Honey Bun Cake

On Saturday I attended the Biannual Austin Area Pagan Meetup Workshop (whew!) and Potluck. It was great! So informative and fun. The presentations were well-researched and relevant. I have to say—for all the bickering that can go on online, for all the naysaying about the Pagan community within the Pagan community…I don’t see that in the Pagans I’ve become involved with. They’re all different religions or philosophies, from eclectic to Druid to Wiccan (traditional, solitary, derivative covens) to reconstructionist to Asatru and guess what…? Everyone manages to go to the same meetup and have a damn good time.

That aside, for the potluck I made a recipe called Honey Bun Cake. I made a gluten-free version that turned out great, and as I was making it I realized it would be a perfect Imbolc dessert or to be served in the cakes and ale portion of any ritual. The cake itself is very dense, chewy and moist, while the topping is nice and crunchy. It really does remind me of those old honey bun snack-cakes.

Honey Bun Cake, Gluten Free

A lot of the proportions depend on how dry your cake mix is—gluten free mixes can vary considerably. I used King Arthur’s Yellow Cake Mix and these are the proportions I use. By the way…King Arthur gluten-free mixes are amazing. All of them.

Cake:

1 gluten-free yellow box cake mix

1 cup sour cream (maybe a little more if your box cake is very sweet)

4 eggs

1/2 c. oil

Milk to thin the batter. I think I ended up using around 2 cups.

Topping:

Up to 1/3 c. brown sugar

Up to 1/3 c. honey

1 tbsp. cinnamon

Icing:

2 c. powdered sugar

1/4 c. milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325.

Mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, sour cream and milk until smooth. Some lumps are fine, just not big lumps. Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan.

Sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon and honey on top of the batter. Swirl with a dinner knife. Bake at 325 for 35-45 minutes.

For the icing, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until desired consistency. Pour onto the hot cake and let set for about 10 minutes.

Here’s a link to the original recipe.

Here’s a link to a non gluten-free version.

PBP 2013: Animism, Considered

Today I took a walk. Not really an extraordinary thing, walking, except that it was the first time I’ve been outside the house in three days. The whole family is rotating through a bad cold, and I had a stomach bug besides, so…all in all…it’s been a pretty claustrophobic existence for most of the week.

But today I felt well enough to walk. My body needed to stretch, blood needed to flow. The humid-cool air chilled my skin and reminded me of late winter softball practice. Families and teenagers crowded the park/watershed where I walk, all enjoying the break in rainy weather before we get another cold front tomorrow. Already the clouds had begun rolling in, big lavender thunderheads squatting on the horizon.

As I walked I thought about a blog post I read yesterday. It was by Wendy Froud and detailed a walk she took to receive inspiration from the fae. Dver, at A Forest Door, noted that this was “animism in action“. And as I stopped to say hello to Niana, the water spirit, this got me thinking. Am I an animist?

Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the evening. Even with all the noise going on—toddlers screeching, basketballs bouncing, a group playing football—there was a…bite, shall we say…to the breeze. An ominous quality. The clouds had eaten the golden rays of the sun, so the twilight was instead a mix of gray, blue and purple.

As I turned the bend to the quieter part of the park I began to note that the trees seemed…how do I say?…more….alive. More tree-like, perhaps. I saw how the curved, bent, swooped, twisted and intertwined. I reached out to touch the bark of one, and then couldn’t stop. I wanted to touch all of them! Sit with them. Listen. I was sure, so sure, that they were talking this evening.

Further along the path I came upon a rock I don’t remember seeing before. Really, a boulder. Pockmarked limestone with streaks of red clay. About four feet tall, four feet wide. I walked over to it and leaning against it…felt it. I couldn’t say in that moment that I believed that rock to be without spirit. In fact, I believed that rock had a very distinct spirit.

And on the walk went. I’d observe, listen, and just kind of…bask…in what seemed like a very noisy conversation that many elements, spirits, trees, rocks, mushrooms, grasses were having. Maybe that’s it. Maybe today everything just seemed so loud, so close, that I couldn’t help but notice that the everything had a spirit. Everything had something to say.

