Apr 9, 2016

A Toast to Spring: Rhubarb Whiskey Sour

Yesterday, as I walked though my little town, I became light-headed with the scents of spring. Every tree and shrub seemed to have exploded into shameless bloom almost overnight, and the air was heady with sweetness. The days have warmed considerably and the peas and lettuces I placed, with petitions of strength to weather the frosts, in my garden not quite a month ago, have shot up through the earth and are happily drinking in the sun and occasional moisture.

While I was partaking of my first iced coffee of the season at my friend's cozy shop, a woman came in with a basket of rhubarb. Grown in a spot perfect for catching sunlight, her rhubarb was already rapidly producing, and she had come to share her first harvest. (My own plant is still in its alien stage, pushing creepy, red pod-like growths out of the earth.) My friend and I looked at each other and started gleefully listing the things we might do with the fruit (which is truly a vegetable) and after discussing my mother's rhubarb muffin recipe and assorted compotes and sauces, our minds turned to alcohol (as they do).

Rhubarb lore ~ serving a piece of rhubarb pie to your love will ensure their fidelity.

As we had already arranged a gathering of the wild ones last night, and our farmer friend was bringing samples of last autumn's corn for us to taste and vote on the best variety, we thought the beverage of the evening should be something that celebrates spring and contributed to the theme of locally grown ingredients. It was obvious that we should make rhubarb whiskey sours.

They turned out divinely. They were sweet and tart, and perfect in every way. I believe it should be the drink of the season. Even my friends who do not partake of whiskey, swooned over this libation.

Rhubarb lore ~ hanging rhubarb leaves over your grape or cucumber vines will repel insects that might damage your crop.

Jen's note: I'm not sure how well this would work, being that my rhubarb leaves get mercilessly chewed by grasshoppers, but I imagine that worms and other pests with less hearty appetites could not stomach the poisonous leaves (they contain oxalic acid which is corrosive and can cause kidney damage).

Rhubarb Whiskey Sour


whiskey or bourbon
rhubarb syrup

Optional:  egg white, garnish of your choice

Create a simple syrup by adding your chopped rhubarb to water, bring to a boil, mash and then strain, reserving the liquid. Add sugar or honey to the liquid in a 1:1 ratio and simmer until fully dissolved. Often a lighter syrup is fine for many drinks, and you may want to ease up on the sugar if that is your preference but I've found that, with something as tart as rhubarb, a rich syrup makes for a more palatable beverage.

To a shaker, add ice, 2 parts whiskey, 1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 to 1 part syrup (depending on how sweet you like it), and if you like a bit of tradition, add a tablespoon of egg white. Shake and serve straight or over ice. Garnish as you please.

Rhubarb lore ~ "A piece of rhubarb root, worn on a string round the neck, will protect the wearer against the bellyache." 
- Vance Randolph

Witch Notes ~ bits of this and that:

I have been absent for some time - longer than I had planned. To those who have tracked me down on social media, or contacted me via email, or simply sent up a flare to ensure I was still walking the middle world, thank you for your kindness. I am here. Those who have read the blog for a while know that I tend to hibernate in the cold months, but this winter pulled me under deeper than ever before.

I have much to report from my journeying and seeking and howling through the darkness. Tales I will tell in time. But for now, spring has me awakened, and I have traded in my bearskin for a lighter coat, and I wanted to return with a few sweet things for you to taste first, before I open up my bones for you and show you what I've discovered.

In the past months, I have been lingering over:

My brilliant friend Blu, The Seer, who has been a light in dark places. If you need some insight, I cannot recommend her enough.

Tales of swan maidens. I became enchanted with the swans that overwinter at our lakes here in The Valley, and couldn't tire of stories of feather robes and flying.

Skywatching. Absolutely stunned, every time. Find out what is happening above you, here or here.

My fox tail from Lupa. Bought for pleasure, and for potential mischief making at any number of Faerieworlds events in the coming year.

Blood and Spicebush - Becky introduced her "Folkloric Uses of Wood" series in January and I have been smitten since the first post. (You can also check her out on the latest episode of New World Witchery.)

Feather, Pencil, Trowel & Moon - Erin and I seem to cross over each other in spirit from time to time, and I fully expect that one day I will walk through my forest here in southern British Columbia and find myself beside her river in the Midwestern United States. Until then, and we can sit like proper witches and have tea, I read her gorgeous blog.

