Poking Fun

I came across this slightly foolish idea in Scott Cunningham’s book Earth Power. It’s an awesome book which I highly recommend. However, in his section on fire magic, Cunningham quite seriously implies that burning a sample of tobacco as a symbol for the problem of smoking is a good idea. I got a good laugh out of it. Sometimes,

For the symbols think a moment – if you overeat, take a portion of your favourite food and throw it onto the fire. Smoking, drinking the same.

It could be worse, he might have suggested drinking the alcohol!

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“No I’m not smoking. I’m just burning this cigarette as a magical symbol of my desire to quit!”

Tasting Pseudo Mead (White Wine Mulsum/Conditum)

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Mulsum prior to dilution.

In anticipation of Ostara I brewed myself a bottle of mulsum/conditum as a quick alternative to a fully brewed mead. The recipe told me to let the mixture sit for a week or two, but since I wanted to use the mead for my Ostara ritual, I only let it be for five days. When I tasted the drink for the first time before the ritual, the sweetness of it was at first overpowering. I had created a drinking syrup! With a little distilled water, however, the drink took on the sweetness of Manischewitz. It took me a few sips to get used to the heavy sweetness, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. Yes, watering down the wine lowered the alcohol content, but my stomach is easily upset by alcohol so I didn’t mind. Next time, I will start by adding much less honey to the wine since I can always add more to taste.

Making Pseudo Mead (White Wine Mulsum/Conditum)

In anticipation of Ostara (aka the Spring Equinox), I wanted to brew myself a batch of mead. While is something I have always wanted to do, it takes quite a long time, six months or more, to do properly. Luckily, there is a bit of a cheat which I found on the ever helpful website Storm The Castle: “Instant Mead Recipe”.

“The ancient romans called mixing honey with wine ‘Mulsum’ and if you mix it with spices then let it age you get something the ancient romans called ‘Conditum’ which is something similar to what we make here.” Will Kalif’s video tutorial.

A quick search on Wikipedia gave me a little more information on conditum. “The Latin name translates roughly as ‘spiced’. Recipes for conditum viatorium (traveler’s spiced wine) and conditum paradoxum (surprise spiced wine) are found in De re coquinaria. This conditum paradoxum includes wine, honey, pepper,mastic, laurel, saffron, date seeds and dates soaked in wine.”

The recipe itself is really simple, calling for one bottle of cheap white wine (I spent $12.75), one pound of honey, one clove, and a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg. Since I was going to be mixing it with sweet natural clover and alfalfa honey, I bought a bottle of moscato which advertised it’s subtle sweetness with “hints of green grapes, pineapple and passionfruit.” Sounds good enough to me!

After the ingredients were mixed together, I let the brew simmer for an hour or so. A preliminary taste-test tells me that that was too long. It really is a little too sweet. Then I strained and re-bottled the ‘mead’. The recipe calls for a waiting period of two weeks. I only have one until Ostara when I look forward to drinking my concoction. The shortened wait time will give me an excellent opportunity to compare the taste on the equinox and again a week later. That is if their is any left!

New Cedar Wand

It has been a while since I have taken up my carving knife to create a new wand. I find that carving is rarely something which I can do without the right attitude. Still, when the spirit of inspiration strikes I must be ready. I started this wand more than a month ago and bit by bit I completed it.

I used a new finish this time around. Normally I use walnut oil, but I wanted to try linseed oil for a change. I really enjoy the smell and texture which linseed oil has on wood. I’m not quite sure which I prefer so I may simply mix and match the two from now on. We’ll see.

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Repecting Religious Ancestry

Autumn is the season of decay. The trees shed their colourful leaves and seem to die, reminding us of the finite nature of human existence. The very land appears to die in preparation for winter. It is then no surprise that we reflect on the somber tone of the season by remembering those we have lost. Some cultures venerate their dead while others perform rituals to banish the spirits of the vengeful fallen. Lavish festivals are thrown and simple feasts performed the word over. Here in Canada, the most obvious, and perhaps least sacred of the these festivals is Halloween. In the truly unique, secular nature of North American culture, it is mostly an excuse to spend money and to strip away as much as possible from the ancestral festivals that it is an amalgam of. Festivals like the Roman Lemuria, Celtic Samhain, and the Christian All-Hallows-Eve. Those festivals are now largely forgotten. I am not here to claim that my chosen festival is superior, or to make the ever so tired argument over whose spiritually ripped off whom. Instead, I want to briefly examine how the different religious and social values of our ancestors relate and to share an opinion on respecting them.

Problems invariably arise when any two religions are held against each other. In the Pagan community, there is a lot of backlash against organized religions like Christianity and Judaism. Many of us come from religious backgrounds other than our chosen path. As a practicing Pagan, I embrace the autumn season as a time to reflect on and honour my ancestors. As the son of a Jewish mother and a Christian father however, I believe that my ancestors should be honoured in a manner which they would find meaningful. I was raised Jewish, bar mitzvah and all. I still celebrate several Jewish festivals religiously, particularly those which are rooted in the heritage of my people, but in a manner which allows me to practice my own beliefs. Although it is no longer my religion of practice, Judaism is a part of me. Not only is it in my blood, but it has entered into my soul as well. It can be no different for my ancestors.

A dumb supper setting from examiner.com

Many modern pagans celebrate the sabbat of Saimhain as part of the wheel of the year. For some, this may include a seance or dumb supper where food is set for the spirits of the dead and the meal eaten in silence. A dumb supper is a lovely and beautiful ritual, but not one which I feel entirely comfortable with, let alone a seance. I doubt very much that my Jewish grandparents would have found that to be an honour.  I realize however, that this is only one way of performing a dumb supper and that many do not view the ritual that way at all. The ritual can easily be modified to become more of a prayer, a silent vigil for the dead, a reverent way to remember the dead of any culture. Calling on their spirits, not always so. This Samhain, I do intend to pray for and remember both my Jewish and Christian ancestors, but in a manner which is true to their memory and that they would have found respectful.

It is entirely possible to pray in your own religious way for someone who practices another religion in a way which respects their beliefs. I have thought long over how to best do this. Some would argue that it would be sacrilegious to do so while others would argue that the form of the prayer matters not. Their is a good deal to be said about both arguments here. Essentially, this becomes a matter of religious ethics which apply whether the subject of the prayer is alive or has passed on. The conclusion which I intend to follow is the balance which works for me. As long as the object of the prayer does not conflict with the beliefs of the subject, then the form need not be considered. 

Each individual is free to practice whichever religion or spirituality calls to them. That said, we must all respect the practices of others. It is important to remember our heritage the way it was, not in the way we are and it is important to celebrate the lives of our loved ones. So whether you participate in any holiday of the dead this year or whether you simply turn off all your lights in hope of hiding from the troops of trick-or-treaters, try to remember those who came before you. Try to honour their memory in some small way that is meaningful for you both.