Tag: spring

Apr 14

What’s Cooking: Baked Ham

Republished from Mar 29, 2013 Ham is salty. Whether its smoked or just fully cooked ham is salty. Since many people are trying to reduce the daily intake of salt, this is away to have your ham for Easter and eat your fill. I use chef Julia Child’s method to reduce the salt by boiling …

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Mar 20

It’s Spring

Die Winter, Die photo SbrPSgdhy_zps8ec885b5.jpg By now just about everyone is done with this Winter which began with a late Autumn snow storm in early December and quickly evolved in Arctic cold with multiple snow and ice storms. It still feels like the winter that just will not die in most of the country. Take heart, my Winter weary friends, Spring begins on March 20 at 12:27 PM EDT as the sun scoots across the equator heading north. Most of us won’t notice it much but starting on Friday there is now more daylight than darkness and the warmer sun, despite the still cool temperatures, will bring early spring flowers, buds in the trees and help melt the still lingering mountains of dingy snow in parking lots.

Spring comes with lots of traditions, cultural, religious and mythical. The egg, a symbol of fertility is the subject of one of the biggest myths. The balancing of an uncooked egg derives from the notion that due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, special gravitational forces apply. Actually, it can be done anytime of the year on a flat, level surface, a steady hand and no vibrations. It’s the same with that broom balancing, that works best with a new broom that has uniform, even bristles.

There are lots celebrations in many countries and cultures including the internet. Google celebrated with one of its popular animated “doodles.”

In Iran, ancient new year’s festival of Nowruz is celebrated:

According to the ancient Persian mythology Jamshid, the mythological king of Persia, ascended to the throne on this day and each year this is commemorated with festivities for two weeks. These festivities recall the story of creation and the ancient cosmology of Iranian and Persian people.

In many Arab countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the Spring equinox and the Jewish celebration of Passover starts on the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox.

Most Christian churches calculate Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox but the Eastern Orthodox Churches use the older Julian calendar so the actual date of Easter differs.

In Japan the Spring Equinox became an official holiday in 1948, Shunbun no hi.

We Pagans celebrate Ostara, one of the Eight Sabats of the Wheel, as a season of rebirth. The name is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, and many symbols are associated with Ostara, including colored eggs and, what else? Rabbits:

In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.

Colored eggs are one of the symbols of fertility with an interesting, and this unconfirmed scary, history from Witches’ Voice :

As for the Easter egg hunt, a fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our “ancient history, ” there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the “Old Religion” were shunned, people took to hiding the eggs and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone’s gardens and beneath fences and other spots.

It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone’s property, that person was then accused of practicing the old ways. I have never read any historical account of this, so I cannot offer a source for this story (though I assume the person who first told me found it somewhere); when I find one, I will let you know!

I once stood an egg on the dining room table and left it there. One of my cats, Mom Cat, sat staring at it for quite some time. After several minutes, she very gently reached out with one paw and tapped it. It rolled off the table and smashed on the floor before I could reach it. As I cleaned up the mess, Mom Cat sat on the edge of the table watching, as if to say, “yes, gravity still works.”

The waning Moon is still bright in the night sky having reached fullness on March 16. Called the Worm Moon by Native Americans because as the ground begins to soften, worms begin moving through the it. A sure sign is the return of the Robin. It’s also called the Sap Moon signaling the start of sap flowing in the trees and the start of the annual tapping of maple trees.

If it ever gets warm enough to open the windows, you can smell the warm earth. If only winter would end like this:

So break out the new brooms, rakes, shovels; check out the local garden center for bedding plants and start unearthing last years Spring and Summer clothes; it’s Spring.

 

Feb 01

Imbolc: Halfway to Spring

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Photobucket The wheel has turned another eighth and we are halfway to Spring. Imbolc is the Celtic season that marks the beginning of lambing season, the stirring of life and lengthening of the day. It’s a time to clear out the cobwebs, sweep the hearth and get ready for beginning of the growing season. The holiday also honors Brigid, the Goddess of fire, so the celebration is marked by lighting candles all round the house and a fire in the fire pit, if you have one. Others symbols of the holiday are the snowdrop, the first gift of spring and the swan, The swan mates for life and represents loyalty, fidelity and faithfulness.

