Well, the transition from Summer to Autumn here in Denver was dramatic. From 90 degrees to snow in one week! I welcome the respite from the heat – I prefer the cooler weather. Then again, for many years I have been described as “nuclear powered,” so keeping warm in colder weather is seldom an issue for me.
This month I will go to visit my family in KC and celebrate my folk’s 15th anniversary. That isn’t a typo; my father died about 17 years ago and my mother married one of his best friends. It will be the typical family visit; love, laughter, and angst. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind those of you with family around to appreciate them while they are on this plane – it is much simpler to talk to them now than on the astral!
The September Open Full Moon celebration was a quiet guided meditation presented by Kestrel. She led us each to imagine being a child long ago, when a family traveled to market by wagon, and lived closer to the earth…when buying cheese or a simple wooden toy or a length of lace or a plow horse was appreciated by adults and wondrous to a child. In this season of harvest, we each came away more grateful for our “harvests” of life’s simple pleasures. Thank you, Kestrel.
The October Open Full Moon will be on Friday, October 6, 2000, at 7:30 PM, at the First Unitarian Church, 1400 Lafayette, Denver, CO. The doors of the church open at 7:00. We like to begin at 7:30.
This month’s ritual will be presented by the newly chartered Boulder CUUPs group, and will visit the thirteen moons of the year. This ritual will take somewhat longer than some of the recent rituals at Hearthstone.
We have determined that our break-even point is about $3 per person.
We aren’t going to start collecting at the door, and no one will be turned away for not having a donation. However, we would like to suggest a donation of 3 to 5 dollars per person. (The extra is to cover the pagans that can’t swing $3.) If you can’t afford it, you are still welcome – if you can afford more, we’d be delighted to accept it.
NOTE: Hearthstone is a church and your donations to Hearthstone are tax deductible. If you would like to write a check so you can keep track of your donations, we can certainly handle that as well. And if it simpler to write a check occasionally rather than come up with a few bucks every month, believe me, we understand!
Hate versus Dancing
We all have anger within us. Almost daily, if not hourly, we are met with rudeness, injustice, inattention, or other irritants in our lives. We are threatened, verbally if not physically, by various forces. Naturally, we tend to grow angry. So, what can we do about this?
Anger vented improperly can – and all too often does – lead to a spiral of emotion that results in violence.
Anger hidden away turns back upon the person doing the hiding. He or she lives under a black cloud of depression.
Anger that is neither released nor hidden transmutes into hate.
Hate has been likened to a powerful acid. If one does not store acid in an inert container, it will eat away said container. It also represents a potential threat to anyone touching that vessel. Do you want to be the equivalent of a bottle of acid, ready to explode because of a small incident? Or perhaps you'd prefer to be inert, to feel nothing?
Those options all seem unappealing, don't they? So, again, what to do?
That can include many helpful activities, from small to large; from things done-in-a-jiffy to tasks that require hours or longer to complete; from physical work such as planting trees to political action such as writing to your congressperson.
But, first, let us focus on something that is apparently unrelated.
Dance to whatever beautiful music you can find. Whether that music be the actual sounds of human melodies or the joyous rush of wind through the trees; the visual patterns in the gentle swirl of snowflakes falling or the movements of clouds passing by; the subtle energy in the songs of birds calling, the soft urgency of water flowing, the unpredictable flickering of starlight peeking through our world's atmosphere.
Dance with your physical body if you can; let your feet and legs and the rest of your body free. Dance with your mind, also, especially if you cannot dance with your body. But always, always dance within your heart. Let the rhythms of nature move your spirit in a dance of joy, of healing, of life.
When you are done with the dance of restoration, take the time to savor the feeling of health, of being truly alive with joy.
After that, whatever you're then ready to do – whether it be to plant that tree or write that letter – there will be more love shining in your soul.
After I wrote the article a few months ago in which I put forth the argument that fresh fruit is Pagan soul food because for so many of us it was our first food in ritual, a friend whose opinion I respect begged to differ with my analysis. Soul food, he said, is the food you ate as a child in a setting that was specific to your ethnic heritage or somehow connected to your community’s heritage and identity, and which was served on occasions specific to your community (among other times.). “Ask Alyria what she considers soul food,” he suggested.
