Winter Solstice with a Kitchen Witch: Spiced Pears Poached in Red Wine

As the hearth heats up for the coming Winter Solstice, kitchen witches everywhere get ready to boil their cauldrons for ritual, gatherings and family meals.

Rich, decadent, sophisticated & colorful, this magickal recipe blends classic Yule spell ingredients, including fresh orange zest, red wine, perfect pears and star anise.

winter solstice with a kitchen witch

Oh, I’m really excited to share this one with you!  I made this for the first time a few days ago, and frankly, it turned out way better than I expected it to.

If you want to serve something magical, delicious and super chic this Yule, this dish adorns the table with a touch of class.

As with all my kitchen witch recipes, I like to share with you the magical properties of each key ingredient, and suggest a few ways to infuse your efforts in the kitchen with the magic and whimsy of cauldron spellcraft.

But feel free to scroll to the end if you just want the recipe.  🙂

We begin with the humble-yet-mighty winter pear.

pear

While you may not regard the pear with any particular passion, this fabled fruit shares a sacredness with the Greek goddesses Aphrodite & Hera, as well as Pomona, the Italian goddess of gardens & harvest.   (Source: Deaf Pagan Crossroads.)

In addition, because the pear tree enjoys a lengthy lifespan, the ancient Chinese regarded the pear as a manifestation of immortality.  (Source:  Myth Encyclopaedia.)

Its association with marital satisfaction, long life, pleasure, family & romance enchant the pear with characteristics that make it an especially appropriate addition to a holiday meal shared with family and friends.

In this recipe, we combine this with the attributes of a few customary yule spices.

orange peel and star anise

We include the orange rind in this spell to warm the hearts of those gathered around the table, as well as to inspire fond memories and lively conversation.  (I encourage you to explore the many ways to use oranges in witchcraft.)

Adding star anise to our brew, we clear the air of any lingering family grudges, inspire forgiveness, and symbolize the unbroken hope of the North Star during the winter months.

Finally, we choose a decadent, beautiful wine for our sauce base.  I recommend never cooking with wine you wouldn’t drink!

In this case, I chose this bottle of Cashmere Black Magic (available here) for its warm, spicy notes of plum and black pepper.

Also, it has the words Black Magic in the name😉

For more information on the role of wine in ritual, check out this link.

Okay, okay!  Now on to the recipe.

You Will Need:
*2 cups red wine
*1/4 cup sugar
*3 pieces star anise
*2 whole cinnamon sticks
*2-3 generous strips of orange peel|
*1/2 cup orange juice
*4 (just barely) ripe pears

1.  In a saucepan large enough to accommodate all your pears, combine the first 6 ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 4-6 minutes.

2.  While your other ingredients are on the stove, peel the pears, leaving the stems intact.  Slice the bottom off each pear to create a flat bottom.

3.  Place the pears in your brew on the stove, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Be sure to turn the pears occasionally throughout to ensure even color and coating.

4.  Remove from heat and set to cool uncovered.

5.  Once cool, place the entire saucepan in the refrigerator for several hours, turning occasional to avoid blotchy color.  For softer pears or pears that were less ripe, allow them to marinate for up to 24 hours.

6.  Gently remove pears and place the remaining liquid back on the stove.  Bring to boil and reduce liquid until it thickens to the consistency of a light syrup.

7.  Drizzle syrup on plate.  If you want to get fancy, put some in a pointy tip squeeze bottle and draw magical symbols on the plates.

8.  Plate pears, drizzle remaining sauce, and serve.  Delicious!

magical poached pears

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10 Yule Gift Ideas for Pagan Kids

Spiced cookies on the hearth, the woody scent of logs on the fire and the warmth of candlelight . . . Yule conjures many things to pagan children, the most important of which involve non-material emphasis on family, giving and gratitude.

But understandably, many parents cherish the joy of giving gifts to children at this time.

Don’t feel guilty or deny yourself this simple pleasure!  Gift giving at Yule need not descend into commercial materialism or detract from the central focus of its spiritual meaning.

Take the opportunity to honor your children’s budding sense of spiritual awareness and consider including a gift or two that encourages their sacred growth.

Below, I listed a few ideas to inspire you.

gift ideas for pagan kids

A sacred space.  I love this idea! Find a corner or space in your home—even a spare bookshelf will do.  Or, go wild and use a walk-in closet.  Decorate it with candles, statuary, spell supplies, special altar cloths, lanterns, ect. and present it as a surprise on Yule morning.

Tarot or oracle cards.  (Ages 5 & up).  Long before kids read words, they read symbols.  Lacking the noise of experiential mental baggage that comes with decades of living, they tune themselves more easily to the language of tarot than their adult counterparts.  Expect them to surprise you with their sometimes funny, sometimes insightful interpretations.  Choose a deck especially designed with children in mind.  For example, the Inner Child Tarot uses charming substitutions (like the Fairy Godmother instead of the High Priestess).

inner child tarot

Special stone or crystal.   (Ages 3 & up).  You know your child’s personality.  Tune their energy with a gemstone chosen especially for their natural inclinations.  Got a shy kid?  Give her a piece of tiger’s eye to bring out her inner confidence.  Maybe your 12-year-old always stresses before big tests?  Try gifting him a piece of lapis lazuli to ease his nervousness.