Sources for rhubarb info/lore:

Martin, Deborah J, "Baneful!" - pg 235-237
Randolph, Vance, "Ozark Superstitions"
The Rhubarb Compendium Web: rhubarbinfo.com

Dec 6, 2015

Trees, Trails, and Chickadees

The hills have been calling me for two weeks now, but the days have been frigid and icy and the wind wicked - not the kind of weather suitable for much except blankets and books. This week, a warm front moved in and melted the small amount of snow on the valley floor, leaving puddles for happy ducks and revealing green grass, and late autumn seeds for the profusion of quail picking through the yard. I gathered my wildcrafting friends, wise women who know the land and its stories, who hear it speak to them, just as I do, and we went up into the trees and the great rock bluffs to wander for a while.

The snow fell in tiny wisps of almost-flakes while we spread out and followed the trails that called to us. I became enthralled with a grove infested with what seemed like hundreds of chickadees. Their calls, excited peeps, and pecks and scratches on the tall pine and fir were a symphony, and their jumping and flittering from tree to tree, a ballet. You may have your Nutcracker, but I'll keep the wild chickadee troops, who eat massive amounts of food each winter's day and then induce hypothermia each night in order to stay alive through the long, cold months ahead.

There were other paths to follow. High mountain juniper called out to me, and I now have some infusing in oil for an after bath treat for my cold-weary skin. I stopped for a while and listened to the wind as it whispered through the old, sky-high pines. I traced deer tracks for a time, winding back and forth through the trees. I wanted so much to follow the coyote too, to see where it had gone roving, but my friends called out to me from a gorgeous bluff over the hill, and I left that trail of paws for another day.

We found several small trees that someone had cut and left where they fell. Why such waste, there's no way of knowing, but we allowed ourselves to scavenge the boughs of the fir and pine lying there to bedeck our own homes for the season. The drive home, in a vehicle stuffed to the roof with evergreens, was divine.

There was soup to be had at the end of our exploration, hearty warmth handmade by someone who knows her way around bones and herbs. As the cold faded from our own bones, we spoke of transformation, discovering the depths of ourselves, and finding where we belong - even if that is in more than one place and even if that knowing makes us ache.

There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go. 
There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and loop and double-cross.
Excerpt from "Wilderness" ~ Carl Sandburg

Last night, after crushing a bit of juniper in my hands and bringing it to my cold nose, again and again, I finally drifted off to sleep and went back to that path of paw prints in the snow. I don't know if I ever found the canid that left them, but I woke feeling like I had been wandering all night in the cold.

Tonight there are candles lit, and extra blankets at the ready (as there will be for all the long nights to come) and I can't help but think about the chickadees gathering in their hollowed trees and any other shelter they can find, intentionally dropping their body temperature, transforming their food stores from the day into fuel to keep their body shivering until the dawn.

I don't know that I will mind if my dreams lead me back to the wintry forest. I might follow the trail of paws again, or perhaps I might learn something from those tenacious birds who embrace the cold, and find a way to evolve to suit it. Maybe they can teach me about going deeper, to the very edge of life, only to wake in the morning and begin the adventure again.

Assorted wintry bits:

~ The stars are falling again - the Geminids will put on a show for you on December 13-14th if you feel like looking to the sky. Great info here.

~ My delightful, if grumpy about the winter holidays, friend Hob from The Orphans's Almanac is now into his Nights of Krampus giveaways. You only have 24 hours to get in on each night's fun, so make sure you stop by his blog daily over the coming week to check out the wonderful and wicked goings on!

~ If you want to know much, much more about animals and working with them in a meaningful way as a spiritual practice, then do check out Sara Magnuson's class Animalia. Sara is wise, and passionate about her work with animals/animal spirits and this looks to be a fantastic course.

Nov 16, 2015


All through the night, your glorious eyes 
Were gazing down in mine,
And with a full heart's thankful sighs,
I blessed that watch divine
Why did the morning dawn to break
So great, so pure a spell;
And scorch with fire the tranquil cheek,
Where your cool radiance fell?
Oh stars, and dreams, and gentle night;
Oh night and stars, return!
And hide me from the hostile light
That does not warm, but burn;

~ excerpts of "Stars" by Emily Bronte

The sky fell today, and it was a stunning show. When I went to sleep last night, with a smile on my lips, the stars were with me. But shortly after I woke, they all began to fall.