I didn’t have to ask. McDonald’s, a burger of some description, fries, and either a soft drink or a shake (when did the word “milk” disappear from that?) would be the food most children who are now being born and raised in Pagan households consider ubiquitous to Paganism. They might include some form of camping food, but for the most part it’s going to be the same junk food that almost all American children eat at almost any occasion. Like on the way to a ritual. Or on the afternoon of a sabbat being hosted by his/her mother… Like…well, you get the idea. <I object! I try not to feed Alyria McDonald’s as often as she asks for it! I would argue that McDonald’s is American Kid soul food instead. —Alia>
Earlier this week, the same friend and I were deciding what to make for cakes and wine for a ritual that had been moved from its original site to our living room. As it had moved from a public setting into a private one, the attendance list was severely reduced; thus, we could be a little more elaborate in our cake selection. I offered two suggestions, one a cornmeal-cranberry scone that this friend was quite fond of and the other a recipe for chocolate shortbread I had just weaseled out of a pastry chef that week. I mused, “We’re having a semi-sweet white wine. Which goes better with that?”
My friend couldn’t stop laughing. “Chocolate, dammit,” he insisted. “These are Pagans. Chocolate goes with EVERYTHING.”
And I remembered the now-famous Chocolate Ritual that is repeated at Pagan gathering the country over (and the chocolate frenzies that are similarly celebrated by Pagans of all stripes, sizes, and traditions.) And I realized that a notion I had dismissed in my previous discussion on this topic was inaccurate. Chocolate IS Pagan soul food!
This recipe makes about 3 dozen of the most scrumptious cocoa shortbread cookies imaginable. Mother’s Bistro and Bar, in downtown Portland, is designed to feature food your mother made for you. The menu boasts at least a half dozen ethnic specialties, including pierogi with sour cream, chopped chicken liver on challah, a different kind of macaroni and cheese daily, cock-a-leekie soup1, and so on. The wait staff hovers helpfully, offering opinions on nearly everything (the first time I ate there I got a review of the movie “Goonies.”) The pastry chef, whose name I cannot remember (the head chef is Lisa Schroeder, who’s pretty darned impressive as well), was so flattered that I’d asked for this recipe that she came out and hugged me. She said they were the easiest cookies in her entire repertoire and gave me a couple of pointers. I made these cookies for ritual and I think I always will. As far as I’m concerned, these cookies ought to be the Pagan entry on the Mother’s menu, and I hope that many Pagan mothers (and fathers and aunts and uncles and goddess-mothers and co-coveners and…you get the idea) will make these for their children for generations to come and they become one of the cornerstones of Pagan soul food.
Note that this was originally given to me as a recipe for eight dozen. I have adapted it. I have also added a dash of vanilla not in the original recipe because it so nicely accents the chocolate flavor of the cocoa. The original recipe called for unsalted butter but it is apparent that the chef adds salt because with unsalted butter these are quite bland. I used salted butter and they were excellent.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Cream butter with hand mixer (or in stand mixer. I’m lazy, too…) Add sugar and continue to cream until thoroughly combined. Add cocoa slowly, then the vanilla extract. When all is completely mixed together, add flour slowly. When it all is mixed well (it will not be particularly cohesive looking at this point) roll it up into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.
Cover baking sheet with a piece of bakers’ parchment. Take dough from refrigerator and cut in half. Return one half to the refrigerator and roll the other half our to ¼” thick. Cut with cookie cutters and arrange on baking sheet. (These cookies do not spread much at all so you can fit lots on one sheet.) Bake 20-25 minutes; watch to be sure they don’t burn. Remove the parchment carefully, with cookies still on it, to cool. Put another piece of parchment on the baking sheet and repeat with second half of cookie dough. (It is quite permissible to re-roll the leftover scraps to make more cookies.)
Allow to cool completely, particularly if you’re putting them on a cherished wooden pentacle…