May Angel Prayer.

May is here, and April is over for another year.

Thank you, Angel Asmodel, for guiding us through the past month.

Now we greet you, Angel Ambiel, guardian of May. We thank you for watching over us this month. Please help us to embrace life, to re-kindle our creativity, and to renew our respect for the World around us.

Thank you, Angel Ambiel.

Dangerous Muffins.

Before I head off to celebrate my Grandparent’s birthdays (Gran has a significant one this year, but I’m not allowed to say exactly what it is lol), I wanted to share my dangerous muffin recipe with you. Why is it dangerous? Well, firstly, since it’s Hexennacht I filled it with aphrodisiacs! But it’s also dangerous for your waistline…I find it hard to stop at just one.

  • 2 bananas, preferably over-ripe
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 100g coconut sugar
  • 100g plain wholewheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal (ground flax seeds)
  • 50g flaked/chopped almonds
  • 50g vegan chocolate, either chopped, buttons or chocolate drops – I think dark is good for this recipe, but you could use mylk or even white if you prefer
  • Cinnamon, ginger and chilli to taste.

Mash the bananas, then stir in the olive oil and coconut sugar. Now add everything bar the almonds and chocolate and mix into a batter. Finally, stir through the almonds and chocolate, scoop into muffin cases and bake at Gas Mark 5/190C/375F for about 25 minutes, until cooked.

Almonds are symbols of fertility, and apparently the scent of almonds gets women in the mood (can any women out there verify this?!). Scientifically, they do have a decent amount of vitamin E and magnesium.

Bananas are also good for magnesium, along with potassium and B vitamins to give you energy. They also contain chelating minerals (no, I’ve never heard of that either) and bromelian, the bromeliad enzyme (there’s a specific enzyme only found in bromeliads!), which are said to enhance men’s libido. Maybe that’s why they’re shaped like a …?

Anyway, on to that famous aphrodisiac, chocolate. Chocolate gets it’s reputation because of phenylethylamine, ‘the love chemical’. It also contains feel-good chemicals called anandamide and tryptophan (wow, I hope I’m spelling these right). In short – if your other half gives you a box of chocolates, be suspicious. Their motives may well be selfish.

Even the olive oil is in these for a reason! The Ancient Greeks thought that olive oil increased men’s virility, and they weren’t wrong – it’s a source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are needed for a healthy heart, good blood flow and hormone production. You ain’t going anywhere in the bedroom without those.

Finally, chilli, ginger and cinnamon stimulate your endorphins and speed up your heart rate.

Let me know if you try these and what you thought to them 🙂 And happy Hexennacht!

Hexennacht and Bealtaine.

Hexennacht and Bealtaine are nearly here!

You’ve probably heard of the former festival as Walpurgisnacht – Walpurga’s Night – but I prefer Hexennacht – Witch’s Night. It’s a very witchy festival, I think! It falls on the last day of April, and is the night witches and elves are said to gather on mountain tops, particularly the Brocken mountain in Germany, to dance the snow away and to do all their mysterious magic…stuff. It’s also one of my favorite festivals – we celebrated it for the first time last year, and I loved it. To me, it feels really wild and powerful. I learnt about myself last year lol. But that’s a whole other story…

Walpurgisnacht is named for Saint Walpurga, a missionary nun from England whose feast day was the 1st of May – but like a lot of the saints, her legend is probably infused with memories of a pre-Christian Goddess. There’s a very interesting article about Hexen/Walpurgisnacht called ‘Waelburga and the Rites of Spring’ at http://www.friggasweb.org/walburga.html/ for anyone who would like more information.

We take it as a time to celebrate the year turning from death to life; a liminal time where, like at Winter Nights/Samhain, the veil is thinner and the other Worlds more palpable. We also celebrate the fertility and plenty of the land, sexuality, and passion. It’s a lot of fun! We’ll be away at a family gathering for most of the day, but at some point either before we go or after we get back we’ll put out some ankenschnitt for the Windhound. Traditionally ankenschnitt is bread with butter and honey, but in our case it’ll be bread with sunflower spread with date syrup (seriously, you have to try date syrup on toast, it’s the best thing *ever*). I’ll also read out the myths we chose for the day; Völundarkviða (or the Poem of Völundr), a myth about an elven Prince and artisan, and Skírnismál (or the Sayings of Skírnir), a myth which explains what happened when the Vanir God Freyr fell in love with the Jötunn Goddess Gerðr. Neither are entirely comfortable tales…but then, what myths are? I felt like they fitted in with the passionate yet dangerous feel of Hexennacht.

