Balancing Light & Dark
by Janice Van Cleve
At 11 minutes after the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of August, 1999, a total eclipse of the sun began to trace its shadow across Europe, Anatolia, and India. Thousands gathered in Cornwall, England, to witness the event while others spent thousands of dollars to fly in a Concorde jet in the path of the shadow. What did it all mean?
This was the last solar eclipse of the millennium. Some predicted that it heralded the fulfillment of biblical revelations, others said it marked the beginning of Armageddon — the last battle before the end of the world. Some looked for aliens from other planets to appear or for a shift in the earth’s magnetic fields that would cause catastrophic earthquakes or floods. For myself, it was an energetic day of creative writing which I attribute more to the extra coffee than to celestial events.
Yet an eclipse is an awesome occurrence. To think that an object far out in space could throw its shadow across our earth somehow shakes loose our narrow focus on the mundane and underscores our connection to a greater universe. The immensity of this phenomenon dwarfs our puny existence and forces a humbling awe. Those who fear what they cannot control are driven to spread their fear in dire prophecies and ludicrous interpretations. Still others, seeking escape from temporal reality, see in the eclipse a sign of alternative worlds where they might fare better.
There is another aspect of eclipses: they are beautiful to behold. In a world flush with beauty which unfolds daily in the sheer joy of its own existence, the solar eclipse is one more delightfully exquisite manifestation of pure joy. The eclipse does not have to be either mechanical science or holy creation or portent for the future. It just is, for its own sake, with no purpose other than to be. Like the yellow mountain lily or the fingerling salmon in the sea, like a graceful waltz or reading to a little child, the sun’s diamond ring around the moon is a delight to the open heart.
The eclipse can also provide a symbolic reference for a deeper truth. The moon, which brings light to the darkness, now brings darkness to the light. The moon reflects the sun’s light during the night and, during a solar eclipse, it is the moon that hides that light from us. It is a symbol for the principle of universal duality. Dark cannot exist without light and light cannot exist without dark. Light and dark are coequal twins, like life and death, love and fear, joy and sorrow.
Patriarchal religions attempt to break up universal duality. They fear darkness and shun it, seeking in its place eternal light. Pagans, however, can embrace both the light and the darkness. They can appreciate each one for its own sake and for the anticipation each creates for the other. Bliss is the happy balance of both, in perfect love and perfect trust.
The happy balance of light and dark is the theme of autumn equinox when day and night are of equal length. The expressive and expansive days of spring and summer give way necessarily to the introspective days of autumn and winter. It is no accident that this is the time of Libra, the scales of balance.
Now we gather that which is of lasting value and let go that which is no longer useful. Debts are settled, produce is harvested, and we look back at summer’s accomplishments with a sigh of both satisfaction and relief. Now we begin to draw inward and to take stock and give thanks for how far we have traveled since we made those promises at Imbolc and planted those seeds at spring equinox.
An eclipse gives us a quick vision of the interchangeability of light and dark. The equinox bears out the vision in the wheel of the year. We are the children of the light and we are equally the children of the dark.
A Pagan Hunts the Fruits of Autumn
by Catherine Harper
Sometime in September I wake up and the sky is gray, the day is cool, the bright golden harvest has begun its descent into the quieter late autumn, and even as much as I love the sun, I am relieved. It’s as if the shorter days give me license to stay content inside, writing and cooking, or to cover up outside after I have become a little weary of sun and skin. By the time the weather turns, I am always ready to turn a bit inward. It has been a sunny summer and a good, warm harvest, and now it is time for things to be a bit more muted and for rest.
By Mabon, I should have a cord or two of apple wood stacked for the oven. The bright fruits of summer are finishing in the garden, the winter squash thinking about hardening their shells, the beans and tomatoes coming in. The sunny days are some of the best for hiking and bicycling, cooler weather bringing us out of summer’s languor. But the Indian summer, if we are so lucky as to be granted one, is transitory, a red and gold finale to the light half of the year, and the gray days and rains are waiting.
What is startling about our winters is not so much the amount of rain (well, maybe some years), for all the press that it gets, but the contrast between our mild climate and the dark that descends on us. For all that we see little snow or freezing, the Puget Sound is decidedly north, and through the equinox the length of the days shifts rapidly, swinging toward the winter days, which are barely more than half the length of their long summer counterparts. Add the frequently overcast sky, which lets so little light through, and non-natives who have spent the summer munching cherries and blackberries through our 10 o’clock twilight often find themselves fleeing south.
But the dark time of the year is not without its pleasure, a period of rest and contemplation after the frenetic summer. It is a wonderful time for the pleasures of the table, with maybe even a fire on the heart, or a soup simmering on the back of the stove. People begin to move indoors again; life becomes private. And in the fall many of us go into the woods, alone or in quiet twos and threes, and spend time among the shadowed places, relishing the cool, the dark, the rain, and looking for mushrooms.