Is this crazy? Maybe. The funny thing is for all I’ve considered myself a polytheist, for all I’ve been a Pagan and a novice spell worker, for some reason I’ve never considered animism fully. I don’t know why, maybe I haven’t been ready. Which is strange that I haven’t put it together, since I definitely talk to Niana, converse with the land spirits in the yard, in the hedges. Together, we converse. Is that animism? I guess that has always seemed too macro to be animism to me. And I’ve had experiences kind of like this one before, but never so…so that every tree, every stone, every mushroom I came upon seemed so discrete.

I fear I’m not expressing myself well here, pardon. Suffice to say that while I’ve never considered animism before—I’m not sure why not—it’s a conversation, a consideration, that I think I’m ready to begin.

Pagan Blog Project 2013: A is for Action

[Written on Friday, January 4, 2013]

Action. It’s a weird word to be writing about when I’m sitting in my pajamas on my couch at 9:50 a.m. My stomach is growling, and I’m too lazy to get up and fix breakfast. My tot is off at daycare/preschool, so I’m alone in the house.  The wind is bitter, the driveway slick with sleet, my A/C is pumping out hot air with abandon.

Even though my physical body is in hibernation mode, my…I don’t know, what do you call that part of you that moves independently of your mind, your body? The Other Self is a term I like (today, who knows tomorrow), that part that is you, but also apart from you. For me it’s most active in the dark months. When the cold settles in, when icy tree branches rustle and creak, when our words turn to fog in the chill, when the bustle of the holidays has given way to the long stretch of Winter…that’s when Other Self wakens. When Other Self wants some exercise, some action.

I know that according to typical Pagan structures (Wheel of the Year, I guess) the times for divination, for magic, are strongest around Samhain and Beltane. While I do feel an atmosphere of…change, activity, presence…during those times, I don’t feel focused enough to do the deeper actions that I feel divination and work call for. Samhain is the start of the frenetic holiday season; Beltane the beginning of summer activities and mirth. Both of which are lovely. But winter, the cold, the bare earth, focuses me in a way that nothing else can. Life is quiet on top of the earth. But below there is undeniable activity, and in Texas there is only a few weeks that we can take advantage before spring begins—usually neatly coinciding with Imbolc.

So Other Self and I go on some adventures. We talk using the Shadowscapes Tarot (sometimes Wildwood, but then the conversation is usually obscured). We play with spells and ritual and dancing. We dream together, write to each other, spend some precious time readying ourselves for the inevitable outside activity that begins to creep back in around Valentine’s Day.

This year, I’m hoping that Other Self and I will not lose touch as frequently as we did in 2012. By participating in PBP 13 and  possibly starting the ADF Dedicant Path, I’m looking forward to a full year of play, conversation, learning and action.

The Wind, The Wind.

The wind is blowing. I’m home alone, drinking a nice glass of wine from the winery I work at. The TV is off. The husband is gone. The babe is asleep. I think if we had our Yule tree up the twinkle lights and resinous aroma would make me feel cozy. But being alone, in the quiet, with the restless wind and the fat red waning gibbous (the fourth night in a row the moon has hung low, fat, and red) makes me feel…un-quiet.

When I listen these days I feel that there is a sense of unease in the land. I’m always hesitant to do anything about it, because what do I know of the bigger picture? I’m a peon, at best. But still, we had a mild, wet summer and now we’re having a hot, dry winter. The winds blow at night. There is dense fog and mist in the morning. The afternoon sun is bright and intense, even as we wane into Winter Solstice. This is unusual, even in a land of variable weather. It’s not winter here. We’ve been in a liminal state since July.

The restlessness of the land, of the spirits, dawned on me a few nights ago. Maybe it was the fool moon, or the high clouds racing across the sky, but as I looked up into the night I had the distinct thought that…the ancestors would be easy to hear tonight. The veil is still very thin.

And maybe that is one blessing of such a topsy-turvy year, is that through this whole season, even when I haven’t been seeking them out, everything—the very atmosphere—has felt thin, permeable, evanescent. Like the seasons are having a hard time transitioning, something is having a hard time letting go, giving up, surrendering.

Late November.

I have a book of Celtic/Irish poetry and in it there is a poem about late November. I’m too lazy to get it now. Not really lazy—contented. My baby is sleeping way past the usual time. The air is slightly chilly, the yard filled intermittently with golden sunlight or gray haze. Two cats are chasing butterflies in the backyard. I’m only beginning to plumb the depths of Spotify’s music collection, especially on the esoteric and drumming side. I just ate a biscuit slathered with butter and honey and drank too-sweet-too-milky tea with it. A pretty awesome afternoon.