The other symbols are ewes and lambs since Imbolc is derived from a Celtic word, “oimelc”, meaning ewe’s milk. Many of the foods that are serves are lamb, cheese, poppyseed muffins, cakes and breads. Dishes are seasoned with bay leaves and dried basil.

In rural places where farming is still a way of life, ploughs are decorated with flowers and then doused with whiskey. I know most of us have better things to do with whiskey. Sometimes the plough is dragged from door to door by costumed children asking for food and money, a kind of wintry “trick or treat”. Some traditional gifts, if your going to a friends house to celebrate, are garden tools, seeds and bulbs.

The Maiden is also honored as the “Bride” on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. The older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold. The wands are sometimes burned in the fireplace and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. A new corn broom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

Non-Pagans celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog’s Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather. It actually has ancient roots, weather divination was common to Imbolc, and the weather of early February was long held to be a harbinger of spring. On Imbolc, the crone Cailleach‘s grip of winter begins to loosen. She goes forth in search of kindling so that she may keep her fires burning and extend the winter a little longer. If Imbolc is rainy and cloudy, she will find nothing but twigs unsuitable for burning and will be unable to prolong the winter. If the day is dry and kindling is abundant, she will have plenty of fuel to feed her fire and prolong the cold of winter. Spring will be very far away. As an old British rhyme tells us that, “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

This winter was much colder than in winters past, with temperatures plunging well below zero in some parts of the country. While down under in Australia they were experiencing record heat with temperatures nearing dangerous levels. Yes, the climate has been disrupted. We still have some weeks of cold and inclement weather ahead but on the days when the sun shines, you can once again feel its warmth. So can the earth.

Last year, I read this great post on the Days of Imbolc from Beth Owl’s Daughter that I would like to share it again:

The Sun’s path has returned to where it was at Samhain. Take some time to notice the quality of the light, for it is the same now as that shimmering magical glow of late October. But instead of the season of dark and silence before us, in the Northern Hemisphere, the season of light and growth lies ahead.

And so we prepare ourselves with rites of renewal, cleansing, and commitment. We celebrate the first stirrings of Spring.

The days are noticeably longer, and life awakens all around us. While some of the fiercest Winter weather may still lie ahead, listen! The birds are already beginning their courtships.

Look – cold-hardy sprouts are poking from the earth, and the first lambs are being born (hence the name Imbolc, which means “ewe’s milk,” referring to the nursing mothers). For our ancestors not so long ago, having lived on only the stored food of Winter, the first fresh milk returning was a tremendous blessing, often meaning the difference between survival or death.

h/t Hecatedemeter

Whatever you celebrate or believe, let us all hope that that the local groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and there is only one winter this year. I have nowhere else to pile the snow.

Blessed Be.

Mar 19

Hoping for Spring

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Spring Equinox 2013 photo imagesqtbnANd9GcTNUIBApi9nJxjJ0dh04_zps39377a58.jpgSpring arrives promptly at on March 20 at  7:02 a.m. EDT/4:02 a.m. PDT. As you know the Spring Equinox is also called the “Vernal Equinox”, ver bring the Latin derivative for “spring.”  It occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator and night and day are equal. It is really just a moment in time and if you blink, you missed it. In the Southern Hemisphere where the seasons reverse it is the start of Autumn.

Spring comes with lots of traditions, cultural, religious and mythical. The egg, a symbol of fertility is the subject of one of the biggest myths. The balancing of an uncooked egg derives from the notion that due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, special gravitational forces apply. Actually, it can be done anytime of the year on a flat, level surface, a steady hand and no vibrations. It’s the same with that broom balancing That works best with a new broom that has uniform, even bristles.

I once stood an egg on the dining room table and left it there. One of my cat, Mom Cat, sat staring at it for quite some time. After several minutes, she very gently reached out with one paw and tapped it. It rolled off the table and smashed on the floor before I could reach it. As I cleaned up the mess, Mom Cat sat on the edge of the table watching, as if to say, ‘yes, gravity still works.”

There are lots celebrations in many countries and cultures including the internet. Google celebrates with its popular animated “doodles.”