The next day, Bealtaine, is set to be much lighter in feel. It’s all the same stuff, I guess, but we’ll focus on a somewhat fluffier side of it – romance, growth, joy, all that sort of flowers-and-sunshine stuff. We’re going to stick a heap of flowers on the altar and shrines, especially yellow ones that remind us of flames, and small branches of hawthorn leaves too. Hawthorn blossom is traditional for Bealtaine – another name for it is May. But it doesn’t actually tend to flower in time for Bealtaine any more! I might put some apple or cherry blossoms out to kinda represent the may blossom – there are heaps of flowering trees in our area. We’re also going to read Svipsdagmál, a myth comprising two poems which chart the romance of Svipdagr and Menglöð (with the help of Svipdagr’s Mom), and go for a nature walk if I have enough energy. I have work on Tuesday though, so I can’t push it.

What are your plans for Hexennacht and/or Bealtaine? Any good ritual or craft ideas? It would be great to hear from you 🙂

Bealtaine Prayer.

We ask You to be with us, Gods Goddesses, Spirits and Ancestors, so that together we can all celebrate Bealtaine.

We thank you, spirits of our home, for bringing life and joy into this household, for helping us to cleanse and protect this space we share. You were here before us and will remain long after we are gone. We thank and honor you today.

We thank you, wild and powerful spirits of nature; we praise you, bright and shining elves. Dancers in the forests and fields, seductive bringers of fertility, we praise and honor you today.

Thank You, kind Gods, Goddesses, Spirits and Ancestors, for watching over us at this time.

Let this smoke cleanse us and our home as the fires once cleansed our Ancestors and their herds.

Please bless us here, so that we may (whatever blessing you require, especially ones to do with romance, fertility of some kind or another, growth of some sort, protection or cleansing).

Please bless us all, so that we may learn to give Mother Nature the love that She deserves.

Thank You all for hearing our prayer. May You in turn be blessed and joyful in Your lives.

Hexennacht Prayer.

We ask You to be with us, Gods, Goddesses, Spirits and Ancestors, so that together we can all celebrate Hexennacht.

We thank you, Windhound, for rushing in the warmer weather and blessing our crops.

We thank You, all You elves and Ancestors, Goddesses and wise women, Who dance our year from dark to light.

Thank You, kind Gods, Goddesses, Spirits and Ancestors, for turning our wheel from death to life.

Please bless all those who dance tonight.

Thank You all for hearing our prayer. May You in turn be blessed and joyful in Your lives.

Essential Organic Hibiscus Tea.

I’m trying to review as many things from work as I can, provided that a) they’re vegan, and b) they’re not coffee, because coffee is gross. I’m making a start with Essential’s hibiscus tea.

Essential is a worker’s co-operative based in Bristol that is entirely owned and run by it’s workers. They specialize in ethical wholefoods, and you can find out more or shop at http://www.essential-trading.coop. Their hibiscus tea is not only Fairtrade and organic, but Demeter certified. What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Demeter standard for biodynamic food and farming?! Okay, so…me either. I don’t know what ‘biodynamic’ even means.

Biodynamics turns out to be really interesting! It’s like organic with added spirituality, and focuses on understanding and embracing life’s processes and putting more into the land than we take out. I’m kinda surprised I haven’t heard more about it in the pagan community, but actually I think many of us have that kind of attitude without calling it ‘biodynamics’. There are also specific preparations to put on the ground and a lunar calendar to plant by. Very pagan-friendly! You can find out more about the Demeter standard at http://www.demeter.net.

But we’re not done yet. This tea is grown, processed and packed on a farm in Egypt, where they work with Sekem. Sekem is an Egyptian initiative focusing on improving communities and the natural environment (read more at http://www.sekem.com).

And the tea itself? It’s a very appetizing, ruby red color with a sweet, fruity, very slightly spicy scent. Accordingly, it has a sweet, fruity, very slightly sharp flavor. It’s not sickly sweet, but it’s also not *sharp* sharp, so I find it’s nice without anything to make it sweeter (unlike, say raspberry tea, which I find needs something to sweeten it up a bit). Sometimes I have it with a scant teaspoon of carob syrup, but that’s just ’cause I’m a sugar addict.

Hibiscus tea in general has a lot of vitamin C, so it might be a good drink for when you have a cold. It’s also said to help your digestion, soothe anxiety and even help you to lose weight. Just today I spoke to a lady who drinks hibiscus tea to help her sleep.

My one and only problem with this tea is that it isn’t loose-leaf, but on the plus side the bags are unbleached 🙂

Let me know if you’ve tried this tea and what you thought to it!

Off – Balance.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME/Whatever the Heck We’re Supposed to Call it Now. A few months ago I felt I’d made enough improvement to try volunteer work again, so I applied to volunteer with Just Fairtrade, an indie Fairtrade shop in Leicester (if you’re ever in Leicester, you totally have to visit!). I was veeeery nervous, for a lot of different reasons, but it’s been going really well.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to push myself further and see if I could do more than one shift a week. Working for four hours a week, pathetic though it sounds to all you guys out there working a nine to five, is actually a serious achievement for me. It would have been impossible this time last year. So pushing that up to eight hours is a big deal, and I tried to brace myself for the fact that I might not be able to do it yet.

