Read an Excerpt
The Witches' Almanac
Issue 31: Spring 2012-Spring 2013: Radiance of the Sun Paperback
By Andrew Theitic
THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD.Copyright © 2012 THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD.
All rights reserved.
A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
— William Blake
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
by Judith Joyce
ELECTRIC LADY. Edith, a very high energy Aries, has always had a strange relationship with electricity. Most people have had the occasional street light go out, but that's small potatoes for Edith, who has blown out household light bulbs by the hundreds. She turns on and off the TV without the remote and has broken hospital equipment and jammed electric doors. In Edith's presence, microwaves start smoking, coffee pots go haywire, watches don't keep accurate time and, well, you get the drift ... These occurrences usually happen when she is upset or angry. Friends won't ride in elevators or on planes with Edith. The four lights in the basement go out so often — all at the same time! — that Edith habitually carries a flashlight with her when she goes down to the washing machine. She has been known to turn the TV on and off by crossing and uncrossing her legs from across the room; others sitting in the same place have no effect. Needless to say, Edith owns a lot of flashlights, and she always has batteries on her shopping list.
DOLPHIN VIGILANCE. The celebratory 2011 Fourth of July holiday turned tragic for Luis Arturo Polanco Morales, a 47 year-old resident of Denham Springs, Louisiana, who drowned in Grand Isle. Morales was fishing on the rocks with another man and a young girl. When the girl fell into the water, the men jumped in to rescue her. The other man and the girl were able to make it out of the water alive, but Morales was swept away by the current. His body was later discovered on the shore, where, witnesses reported, it had been brought by dolphins. "They're keeping an eye on us," said an observer, as reported by The Fortean Times.
DO JELLYFISH HATE NUCLEAR POWER? Jellyfish have disabled dozens of nuclear power plants, as far afield from each other as Japan, Israel, and Scotland. These denizens of the deep can also wreak havoc on desalination plants. Jellyfish populations are reputedly on the rise — ocean acidification and global warming are apparently beneficial for these free-swimming members of the aquatic Cnidaria family, also known as Sea Jellies and Medusas. Nuclear and desalination plants draw water from the ocean and possess filtration devices specifically intended to protect against jellyfish and miscellaneous sea debris. These are effective against small numbers of jellyfish, but when their numbers increase, jellyfish can overwhelm and clog these filters. Plant closures are temporary, but with an anticipated jellyfish baby boom, more frequent incidents are expected.
LIGHTNING AND LUCY THE ELEPHANT. Who says lightning doesn't strike twice? Not Lucy the Elephant of Margate, New Jersey, who has been struck by lightning twice: once in 2006 and again in July 2011, mere weeks before Lucy's 130th birthday. That's right, 130. Lucy is not a living, breathing flesh-and-blood pachyderm, but a six-story wood and metal construction. Lucy is a classic example of novelty architecture — she is a building in the form of an elephant. Built in 1882 by Irish-American inventor James V. Lafferty, Lucy, who has been described as the oldest surviving example of zoomorphic architecture, is sixty-five feet tall, sixty-feet long, and weighs approximately nine tons. She has served as a restaurant, a tavern, and is now a beloved tourist attraction. Lucy was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. After the 2006 hit caused $162,000 worth of repairs, lightning rods were installed and it's theorized that these helped minimize the damage from the second strike. Although repairs from that strike are estimated at between $10,000 and $100,000, the damage wasn't sufficient to hold up Lucy's birthday celebrations.
SPIDER-MAN VILLAIN ON THE LOOSE. Has Curt Connors, the Spider- Man villain known as the Lizard, stepped from the pages of Marvel Comics? Reports from South Carolina suggest that this may be the case. Ever since 1988, the legendary Lizard Man of South Carolina, described as a scaly, seven-foot creature with glowing red eyes and three-fingered hands, has been accused of mauling and ripping apart automobiles. Along with the equally legendary Jersey Devil and West Virginia's Mothman, Lizard Man ranks among cryptozoology's most pursued targets.
PUTIN AS PAUL. A Russian religious sect considers Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to be an avatar of Saint Paul of Tarsus. This allfemale sect, reputedly founded in 2007, is now based near the city of Nizhny Novgorod. Its founder and leader, Mother Fotinya, whose name at birth may have been Svetlana Prolova, has been described as a powerful healer. According to her teachings, in a past life-time, Putin was Paul: she draws multiple parallels between the lives of the two men. Paul, she explains, was initially a persecutor of Christians, but later became the spiritual architect of the Christian Church. Similarly, Putin was "not a saint" during his service with the KGB, but, according to Mother Fotinya, "when he became president, the Holy Ghost descended on him." The group possesses what they describe as a miraculous icon of Putin, who is no stranger to adulation. Russians have previously celebrated him with popular songs and brands of vodka, but this is the first report of religious veneration.