In Iran, ancient new year’s festival of Nowruz is celebrated:

According to the ancient Persian mythology Jamshid, the mythological king of Persia, ascended to the throne on this day and each year this is commemorated with festivities for two weeks. These festivities recall the story of creation and the ancient cosmology of Iranian and Persian people.

In many Arab countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the Spring equinox and the Jewish celebration of Passover starts on the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox.

Most Christian churches calculate Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox but the Eastern Orthodox Churches use the older Julian calendar so the actual date of Easter differs.

In Japan the Spring Equinox became an official holiday in 1948, Shunbun no hi.

We Pagans celebrate Ostara, one of the Eight Sabats of the Wheel, as a season of rebirth. The name is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, and many symbols are associated with Ostara, including colored eggs and, what else? Rabbits:

In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.

Colored eggs are one of the symbols of fertility with an interesting, and this unconfirmed scary, history from Witches’ Voice :

(T)he traditional coloring and giving of eggs at Easter has very pagan associations. For eggs are clearly one of the most potent symbols of fertility, and spring is the season when animals begin to mate and flowers and trees pollinate and reproduce. In England and Northern Europe, eggs were often employed in folk magic when women wanted to be blessed with children. There is a great scene in the film The Wicker Man where a woman sits upon a tombstone in the cemetery, holding a child against her bared breasts with one hand, and holding up an egg in the other, rocking back and forth as she stares at the scandalized (and very uptight!) Sargent Howie. Many cultures have a strong tradition of egg coloring; among Greeks, eggs are traditionally dyed dark red and given as gifts.

As for the Easter egg hunt, a fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our “ancient history, ” there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the “Old Religion” were shunned, people took to hiding the eggs and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone’s gardens and beneath fences and other spots.

It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone’s property, that person was then accused of practicing the old ways. I have never read any historical account of this, so I cannot offer a source for this story (though I assume the person who first told me found it somewhere); when I find one, I will let you know!

Whatever you believe, or not, get out there in the garden or the park and celebrate the warmth of the sun, the longer days, renewal and rebirth.

Photobucket

Mar 17

What’s Cooking: Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I love cheesecake. Specifically, New York style cheesecake made with cream cheese, eggs and sugar. It’s an art to get it right, believe me, I’ve been practicing making them for years. I even made a cheesecake wedding cake for a friend’s daughter’s wedding. Three tiers, apricot swirl with a white chocolate cream cheese frosting, festooned for butter cream daisies. I’m told there was none left after twenty minutes. I gave the bride the recipe and a spring form pan as a bridal shower gift so she could make one on her first wedding anniversary.

There are cheesecakes for all occasions, including St. Patrick’s Day laced with Baily’s Irish Cream. It has become a tradition in my house since 1991 when I found the recipe in a 1991 Bon Appétit magazine. It’s best made a day before serving with steaming mugs of hot Irish coffee.

Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake

 photo 349df6c9-00d1-4095-a42c-397c796dacea_zpsc1deba11.jpgIngredients

Crust:

10 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces

1 1/4 cup pecans(5 oz)

1/4 cup sugar

6 T. unsalted butter

Filling:

1 1/2 pound cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/3 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

1 t. vanilla extract

3 ounces imported white chocolate (such as Lindt)

Topping:

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 ounces imported white chocolate, grated

24 pecan halves

Preparation

For Crust:

Preheat oven to 325. lightly butter 9 inch spring-form pan. Finely grind graham crackers, pecans and sugar in processor. Add butter and blend, using on/off turns. Press crumbs onto bottom and 2 inches up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate 20 minutes.

Filling:

Using mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. whisk eggs, baileys and vanilla in medium bowl until just blended. Beat egg mixture into cream cheese mixture. Finely chop white chocolate in processor. Add to cream cheese mixture. Transfer filling to crust lined pan. Bake until edges of filling are puffed and dry looking and center is just set, about 50 minutes. Cool on rack. Do not remove cake from pan.

Topping:

Mix sour cream and powdered sugar in small bowl. Spread topping onto cooled cake. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 6 hours. (can be prepared 1 day ahead)

Sprinkle grated chocolate over cake; place pecans around edge. Carefully loosen the rim of the spring-form pan; remove and place cake on a serving plate.

Serves 10, maybe.

