Infused Oils


I hadn’t oiled the wood I have for my stang for two years, as I forgot last year when I had my son.

Last weekend my hubby was available so we could go into the woods to gather oak leaves for the oil.

This is the first time I’ve done it in Spring and I’ve found that the young leaves are better for infusing oils. They’re softer and seem to lend the infused oil a better quality. I’ll be doing this in Spring from now on.

Wreath


This year I am putting a home-made wreath up.

Over a year ago I twined the ivy clockwise for the sun into a wreath and it has been sitting in the violently pink bedroom for the last year while I waited for the wood to finish the drying process.

This weekend I cut holly and larch cones in the local wood. Not much of the holly had berries on, but there was enough. I was always careful to bless the tree I took the produce from. I found some mistletoe going free in town as the stallholder had left for the day leaving bags of mistletoe behind, so I took one.

For me, both the ivy woven clockwise and the circular shape of the wreath symbolise the sun. Mistletoe is not usually used in wreaths but I wanted it for its fertility associations and I am using holly to symbolise blood. I didn’t use the cones in the end, but will keep them to use for other decorations.

Sloe Gin


I’ve been making sloe gin to celebrate the Winter Equinox with.

Most people wait until the first frost to collect berries, but we’ve just had the first frost in November and I didn’t think I’d get it done in time for the Winter Equinox. So instead I put the berries in the freezer.

The freeze is needed to break down the cells in the berries, which provide the taste and colour of sloe gin.

Old Ways


When I am cooking something for ritual or my ancestors I make sure I use the old way of cooking.

This means translating the measurements from imperial back into metric, which I was taught to cook with by my Mum. Kitchen scales in Britain usually have both imperial and metric measuring systems, as we started the change over into metric a few decades ago and many recipes have both systems of measurement.

It also means using less gadgets. I rub butter into flour by hand, instead of using a food processor to do it for me.

One of my Favourite Things


Last weekend I was chopping up dried nettles to make into nettle tea. Nettles are my favourite herb. I use them for giving me a boost after I’ve been ill, as they have iron and vitamin C in them.

There are a variety of recipes for cooking with nettles, the most popular being nettle soup. I have yet to try them in this, but am planning to do so next Spring, when the nettle leaves are apparently at their most tender.

In witchcraft I use nettles for protection magic. Thistles can be used as well, as can anything that stings or pierces, but nettles are easier to find, pick and dry.

Elderflower Cordial


Last weekend I made elderflower cordial. It’s a lovely drink, which is made with elderflowers, lemons, sugar and tartaric acid; all fermented in a bucket for twenty four hours and then bottled. It’s like drinking liquid sunshine.

The cordial will be used for my midsummer ritual. While you can use shop-bought drinks in a ritual, they have additives and preservatives in them that are possibly not a natural ingredient and it’s best that the drink be a natural one.

In this cordial I used elderflowers gathered from my garden, which is important as then the cordial is made from produce of the land I am on, instead of from another part of Britain or whichever country happens to manufacture it.

Candle-Making Course


A couple of Sundays ago I went to a candle-making course at Treadwell’s bookshop in London.

The class was divided into two groups and I ended up with the group that was learning how to make candles by dipping. Dipping takes a long time, but you can build up layers of magical intent with dipping.

Making candles by pouring wax into moulds, which we did next, is the easier and quicker way, but you would have to inscribe your intent on the candle.

The third way to make candles is to get a sheet of beeswax and roll it up with a wick in the middle to form a candle.

I enjoyed this class and will certainly be using my knowledge to make candles for ritual in the future. I’m not sure if I will be making them for candle magic, as I’ve never really got on with candle magic.

Pruning


I spent an hour last Saturday pruning our butterfly bush and conversing with it. It seeded itself in our garden last year, and I was pleased as I want a garden that attracts birds and bees, which a butterfly bush does. I see this as a good sign that our land is pleased with our care of it, especially as the books say that butterfly bushes need lots of light and ours seeded itself next to a fence full of ivy, so the light was completely blocked on one side.

Butterfly bushes are not native to Britain. They were brought over from China in the 1930s and have naturalised themselves, which means that they grow wild without any help. To me, this means that the land itself has accepted them and they are now part of Britain.

During the conversation the bush gave me part of itself as a wand. I would have liked to take more, but it only allowed me one piece. I know you should give plants and trees an offering before taking, but I feel it’s unnecessary when the plant or tree itself offers the wood.

The elder tree in our garden has been asking me to prune it, probably because there are several branches crossing one another. According to the books, this can promote disease in a plant. I would not touch it otherwise, as folklore has many stories of people chopping elder trees and dying hours later.

Halfway Through Making a Stang


I am in the process of making a stang, which unfortunately is getting interrupted by This Damn Wedding of mine.

I have oak wood for the stang, which was given to me by a tree I often talked to.  The wood is split into three pieces, which I will put together by dowel rods.  It’s being delayed because I first have to make a water blessing so I can give the tree I take them from an offering.  The wood for the main body of the stang was lying in the water, so I did not have to make an offering.  Then I will have to wait for the wood for the dowel rods to dry and carve out the spaces for the rods in the wood which will make up the body of the stang.

I was told by one of my goddesses that I was to attach the bones of the sea, the bones of the earth and the bones of the air to my stang.  I was given a mouse and four birds courtesy of my cat.  Normally there is nothing strange in this, but before now my cat had caught three birds in the entire eight years I have had her.

I have to wait for the mouse and birds to decompose so I can attach the bones to the stang, some of which are going to be put between the pieces of wood.  I have seashells for the bones of the sea, but need something to cut the shells up so they look like bones instead of shells.

After that I need an antler for the top and a nail for the bottom and it will be finished.  Unfortunately this is not a quick project and is even slower with wedding s**t intruding upon it.  I want to get it finished this year (my year begins at the Spring Equinox) but I am not sure this will happen.

Carving Turnips


I’ve finished carving my turnip for the Samhain celebrations.  I carve turnips because my ancestors would have carved these instead of pumpkins, and also I don’t like the taste of pumpkin, so the innards go in the bin.  If I use a turnip then I’ll eat the innards.

Tools needed : 1 gurt big knife, 1 small knife and 1 potato peeler.

First take the gurt big knife and slice the top off the turnip.  Use the small knife to make cuts round the edge of the turnip.  Then use the potato peeler to gouge out a core in the centre.  Then you can really get started, by either using the small knife or the potato peeler to gouge out chunks of turnip.

Gouge out enough turnip till you think you have then got to the bottom of the turnip.  This will take around half an hour to do so.  Then you can start to carve the face with the small knife.

You will probably get as far as carving the smile and then realise that you are carving into the unhollowed out base of the turnip.  This always happens to me, and I have to go back and hollow out some more of the base and the sides.  Somehow I carve away from the sides, which leads to a thickening of the sides as I go down and then I mistakenly think I’ve got to the bottom when I haven’t.  I then go back and finish carving the face.

In previous years, I have always left the lid off because if you put the lid on a turnip there isn’t enough air for a candle to burn.  This year I’ve experimented with putting holes in the lid, so I’ll post later and tell you if it worked or not.

My betrothed made me a handle for the turnip, which I can attach to turn it into a turnip lantern.  In previous years I’ve carved out a candle holder at the bottom of the turnip, but since we’re staying in the kitchen this year I won’t bother.

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