I surprised myself with the intensity of my sorrow. A human can make all sorts of noises, but the sounds we make during sex and grief are to me, the most profound. Laughter is delicious - very little tops it - but there is such depth in a scream. As the heavens crashed down around me, I had almost no words (which for me, is terribly rare). I managed to slip a few out, each one so much less than I wanted to say, but I can't even be sure that they were heard. Instead my voice was reserved for the most beautiful keening sounds. I have never been able to sing a note, but gods I could be a banshee without trying.

I have, in the past few years, begun to marvel daily at life. I seek joy, and I find it nearly everywhere. But life isn't all joy. It is the neighbour-friend who is lingering in an in-between state, somehow still holding on even though she is riddled with cancer. It is the niece who stepped in with both feet to the kind of muck you can't save her from. It is people going out to a concert in Paris, and never coming home again.

That we keep attempting to walk, or drag ourselves along, under a firmament that is collapsing around us, is how we shape our worlds. It's not so easy to just dust yourself off and keep going. We bring our wounds with us. Our heartbreak. Our scars. They can be a heavy weight. But for me, there is no other choice than to keep crawling forward. Fortunately I have friends that don't ask questions, but simply turn up the Fleetwood Mac and pour half a bottle of red wine in a glass for me. They sit me down, and tell me it will all be alright, even though they know I don't believe them, and they tell me ridiculous stories until I am laughing through my tears. I have wise friends, and friends who are great seers, who believe in me, even when I have no faith in myself.

The moon still hangs in the sky tonight and that's something, I suppose. I am not afraid of all those falling stars. There is some strange beauty in their collision - the kind that makes you ache. I still have hope, although what that is good for, I can't be sure. More than hope, more than even the thought of the coming spring and the new life that might overtake the wildfire-scorched parts of me, I have love. There is a wild, fathomless love in me that seems to rise up, even when I feel like I'm drowning. That is what I hold on to - even when it hurts - all of that foolish love.

I hope you and yours are safe and warm tonight. I hope your friends treat you half as well as mine treat me. I hope you find love, have love, remember love. Find something to hold on to. The sky may not be finished falling yet, but keep your eyes on the moon and don't stop moving, breathing, loving. Don't stop.

Two small notes:

- There is, in fact, a falling star situation happening in the heavens, if you are interested. The Leonids will peak on November 17th and 18th for your viewing pleasure. Read more here.

- I would like to ask, so kindly, that if you feel you would like to leave a comment on this post, please don't send condolences. I don't know that I particularly deserve them, and that is not why I offered this up today. I know that not everyone has a group of friends like mine, or is able to find some soul-deep love to tap into to keep going. I would be so much more grateful for any sharing you might want to do in regards to how you find your way through those times when the sky falls. Thank you for understanding.

*Photographs are courtesy of creative commons and linked back to source

Oct 31, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Divination

The folks taking home the card decks are:

The Green Witch Tarot - Chad

The Earthbound Oracle - Hexe

The Fantod Pack - Rob Phoenix

Thanks again, wonderful folks, for playing along all October. I'm missing that magical month already!


 The It has somehow all come down to this - the last day of October, and the last bit of frivolity here in this month of giveaways. I have had several people ask me why I do this - why I gather books and oddities throughout the year from authors I meet or enjoy, or find something I fancy and buy an extra one for a stranger. It pleases me. It's as simple as that, really.

This blog has been a safe place for my thoughts and my heart for some time now (even during a year like this one when I only get by once or twice a month to post something). Picking up these books (and this year in particular, some extra fun items) is my way of keeping the people who stop by here in my thoughts all year long. It's a bit like a never-ending game of trick or treat for me.

It is also important to mention that it couldn't be done - not at the number of giveaways of this year and last - without the generosity of various authors, publishers, and friends. Some of the lovely people I have featured have gifted me either free books or a reduced rate on purchasing directly from them. I have had folks offer to ship their work to the winners directly, so I didn't have the extra postage fees, and my wonderful friend Aidan Wachter donated an extraordinary gift of his talent.