Some tips to making the perfect cheesecake:

  • All ingredients should be at room temperature
  • Gently cream the cream cheese before the eggs are added until it is smooth and lump free
  • Avoid over-beating the batter. Over-beating incorporates additional air and tends to cause cracking on the surface of the cheesecake.
  • Before placing the cheesecake in the oven, place an oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven and fill it half way with boiling water. Let the oven return to the proper temperature, then place the cheesecake on a rack in the center of the oven directly over the steaming water. This eliminates having to wrap the outside of the spring-form pan with foil to prevent water from seeping in the cake if place directly in the water.
  • Don’t over-bake the cheesecake. When perfectly done, there will still be a two to three-inch wobbly spot in the middle of the cheesecake; the texture will smooth out as it cools.
  • Bon appétit!

    Mar 15

    What’s Cooking for St. Patrick’s Day

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day but Saturday is the big parade in NYC. The tradition on the day is corned beef and cabbage with potatoes, so what to eat on parade day. The easy answer is go traditional with a stew. This beef stew made with Guiness Stout and topped with a Stilton laced pastry crust takes a little work but it is well worth the work.

    Beef and Stout Pie with Stilton Crust

    Ingredients:

       * 7 Tbs. olive oil

       * 1 lb. white button mushrooms, quartered

       * 2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed

       * Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

       * 3 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

       * 1 cup all-purpose flour

       * 3 garlic cloves, minced

       * 2 Tbs. tomato paste

       * 2 1/2 cups Irish stout

       * 1 cup beef broth

       * 1 lb. carrots, cut into chunks

       * 1 lb. red potatoes, cut into chunks

       * 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme

       * One 16-inch round Stilton pastry (recipe below)

       * 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

    Directions:

    In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

    Season the beef with salt and pepper. Dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. In the Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add one-third of the beef and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add 1/2 cup water to the pot, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Pour the liquid into a separate bowl. Repeat the process 2 more times, using 2 Tbs. oil to brown each batch of beef and deglazing the pot with 1/2 cup water after each batch.

    Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the beef, stout, broth and reserved liquid, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots, potatoes and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 3 hours.

    Preheat an oven to 400°F.

    Stilton Pastry

    Ingredients:

       * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

       * 2 tsp. salt

       * 1 Tbs. sugar

       * 16 Tbs. (2 sticks/250g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

       * 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

       * 4 oz. Stilton cheese, crumbled

    Directions:

    In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse until blended, about 5 pulses. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Add 1/3 cup of the ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water 1 Tbs. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

    Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, place on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper and roll out into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the cheese over half of the dough, then fold the other half over the cheese. Roll out the dough into a 16 1/2-inch square. Using a paring knife, trim the dough into a 16-inch round.

    Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 10 minutes, then lay the dough on top of the beef and stout pie and bake as directed in that recipe. Makes enough dough for a 16-inch round.

    Brush the rim of the pot with water. Lay the pastry round on top, allowing it to droop onto the filling. Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang, and crimp to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture, then cut 4 slits in the top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Let the potpie rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

    Erin Go Bragh!

    Feb 01

    Imbolc: First Light in the Dark of Winter

    The wheel of the seasons keep turning.

    All around the house tonight there are candles lit. There is a warm fire in the fireplace in the family room and, despite the cold wind and occasional snow shower, there is a blazing fire in the backyard fire pit. Each winter is different, this one like the last has been warm until last week when it seemed Mother Nature was having her way with us and sent a blast of Arctic cold. Once again, I look forward to the early signs of spring, no different from last year with tips of early spring flowers ready poking up, getting ready to add a happy splash color to the dark mulch. The Winter is shorter and milder than the ones just 10 years ago. According the NOAA, they are.

    The winter of 2011, we were snowed in here in NYC with a six foot wall of snow down the drive way and along the side walk. It a way the mild winter has been a blessing for the victims of Hurricane Sandy who are still without heat and struggling to rebuild their homes and lives.

    I can’t say I miss the snow, I don’t, but I know this is not a good sign for our dear Earth, our home.

    I read this great post on the Days of Imbolc from Beth Owl’s Daughter that I would like to share:

    The Sun’s path has returned to where it was at Samhain. Take some time to notice the quality of the light, for it is the same now as that shimmering magical glow of late October. But instead of the season of dark and silence before us, in the Northern Hemisphere, the season of light and growth lies ahead.