I took an unintentional break from most things internet in November. I didn’t even do NaNoWriMo this year, which kind of broke my heart. But I knew once October 31st rolled into November 1st that I didn’t have the juice for anything more than existence in November. It turned out to be a wise choice. Not that anything bad happened—thank gods—for one month this year everything was just…normal. No miscarriages. No car wrecks. No financial strain. No trying to make a baby. No travel. Nothing. Just life. Boring old life. Even though that meant giving up my beloved NaNo, it was…kind of amazing.

I returned to things that I normally do. I started weight-lifting again, running sprints, turning my eating back towards normal and balanced. I had the pleasure of staying at my parents’ house for a week, and they took care of Claire while I visited with some great, longtime friends. Like I said. Everything was normal. And that normalcy was…kind of amazing.

But now it’s that time of year when I feel things spiraling into the dark (in a good way, non-pagan readers, in a good way). It’s just that time of the year. The trees down here are finally releasing their leaves. The sunshine is at once weak and yet over-exposes every surface it lights on. Night comes early. Mornings are foggy. Once again we’re in drought—no rain in Austin for the whole month of November, actually—and that’s another kind of death.

On the spiritual/religious side of things, November was very even keel. My altar has a thick layer of dust, no lie. So do my cards and journal. I’ve been reading a very complicated book—RJ Stewart’s Underworld Initiation—and I kind of love it. It’s kind of crazy, but also kind of brilliant and also kind of obvious all at the same time. It’s definitely food for thought.

I’ve been attending the North Austin Pagan Meetup since August, and the November meet was by far my favorite. See, “they” forgot to change the date so there was some confusion, and in that confusion only about 10 people showed up. Usually anywhere between 35-50 attend the meetup. The first part was a bit awkward, truth told, because of the unexpected intimacy of the situation. So we got to know each other a little bit, then after about an hour a man, V, asked about a spirit situation in his house. So that got us all talking and we chatted on into the night about spirits and the land and all sorts of things that one can only really talk about in the presence of other p/Pagans. Comfortably, anyway.

Now, after a renewing November, I’m ready for the Yule season. I’m actually getting pretty excited to put up our small tree and decorate with our little ornaments. Claire is now at the age where the holidays are a joy. I can’t wait for her little, “ooo!” when we light up the tree! Later tonight I’ll order some Solstice storybooks off of Amazon (we need a change from October’s Room on the Broom, cute as it is…). And tonight, with the low slung clouds and increasing fogginess, I’ll go on a run and visit with Niana for a bit.

Hope this dark season is finding you all well!

 

 

Halloween/Samhain

Today is Halloween. Obviously.

Halloween and Samhain are two of my favorite holidays of the year. But this year…not so much. This October I haven’t had time to think about Halloween or Samhain (more important, in my perspective) at all. I went from working one weekend this month to four, both days (that’s 14-20 hours added to each week, no break), add-on to that your usual life stuff, plus renovating the dining room, planning a party, and making Claire a costume…I mean, right now, as I’m writing this, I’m exhausted. I’m pissed/hurt because C didn’t want to wear the costume I spent precious time and money making. I’m on a bit of a sugar crash….and…well, the thought of a ritual, anything beyond…I don’t know, sitting outside in the dark, seems overwhelming. These aren’t ‘excuses’, yes, this stuff is in my control, but what I’m saying is…I let this month get completely out of control. Seriously. I’m sitting here kind of wondering what the fuck happened.

So I was trying to get in the right headspace to do something when I came across the first few lines in *this* blogpost: I would like to start off by saying that Halloween is NOT the “Witches Holiday”. Halloween is a holiday for little children to get candy, and for Adults to decorate their houses with scary witch and ghost figures. —Steven Day

And then I thought, Duh, Meagan. Just…just, duh. Calm your silly, stressed out, tired ass down. Tomorrow is Samhain. Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead. Tomorrow, not tonight, not when I have to crowbar justonemorething in. It’s not that profound a sentiment, it’s one that I’ve always operated on. Halloween is for kids, Samhain is for spiritual/religious purposes. It’s not either or. It’s not black and white. And your practice, which you love, shouldn’t feel like another weight on your shoulders. Another have-to, another gotta-get-it-done, another check on the to-do list. Blech! Yuck! I’d rather not practice anything than for it to become so rote, so tedious. And really, it’s not. One of my greatest joys, deepest pleasures, is my spiritual practice. To say that one reason October became so out of control is because I largely abandoned it, abandoned the bigger picture, probably isn’t far off the mark.

