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For most people, the kitchen represents the old-fashioned idea of the hearth. The good aroma of cooking, the warmth of the gathered family, or the solitude of the kitchen table can provide comfort and peace. The kitchen can be the most hectic room in a house, as well.
Often, the smell of something baking stirs memories deep inside us. Apples and cinnamon, pies, stews, and steamy vegetables greet us as we come through the door. Aromas like these bring to us the scents of childhood. We can close our eyes and be back in our mother's or grandmother's kitchen again.
Magic in the kitchen happens whether the practitioner is aware of it or not. For instance, when you reach for a certain spice or herb with which to season a dish you are preparing, you will have a preconceived idea of what that herb will do to flavor the recipe. This positive expectation, in itself, is magic. You are actually able to visualize the dish when done, and you can taste it, too. This kind of pre-expectation is the groundwork for magical practice.
Many cooks use intuition when they create new dishes. This intuition is guided by two things—practical prior experience, and the force of the herb. Each herb has its own particular vibratory energy. When people, having worked with herbs before, are preparing a dish, often they will add an herb that they may not have used before. This experimentation is guided by the properties of the herb and how each would enhance the dish, not only culinarily, but magically. Consider, for a moment, the herb basil. One of the most common dishes that lovers prepare for each other is pasta. The most common ingredient in pasta dishes is basil. Basil has long been thought to increase and strengthen affairs of the heart. It has been used in love sachets and magic for a very long time. Instinctually, people will use basil when cooking for a lover, because they are unknowingly aware of the power of that herb.
Corn dollies have retained a place in many kitchens. The history of these dollies is rather interesting in that it presents one of the clearest examples of continuity in the ancient Celtic cultures. Corn dollies are traditionally made with the last corn from the harvest. This new corn dolly replaces last year's which is burned in the fires at either the Autumnal Equinox or Samhain. This burning of the dolly is to give thanks for the harvest. At the Celtic festival of Imolg (February 2nd) the dolly is dressed to play the role of "Biddy" for rituals of fertility for the growing season to come.
The kitchen is one place where the changing of the seasons is the most noticeable. Cooking smells shift with the time of year. In the spring we have fresh summer vegetables. Bar-B-Ques leave their very distinctive aromas in the summer air; watermelon, peaches, and tasty, seasonal fruits make their way to our tables. In the fall (my very favorite time) we have squash, sweet potatoes, corn, and all of the wonderful results of the harvest. In the winter, with the celebrations of Thanksgiving and Yuletide, we are tantalized with the smell of turkey, ham, nutmeg and pine. The smells of the seasons find a source in the kitchen.
I love the smells in my kitchen at harvest time. Not only do I like all the harvest vegetables, but the bunches of medicinal and magical herbs that hang drying in my kitchen leave their particular scent. They also add a touch of country in my city home. The deep purple flowers of the clover, the white of the yarrow, and the dusty green of the sage, all help to make my kitchen homey. The scent of lemon balm, sage, lavender, peppermint, and bay berry drift in the air.
When cooking or preparing medicinal or magical recipes and teas, we are practicing hearth magic. We stir, we taste, we add a pinch of this, and a dash of that. This is magic. It imbibes the creation with love, energy and intensity. It does not matter that the people creating are aware of this or not. The magic is still being generated. Power is released from us to the thing we are constructing. This power will then increase the potentiality of the brew. Thus, the dish will be tastier, the tea will heal more rapidly and the incense/potpourri/oil will be stronger magically. This is hearth magic, and people who put a part of themselves into what is being done are practitioners of hearth magic.
Often if I am cooking a meal, I will put the required herb into the dish and then I will take an added pinch and burn it on the stove or over an incense coal. If, for example, I am in need of a sound sleep that night, I will burn a pinch of peppermint and cinquefoil. The magical properties of peppermint include sleep aid and cinquefoil will generate psychic and prophetic dreams. Each has its own power. If I need to touch with Spirit, I burn willow leaves. If I—or anyone I know—is having financial difficulty, I will burn patchouli or bergamot. I am already in the kitchen cooking, so I make use of the moment to connect magically.
The kitchen is a magical hearth for many people, and they use the room in different ways. A number of people I know often light candles when making something particularly important. The flame of the candle provides warmth of atmosphere, purification of air, and a representation of the fire element. Burning herbs for their different properties is a way to utilize the earth and fire elements together.
Cauldrons, brooms, salt, and herbal teas all have a place in the kitchen. Each of these items is so ordinary that they could not possibly look out of place. Cauldrons are any pan or pot used to heat something made with care and love. From the stew pot to the Sabbat fire-pot. Each is a representation of the Goddess. She answers to many names; perhaps her most famous persona is that of Cerridwen, Cerridwen, being a celtic Goddess who has great strength of character. Her courage might only be tested by her quick temper. This Lady is an embodiment of all that is woman. That is not to say that all women are the characteristic match to Cerridwen. On the contrary, there are as many types of personalities and traits as there are Gods and Goddesses to represent them. Cerridwen is the seer of prophecies; the teller of stories; she is the caregiver and healer.