    And so we prepare ourselves with rites of renewal, cleansing, and commitment. We celebrate the first stirrings of Spring.

    The days are noticeably longer, and life awakens all around us. While some of the fiercest Winter weather may still lie ahead, listen! The birds are already beginning their courtships.

    Look – cold-hardy sprouts are poking from the earth, and the first lambs are being born (hence the name Imbolc, which means “ewe’s milk,” referring to the nursing mothers). For our ancestors not so long ago, having lived on only the stored food of Winter, the first fresh milk returning was a tremendous blessing, often meaning the difference between survival or death.

    h/t Hecatedemeter

    Reposted from January 31, 2011

    PhotobucketAlthough you’d never know it if you looked out your window here in the Northeast and throughout a good part of the northern hemisphere, we are nearing the midpoint between winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The Sun is noticeably rising earlier and setting later. It is a pleasure to take my early morning shower in daylight and start dinner preparation with daylight still illuminating the kitchen. There are seed catalogs arriving in the mail which has me contemplating the flower beds, the herb garden and maybe this year some vegetables.

    In the traditions of Pagan and Wiccan religions, we celebrate this changing season as Imbolc, or Candlemas, which begins on January 31st, February Eve, and ends on February 2nd, a time of rebirth and healing. Imbolc is one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, one of the four cross-quarter fire festivals. Brighid, the patroness of poetry and healing, is the Pagan Goddess associated with Imbolc.

    Some of the traditions are the lighting of fires, decorating with red and white symbolizing the snow and the rising sun and green for new growth. Candles are lit in all the rooms of the house. Fires places and hearths are cleaned out of ashes and fires are lit. Since there is still snow drifts in my backyard, the fireplace will be just fine.

    The symbols are ewes and lambs since Imbolc is derived from a Celtic word, “oimelc”, meaning ewe’s milk. Many of the foods that are serves are lamb, cheese, poppyseed muffins, cakes and breads. Dishes are seasoned with bay leaves and dried basil.

    In rural places where farming is still a way of life, ploughs are decorated with flowers and then doused with whiskey. I know most of us have better things to do with whiskey. Sometimes the plough is dragged from door to door by costumed children asking for food and money, a kind of wintry “trick or treat”. Some traditional gifts, if your going to a friends house to celebrate, are garden tools, seeds and bulbs.

    The Maiden is also honored as the “Bride” on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. The older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold. The wands are sometimes burned in the fireplace and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. A new corn broom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

    Non-Pagans celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog’s Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather. It actually has ancient roots, weather divination was common to Imbolc, and the weather of early February was long held to be a harbinger of spring. On Imbolc, the crone Cailleach‘s grip of winter begins to loosen. She goes forth in search of kindling so that she may keep her fires burning and extend the winter a little longer. If Imbolc is rainy and cloudy, she will find nothing but twigs unsuitable for burning and will be unable to prolong the winter. If the day is dry and kindling is abundant, she will have plenty of fuel to feed her fire and prolong the cold of winter. Spring will be very far away. As an old British rhyme tells us that, “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

    Whatever you celebrate or believe, let us all hope that that the local groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and there is only one winter this year. I have nowhere else to pile the snow.

    Blessed Be.

    Mar 22

    Spring Has Officially Sprung

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    Spring officially sprang at 1:14 AM Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday. Partially because this is a “Leap Year”, in some times zones the Spring Equinox came as early as March 19 ending the winter that wasn’t for which many of us were relieved.

    In case you did know the Spring Equinox is also called the “Vernal Equinox”, ver bring the Latin derivative for “spring.”  It occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator and night and day are equal. It is really just a moment in time and if you blink, you missed it. In 45 BC, Julius Caesar set the date for the start of Spring on March 25th but sometime between the 4th and 16th centuries, the calendar drifted with respect to the equinox, such that the equinox began occurring on about March 21st.  

    There are lots celebrations in many countries and cultures including the internet. Google celebrated with one of its popular animated “doodles.”

