Category: Antara - The Witches Table
 
There is one recipe I come back to time and time again for my post-ritual meals (see my earlier musings on the important of post-ritual food sharing here).

If you are somewhere with easy access to a kitchen then this is perfect since it can be made well in advance and reheated and tastes even better for it.  It is easy to make vegetarian and vegan versions and is packed full of nature's bounty making it cheap, tasty and filling.

Vegetable and Lentil Stew

(Serves 5-6)

1 large onion finely diced
3 cloves of garlic crushed (or to taste)
1 tblsp olive oil
2 sticks celery chopped
1 bay leaf/bouquet garni
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried herbs e.g. oregano/basil/marjoram
1 tblsp Marigold Vegetarian Stock Boullion (powder)
Selection of your favourite vegetables: beetroots, carrots, potatoes, swede, sweet potato, butternut squash etc. chopped (I would give quantities here but to be honest I always guess, err on the side of more rather than less because this is great reheated for lunch the next day.)
1 small handful of green or red lentils per person
1 large double handful of spinach roughly chopped
Seasoning to taste

Method

Fry the onions and celery in the olive oil until the onions are translucent and then add the garlic for another minute.  Stir to ensure the garlic does not burn.

Add the rest of the vegetables (except the spinach) and fry for another couple of minutes to coat in the oil and cook down a little. Add the stock powder and stir in coating the vegetables.  Then add the liquid, start with the two tins of tomatoes and then fill each tin with warm water and add that too (sluicing out the rest of the tasty tomatoes).  Finally add the lentils, dried herbs and bay leaf (or bouquet garni) and bring to the boil.  Slowly simmer until the lentils and vegetables are tender.  You can turn the heat off at this point and just reheat when the ritual is done.  Five minutes before you are ready to serve up add the spinach and let the heat of the stew wilt it, finally taste the stew and season to your preference.

This is a very forgiving recipe to cook and you can substitute in your favourite veggies, pulses etc.  It is particularly good for using up older vegetables lingering at the bottom of the fridge and is completely vegan. I like to serve this with some Soda Bread as this takes less time to prepare than a homemade loaf.  Alternatively just buy a nice crusty loaf from the supermarket and serve with lots of butter (although obviously this get less vegan).  Yummy either way!

 
I fluctuate in my relationship with the Tarot, sometimes it works well for me, other times I need the clean simplicity of the Runes.  But then I have never been great at divination.  I firmly believe that all magickal practitioners should have a divinatory system they are comfortable with (even if they rarely use it) but I know where my strength are.

But I do think that Tarot is a powerful tool for working magick and one which is often overlooked. To illustrate that I wanted to suggest a simple exercise to help you with visualising and manifesting “more of what you need”.

I would take your Tarot deck and sit calmly, perhaps light some candles and incense or meditate first, to really signal to your mind that you are taking your attention away from the mundane worries of the day.

Then we need to think a little about what it is you are looking to bring more of into your life; money and love are perhaps traditional but the Tarot can do so much more that these things. For example you could look for financial stability or a business opportunity; you could be seeking a spiritual mentor or for greater creative flow in your life.  As you are thinking about the amazing things you are seeking to bring into your life start to leaf through the deck, look at all the cards and pick the one that catches your attention as holding whatever it is you are looking for.  Don't worry about *getting it wrong* just let your intuition guide you and don't spend too long looking at the cards at this stage.

Once you have picked your card, now is the time to really scrutinise it. Look for all the little details in the card which you are associate with the thing you are searching for.  Once you have scrutinised the card carefully, start to meditate on the card allow your eyes to un-focus from the card and see if elements of the design come into sharper focus.  You may find some aspects of the card grey out whilst other elements become brighter.  Pay attention to these little cues, this process is all about becoming familiar with the card visually and psychically/energetically.  I want you to really feel the energy in the image, feel it, imagine it, visualise it (whatever your preferred method) but I also want to you really connect and understand the card.  It is during this process that hopefully you will start to pick up insights about your relationship with the "thing" you are seeking more of.  Concentrating in this way may reveal to any blocks within your own mind connected with what you are seeking, or give you inspiration and ideas about how to manifest what it that you want. During the meditation you are looking to keep yourself open to receiving some sort of message from the card itself and if such a message comes, by words or images or even a smell then just note that it has happened, you can come back to it later to assimilate it or evaluate it further.

I find that the reason this works is due to the rich imagery of the Tarot, this gives your brain a lot of space and a lot of inspiration to start free associating ideas.  Within that free associating will probably be something which is a powerful trigger to help you get where you want to be. 

Check out the free ritual Journey with the Fool for another way of approaching this exercise more formally as a tool to understanding the Tarot.