Smudge stick.   (Ages 12 & up).  If your teen spends a lot of time in her bedroom, encourage her to clear the energy to avoid getting pent up or isolation by giving her her first smudge wand.  If she’s new to the idea of smudging, direct her to this article for ideas.

A custom spell kit.  Pick a theme (like “success in school” or “kitchen magick”) and chose a few appropriate items, like a vile of oil, an appropriately colored candle, a jar of sea water or shells collected from a family vacation, dried herbs or flowers, ect and throw them together in a pretty basket or box.  Write out a spell on parchment, roll it like a scroll and tie it off with a ribbon  Voila!  Or, I’ll be happy to make one for you.

Jewelry with intent.  (5 & up).  Personally, I don’t recommend the pentacle for a child, as it often draws unwanted negative attention from other children and parents alike.  But lots of other equally meaningful symbols are available.  Choose a bracelet with beads made of gemstones, a set of goddess earrings, or a spiral necklace for your child to wear as a gentle reminder that positive energy surrounds him or her.

Pagan books.  (All ages.)  For older children, any introductory book you read and feel appropriate constitutes a lovely gift for the budding pagan.  But thanks to authors like Aurora Lightbringer, the pagan book market also produces books for toddlers and preschoolers.

A meditation pillow.  (2 & up.)  If introducing spell craft and altars to your child makes you uncomfortable or you feel your child isn’t ready, simply explore meditation together.  Select a meditation pillow from the many options available on the commercial market, or (better yet!) make your own with love.

A wand.  (2 & up).  Children love wands.  But what they appreciate able them often differs from adults.  Cut a branch from a tree about which you can tell a meaningful story to infuse it with the magic of their imagination.

Ritual wear.  (All ages.)  A child-sized ritual robe for group rituals makes children feel included.  It also helps them to feel the transition from mundane life to ritual experience more concretely.

10 Winter Crafts for Wiccans

10-winter-crafts-for-pagans

Edited December, 2017:  Check out additional ideas at the end from this Yule season.  I plan to continue to update this post with new additions every year.

With the cold weather bringing everyone indoors, and the upcoming Yule holiday, making crafts and gifts indoors is a cozy, soul-nourishing activity.

Here’s some ideas for creating with the heart and spirit in mind.

For fall project ideas, check out this article, 11 Fall Projects for the Crafty Witch.

For spring project ideas, take a look at 10 Spring Projects for Wiccans.

1.  Quilting.  We hear an awful lot about “focus” in the context of spell work.  Sewing makes for a powerful way to draw your intentions into sharp concentration.  Try hand sewing a quilted sachet using a steady chant with every stitch to bring the mind into a lovely, trance like state of calm.

2.  Candle making.  Nothing warms the heart and soul like burning fresh, homemade candles.  Pick a purpose.  Then toss in herbs, anchor the wick with a special gemstone, rub it with oil and/or carve whatever you want into them.

3.  Create an incense blend.  Every witch should learn the art of blending herbs into pleasing, aromatic scents.  Winter makes the perfect season for experimenting with dried herbs (preferably from your own fall garden harvest!).  Test your blend by tossing a handful into your burning fireplace to warm and bless the home.

4.  Make your own rune set.  With the natural light in retreat and the long nighttime hours, divination makes for a lovely indoor evening activity.  Make your own rune set—-and be creative!  Carve the runes into polymer clay, wood or paint small stones.  Makes a charming gift for a like-minded friend.

5.  Crock pot something.  A crock pot makes a perfect cauldron in the winter months.  Stew something kitchen-witch style or toss in some home-blessing herbs.

6.  Make your own cold remedies.  Put all that knowledge of herbs to use and make some cold remedies from scratch.  There are thousands of recipes for natural cough syrup, runny noses and nausea.  With the cold and flu season here, it’s a good time to get prepared!

7Craft a natural winter wreath for your door.  Pick a nice winter day, bundle up, grab the dog and some hot chocolate, and go for a walk.  Collect pine cones, evergreens, acorns, or whatever, and make a beautiful natural winter wreath.  Simple, elegant, and wild.

8.  Make a bird feeder.  Remember how much fun it was to smear peanut butter and bird seed all over something, then watch from your warmth of your window as hungry, feathered friends came to bless your garden?

9.  Create a paper Book of Shadows.  Or, if you already have one, spend some quality time working on it.  Cut and paste photos, jot down notes about herbs, hand write spells, copy down your grandmother’s home remedies.  A lovely way to make use of time in front of the fireplace!

10.  Make your own statuary.  Winter makes for the perfect to work with the warming energy of the kiln.  Take a local pottery class and create something altar-worthy.

ETA:  Bonus Ideas from 2017!

11.  Try making heat-activated spell sachets This cozy, wintery spell crafting idea gets any creative witches inventive juices going!