    In Iran, ancient new year’s festival of Nowruz is celebrated:

    According to the ancient Persian mythology Jamshid, the mythological king of Persia, ascended to the throne on this day and each year this is commemorated with festivities for two weeks. These festivities recall the story of creation and the ancient cosmology of Iranian and Persian people.

    In many Arab countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the Spring equinox and the Jewish celebration of Passover starts on the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox.

    Most Christian churches calculate Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox but the Eastern Orthodox Churches use the older Julian calendar so the actual date of Easter differs.

    In Japan the Spring Equinox became an official holiday in 1948, Shunbun no hi.

    We Pagans celebrate Ostara, one of the Eight Sabats of the Wheel, as a season of rebirth. The name is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, and many symbols are associated with Ostara, including colored eggs and, what else? Rabbits:

    In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.

    Colored eggs are one of the symbols of fertility with an interesting, and this unconfirmed scary, history from Witches’ Voice :

    (T)he traditional coloring and giving of eggs at Easter has very pagan associations. For eggs are clearly one of the most potent symbols of fertility, and spring is the season when animals begin to mate and flowers and trees pollinate and reproduce. In England and Northern Europe, eggs were often employed in folk magic when women wanted to be blessed with children. There is a great scene in the film The Wicker Man where a woman sits upon a tombstone in the cemetery, holding a child against her bared breasts with one hand, and holding up an egg in the other, rocking back and forth as she stares at the scandalized (and very uptight!) Sargent Howie. Many cultures have a strong tradition of egg coloring; among Greeks, eggs are traditionally dyed dark red and given as gifts.

    As for the Easter egg hunt, a fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our “ancient history, ” there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the “Old Religion” were shunned, people took to hiding the eggs and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone’s gardens and beneath fences and other spots.

    It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone’s property, that person was then accused of practicing the old ways. I have never read any historical account of this, so I cannot offer a source for this story (though I assume the person who first told me found it somewhere); when I find one, I will let you know!

    Oh, and that egg and, this year’s broom balancing thing, a myth that was debunked. Sorry.

    Whatever you believe, or not, get out there in the garden or the park and celebrate the warmth of the sun, the longer days, renewal and rebirth.

    Photobucket

    Feb 02

    Imbolc: First Light in the Dark of Winter

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    What a difference from last year to this. The weather has been unseasonably warm with only one minor snow event since the Winter Solstice here in the Northeast. Already the tips of early spring flowers are pushing up through the mulch. As was observed by our friend, davidseth, mud season has already arrived.

    Reposted from January 31, 2011

    Although you’d never know it if you looked out your window here in the Northeast and throughout a good part of the northern hemisphere, we are nearing the midpoint between winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The Sun is noticeably rising earlier and setting later. It is a pleasure to take my early morning shower in daylight and start dinner preparation with daylight still illuminating the kitchen. There are seed catalogs arriving in the mail which has me contemplating the flower beds, the herb garden and maybe this year some vegetables.

    In the traditions of Pagan and Wiccan religions, we celebrate this changing season as Imbolc, or Candlemas, which begins on January 31st, February Eve, and ends on February 2nd, a time of rebirth and healing. Imbolc is one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, one of the four cross-quarter fire festivals. Brighid, the patroness of poetry and healing, is the Pagan Goddess associated with Imbolc.

    Some of the traditions are the lighting of fires, decorating with red and white symbolizing the snow and the rising sun and green for new growth. Candles are lit in all the rooms of the house. Fires places and hearths are cleaned out of ashes and fires are lit. Since there is still snow drifts in my backyard, the fireplace will be just fine.

    The symbols are ewes and lambs since Imbolc is derived from a Celtic word, “oimelc”, meaning ewe’s milk. Many of the foods that are serves are lamb, cheese, poppyseed muffins, cakes and breads. Dishes are seasoned with bay leaves and dried basil.

    In rural places where farming is still a way of life, ploughs are decorated with flowers and then doused with whiskey. I know most of us have better things to do with whiskey. Sometimes the plough is dragged from door to door by costumed children asking for food and money, a kind of wintry “trick or treat”. Some traditional gifts, if your going to a friends house to celebrate, are garden tools, seeds and bulbs.