The experiment is so far inconclusive lol. I am physically getting it done, but it’s very much taking it’s toll in other areas of my life. One thing that’s definitely suffered is my spiritual practice. Husband has been absolutely fantastic, taking up the slack with housework, cooking and grocery shopping, but he can’t pray or journey for me!

It’s really been bothering me. I love my ‘job’ and it’s important to me. I also hope to be able to have a real job at some point, though obviously it’ll take a long time to get to that point and I have to accept that it may never happen (*makes a face because he’s not willing to accept this at all*). But at the same time, my spirituality is my life.

I’m trying to just see how it goes – logically, I know my body will either adapt or crash, and either way I’ll stabilize and get back to ‘normal’. But I do feel guilty, and I’ve done the mental ‘death spiral’ once or twice about the whole thing (you know what I mean; you start by feeling a bit worried that you’re not able to keep up with your devotional practice at the moment, and ten minutes later you decide that the only logical conclusion is that you’re the worst person in the Universe ever, the Gods hate you and you should just die). When I’m calm, I know that this is temporary, I will find a balance and my spiritual family not only understand, but want me to improve and do well. When I’m tired and stressy…Hello, death spiral.

I’d be really interested to read how some of you guys manage the whole work/life/devotion balance. I imagine it’s really tough if you have kids. Any tips you could share? I look forward to reading your comments 🙂

Dark Beer Bread.

This is a surprisingly light loaf which really does taste of beer. It makes for a very decent banana sandwich 😉 Let me know if you give it a try!

  • 200ml dark vegan beer (I used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference London Porter – the one with a picture of a raven on the bottle 🙂 )
  • 100ml water (I guess you could go for 300ml of beer, if you wanted it to taste really strong!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • 100g strong white flour
  • 275g strong wholewheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons seeds of your choice (I used an omega 3 mix that I brought)
  • 2 tablespoons date syrup/other sugar of your choice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast.

Put the beer, water, olive oil and salt into  the bottom of the bread pan. Add the flours and seeds in a layer over the top of the liquid ingredients, and do not mix. Make a little dip in the flour and pour in the date syrup and yeast. Then simply set your breadmaker to whatever settings are closest to a 700g wholewheat loaf and enjoy your bread!

Vegan Easter Eggs.

This year I was fortunate enough to get three Easter eggs (thank you, everyone!). This is my first vegan Easter, so I thought I’d review my eggs. Let me know if you tried any of these, or if you have any other recommendations to share 🙂

 

Choices Caramel Flavoured Easter Egg and Caramel Flavoured Choices.

This gives you 120g of chocolate – a medium sized ‘milk’ chocolate egg and three truffles, all suitable for coeliacs as well as vegans. The truffles came highly commended in the Free From Food Awards 2011, and they are pretty good. The egg is also nice, and (unexpectedly, if I’m honest!) really does taste and smell like chocolate caramel. This is one of those vegan chocolates you can’t really tell is vegan, and it’s also free from artificial colors and preservatives. I like it, but it’s very sweet – well, it is caramel flavored, after all – so you can’t go crazy with it or you’re gonna regret it. But that’s a good thing really, right? It also contains one or two things I’d normally avoid, like glucose syrup, but I feel like that’s fine since this is just an occasional treat, not something I’d eat a lot. My real problems with it are that it’s not Fair Trade or organic, and that the egg and truffles come encased in plastic.

I’m sure these guys must have a website, but it’s well hidden! If anyone knows the address for their website, please let me know. I’m basically computer illiterate, so…

 

Plamil Organic Milk Chocolate Alternative Egg.

Every problem I had with the Choices egg is tackled by the 85g Plamil egg – Fair Trade, organic and free from plastic packaging! Hurray! The company is anti-GM, and their factory is powered totally by renewable energy, completely nut-free and kosher. I like Plamil! I admit I’m not mad keen on the appearance of the packaging for the egg, but then again I’m pretty sure that this product is aimed at kids. In line with that, I find the flavor very mild, and I get more sweetness from it than chocolate-ness. For me, I’d still prefer this to an egg that tasted better but came wrapped in plastic, polluted the Earth with pesticides or didn’t pay the cocoa farmers a fair wage for their crop, but I can understand why some adults find the flavor disappointing. The only other problem I have with this egg is the high sugar content, which…I mean, come on. It’s an Easter egg.

If you’d like to find out more about Plamil or shop online for their products, visit (http://www.plamilfoods.co.uk/).

 

Thornton’s Dark Chocolate Egg.