The broom, as any Wiccan could tell you, is the wand incognito. It was used in many traditions to ride and jump the crops to ensure good harvests. It also presented a boundary to a newly wed couple. This couple could envision the land of love and family beyond the broom. When they jumped over to the other side, they now moved as a connected pair. The broom has always swept the negative away. Doorsteps must be swept regularly to banish negativity as it tries to cross the threshold.
Salt is one of the strongest representations of the earth element. Rice, dirt, stones, herbs, vegetables, and fruits can all be a part of that representation. But salt remains one of the most versatile. It is used to cleanse any magical tool, and is an ingredient in prosperity and protective work. Its most fascinating trait is that no matter how small it breaks, its form remains the same; that is, a perfect cube. The cube, like other symbols (pentagram, circle, etc.) is continuous. There is no beginning and end. This is representative of not only the earth and earth elementals, but of the Grand Plan.
In doing any magical work or ritualization, the most important ingredient is, of course, intent. Do magical work only with good intent. It stands to reason that if we do good we will receive in kind. If our intentions are negative, this, too, will result in a like return. Your work must always be done knowing that it harms no one including you.
Ritual is carried out throughout our day. We do not have to be conscious of this fact, but none-the-less, it goes on day in and day out. Aside from the spiritual rituals of our beliefs (no matter the faith or path), we conduct rituals of cleansing ourselves, i.e., baths, washing hands, brushing hair and teeth, etc. Anything which is done repeatedly and in the same manner to achieve the same end is ritual. We expect the end results and are visualizing them thus. In this manner, everyday motions and behavior become ritualized.
But the very best kind of ritual is one of which we are aware. The more we imbibe the work with our power, the greater the reward. As with any task, effort is the key. This is not to say that a ritual involving more equipment or fancier tools is best. This is good if it feels right for the practitioner. Some people who work magically feel that it's necessary to be magically dressed and decorated. Others do the same kind of work with nothing but a clearing in the trees. Ritual and its results depends upon the intent and effort of those using it. The deeper you can reach inside yourself to power the work, the stronger and more efficient the result. Efficiency is not a word many would bring to a discussion on magical methods, but it is an important factor. Whether one is praying or meditating, spelling or channeling, if the work you do is efficient and concise, then the results will be, too. When you do a task at work or home, you try to be efficient about it. If you do this task in a sloppy or halfhearted way, the results are less than satisfactory.
The same holds true of any work you do on other levels. If you are efficient about it, your results will be streamlined and more satisfying.
If you cannot seem to focus on the desired results of any work you do, try again another time. There are specific rituals presented in different works that are appropriate to a certain phase of the moon or season of the year. Details can be important if you use the work of another. Best to follow the tried and true instructions and perhaps modify them later at your own pace and according to taste. But generally, unless it is a specific spell, work will wait until you can empower it fully.
Working with Tea
When you drink a magical tea, you drink it for other reasons than the obvious. Perhaps you wish to help speed the healing of a friend. Peppermint and thyme would be a wonderful combination to use. Many herbs are herbs of healing and combinations are unlimited according to taste, intuition, and personal need. The peppermint and thyme will medicinally help clear clogged sinuses and bronchial tubes. If this is a need at the time, the medicinal effects are merely a bonus. The magical uses of teas are the focus here. The following tea combinations are tried and true for the fundamental needs in Tea Magic.
Caution: All herbs contain some medicinal properties and some are allergic-positive. Others are extremely harmful and should be avoided. Before ingesting any herb or combination, ensure that not only are the herbs identified properly, but that you thoroughly research them yourself. Never take one person's word on something so important. Check them out, because at the same time, you will learn and grow.
For needed income: Chamomile and Blackberry; Sassafras and Almond; Jasmine and Mint.
For healing: Cinnamon and Lemon Balm; Mint and Apple; Saffron and Fennel.
For love: Strawberry and Orange; Raspberry and Lemon; Licorice and Jasmine.
For purification: Peppermint and Anise seed; Lemon and Chamomile.
When you use a tea for magical purposes, always set aside a quiet time and place to do your ritual. You should take a few minutes and run your wrists and hands under warm water. Soap them and rub them gently together to mix the energy between them. As you run the warm water over your skin, invite the power of the water to enter you for the work you are going to do. Know that the element of water is one of birth and growth, continuity and fluidity. Each of these attributes are invited into you for you to use toward the desired result.
Breathe deeply as you prepare yourself for magic. Allow the element of air to oxygenate your blood. All of the right conditions for magical work of any kind must always be brought about by proper breathing and meditation.