Tomorrow will be my ritual, tomorrow will be the day that I honor the ancestors and say goodbye to summer (though you wouldn’t know it here…it went from chilly to hot). Tomorrow night will be the night that I sit in stillness and contemplate the Great Silence that is death.

Tonight? Tonight is for looking at the moon in the after trick-or-treat stillness. Tonight is for catching up on Supernatural, washing the hairspray out of my hair, thanking the household spirits for their good work this past month, reading a book…

And drinking a big, Tami Taylor-sized glass of wine.

Blessings on your Halloween night. Dark blessings as your honor your dead tonight and throughout this week.

 

Poly-Theology, Thoughts #1

I’ve always hated the topic of theology. Back in the Christian days I’d try to get into because I felt that I needed to defend my faith. But mostly I wanted to poke my eyes out whenever I heard people debating Hebrew semantics or the literalness of this or that or whatever other topics that theology covers, which is basically everything. Seriously. Being stuck in one of those gotcha! conversations is just the worst.

Still, there is something to be said for having a consistent belief system. Or at least some working parameters. When I first dipped my toe in the vast world of Paganism I had no idea where to go. The most prevalent belief system, at least according to all the books on the shelves, is the Wiccan duo-theistic model. Goddess and God, all divinity aspected in some way under that paradigm. Which is fine, but I always wondered where the Other fit in. The third aspect, the gender-bender, the gray area, the not goddess/god/not wanting to be. I’ve always had a certain niche in my heart for that…facet? or that deity (and right there, you can tell that I’m an eggs-over-medium polytheist, can’t you? Sly dog.)

So, well, what then? For awhile I had (and have) relationships (?) with Brighid, Aphrodite, The Green Man, Hekate and The Morrighan. Some are a bit more involved, some are just passing hellos and thank yous and wows. But it’s quiet a collection. I definitely am not God-spoused or singularly devoted to any of them. And really, I feel like my theology is kind of populated with lots of gods and goddesses. Which I like. I like their stories, prayers and songs.

But…see, I don’t know what to name them. I don’t know what pantheon they are. I’ve read up on several and while some deities resonate, others don’t, then I feel muddled and wish I was a Reconstructionist. Cause Reconstructionists, man, at least they got their pantheon, right? Celtic, Greek, Roman, Norse, whathaveyou.

Grass is greener.

This bothered me. I’m a verbal person and when I wanted to pray to something I didn’t like just addressing the air or Goddess or God. Prayers, petitions, offerings, even just a hello-thankyou fell flat when I did that.

So, I got an idea. From a book. Because that’s how Pagans role, yo. The book is called Firethorn by Sarah Micklem. In it the theology in that world is so…intuitive. It’s basically a fully realized system of poly-theology based on archetype and avatar theory. I like it as a way of identifying deities without the pressure to name and categorize them right off. So, while I’m taking inspiration from her work, I’m not using her system.

But what I’ve come up with goes like this:

For several nights I’ve been trying to cultivate a dream life. It’s something that takes time, yes, but I’ve felt the desire pressing on my intuition. I wanted to petition a deity, make a little offering, but I had no idea who. And I really hate, hate, hate just looking up a deity from a correspondence table. It just feels like cold-calling, which I just…I mean, it seems a bit disrespectful, truth told. So, I used the name Dream Weaver. Which feels like an aspect of the same Weaver I murmur to when I read cards. And it seems to have worked.

Someday a name might be whispered in my ear, but for now, to my modern, disconnected from archaic knowledge and really not wanting to screw it up brain, this works.

Right now I’m not sure of many others. Some names that I have work for me. Aphrodite for marriage, beauty and sex. Hestia and Brighid for different aspects of home, hearth-fire, marriage, children, cooking, housework. And on and on. But for others that I don’t have names for yet, Dream Weaver and Weaver and Star Lady (though I see her in Aphrodite and Brighid, too) and Warrior and Storyteller, this seems to…be a happy medium.