What you may not know is that I work what essentially amounts to two jobs in October - this year even more than previous years, and I am long hours at the office, while still trying to put my gardens to bed and find some small pleasures in this treasured month. I couldn't run this yearly party without the kind folks who help with these giveaways and those who share these posts on social media and beyond. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now for the last three giveaways - which are not books, but a bit of divinatory fun I picked up for you.

First up, The Green Witch Tarot from Ann Moura:

I don't own this deck, so can't speak for it, but I have heard whispers that it is quite charming. It is a new release - it has only been out two months, I believe - and is packaged nicely in a set, a book accompanying the cards.

This next oracle deck, I own and love. It comes with cards only, no little white book, but the images are luscious and I have not once thought a book would improve the insight I gain while reading with it. I use this for reading for myself only - it feels very private and special.

The Earthbound Oracle, from A. L. Swartz: (click through to her shop page to view these gorgeous cards - I don't feel comfortable swiping the photos of her artwork and posting them here).

The last deck is for those of you who can appreciate a spectral hippopotamus, or an epileptic bicycle. Edward Gorey's dark, delightful, and strange "Fantod Pack" tarot deck is not quite a tarot deck at all. But then, in Gorey's world, nothing is ever quite what it seems. When I saw this perfect oddity, I grabbed one for a friend and one for you, and then upon seeing them sit on my bookshelf over the last couple months, I gave in and ordered one for myself. You can never have too many delightfully odd things in your life.

There is a great article about this deck here, and many more pictures of the cards.

If you would like to have one of these three decks show up in your trick-or-treat bag, leave a comment below. You may tell me which deck you would prefer, and if possible I will match winners to their choices.

We have a busy weekend ahead of us - some of you are already drifting out into this Halloween night, in search of mischief or candy - so I will leave this last giveaway open until Tuesday, November 3rd at 6pm Pacific.

Thank you again for playing along with me all month!

You can find the rules and legal bits here.

All photos are copyright their respective authors/creators and linked back. They are used only to showcase the items to be given away.

Oct 29, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Byron Ballard

Byron's books are going home with:

KellyM and Sam Saye - congratulations!


When I read our next author's first book "Staubs and Ditchwater: A Friendly and Useful Introduction to Hillfolks' Hoodoo" I felt like I was sitting around a table with my grandmother and aunts, a large pot of tea making the rounds, while they talked about the business of keeping house, and keeping other folks noses out of your business. My grandmother was not from the Appalachians however, she was a British import who could grow spectacular roses with little effort, brew a pot of tea that would fix anything from a headache to heartbreak, and use a potato to dislodge the stinger of a bee that was stuck in your foot. She had a small witch on a broom hanging in her little yellow kitchen, and gods help you if you lifted a lid on one of her pots while they were bubbling on the stove (she knew if you did too - whether she was in the room or not).

Byron Ballard writes in such a way that makes me miss my grandmother with even more than the usual ache. She reminds me of a time when women were in command of their kitchens and gardens and every item had several purposes. A time when the person who kept the home, kept it peaceful and safe with whatever skill and items they had on hand. That time does not have to be "back then" - it can be now, with a little know-how.

Byron has generously offered up two signed copies of her new book "Asfidity & Mad-Stones: A Further Ramble Through Hillfolks' Hoodoo"

I had the pleasure of taking a sneak peak at this book and it is a treat!

"Grab your work-basket and a good, sharp blade, and come along in to the back lots, the meadows, the hills. Byron shows us the folkways of her beloved Appalachian homeland, and shares practical wisdom and workings that she has learned and adapted over a lifetime of practice.

Ms. Ballard tells of ancestors and ghosts, folk-sayings and omens. She offers up a list of herbal helpers, discusses fundamental needs, and shares all manner of works - from blessings to banes. All while weaving an enchanting picture of the land and the spirit of place that holds her heart. 

This is good, get-dirt-under-your-nails craft. By the time you are finished reading this charming book, you should have an impressive toolkit of local plants, dirt, stones, and waters, and a bit of a sore back. 

Dig in deep to this gem, and be sure to carry a buckeye in your pocket, encourage plantain in your yard, mind your dishwater, and pay attention to the moon."

There are two copies of Asfidity & Mad-Stones up for grabs. I seem to be running out of October, so you will only have until Friday at 11pm Pacific to leave a comment here. I will be out in a haunted cornfield that evening, so I'll draw the names when I stumble home, cold and scared silly.

Here are the rules and legal bits.