Mushrooms have a mixed reputation in this country, especially those vast arrays of species that aren’t the familiar grocery store buttons. Esteemed by foodies, feared or scorned by much of the populace, valued by some for their hallucinogenic properties, most people seem to approach mushrooms with opinions already formed. It should not be a surprise, since so much of our culture we have inherited, with our language, from the English, who are, compared to many of their mushroom-loving European brethren, noted fungiphobes. (Which is not to say the English never partake, but merely they tended to regard the mushrooms with a skepticism quite different from the affection of the French and Eastern Europeans, or the wild adoration of many Russians, to name a few.)
The Pacific Northwest has been greatly blessed by the mushroom gods, and we are a veritable haven for fungi. The woods and wet falls and springs are ideal for mushrooms, and we have one of the larger and most reliable fruitings of anywhere in the country. Even in the city, on lawns, in parks and landscaped patches, we have an unusually rich and diverse community of fungi (though care should always be taken when hunting in landscaped areas so as to avoid contaminants).
It never fails to amaze me how many people simply do not notice this bounty that fruits in our area. Many times, when I first take people hunting they simply don’t see the mushrooms in the grass, on the ground or hiding in the shadows under a rhododendron. And then when they train their eyes to see, it is as if they have glimpsed faerie, and are amazed at this other world, always there, that has suddenly opened up before them. For the mushrooms are not always small or unobtrusive. I have found Agaricus augustuses fully 11 inches across at the cap, as big as dinner plates, or Amanita muscarias only slightly smaller and bright red with white spots hatching next to a college library.
In the woods, the Amanita muscarias, which fade as they age to a salmon pink while retaining their white spots, sometimes come up in rings fully twelve feet in diameter. These are, as it happens, one of the most interesting hallucinogenic mushrooms for shamanic use worldwide, though the amount and type of toxins varies by region, and I wouldn’t recommend playing with our local varieties. Amanitas in general are one of the more perilous families of mushrooms, containing some of the most poisonous specimens found in this region. There is recorded use of amanitas from North America to Siberia, as well as interesting speculation that they were the source of the vedic drug soma.
And, as an interesting footnote regarding hallucinogenic mushrooms, the Psilocybe stuntzii, one of the mushrooms most often hunted for its perception-altering properties, though not as potent as its cousin Psilocybe cyanescens, was originally identified on the University of Washington campus, and is named after the former professor of mycology there, Daniel Stuntz. While, at least as I understand it, these mushrooms were not originally native to this area, they have become quite common around universities, libraries, government buildings and other landscaped areas. And hunter beware: While some people would caution against any consumption — which is, of course, illegal — at least be aware that these sometimes intermingle with deadly Gallerinas, so if you’re not absolutely sure, don’t put it in your mouth. We tend to be rather attached to our livers and don’t function very well or long, without them.
So before I begin describing some of our easier and more rewarding mushrooms to hunt, a few words of caution. First off, while mushrooms are not really any more likely to be poisonous than plants, some are poisonous, mostly of a sort that will give you gastrointestinal distress, and a very few are quite poisonous and can kill you.
The problem with mushrooms is that most people learn at least a little bit of plant identification as children — enough, say, to recognize a holly’s berries and know they will be deleterious to one’s health, whereas blackberries can only enhance it. Many who can recognize red huckleberries, dandelions, wild onions, hazelnuts and other common wild edibles, know not to eat nightshade or water hemlock and have at least a rudimentary idea of what features might be significant in distinguishing one plants from another. Most of us, however, did not grow up with even this basic background in fungi, and so until we have had time to acquaint ourselves with the mycological world and train our eyes to their identifying features, our abilities to reliably tell one mushroom from another are often rather weak. It’s not that mushrooms are inherently more difficult to distinguish, but that as a culture we tend to be less learned in how to go about this. However, until we have had a chance to hone these skills, it is not a good idea to go sampling mushrooms that you believe resemble those found in guides, or even this article. The first rule or foraging is never to eat anything you haven’t positively identified.
This same precaution applies to people who have learned to hunt mushrooms in one area, and then moved to another. While your skills will do you in good stead, make sure you take a while to familiarize yourself with our native mushrooms, both nourishing and otherwise, before you add them to your diet. The most common cause of mushroom poisoning on the west coast is among immigrants who eat certain (sometimes deadly) Amanita species that are not native to their homelands, not being aware of the need to distinguish them from familiar edible species.
If you want to make a more serious study of mushrooms, there are a number of excellent guidebooks — paramount among which are David Arora’s pocket guide All the Rain Promises (perhaps the best introductory text on mushrooms) and the larger and more hard-core Mushrooms Demystified. Even better, the Puget Sound Mycological Society (www.psms.org) holds monthly meetings throughout the fall, winter and spring and is a good place to learn hands-on identification from experienced mushroomers, among other diversions.