12.  Make this magical spiced pear recipe.  This magical twist on a classic Yule recipe dresses up any Winter Solstice festivity.

mabon incense 3

Warming Up for the Yule Season

I was inspired last month by an epic trip to Iceland to make this Yule season spectacular.

blue-lagoon

The essence of winter rules the Land of Fire and Ice.

frozen-waterfall

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Icelandic homes, restaurants and pretty much anywhere indoors tend towards simplicity, modern lines and coziness—-themes I wanted to bring home with me to decorate for the Yule season.

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I stuck with a simple color palette.  Lots of silver, gold and red.

yule

lantern

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poinsetta

Blessed be!

mabon incense 3

Yule Warm Hearth & Heart Cookies

As with most of my kitchen witch posts, this is not a recipe so much as a guide to cooking meaningful spell, ritual and sabbat recipes.

Today’s project and the included spices will work well with any basic sugar cookie recipe.

10 magical uses for sage

Yule is a time for bringing together families.  Whether yours is a traditional clan of blood-relations, or an unrelated bunch with symbolic familial ties, spending the Winter Solstice with those you love to honor your traditions and seal your love for one another is the spirit of this season.

Including a specially prepared, ritually meaningful menu item on your table is a nice way to charge your table for warmth, friendship and bonding.

Not surprisingly, sugar cookies generally include sugar as a key ingredient.

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In kitchen witch recipes, sugar is used to “sweeten” temperaments, making it perfect for use in recipes that will be served in a familial setting.  We all have at least a few relatives who could use a sweeter disposition!

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Traditionally a love spell ingredient, this handy little staple can be used for more than romance!  Vanilla is thought to warm the heart, and everything around it.  Cooking with vanilla in the home allows it to dissipate throughout your house, creating an aura of generosity and general coziness.

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Excuse the cinnamon dust all over my spice container!  This one gets a lot of use in my kitchen.  Cinnamon is a traditional Yule spice, common in Winter Solstice incenses and potpourris.  And of course, it is edible!  Include it in your holiday recipes to symbolize the spirit of the winter season.

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Nutmeg is used to “raise the vibrations” and create a more spiritual, less worldly atmosphere.  Nice if you’re not big on the commercialism of the winter holiday season and want to bring a more spiritual focus to your celebration.

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Finally, we have cloves.  If you’ve got a family rumor-monger (who doesn’t?), this is a nice spice to include in your cookies, as it is known for its use in “stop gossip” spells.  No one needs the Yule tree surrounded with negatively wagging tongues!

I hope you enjoyed this little crash course in common Yule ingredients for the kitchen witch.  Enjoy your Winter Solstice, and Blessed Be!

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10 Ways to Celebrate Yule

10 Ways to Celebrate Yule

1.  Create some ice art.  With overnight temperatures below freezing in most of the US, it’s the perfect time to make some impermanent art.  Fill a rum cake pan with water, evergreens and cranberries and leave it outside to freeze.  When it’s rock solid, place a candle in the center hole, light it and leave it on your front porch to welcome guests in from the cold during your holiday get together.

2.  Make hot cocoa from scratch.  There is nothing more heartwarming than a piping hot cup of real, homemade hot chocolate.  Invite over some friends or gather your family to enjoy an evening in your living room around this delicious treat.

3.  Build a Yule fire.  Yule is most often associated with the Yule log, but you can also “season” a fire with traditional Yule herbs.  Toss in a handful of cedar, a sprig of rosemary and a few pinches of frankincense to warm the house with the spirit of the season.

4. 
Buy a potted evergreen.  Adorn it with traditional Yule decorations.  Have everyone in the house write a holiday wish for the coming year on a piece of paper and bury the wishes in the root ball.  When the holiday season is over, plant it in your yard as a reminder of hope and happiness throughout the year.

5.  Donate your time to a local charity or homeless shelter.    People are always lamenting the expense of the holiday season and its focus on materialism, but the true spirit of Yule is the giving of love and light to those around us.  Nothing brings us closer to our spirits than service to our communities.  In the cold weather months, there is an abundance of ways to give to those in need.  Find one.

6.  Make a natural wreath for the door.  Bundle up and go for a walk to gather evergreens like cedar branches from a nearby forest.  Use only items found in nature, like pine cones or uniquely shaped pieces of wood, to decorate it.

7.  Bake something for the neighbors.  Yule is the perfect time to connect to your community and nothing brings people together like rich, sugary, forbidden foods!  Make something that includes seasonal spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

8.  Start an indoor winter project.  The weeks and months following Yule are the coldest of the year.  We are brought closer to the hearth and the home, making it the perfect time to turn inwards and begin projects of deep reflection.  Try starting an indoor project that you plan to carry through to the spring, like making a quilt or learning to knit.

9.  Make your own witch balls.  You may have noticed this time of year, the craft stores carry these clear Christmas balls that you can open and put stuff in.  These are the perfect vehicle for making witch balls.   

10.  Gather the kids and tell the story of the Oak King and the Holly King.  This classic tale is, of course, central to the Celtic Yule festivities.  Make it part of your tradition!  Have everyone in a circle cuddle up with some blankets and your homemade cocoa, and have the most theatrical person in your circle (you know the one) tell this story with imagination and flare.

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