For example I may be looking for a greater sense of calm in my life and in my first flick through the deck I see the sense of calm that I want on the face of the High Priestess.  In thinking about how the card relates to my getting more "calmness" in my life I might reflect that there is nothing in her surroundings which would particularly evoke calm.  Which could lead me to the conclusion that such a sense of calm comes from within and that is what I have to work on because I won't find it outside myself. I kick myself that this is so obvious, but really I just needed to give myself a bit of space to work it all out because normally I am too busy to really process things properly.

You may be thinking "Oh Antara, this isn't magick, this is psycology."  To which I would answer, "maybe". But I think this sits in the broad place magick and psycology overlap to the point that the distinction is meaningless.

Oh and if this doesn’t work for you…don’t worry.  Come back and try it again maybe or just leave it behind and try something completely different, you aren’t necessarily “doing it wrong” maybe this method just isn’t for you…and that is ok!
 
The fabulously crafty Lillith of the Witches Table has a talent...or rather perhaps an obsession with poppet making. She wrote about her personal poppet story here and you may have seen the Air Elemental Poppet she made for me last Yule popping up in my AltarWorks post series here.

Her latest creation is the Night Mare!
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When I set out in Spring consciously trying to move all parts of myself into one whole I didn't even think about exercise.  Big mistake. My relationship with exercise has deteriorated since doing my Masters as I feel I barely have enough time in the day to eat and breathe.  Exercise is something which it is easy for me to drop, despite the fact that intellectually I know it is as vital, in many ways, as eating and breathing.  Now I am in the process of ramping up my daily practice I suddenly realised a connection with magick and exercise.  Not that simply doing exercise regularly is better for my magick (which it is!) but that I could be doing magick whilst I exercise.

This though came to me whilst I was in the middle of a rune working meditation on Uruz, the rune of the Auroch, of strength, vitality and courage.  I just couldn't quite get the working right and was thinking about why that might be.  Then it came to me.  In order to absorb and resonate in harmony with this rune I need to be in my body feeding my own vitality.  My practice over the last few months has moved very much into my head (something I will have to watch in future) but in order to fully integrate I need to be really present in my body.  In particular it felt like I wasn't going to get my work with Uruz without bringing it into a very physical place.

So I got up early and prepared my space with fresh water for drinking and an Aerobic Pilates DVD.  I wanted to start with a form of exercise which would allow me to work magick and get a good work out at the same time, Pilates has a great emphasis on core strength and breathing both of which felt very supportive of the magickal working.  The aerobic aspect would give me a great work out but without the ultra complicated steps of some of my other routines.  Then down to business, but only for a short work out - I wanted this to be a test run.

It was a challenge keeping the rune resonation going throughout the whole 15 minutes and it did   honestly come and go with my concentration.  I sure that this will improve in time.  The session was hard work but focussing on Uruz definitely helped out with some of the postures (and vice versa) and I felt a definite uniting of body, mind and spirit during some parts of the exercise. The best aspect was the 15 minutes of meditation I did straight afterwards - that was some of the most powerful meditation I have done recently. This was quiet surprising as I had always assumed I needed to get really calm and chilled out in order to meditate, and that getting my heart rate up (as with all aerobic exercise) would be terrible for meditation.  Whilst this was true in a way it also helped me to achieve a different sense of altered consciousness.

I am going to try and keep up something similar for the next month and move into a more physical realm again whilst bringing that magickal headspace with me.  If I can crack this then I will feel like I have been able to take a big step forwards.  I'll be logging some of my experiences as I try new ways of combining the two.  Hopefully next I'll be combining it with some wild dancing!
 
Yesterday I travelled into London for the 40th Anniversary of the Pagan Federation, held at the wonderful Royal Geographical Society in South Kensington.  The PF is a UK organisation which works on behalf of UK Pagans to raise awareness and campaign on various issues. In the past they have been involved in setting up Pagan Prison and Hospital ministry and working with the Department for Education on religious education issues.  I think they have also been involved (along with many other people) in working with the police and English Heritage to ensure that one of our most famous sacred sites, Stonehenge, is open to people for rituals and worship at the major festivals.  I only joined this year although I have been aware of their work for a long time.

I bumped into many old friends, briefly met hopefully new ones (including the inspirational Mani and amazing April from the Gaian Times), bought some wonderful loose incense from Alchemy but there were two particular highlights of my day... Rufus Harrington and Julian Vayne.  As is often the way, these two talks were not ones I was intending to go to, but nonetheless I ended up in Rufus Harrington's Hermetic Ritual Workshop and Julian Vayne's Paganism, Shamanism and Mysticism Workshop.