Photographs copyright Byron Ballard. Quoted text my own.

Oct 24, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Sarah Anne Lawless

Wow - you all love you some Sarah Anne Lawless! Do swing by her shop and blog, she has a new look happening over there and some lovely new products in the works!

The issue of Clavicula Nox is going home with Magaly Guerrero.

The flying ointment will be whisking off to Jen Lawrence.

Swing by tomorrow when more magical books appear!


I am a bit late posting this next giveaway today, because I spent a good portion of the late morning and early afternoon up in the hills, wandering through the now naked birch and tamarack trees, across drifts of yellow needles and leaves, and through pine and fir forests that made me swoon.  I know that our next author/artist would approve of how I spent that portion of my day, so I am not too worried that I am finally sitting down to post the next giveaway for your wicked October pleasure.

Sarah Anne Lawless is an author, artist, folk herbalist and witch, who spends her days creating with plant, bone, ink, and whatever she can get her magical hands on. In between chasing around her delightful pixie of a son, she is a wildcrafter, a poison-plant maven, and works with the land spirits where she resides. She weaves spellbinding posts on her blog and her wonderful articles appear in various publications far and wide.

I am offering up two very special gems from Sarah:

The sold-out, visually stunning issue of Ixaxaar's Clavicula Nox: Magic & Mayhem which holds within its pages, Sarah's article "Intoxication, Seership, and the Poison Path" which she signed for you.

From Ixaxaar:

"Honouring the Covenant to the forbidden teachings of Traditional-Diabolism & Sorcery.
Included in this witchcraft issue: The Commemoration of Lord Qayin by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, The Curse of the Burning Grave by Frater Ben Nachash, The Way of the Night by Asenath Mason, West Country Curse-Magic by Gemma Gary, Djävulspakt- Infernal Pacts in traditional Swedish Witchcraft by C.A. Nordblom, Intoxication, Seership, and the Poison Path by Sarah Lawless, Wyrd by G.
Professionally printed, illustrated magazine, thick brown covers, perfect binding, 60 pages."

And one of Sarah's incredible flying ointments - Saturn: belladonna, henbane, poplar buds, monkshood, yew. I have happily partaken in a few bewitched balms from Sarah, and love them. 

You can find Sarah's shop here, and read up on her flying ointments here.

Please feel free to leave a comment telling me which item you prefer - if I can match winners to items, I will. I will draw two names on Tuesday, October 27th at 6pm Pacific and update this post with the winner's names.

You can read all the rules and legal bits here.

The photograph of the Saturn flying ointment is used with permission, and copyright Sarah Anne Lawless.

Oct 21, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Judika Illes

The Encyclopedia of Spirits is going home with: William Jones

Magic When You Need It is going home with: Stephanie Clayton


Another wicked duo will be up for grabs tomorrow...


I find it a rare thing to hear an author spoken well of across varying groups of practitioners. Often, I hear a book or a writer mentioned, and there is someone else in the room who immediately starts rolling their eyes, or wants to tell you why that particular author is not worth your time. I can honestly say that I've never heard anyone speak ill of our next author.

Perhaps the amount of research and information she pours into her books, is the reason there is a wide reaching appreciation of her work, or it may simply be that others have discovered what I have - she is a truly lovely human being who adores this magical world, and wants to share it with others.

I am pleased to be sharing two of Judika Illes' books with you:

Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demon, Ghosts, Gods and Goddesses

"...a comprehensive and entertaining A to Z of spirits from around this world and the next. The spirits in this encyclopedia represent every inhabited continent, deriving from many cultures, eras, and spiritual traditions. Some, like the goddesses Kwan Yin and Ma Zu, currently possess millions of devotees while others are barely remembered. Within this book, you’ll find individual spirits of varying degrees of power as well as type (genres) of spirits from all over Earth."

Magic When You Need It

"Magic When You Need It serves as your magical emergency kit. This simple to read, easy to use, mini-grimoire contains 150 tried and true spells to eliminate and remedy the emergencies you already have as well as spells to prevent them."

If you would like to add one of Judika's books to your library, please leave a comment below before Friday, October 23rd at 6pm Pacific. Feel free to let me know which book strikes your fancy!

Rules and legal bits are here.

All photos and quoted text are copyright Judika Illes and used only to promote these books for this particular giveaway.