TEMPLES OF TANIT. Archaeologists have recently discovered a significant number of Carthaginian temples in the Azores Islands, an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Portugal. These temples, dating back to the fourth century BCE, are dedicated to the goddess Tanit. Monuments excavated include what are described as "inbuilt sink-shaped carvings" linked to water conduits, apparently for the purpose of libations, as well as a ceremonial tank, and chairs carved into the rocks. The temples are described as large and well-preserved. Meanwhile, historians continue to argue over Tanit's origins, whether she is originally a Phoenician or a Berber (Amazigh) goddess. The seafaring Phoenicians carried her veneration into Iberia, which is now modern Spain and Portugal. Numerous ruins and statues associated with her have been unearthed. Tanit is a goddess of love and fertility, who has historically been closely associated with astrologers and star-gazers.
HAWAII'S MERRIE MONARCH FESTIVAL. This week-long festival occurs annually in Hilo and is dedicated to the memory of Hawaii's King David Kalakaua, popularly known as the Merrie Monarch. King David ascended Hawaii's throne in 1874, during an era when what is now America's fiftieth state was still an independent kingdom. He ruled until his death in 1891. King David restored Hawaiian cultural traditions such as hula, huna, and traditional medicine that had been suppressed by missionaries, thus earning the love of many Hawaiians. The Merrie Monarch Festival, begun in 1964 by the Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, celebrates traditional Hawaiian culture, especially hula. It features art exhibits, craft fairs, demonstrations, and a three-day long hula competition that draws participants and observers from around the world. Proceeds from the festival are returned back to the community, used to sponsor seminars, workshops, symposiums, and educational scholarships devoted to ancient Hawaiian spiritual arts, as well as the continuation of the Merrie Monarch Festival.
VENOM OR POISON? According to a tradition dating back over twothousand years, Cleopatra, Egypt's last pharaoh, committed suicide by inducing a snake to bite her in 30 BCE, after her military defeat at the Battle of Actium. Cleopatra's dramatic death has long been a favorite theme of artists: she is typically portrayed grasping an asp — a venomous Egyptian cobra. A new study suggests, however, that this legend is incorrect — that Cleopatra's suicide was caused instead by a sophisticated poison cocktail. Two centuries after her death, Roman historian Cassius Dio wrote that Cleopatra's death was quiet and pain-free, which, according to modern toxicologists and poison specialists does not correspond with the symptoms of an asp's bite, which are painful, disfiguring, unpleasant, and undignified: they include vomiting and diarrhea. Cleopatra's suicide was stimulated by her desperate desire to avoid capture by the Romans: snakes are unpredictable; her death would not have been guaranteed. However, ancient papyri indicate that the Egyptians had a deep and profound knowledge of poisons. Cleopatra, herself, was reputedly an expert on the topic, performing experiments on prisoners in order to test symptoms and rates of fatality. It is now theorized that her death was caused by a plant-based poison cocktail including opium, hemlock, and aconitum (wolfsbane). Historians and toxicologists hope that her remains will soon be discovered, so that these theories can be tested forensically and the mystery solved.
The Locavore Revolution
Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit: Mindful Eating and Going Local
IN 2007, the Oxford American Dictionary named locavore the word of the year, reflecting the growing awareness among Americans of where their food comes from. A "locavore" is defined as one who consumes foodstuffs that are regionally grown or produced as it becomes seasonally available, usually to preserve flavor, strengthen community, and minimize environmental impact. Originally, "regionally grown" meant within a 100-mile radius of your home, but as the popularity of the movement has spread the meaning has become more elastic. Now, self-proclaimed locavores will eat regionally along geographically defined boundaries — mountains or lakes, for instance; limit themselves to food grown domestically; or make the occasional exception to the "local" rule by purchasing specialty items such as chocolate, coffee, tea, wine, or spices. There are many reasons why people become locavores — from political activism to a desire for more nutritious food — but for practitioners of the Old Ways, there are a multitude of unique benefits to "going local."
Preserving Life Force
Locavores often point out that food that must travel great distances over long periods of time is often less nutritionally valuable than food harvested locally and consumed fresh. Local food, they argue, is better for you. Practitioners of the Old Ways may agree but also worry about the loss of life force or vital energy. The minute a fruit is picked its life force begins to diminish. It becomes less and less vital until finally the life force is gone. Food that must travel a great distance is therefore deficient both nutritionally and vitally.
