Archive for October, 2011

Don’t Waste That Pumpkin! (pictures forthcoming)

Posted in Cooking, Fun and interesting, Herbals Oils, Salves, Samhain with tags , , on October 26, 2011 by theredlass

As Samhain passes us by and the dark half of the year closes in, many people begin storing up what they need for the long winter. For the every day person, this means everything from stocking cabinets with canned foods to making sure you have salt for the sidewalk and snow boots. For the witch, this can mean a little bit more.

When Irish immigrants turned up on the shores of America, they brought with them many of the old legends and traditions that comprised the Celtic culture after the Christianization of much of Europe. One of these was carving a lantern out of a turnip in order to provide a light to frighten off wicked and mischievous spirits from ones hearth. The turnip was quickly dropped, however, in favor of the easier to carve pumpkin. This traditions has lasted through the centuries till you can hardly see a house during the fall that does not have pumpkins and Jack O’Lanterns decorating the porch and yard.

But has the ability of the pumpkin been overlooked? Where does your pumpkin usually end up once it’s been carved and the 31st of October passes into November? In the trash or in the road, smashed to bits. Oh what a waste of such a virile and generous gourd. In truth, the modern pumpkin has many uses, from oils to salves, decoctions to poultices, the ripe orange rind offers a litany of useful products to the patient witch at work.

First off, you need a large, orange pumpkin with as little spot on it as possible. As you begin to carve the top off and scoop it out, make sure to save the seeds, innards and meat of the pumpkin separately, as each is a valuable resource. You can choose to scrape the meat out bit by bit, which is necessary if you want to keep the pumpkin for decoration. But if you have plenty for you and your family to carve up, it won’t hurt to use one just for these recipes. Let’s start with the most basic:

Pumpkin Seed Oil
-2 cup pumpkin seeds
-cookie sheet
-olive oil
-1 pint mason jar
-strainer
-pot
-ceramic/ glass bowl
-stove/ oven
-paper towel
-mallet

INSTRUCTIONS
-Clean and pat dry the pumpkin seeds and lay them flat on the cookie sheet.
-Cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly dry. DO NOT LET THEM BURN!
-Take out and allow to cook, then crack open using a mallet and paper towel.

-Gather the seeds and add them together until you have at least 1 cup of shelled pumpkin seeds.
-Fill pot with 4-6 cups of water (depending upon size of pot) and heat it to boiling on the stove.
-Reduce heat to a low simmer and place the bowl on top of the pot. The water should be close but not touching the bowl.
-Add in seeds and oil and stir liberally until all seeds are coated.
-Continue to stir once every 2 hours for the next 12-24 hours.
-Have jars ready and dry.
-Place strainer over bowl and make sure it is stead.
-Using mitts to handle, slowly pour contents of bowl into strainer, letting the oil drip through into bowl.
-Allow too cool for a few minutes, then use cheesecloth to press down and squeeze any remaining oil from the seeds. This takes pressure and time but it’s worth it as you don’t want to waste oil.
-It may take several straining to filter out the seeds entirely, so just go back and forth between the two bowls until it’s fairly clear.

USES
-Pumpkin seeds are said to have a unique effect on prostate cancer and contain fatty acids that help with blood vessels, nerves and tissue. Feel free to enjoy with bread, salads, and (my person favorite) mix the leftover seeds and a little oil with hummus and goat cheese for crackers!

And of course the joy doesn’t stop there. You can also melt down beeswax in a double boiler (1 oz of beeswax per cup of oil) and add in the oil to make a splendid pumpkin salve that works for as an anti-inflammatory aid and helps with dry skin during the winter months.

Pumpkin Infusion
-6 cups water
-2 cups pumpkin meat cubed
-1/4th cup honey
-bowl
-pot
-stove
-strainer

INSTRUCTIONS
-Heat water to a boil and add in pumpkin chunks.
-Let simmer for 4 hours
-Strain pumpkin chunks and set aside for blending (See Pumpkin Poultice recipe).
-Add honey to mixture while mixture is still hot and stir till dissolved.
-Pour into storage container and refrigerate for later.

USES
-Pumpkins, as you can tell by the orange color, are high in beta carotene, which helps with eye sight. It also contains potassium and is very good for your heart.
-Pumpkins also produce Vitamin A, which helps with heart disease and cancers. It can also help regulate in insulin in your body.
-If you want to make an Infusion into a Decoction, reduce the amount of water to 4 cups and boil for 4 hours instead of simmer. You can also add some of the blended pumpkin meat back into the Decoction while it’s still hot for an extra kick.