I have never been particularly interested in Western Hermeticism and the Golden Dawn Tradition but Rufus Harrington has really opened my eyes on this.  He talked a little about the Temple of the Phoenix, a Wiccan Hermetic Temple, and took us through two brief workings to give us a flavour of Hermetic ritual.  I was all pretty interesting in a general way and I was starting to wonder how this would weave in with my personal working when he said something which really caught my attention.  That the Hermetic tradition gives you a temple space inside your mind which allows you to later process and integrate your later magical workings.  Now this really appealed to me, I don't know if I'll go down a hermetic route or not but starting to build some sort of "clean room" in order to process and integrate magickal experience sounds like idea I really needed to have brought to my attention right now.  I should also add that if I only had to hear one voice to meditate to for the rest of my life...it would be Rufus Harrington's.  Truly mellifluous!

After lunch I went to Julian Vayne's workshop and I have to say it blew me away.  I really wasn't sure what it was really going to be about and it certainly wasn't a beginner workshop.  He started from the premise that as magick workers we generally use some sort of ecstatic technique in our workings be it dancing, drugs, sex, meditation, chanting, drumming etc.  we all do something to alter our state of consciousness.  The idea of the workshop therefore was to get everyone using their favoured method of ecstatic working (which it is legal and acceptable to do in public) to charge a simple bowl of water with the only intent being a celebration of our diversity.  He made the very compelling argument that if we, as pagans, are not using our ecstatic techniques to embrace diversity (first amongst ourselves and then in the wider world) then those ecstatic techniques will be used by others to change the consciousness of people for the bad e.g by whipping people up into a frenzy of hatred for their neighbours.  This was such an interesting idea and has fed into a thought process I have been having recently about how we as magick workers, and pagans can (and perhaps should) be bringing the divine directly into our earthly bodies and then taking that energy out into the world to effect real positive changes, rather than trying to ascend out of the world.

So lots of great food for thought, and great people to meet.  A very inspiring day and well done to all the organisers for all their hard work!
 
The Pagan Federation in the UK is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Happy Birthday PF! 

They are holding a special 40th Anniversary conference on the 8th October details are here. Make sure you scroll down to the bottom of the page for all the details.

There are some familiar heavyweights speaking this year from Ronald Hutton, to Vivienne Crowley, Maxine Sanders and Marian Green and some interesting workshops including one on Seidr by Katie Gerrard which I am itching to get into.

I’ll be attending in the daytime and if anyone else is going drop me a line as I would love to bump into you there!

 
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Let's break some bread!
I am a big believer in the post-ritual meal; especially post-group-rituals. You know the sort of thing, after a big Samhain ritual, when the circle is closed everyone starts to pull out bread and cheese and mulled wine in thermos flask and a post-ritual feasting ensues. 

There are two main reasons why I am so keen on this practice: Grounding and Community.

Rituals can take you to places of incredible spiritual highs.  You can open yourself right up psychically and whilst this is great and feels wonderful it isn’t a good idea to walk out in the world in such a state of openness.  Being psychically open means attracting and absorbing all energy with no filters.  In a cleansed and sacred space with trusted friends this is no problem, in the big wide world you face attracting and absorbing everything from other people’s anger and frustration to spirits looking for mischief.  In particular I seriously counsel against anyone driving back from a ritual in such a heightened state as it simply isn’t safe, your senses may be heightened but this means your reaction time will be slowed as you will be taking in far more information that you can realistically process.  Eating a meal after the ritual is a fantastic and earthy form of grounding.  Nothing gets you back in your body quicker than having to digest something!

But on to my second reason for a post-ritual nosh…the dissection!  It is really important for groups to discuss what happened in the ritual they just performed, share what you experienced and listen to the sharings of others.  Usually you will find that in this process of sharing, absorbing and rationalising you will get better insights and bond more closely as a community. 

I have worked with groups where a post-ritual meal was an unspoken expectation and other groups where barring a bit of drinking everyone scooted off home without talking about the ritual.  In every case the former rituals were far more spiritually satisfying that the latter.

Historically in many cultures breaking bread together is a vital ritual in itself and that is something you should be capitalising on for your post-ritual meal.  Whilst sharing yourself in the energetically charged circle is a close and binding thing, nothing makes people closer than sharing it all again over a meal.  It brings the spiritually sacred experiences straight into the middle of your mundane world …for what is more mundane than eating, we do it 3 times or more a day.

The key to a post-ritual meal is low prep food or food you can easily prepare in advance.  You are not throwing a dinner party, people are primarily coming for the ritual; the food is just a bonus. Choose simple but nourishing food which is cheap and filling.  I find it easier to making vegetarian food as standard since it is cheaper and many pagans are vegetarian and obviously always check if people are vegan or have allergies to wheat, egg, nuts, dairy etc.  A post-ritual meal help to create an inclusive atmosphere and continue the sense of “safe space” created in the ritual, to help facilitate this ask about allergies beforehand to avoid making anyway feel awkward afterwards. 