I guess this is my deity life hack. Or something. Thoughts?

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans

Cinnamon-Sugar Pecans—the stuff that dreams, Renaissance Faires and Roquefort-Pear Salad are made out of (please, try that salad–it’s absolutely divine, no matter what pantheon you worship).  Lucky for you, and your post-Renaissance Faire budget, they are very easy to make. They’re also a tasty gift, a nice touch to add to salads and sweet casseroles, and an easy, appetizing dish to include in your upcoming holiday parties from Samhain to Imbolc. Really, you can’t lose.

Cinnamon-Sugar Pecans (or any nuts)

1 pound pecans*

1 egg white, whipped till frothy

1 c. sugar, white

1 to 2 tsp. cinnamon

generous sprinkle sea salt

Directions

1. Set your oven to 200. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

2. In a large bowl, whip the egg white until frothy. Add the pecans, toss to coat.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon and salt.

4. Add the sugar mixture to the egg whites and pecans. Toss until thoroughly coated. Spread evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven when the pecans are very fragrant and the sugar shell is hard.

* You can definitely size this recipe for whatever amount you need. I’ve quartered it, halved it, etc. and it’s always turned out great.  Just remove the amount of egg white or add an egg white per pound.

*Also, you can apply it to different nuts, but be aware that because of varying fat content some nuts (like cashews) might burn easier, so check more often.

Enjoy! I know that I’ll be giving these to friends as gifts around Yule and Christmas and adding them to any dish that I can possibly get away with!

Happy Autumn Equinox!

Well, ladies and gents…it’s finally officially here! Autumn!

Unfortunately I have to go to work today, but I know the ride will be amazing. The vineyard I work at is down a winding country road, and on such a beautiful day I don’t think anything could be better.

How We’re Celebrating Mabon:

-Collecting acorns (special points if they still have their hats). Leaves haven’t started to fall yet; that’ll probably be on the agenda for Samhain.

-Decorating my altar.

-My family is in town so we’ve been enjoying their company.

-Continuing to plant the fall garden: lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, turnips, peas, broccoli, collards, beets, parsnips, carrots, cilantro, parsley, basil, chamomile, calendula, dill, chrysanthemums, etc…Yay!

-Taking walks and enjoying being outside.

-Later I’ll do my seasonal Tarot spread and place out some offerings.

-Thursday I started seasonal cleaning and have gotten pretty far. Completely cleaned and reorganized the office/library and utility room.

-As far as making my house a home (see post here), that’s going a bit slow, but there has been definite progress. We’ve sampled about 18 different paints for the dining room–though, we’re no where close to deciding. We bought a new dining room table, moved the old table to the kitchenette, started re-landscaping the front, and I’ve been working on re-organizing (see point above). I think in another six weeks, by Samhain, we’re going to have a substantially different home! Yay, progress!

I hope everyone is having a great beginning of autumn day!

In Context.

For the past few days I’ve been searching the Internet and my library for socio-historical and mythological information about miscarriage and stillbirth. And…I’ve really come up short. I’ve found a lot about historical abortion, which, while fascinating, is not the nuance I’m looking for.

I’d like to do a post, or a series or posts, about the social, historical and mythological Pagan constructs of miscarriage and stillbirth. My assumptions are that it would be a taboo topic, since many of these societies were primarily concerned with fertility. Also, medical knowledge being variable, many women might not even know they’re pregnant. I will, however, give most women the benefit of knowing their bodies well enough to speculate.

So what are the stories around this? Who are the deities who preside over it?

And I just can’t find that information. I might be missing it completely. It might be hidden in books about broader topics that I haven’t found. Maybe I’m not keying in the right phrase. I’m hesitant to attribute the miscarriage label under Mother Goddesses, especially since I haven’t found references about them (Isis, Hera, Danu, Demeter, etc.) presiding over pregnancy loss.

On a personal spiritual level I’d like to incorporate this knowledge in my own practices. However, I think it would be a service to the community to have a resource pool for that information.

If you know anything, Pagan community, any tidbits at all, I’d love to hear them. Stories, songs, legends, rituals, deities, folk practices, herbs…whatever ya got.

Many blessings.