    The Maiden is also honored as the “Bride” on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. The older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold. The wands are sometimes burned in the fireplace and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. A new corn broom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

    Non-Pagans celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog’s Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather. It actually has ancient roots, weather divination was common to Imbolc, and the weather of early February was long held to be a harbinger of spring. On Imbolc, the crone Cailleach‘s grip of winter begins to loosen. She goes forth in search of kindling so that she may keep her fires burning and extend the winter a little longer. If Imbolc is rainy and cloudy, she will find nothing but twigs unsuitable for burning and will be unable to prolong the winter. If the day is dry and kindling is abundant, she will have plenty of fuel to feed her fire and prolong the cold of winter. Spring will be very far away. As an old British rhyme tells us that, “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

    Whatever you celebrate or believe, let us all hope that that the local groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and there is only one winter this year. I have nowhere else to pile the snow.

    Blessed Be.

    Feb 02

    Cycles I: Spring, Summer

    Jan 31

    Imbolc: First Light in the Dark of Winter

    Although you’d never know it if you looked out your window here in the Northeast and throughout a good part of the northern hemisphere, we are nearing the midpoint between winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The Sun is noticeably rising earlier and setting later. It is a pleasure to take my early morning shower in daylight and start dinner preparation with daylight still illuminating the kitchen. There are seed catalogs arriving in the mail which has me contemplating the flower beds, the herb garden and maybe this year some vegetables.

    In the traditions of Pagan and Wiccan religions, we celebrate this changing season as Imbolc, or Candlemas, which begins on January 31st, February Eve, and ends on February 2nd, a time of rebirth and healing. Imbolc is one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, one of the four cross-quarter fire festivals. Brighid, the patroness of poetry and healing, is the Pagan Goddess associated with Imbolc.

    Some of the traditions are the lighting of fires, decorating with red and white symbolizing the snow and the rising sun and green for new growth. Candles are lit in all the rooms of the house. Fires places and hearths are cleaned out of ashes and fires are lit. Since there is still snow drifts in my backyard, the fireplace will be just fine.

    The symbols are ewes and lambs since Imbolc is derived from a Celtic word, “oimelc”, meaning ewe’s milk. Many of the foods that are serves are lamb, cheese, poppyseed muffins, cakes and breads. Dishes are seasoned with bay leaves and dried basil.

    In rural places where farming is still a way of life, ploughs are decorated with flowers and then doused with whiskey. I know most of us have better things to do with whiskey. Sometimes the plough is dragged from door to door by costumed children asking for food and money, a kind of wintry “trick or treat”. Some traditional gifts, if your going to a friends house to celebrate, are garden tools, seeds and bulbs.

    The Maiden is also honored as the “Bride” on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. The older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold. The wands are sometimes burned in the fireplace and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. A new corn broom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

    Non-Pagans celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog’s Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather. It actually has ancient roots, weather divination was common to Imbolc, and the weather of early February was long held to be a harbinger of spring. On Imbolc, the crone Cailleach‘s grip of winter begins to loosen. She goes forth in search of kindling so that she may keep her fires burning and extend the winter a little longer. If Imbolc is rainy and cloudy, she will find nothing but twigs unsuitable for burning and will be unable to prolong the winter. If the day is dry and kindling is abundant, she will have plenty of fuel to feed her fire and prolong the cold of winter. Spring will be very far away. As an old British rhyme tells us that, “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

    Whatever you celebrate or believe, let us all hope that that the local groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and there is only one winter this year. I have nowhere else to pile the snow.

    Blessed Be.

    Mar 28

    Sakura

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     You may consider this either a humble invitation to contemplate the beauty that is spring and visit my website/blog which celebrates it, or a shameless site/blog promotion.  As you wish.

     The blog is LetsJapan.Wordpress.Com and the particular page that link takes you to . . . well, I won’t give it away, but it’s very, very Spring-like, photo-heavy and I hope you’ll enjoy it.  Here’s one of the photos (taking this morning) featured:

     

     There’s a pretty tune on there, too (a nice vid) that I invite you to watch/listen to, too.  You’ll enjoy it.  To be absolutely honest, if I had to choose, I’d choose autumn as my favorite season, whether in the U.S. or Japan or I suppose pretty much anywhere.  But this year I’m quite ready for spring and have been enjoying the past few days of it.  Today was particularly pretty. . .

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