Shortly I'll be posting some of my favourite, no-fuss recipes for post-ritual feasting!

 
Mani from the Gaian Times has yet again put out a fantastic magazine which is really filling a niche in the UK scene.  I love his work and I am so proud he has printed my article on Organisational Theory for Pagans - something which I am sure will ruffle a few feathers.

Come and check it out at:  Magickal Groups that Soar!

and let me know what you think in the comments below.
 
I can't help it... I love Pagan Folk, I know it isn't cool or fashionable but I don't care.  Somethings we imprint on young and Folk music is, for me, just one of those things. 

So I wanted to do a quick round up of my current favourites. 

1. Sharon Knight and T.Thorn Coyle - I felt for a long time that Pagan Chanting had been blessed with Z Budapest's work but there was little else out there.  Sharon Knight and T.Thorn Coyle have produced two amazing CDs of modern Pagan chants which are truly stunning.
2. Spiral Dance - more classic folk but with fantastic lyrics which really draw on the Pagan experience.  Spiral Dance is one of the bands who are unashamedly writing songs about life as a Pagan.  Given the lack of cultural expression Paganism has in the mainstream media, being able to listen to music with lyrics so clearly describing my life experience is a real joy.
3. Omnia - A dark folk band who draw on a diverse range of sources for their inspiration. The second I heard The Raven I was in love with Omnia's work.  Who doesn't want a bit of Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare set to music.
4. Damh the Bard - Damh is a regular on the UK Pagan scene, host of the fabulous Druidcast podcast and gifted musician.  I don't mind admitting that every time he calls this home of mine Albion I am filled with and overwhelming sense of the land I live on.
5. Hagalaz' Runedance - I was always going to enjoy music inspired by Norse mythology and Runes, but Hagalaz Runedance introduced me to folk with a definite Scandinavian and Germanic twist which was fresh and exciting (fresh to a committed UK Folk fan anyway).  I have found a deepening of my relationship with the runes and Norse Deities through their music which has been absolutely joyful.
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This year for the first time I have been sending out a tweet every day noting at least one thing in the world around me which has signalled the move from Summer to Autumn.  I do find in the UK that each season has a particular energy to it. The longer I have been on the magical path the more sensitive I get to that energy and I need to make a conscious shift inside myself from one season to another in order to make sure I am vibrating in tune with the season and not fighting against it.  This allows me to truly revel in the season and the weather and I can safely say that I have no favourite, I enjoy the seasons all equally. I would advocate learning to love all the seasons for two reasons.

Firstly being in tune with the energy in the weather and the seasons is incredibly helpful in my own magickal practices.  You have to work with what you have and a piece of magick that resonates best with the particular emotions and feelings captured by long hot balmy summer nights works less well in the dead of Winter covered in frost and snow.  Better attuning yourself to the energies of the season allows you to understand the best way to perform your magick in harmony with the energy available to you. It is simply another form of energy and power to utilise in your workings and one that is varied and abundant.  However it is also a fickle and changeable energy which is why it is important to attune yourself.  Whether you are Wiccan or not, the eight Sabbat festivals of the year which mark a mixture of Solstices, Equinoxes and important agricultural dates give a good basic framework for attuning yourself to the changing energy of the seasons.  They provide a great template for the big energy peaks but I want to delve a little deeper that this.  Whilst a night of celebration is great fun and can be spiritually moving, I don’t agree that one big party for a couple of hours is really the full story.  The seasons change gradually through a number of small signs, my method of working is to slowly absorb and notice those signs, gradually moving myself into a different energetic state by a small amount each day at the same pace as the season itself changes.  The festival is then a ultimate celebration – a feeling of having arrived, but importantly I have made a journey to reach that arrival.  This is a more organic way of noticing and attuning and it allows you to really luxuriate in the changes which is important for point number two…

Secondly I want to enjoy my life.  I don’t want to spend each Winter pining for the Summer, wishing my life away.  Looking for the good things in each season may sound like an annoyingly Pollyanna way of working, however when it comes to the weather (especially in the UK) the only thing you can rely on and control is your own reaction.  I do not mean to dismiss those people who suffer SAD, I think that they have an unfortunate burden to bear which no amount of positive thinking can erase.  However for the rest of us we can find the good in all the seasons and by finding what is enjoyable we can start to enjoy them.

I love the first frost and the first daffodils, I love the bare skeletons of Winter trees and the lush abundance of my Summer garden.  I love it all, no matter how wet or annoyed I may get at times.