.
For late Summer or Lammas - wheat stems, bread, blue candles.
For early autumn or Mabon - apples or apple seeds, black or brown candles.
For late autumn or Samhain - pumpkins, autumn leaves, pinecones, orange candles.
For Midwinter or Yule - holly berries, evergreens, dark green candles.
To represent the elements:
Earth - salt, stones, living plants in soil, the colours brown or green.
Air - feathers, fans, a woodwind musical instrument, incense, the colours white or yellow.
Fire - candles, crystals, the colours red or orange.
Water - small bowls of water, sea shells, the colour blue.
I'd love to hear about your altars - what they mean to you and how you like to set them up. Please share a link to your own post about your altar in the comments to this post.
Friday, 24 August 2012
This time of year, in the late summer, between the wheat harvest of Lammas and the apple harvest of Mabon, is perfect for harvesting herbs.
Try to pick your herbs after a few dry days - easier said than done in England at the moment, with the weather being so temperamental - because this will help with drying out and preventing mould growth. You can be ruthless with most herbs at this point. Cut lots because in drying, your herbs will shrink down to almost nothing and that enormous bunch you thought you had will no doubt be little more than a small jar-full.
This week we picked huge bunches of oregano, marjoram, rosemary and sage for drying. Once we got it home, we separated the sprigs out and spread them over a wire rack which we put into our fan-assisted oven. The oven is not turned on to any temperature - you want to avoid burning your precious herbs - but the fan is working so dry air is being circulated around the oven to dry them out. Big thanks to Bette over at 'Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage' for this tip. I had previously heated my oven and then turned it off, before placing the herbs inside to crisp up, with the oven door cracked slightly open. You can try it this way if you don't have a fan-assisted oven, but take extra care that the oven is not on and cooking your herbs!
After several hours (this will depend on the size of the sprigs, how dry they already were and type of herb, so keep checking them regularly) the herbs will have dried out. My rosemary didn't take quite as long as the sage, but both take much longer than naturally dry herbs such as thyme. Once they are dry, pass them through a colander or sieve, to make the grain nice and fine and store them in clean, sterile air-tight jars or containers. They should keep for several months.
Thursday, 23 August 2012
Hello dear faithful readers...assuming that is, that I have any readers left!
My absence from Hearthwitch Cottage can, in part, be explained by the fact that B and I have recently moved house and there has been much change and upheaval in recent months.
Once we had made the decision to move, to a flat in Bath, to be nearer friends and a bit more bustle - as well as practical things like a train station - an acquaintance of mine said: 'But how will you carry on writing your blog, in the city?' I think he was meaning that so much of what I write about is inspired by a life outdoors, in the countryside and at our allotment.
I have been pondering this a lot over the past few weeks. One thing I will need to get my head round is the idea of being a practising pagan in the city again. I have done this before and, although it is not as easy as when you have lots of outdoor space at your fingertips, it is by no means impossible. Hearthwitch Cottage is a metaphorical place - a symbol of my lifestyle and the things I hold dear. My hearth and home are in the heart, not made of bricks and mortar. So, what will I still be able to write about here?
We are, for the time being, continuing to rent our allotment. We will see out the season and, if it is too much to continue travelling to, will hopefully get involved in a similar scheme here. Plus, we have large window boxes, so I will have a new challenge: gardening in a space-efficient way.
Luckily for us, although Bath is a city, it is a small a green one. The river is two minutes walk from where we are now living and there are woods, fields and the canal nearby. Plenty of opportunity for hedgerow ramblings.
I will still be cooking up some kitchen magick - making our meals from scratch and trying to do so frugally and seasonally. I hope to still gather and dry my own herbs and I will certainly be using them as I have always done and continuing to write about these practises.
The wheel still turns.
So, I'm not really sure why 'Hearthwitch Cottage' can't continue to be the space it has always been: somewhere to pull up a chair, sip a cup of warm tea and read stories of a pagan life in a modern world.
I hope you continue to join me here - I will endeavour to get back into a routine of writing as soon as I can, with my regular features. But what would you like to see here, dear readers, as we begin this new chapter? Are there any topics you would like me to write about, or any questions you have been wanting to ask? Now is the time to share your thoughts. Write a comment to this post and I will do my best to respond in the coming weeks.
Brightest blessings to you all - I have missed you.
Labels: hearth and home
Saturday, 16 June 2012
Firstly, if you're tired or not in the best of moods, I wouldn't recommend trying this! It takes patience, as I found earlier this week!
I'd never made a hollandaise sauce before but, in a moment of whimsy, and upon realising I had far more eggs than I would normally eat on my own this week and some of the season's asparagus, I thought it would be a good idea. Don't get me wrong - it was a beautiful dinner and I felt a real sense of achievement, but it wasn't the easiest of tasks.
If you want to give it a go you will need:
* 3 eggs yolks
* 150 grams of butter
* 2 tbsp cold water
* The juice of half a lemon
* Salt and pepper to taste
* A heavy-bottomed pan, a whisk and a strong arm.
There were countless recipes and methods online, but I found this one to be the most simple, without the use of a food processor.
1. Place the egg yolks, butter and water into a heavy-bottomed pan and heat gently, whisking constantly. Do not allow the pan to overheat (the sides should be lukewarm).
2. When the butter has melted, whisk harder and turn the heat up slightly. Do not allow the mixture to steam. If it does, take it off the heat and continue whisking furiously.
(AT THIS POINT MY MIXTURE SPLIT - YOU CAN READ THE REMEDY FOR THIS AT THE BOTTOM**)
3. Once you are happy with the thickness of your sauce, remove from the heat, squeeze in the lemon juice, taste and season to your preference.
4. Enjoy poured over poached eggs / asparagus / salmon.
** If you find your mixture has split or separated, you can fix this by putting a broken egg yolk into the bottom of a new pan, without heat and slowly, slowly, very slowly whisking the split mixture into it. It will combine into a thicker, glossy sauce.
Note: If your mixture turns into scrambled eggs, it cannot be saved. This means you have had your pan too hot and you will have to enjoy scrambled eggs on toast instead!
Friday, 15 June 2012
Although it doesn't really feel like it with all the rain and chill, one sure sign that summer is here is the appearance of the Elderflower in the hedgerows. Every June it pops out, amongst the foliage, offering its sweet nectar to anyone wishing to take a whimsical foray into wine or cordial making.
I've posted before about this exciting flower, its properties and some lovely recipes for utilising it. Have a gander here to find out more. If you're having a go at foraging elderflower for drinks-making this year, I wish you well and lots of enjoyment - but please take care when picking and using wild food: make sure you know what you're picking and please don't take more than you need.
Tuesday, 12 June 2012
B and I spent a lovely few days in Pembrokeshire, on the West coast of Wales, last week.
It was absolutely stunning - rugged coastal paths, unspoilt landscapes and fascinating neolithic stone circles and burial chambers. Here is a selection of my favourite photos from our trip. I hope you enjoy...