Pumpkin Poultice
-1 cups pumpkin innards
-1 cup pumpkin meat boiled until soft

INSTRUCTIONS
-Scoop innards from pumpkin and remove seeds. SAVE THOSE SEEDS! (Seed Pumpkin Seed Oil)
-Put the pumpkin innards in a food processor.
-Take the meat of the pumpkin and chop it up into small cubes.
-Cook the cubes in water like potatoes until they soften enough to process.
-Strain the pumpkin into a bowl. SAVE THAT WATER! (See Pumpkin Infusion)
-Blend the innards and meat together until it forms a smooth, thick paste.
-Save in mason jars and refrigerate until needed.
-When needed, heat till warm and place between cheesecloth and apply to affected area.

USES
-This poultice can be used warm to help relieve swelling or an abscess after it has burst.
-Pumpkin can also be combined to help ease a sunburn when used as a cold infusion or mixed with other herbal oils to help relieve dry skin or achiness.

So before you throw out those gorgeous gourds, take a moment and try out some of these simple recipes. Your body and family will thank you for it!

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STOP BLAMING JACK HANNA

Posted in Experience, Life with tags , , on October 21, 2011 by theredlass

I have held off saying much about this till the whole thing was over because I wanted to see the whole story (at least as much as we will ever know).

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-10-20-zanesville-ohio-exotic-animals.htm?csp=hf

But the sad truth of it all is this.

Those animals did not DESERVE to die. They are not to be blamed for being animals and acting as an animal will act. However Jack Hanna is not to blame for doing what needed to be done. He was called in as a wildlife expert and frankly you don’t call in an expert and ignore his advise! What people seem top be ignoring is that they did originally attempt to tranq some of the animals, but that either failed or they simply got to close to homes to risk it, (I’m not sure which) and the animals simply had to be put down.

If you want to blame someone, blame the suicidal Mr Thompson who released them into the ‘wild’. Blame the Auction House that sold these animals to a private citizen. Blame the lawmakers for not making it illegal for people outside of wild care professionals and zoo officials to own these animals!

This is beyond disgusting. The pictures alone make you want to break down and cry. But the only way to stop it is to enact laws which forbid private citizens to own, possess or sell exotic animals!

The Nine Virtues

Posted in Experience, History, Life, Theory with tags , , on October 17, 2011 by theredlass

In some way or another throughout the ages, there have been sets of attributes which have been deemed by both society and individuals to define the quality of a person’s character. From the Ten Commandments to Sanatana Dharma, from the Noble Eightfold Path to the Wiccan Rede, each comprises cultural appreciation of upright action and thought. Many of these hold the same tenants as one another, with values such as honesty, kindness, generosity and honor at the top of the lists. It is in this line that I have comprised what I feel to be the Nine Virtues, a series of considerations to which I think one should aspire in their life time.

In no way do I mean to say that this is the definitive list of ethical behavior! Nor do I want anyone to believe that I have an infallible moral compass! Far from it in fact. These are simply the traits which I think are lacking in this era and should be given due consideration. While they include several from what is considered both warrior and maidenly virtues, I have done all I can to remove the gender considerations herein and I advise seeing them more as human virtues rather than belonging to one gender or the other.

The goal here is to strive towards these traits and to do your best to keep them in mind as you act throughout the day. I have listed them in order or personal importance (1 being the most significant to me) but these are not really qualifiable as more or less significant.Honor is among the most difficult to define of the virtues, and yet to me it is one of the most important. Many define this concept as a definition of a man’s duty or loyalty to one’s betters or higher ups within a military code of conduct. For women the term was historically used in reference to their virginity or the price a mle would have to pay in order to wed them. Honor can mean loyalty to duty, but it can also mean to act in a way which conveys dignity and rightness. Refusing to be goaded into a fight or not allowing your character to be falsified. Taking the protecting and care of your family upon yourself and working for their good at all times. Not allowing your friends to hurt when you have the means to prevent it. It comes down to looking at the situation and doing everything in your power to work through it with rightness of thought and deed. Honor also ties in strongly with other constructs such as: Integrity of the self, Accountability for your actions, and Respect for yourself and others

Courage is often misinterpreted as a lack of cowardice or fear. In reality, Courage is being afraid, terrified even, but pushing forward anyway. There are two types of courage: physical courage, which could be defending someone from attack or pushing yourself to the limit, and moral courage, which would be keeping to your moral or ethical code dispite potential ridicule and ostrisation. It can be difficult to remain courageous without becoming reckless or displaying an excess of bravado. In my experience the truly courageous are quiet, steadfast people who one would never suspect of being capable of such bravery. The one who rushes into a burning building to save a child and then dissapears before the news crew can get a shot of them. The truest form of courage is in those who’s names will never be known, but who take it upon themselves to act in defense of others.