Seasonal Eating and the Wheel of the Year
Practically any and every kind of vegetable and fruit is available to us year round, divorcing us from the knowledge that each food has its season. If apples or zucchini are not currently growing in your region, they are growing in China or Argentina and can thus be shipped to your local supermarket. Not only is this practice bad for the global environment (the average American meal travels 1500 miles, emitting tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants along the way), but it also creates a dysfunctional relationship with the Wheel of the Year. Consuming locally grown foods helps you participate in the seasons unfolding around you, not halfway across the globe. Pagans know better than most that all things have their season, and that every ending is a new beginning. Each Sabbat marks both the end and the start of time, an unending, unbroken wheel. Our actions, practices, and rituals help to not only honor our place on this wheel but also to move it forward. Why not have our eating habits do the same thing?
Fortunately, finding locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as locally produced wares such as cheese, bread and beer is becoming easier as demand grows. Major metropolitan areas as well as smaller cities and towns across the country now host farmers' markets where farmers can sell direct to the community. These markets often have the added benefit of feeding the neediest of the community — unsold stock is usually donated to area food banks. Many supermarket chains have also started offering local fare.
When moving the Wheel along its path, one must look forward. When your local farms are at peak harvest, remember to buy extra large batches of whatever is fresh and cheap to preserve for the long, lean winter months ahead. Canning, jarring, pickling, salting, drying, and freezing are all preservation methods to be considered when looking forward.
Balance in All Things
"Eating seasonally" can go beyond the raw materials ingested to extend to the method of cooking used to prepare them. For example, in the hot summer months one wants to avoid adding yet more heat. One's food should therefore be cooked as little as possible — which shouldn't be a problem considering how many juicy fruits become ripe for picking during these months. Similarly, the cold winter months demand slow-cooked, warm, and hearty foods like soups and breads — easily assembled from frozen veggies and stored grains. In general, hot should be balanced with cold, cold with hot, dry with wet and so forth, so that your meals as well as your energies may achieve balance.
Nothing says "locavore" more than growing your own food. Cultivating a garden will not only provide you with as much food as you can coax from the soil, but it will also help you cultivate a relationship with your land spirits. These spirits go by many names but no matter what they are called, it is in your best interest to keep them happy. These spirits are closer to you than the Gods and Goddesses inhabiting the celestial dome and are therefore more likely to cause troublesome mischief if you neglect or abuse them. However, keep them happy and you gain powerful allies who will protect and nurture the tasty fruits (and vegetables!) of your labor.
One way to keep your land spirits happy is to make regular offerings. When you are weeding or watering acknowledge the spirits as you work. Sing them a song of praise and thank them for their help in protecting the garden. Before harvesting acknowledge the role your land spirits played in growing and thank them for it. Remember to give something back to the garden after harvest — return nutrients back to the earth by composting garden and kitchen scraps.
Of course, not everyone has access to land to cultivate. If you find yourself in a city or dense urban area, fear not! There are still plenty of opportunities to commune with the land. There are many innovative ways to garden within a small space. Community gardens allow city dwellers to cultivate their own patch miles from the country. Many farms now offer Community Supported Agriculture programs or CSAs, where people can exchange money or work on the farm for a share of the harvest. Window boxes and window farms (soil-less, hydroponics schemes) can also be employed to grow herbs, lettuce, or edible flowers inside all year long. Whatever your space restrictions, there are opportunities to participate in the cycle of planting, nurturing, and harvesting food.
Bringin' it Home
Becoming a locavore is beneficial in many ways. Locavorism nurtures body, soul, and community — however, it is not always possible to remain a strict locavore. For example, the state of Rhode Island does not produce enough food within the state to feed all of its citizens. If everyone decided to eat local, there would simply not be enough to sustain everyone.
Furthermore, locally produced food tends to be more expensive than what is found in grocery stores, partly because local food reflects the real cost of agriculture while agribusinesses are funded by government subsidies and externalize much of the cost of production. But the practical limits should not destroy the idealistic sentiment of locavorism: that we should all be fully engaged with the food we eat. We should be aware of where our food comes from and who benefits from its consumption. We cannot all be strict locavores, but we can all strive to be more aware of the origins of our food.
— Shannon Marks
Excerpted from The Witches' Almanac by Andrew Theitic. Copyright © 2012 THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD.. Excerpted by permission of THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD..
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