As you prepare the tea, enjoy the task. Don't rush to put the kettle on and hurry the burner. Really be aware of what you are doing. Hear the sound the water makes as it hits the bottom of the kettle. Look at—and really see—the steam as the water starts to boil. Enjoy the smell of the tea when you pour the water into the cup. And all the while, keep your goal in the back of your mind. The more you can associate every step in the process to the ultimate desired end, the stronger your magic will be.
Now, sit quietly by yourself and savor the taste, heat, and smell of the tea. Feel it go down your throat as you swallow. By charging (see chapter 2) the herbs or teas you are using, and by drinking their product, you are taking the very properties of them into you. Taking an herb this way enables that herb to empower you.
Never rush what you do. If you are rushing, then you only have on your mind what you must do next. It is the current moment that is important in magical work. You must see this moment as an opportunity to concentrate more fully, breathe more deeply, and accept the knowledge of that experience.
Simple teas are wonderful, as well. A simple tea is a tea made with just one herb. Raspberry tea should be a staple in every woman's home. This is not meant in a sexist manner, but rather, the tea made from raspberry leaves has properties that no woman should do without. Because women must function within the lunar cycle, the emotions and psyche can change throughout her month. Raspberry has the magical properties of protection and love. Most women experience times of stress or vulnerability through their month and raspberry is made to order. The increased protection allows us to continue work and alleviates some of the stress, by holding it at bay.
The medicinal effects of raspberry tea come into play when concerned with PMS, cramping, water retention, mood-swings, childbirth and general lethargy. Raspberry's prime function is to ease the discomfort of menstrual-related symptoms. It has been used throughout history to treat birthing, cramping, and excess bleeding. So when you feel out of sorts, or are experiencing the discomforts of your cycle, pour boiling water over crushed raspberry leaves and let steep for 2-3 minutes. Sip the tea slowly and relax. Let the herb do its allotted job and enjoy the benefits.
Anything prepared with creativity, intent, and care is magically significant. Cooking is a dynamic field, ripe for magical uses. If you are one who uses herbs in the kitchen, the number of magically potent culinary herbs is vast. Each has its properties and each does its job when charged and willed by you. So why not use the opportunity that cooking allows.
When you are preparing food for a particular occasion, use herbs in your creations that will enhance. For example: the herb frankincense is an herb of many properties. It has protective powers, gives a balance to the spiritual aspects of the user and has a very strong use in thanks-giving. The uses of frankincense throughout history as a magical herb for burning are often noted in old texts. The bearer of frankincense to the baby Jesus was a king, therefore the gift had to befit the bearer's station in life. It has always been considered the gold of the scent and power herbs. The ancient Egyptians used frankincense in their rituals of thanks to the sun god for giving them a new day. Although it is a gum-resin, frankincense is still classified as an herbal substance because it is a plant by-product. Just as tea is infused from herbs, so frankincense is extracted from an herb.
But frankincense is not generally used in cooking. Therefore, the use of rosemary as a substitute for frankincense is common. Rosemary is an herb used for seasonings but with the potencies of frankincense. Crushed and sprinkled lightly over oven-warmed bread, Rosemary brings to your meal a joy of the occasion. It enhances the moment with protection and shows your thanks for the cause of the celebration. Celebrations of love, birth, marriage, a job, anniversaries, etc., are all occasions of thanksgiving. Use rosemary in your culinary preparations and enjoy bringing magic into your cauldron.
Basil is an herb of love, so it is used in many dishes that are often viewed as romantic. Pasta meals, seafood dishes, and salads are generally made with basil. It is used to enhance the bond between two people and should be used liberally in a meal that is designed to draw a pair closer together.
Thyme works wonderfully with the flavors of fish, yellow vegetables, and beef. It will empower your meal with strength, courage, healing, and health. Use it in your cooking the night before a test, meeting, event, etc., for added self-encouragement.
Life is about awareness. If awareness is clouded or rushed, life becomes crowded and rushed. Be aware of what you cook with. Know the herbs you use and what their properties are. Find books about herbs and their magical classifications. Learn more about the things you put into your body and discover what powers they may hold. And put their powers to work. They are there for your use. You will use these flavorings regardless. You should be aware of their other traits.
Excerpted from Magical Hearth by Janet Thompson. Copyright © 1995 Janet Thompson. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Chapter 1. Magical Hearth
Chapter 2. Bud, Root, and Stem
Chapter 3. Mystical Flame
Chapter 4. Witches' Breath
Chapter 5. Water's Edge
Chapter 6. Crystal Clear
Chapter 7. Nights and Days
Chapter 8. Childlike
Chapter 9. Cat Magic
Appendix 1: Home for the Modern Pagan
Appendix 2: Color Guide
About the Author