Mercy is often portrayed as the powerful showing pity to the weak. This is often emphasied by the Christian concept of a merciful God, one who weilds incomparable power and yet exercises with caution or consideration for those under their influence. But to put this on a more relatable level, one could compare mercy with humanitarian efforts such as giving your time so that other’s might live life with greater ease, even if only for a moment. Through acts of kindness and charity, such as donating your clothing to homless shelters, voulenteering at a soup kitchen, or being a counselor for a youth group, one hopes to achieve a human connection as well as a greater understanding of compassion. To quote the Bard: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” Honesty is not always as simply as just telling the truth. In this case, the virtue has mor eto do with being of straightword character. It can be difficult to weight honesty with brutal, unfeeling truth, but it is important to remember that honesty does not give one the right to be callous. You should always consider how your answer will effect the other persons state of mind. At times a gentler hand may be called for, but sometimes we must be direct in our approach. A good thing to keep in mind is to never do anything you know you are going to have to lie about later. With this thought, Honesty is more about acting truthfully and without decit intended than it really is about telling your friend you like her dress when it looks awful. One could find it very ammusing that I chose to put the virtue of Cunning right after that of Honesty, seeing as how the two so often seem to be at odds. But in this case it is to establish a balance between the two that I incldue cunning among the virtues. Cunning is not about lieing, but about displaying keen insight or a knowledge of something which might baffle others. You could also term this as being clever or witty about a particular subject (such as witchcraft). It is, above all else, using your intillect to solve problems and find new solutions to old issues. Brehons might be the best example of such folk, as they had to navigate their way around the law without denying the rights of everyone involved. Endurance is the unique ability to keep going long after other’s have quit. There are two kinds of endurence: physical endurence, such as a woman in labor or a man running a triathalon, and mental endurance, such as that shown during studying final exam or sensory deprevation. One could also consider life to be an endurance trial, as we face hardships and difficulties one has to show the endurance and fortitude to overcome them. Life is hard, but not without it’s joy, and sometimes weathering the hard times creates more joy in the easy times. Being tenacious and sticking to your set goals without fail shows great endurance.Spirit is the belief and understanding of an innermost self, a soul or essence which comprises you as an incorporeal being. It is a connectedness to a larger self and an understanding that there is a pattern and weaving to existence which you are a part of. This could also be termed Piety, though I would not include religious devotion as the explanation. Rather you strive to see the big picture of life, not only in terms of you and yours but in terms of the universe as a whole. Someone who has the virtue of Spirit is confident, but without the danger of hubris and arrogance that so often comes with the idea of a higher spiritual understanding. As Albert Einstein said “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

Introspection is being aware of your own needs, desires, flaws, virtues and state of mind. It is a concious effort on the part of a person to fully consider their actions and thoughts and to consider the ramifications both to themselves and to others. It is the consideration of one’s own mind, or metacognition (thinking about thinking). One could consider this like having a psychologist inside your own mind. You try to break down your own though process, questions yourself and answer honestly. It is not the same as doubting yourself or seeing your own advise as invalid, it is simply exploring your own motives and knowing where they come from.Tranquility ismaintaining a state of clamness and level headed thinking. It is in allowing yourself to move beyond the hectic frustrations and troubles of the moment and not letting them interfere with your thought process or course of action. One could also add into this the feeling of contentment with your life as it is right now, without giving thought to the future or past. You become at ease with the reality of the world and life in general and accept your current state of being. Inherant in this is the ability to move past what may be happening at the moment and focus on what must come next.

Book of Shadows

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2011 by theredlass

For many of those who are called to witchcraft, one of the most essential elements is the traditional Book of Shadows, a bound book full of rituals, spells, incantations and rites. For some these are tradition specific, for others family generated, but everyone seems to have one of some kind or another. They differ in some ways but for the most part the one’s I have seen remain largely ubiquitous in their rituals and process. Enough so that if we collected a hundred of them, one could do a fair analysis on their meanings and come to a general conclusion about witchcraft, wicca and paganism in general.

Is this a strength or a failing? I honestly don’t know. But the thought occurred to me that my process for my own personal book of shadows is somewhat different. (Maybe not different from everyone’s but different from what I have seen thus far).

I am not a very ritual heavy person. I like a great deal of spontaneity and creative drive in my craft and I usually pick stanzas or verses from my favorite poetry or come up with my own wording during my rites. I do not feel the obsessive need to rhyme everything though it does occasionally work out that way. I am a practical being and to me, adding more crap to a ritual just means you spend more time being ‘right’ as opposed to simply being.

I also use my BoS more like a scientists journal than anything else. I tend to record more observations and outcomes as oppose to simply copying what I’ve read from another book. This is in part because I feel that every spell has a thousand different interpretations and no two spells work the same way for any person. If you try a spell and record what you see, hear, feel and experience, as well as any long term outcomes, it’s easier to go back and see what may have gone wrong and where it may need to be tweaked a pinch.

Bare in mine please that I am not saying other methods are flawed in any way. I’m just articulating what I personally do for myself.