This was the biggest egg – 265g of chocolate! And it even came with my name iced on it lol. I usually find dark chocolate too bitter, but this is very mild, with a kind of fruity flavour. It runs into the same problems as the Choices egg, though – it’s not Fair Trade or organic, and there’s plastic in the packaging. I also found out that Thornton’s is owned by Ferrero, and despite their Modern Slavery Act Compliance declaration (https://www.thorntons.co.uk/on/demandware.static/-/Sites-Thorntons-Library/default/dw0ad3c70d/modern-slavery-act-compliance.pdf), I also found claims that Ferrero are buying cocoa harvested using child and adult slave labor (http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/latestnews/entryid/2120/tell-ferrero-to-stop-cocoa-slavery.aspx). Ferrero have promised to end all child and forced labor by 2020, but…I’ll believe it when it happens (http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/20/ferrero-sets-date-to-end-cocoa-slavery/)

To find out more about Thornton’s, their official site is https://www.thorntons.co.uk/. Also, please consider signing this petition calling on Ferrero to do more to end child and slave labour on cocoa plantations; https://actions.sumofus.org/a/ferrero-stop-profiting-from-the-exploitation-of-millions-of-children-in-cocoa-plantations

Me and my Shell.

As I mentioned in my review of Taz Thornton’s year-long training circle, my family are helping me to do the circle for another year. We recently spent our first weekend together, and a tribe member who also has a blog suggested we both write about our circle experiences. I thought about it for a while…The circle does bring up the kind of personal stuff that I’m not always comfortable to share on a blog. I also tend to think people will get really bored if I write about myself much lol. In the end, I’ve decided on some things I’m happy to share that, hopefully, won’t bore everyone into a coma. I’m starting with me and my shell.

One morning, Taz told us to take a medicine walk to find a rock. It couldn’t be just any old pebble – this needed to be ‘our’ rock, something that called out to us in some way or other. So we all walked off, and…you know, there are barely any rocks in the woodland at the Clophill Centre? We all thought it would be so easy lol.

Anyway, I had resolved to really try to put aside my doubts and listen that weekend, so I walked off into the woodland and did my best to go where I felt I was being led. I was immediately led off the path, no idea where I was since I have zero sense of direction, through fallen branches and leaf litter…in a great big circle. When I realized what I’d done I figured I must have just been imagining things, but then I got the distinct sense to go to ‘the fey altar’.

In the woodland is an altar to the Goddess and the fey of the land. A couple of times when I’ve been there, I’ve felt that the land spirits were calling me to the altar – Loki even led me right to it once – but once I’m there, they always just *completely ignore me*. So I fully expected to arrive and get a bunch of silence. Instead, I felt as though they told me that if I gave them some white flowers, they would give me my rock. I’d walked past some trees with white blossom on my way to the altar, and one of them gave me permission to take a flowering twig. So I laid down my offering, and…silence lol. Argh…But I figured my rock would be nearby, so I began to look around.

You know what? There are *no bloody rocks* around that altar. I’m not kidding.

I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do – ‘tune in’, use owl eyes (peripheral vision – I suck at this, by the way), and after a little while something did tug on my attention. Under the hedge was some sort of white, oval thing. Really not sure if I was about to touch a pebble or a mushroom, I crawled under the hedge – did I mention there were brambles under the hedge? There were brambles under the hedge – reached out, and picked up a…shell.

This worried me somewhat. Firstly, we had been clearly told to find a rock. Secondly, and rather more importantly, that shell had clearly once been left on the Goddess/fey altar as an offering to Her/them. I was pretty wary about taking it. On the advice of another tribe member, I sat quietly, did my best to tune in, and asked what I was supposed to do. And what I got told was ‘you can take this shell, or you can go to the Dreaming Chamber and take the carnelian that’s by the door’. There was *absolutely no way* I was even going to touch that carnelian, so I picked up my* shell and took it back to the circle.

And yes, I was the only person to show up without a rock.

Once we had our rock (or shell, in my case), Taz taught us how to begin working with it. We each placed our rock on the circle altar, then journeyed to meet it’s spirit. My shell told me that I need to learn more about silence and stillness, and also that I need to paint gold bands on her and sing to her (uuuuurgh…singing? Really?). I have the feeling I’m supposed to make her into a necklace, but I need to check on that.

Now she’s sitting on our home altar, all clean and shiny, waiting for me to recover from my current lack of energy and communicate with her some more. I couldn’t say why the nature spirits decided that I needed a shell instead of a rock. I did wonder if it’s because I’m already working with a piece of melanite that came to me a couple of years ago…but, if I’m honest, I think it’s more likely that they thought it was just really funny to mess with me.

 

*Just to clarify, I don’t believe we can really own things. I say ‘my shell’ in the same way that I say ‘my sister’ or ‘my husband’.