Friday, 12 November 2010

Cookery & The Craft

Samhain is my favourite time of year. It's the time where things shut down for winter, a time to learn things and store up for next year. It's not considered anti-social to curl up all cosy with book, and ponder the wonders of life. It's also time to think about the past years, ancestors, and to take positive lessons from them and move forward. For me, it's no coincidence that this festival falls so close to Remembrance Day, a time when we can all think about the sacrifice that others have made so that we can live safely, enjoy freedom, and preserve our own history, national identity and language.

It's for these people that I'll post this poppy photo, as I'm constantly thankful for my freedom. I appreciate the language that I use
to write my spells and rituals, I love our rich history and I'm eternally grateful for the countryside. That blast of colours and smells that our beautiful country throws at us at this time of year.

Samhain is a time that's special for another reason. It coincided with the first time I planned a feast. I was never the worlds best cook. I'd struggle, and basically, food wasn't top of my list. If I was in the middle of a project, I'd pray for the day boffins make a dinner pill you can just swallow rather than interrupt yourself to cook. Well, little by little, I got my confidence, and one year, I applied my new found confidence to knit two things I love together: Witchcraft & Cookery. It also helped me include my husband within my Samhain ritual. Mr Jules is a Christian, and very interested in Wicca and has encouraged me on every level.

If someone had told me twelve years ago that my first book of shadows would have been turned largely into a recipe book, I'd have rolled on the floor laughing. But it's connected me with the divine. Simple practices like chopping fresh vegetables are an absolute pleasure - looking at the beautiful rings inside an onion, the shape of broccoli, the smell of fresh peas, herbs, the list is endless. The preparation is the best bit. It's the core of the Craft for me. And no Samhain kitchen would be complete without it's own altar space. I set mine up and let the magick weave it's way into the food.

Beef and Juniper Stew

I have taken to cooking a Samhain feast in recent years, which has taken the form of a stew. One I favour recently is the Venison and Juniper Stew (I use beef) from Jamie Oliver's American Cookbook, accompanied with Navajo Flatbreads and Appleberry Pie for afters. The stew recipe is here, but the Navajo Flatbreads are here and the Appleberry Pie is here. I love things that take up an awful lot of utensils, iPod battery, workspace, and yes, energy. There is something wonderful about the fact that my husband (who fights for equal kitchen time) took me out last year to kit out the kitchen with "everything we need", which included him buying loads of little glass bowls, and I love seeing all my ingredients laid out ready in these bowls. The stew is wonderful, and the juniper is a scent in a league of its own. As with most things from this book, I have a lot of surplus, so to see who helped polish off my feast, look here.

Appleberry Pie

The altar I'd previously have set up in the kitchen, now gets brought through to the dining room. We have two candles lit, which are blown out, to mark the end of the year, and to honour death and those we've lost. We then relight the candles, and celebrate the new year.

We tend to sit and talk about the past year, what's gone right, what's gone wrong, and what we'll do better in the year to come. We count our blessings and enjoy the food. It's a lovely meal to share. The addition of our fire basket was perfect. This year I also put two huge pans on the stove and did Mulled Wine and Samhain Cider. We sat around the fire out in the garden, watching some early fireworks and talking over plans. Lucky as ever, the lashing rain that was forecast seemed to wait until the following morning to arrive.

An important point for anyone solitary who is reading this is, it's very easy to feel disheartened that you're not part of a group. But Wicca doesn't have to be celebrated alone just because you don't know other witches, even for solitaries like us. There is nothing more spiritual than feeding people you love, whatever their path is. The point is to focus on the properties of the foods and their healing qualities. To concentrate on these attributes when taking care in your preparation is hugely beneficial to the results. I find I can enter a meditative state whilst cooking, simply by focusing on food acting as a healer.

Whether you're focusing on chopping garlic to bring health to your guests, or stirring in juniper berries and mentally ridding your guests of rheumatic pains, it's an effective way to practice your Craft, and a hugely uplifting one when you find it. What better way to celebrate than to sit down and answer questions to your nearest and dearest about what you do and why? Kitchen magick has shifted my focus in such a big way: it's the most nourishing way I have found to nourish others.


  1. What a fascinating post Jules - a feast for all the senses. I can vouch for the success of your cooking methods - the beef and juniper stew and the appleberry pie were both delicious. It seems to me that Wiccans follow Christ's teaching in many respects.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, there'll be another soup on the menu soon, and I'll conjure up a different dessert when I've stopped my blueberry fixation! Wiccan, Christian....all branches off the same tree. Mr Jules comes to sit on my branch at Samhain, and I join him on his at midnight also makes for some very interesting dinner conversations!!

  3. I don't know how I missed this post (I usually never miss anything to do with food), but I'm glad I found it now. Appleberry pie looks scrummy and I don't eat beef, but they use juniper in gin, don't they? I like gin.

    Is it correct to wish you a Happy Belated Samhain? Hey, do you know Loreena McKennitt's music? She has a piece called Samhain, I believe.