I use the word “mushrooms” here to describe any fleshy fungus, edible, umbrella-shaped or otherwise. The popular term “toadstool” has no particular biological meaning, though it is sometimes used, primarily by those who are not fond of mushrooms, to refer to ones they regard with suspicion. All mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of organisms that live either in ground or in wood or another organic substrate (called “mycelia”) or in symbiosis with plant roots (called “mycorrhizia”). The most recognizable mushrooms have the umbrella shape we are accustomed to from the grocery store, consisting of a stem and a cap, the underside of the cap having either gills (as do the more common cultivated varieties) or pores (mushrooms with pores look as if the underside of the cap is made out of a porous, spongy material).
Here are a few of my favorite mushrooms, ones that fruit in profusion this area and that are, if not foolproof at least (to steal a phrase from David Arora) reasonably intelligence-proof. Again, I do not expect this listing to replace a guidebook or trained identification, but I hope it might be a good place to start informal investigations. (If in doubt, if you have found a field of beautiful mushrooms that you can not identify on your own and yet cannot in conscience ignore, drop me a note at email@example.com, and I’ll try either to help you or refer you to someone both local and qualified.)
Fairy Ring Mushroom (Marasmius oriedes)
This is one of the most common ring-forming lawn mushrooms, and a great favorite among pagans for its folkloric associations. (Do not, however, assume that all ring-forming lawn mushrooms are edible — many circles of mycelia will fruit along the perimeter, forming rings. Nor does the fairy ring mushroom always form rings.) This mushroom is an opportunist, meaning that it will fruit spring and fall, often several times a season, as long as the conditions are right. (Mostly, it awaits sufficient moisture.) The mushroom world has given us a great variety of hard-to-differentiate “little brown mushrooms” (known as LBMs), many of which most mushroomers do not bother with, but this one is worth knowing, as it is not only common but tasty, with a light, delicate flavor that goes particularly well with lemon and the gentler alliums.
This cream- to buff-colored mushroom stands only two to three inches tall, with a cap usually about one inch across in diameter at maturity. Its gills are straight, evenly spaced, do not fork or split and have light-colored spores. The cap often has a hump in the middle, giving it a bit of the appearance of a hat at maturity. The stem is fibrous and not particularly appetizing. The entire mushroom dries very easily and reconstitutes quickly after being soaked in water. Collecting mushrooms from a circle will encourage the underground mycelia to produce more, just as collecting beans results in more beans, and so can be done without fear of damaging the organism.
Boletes and Cousins
Boletes are plump, fleshy mushrooms with spongy pores on the undersides of their caps rather than gills. This is the clan of the Porcini, one of the most highly prized of all edible mushrooms. The clan breaks down into three families, Boletus, the true boletes; Suillus, the slippery jack; and the Lecinums, a family that includes the birch boletes and other fine edibles.
The basic rule of thumb given for boletes is that they are safe to eat if their pores are yellow or white, and neither the pores nor the stem are red, or stain blue when bruised. However, while this rule of thumb will take you fairly far and is the reason boletes have a reputation for being a safe family, it is not entirely reliable. Better by far to get a proper identification book and key out each mushroom completely.
If the “bolete” you find has a notably slippery or, if drier, sticky surface, it is a slippery jack. (Also, slippery jacks tend to but don’t always have larger pores that are often radially arranged.) Slippery jacks are among our most common boletes, and if they are not among the most prized, the edibles among them can be fine despite their tendency towards sliminess.
If the “bolete” you find does not have a sticky or slippery cap, has closely packed pores and a smooth stem, you have found a true bolete. Not all true boletes are edible, but many of those that are are choice, so it may well be worth your while to properly identify it. However, be warned that we are not the only creatures who like to eat boletes, so keep a close eye our for insect infestations and slug damage. Boletes age quickly and aren’t worth collecting past their prime, though they dry very well if you find yourself in possession of a large quantity.
If your bolete is again without a slippery or sticky cap, but the stem has a dark webbing that looks rather like the cheek of a dark-haired, fair-skinned man who has not shaved for a day or two, it is a Leccinum. While this family is not generally as highly prized as some of the true boletes, some of them are quite tasty and very common in this area, especially growing in association with birch trees. These, too, dry very well, though they rather oddly turn black in the drying process.
Chicken of the Woods
This is a shelf mushroom, rather like the hard, white-bottomed artists’ conks one finds growing off the sides of trees. However, chicken of the woods is one of those mushrooms that is easy to recognize because it looks like nothing else on this earth. Softer than a woody conk, growing in ruffled shelves on the sides of trees and dead wood, chicken of the woods is an amazing day-glow orange on top, and a paler yellow underneath. When young and tender, it can be delectable, having a flavor and texture very similar to that of chicken, though it requires a long cooking. Older specimens tend to be tougher and sour, though this can, at least in part, be remedied through long cooking and careful seasonings. This mushroom is often available during the fall at the Pike Place Market.
As with most mushrooms, even once you have positively identified it you shouldn’t have a large serving if you haven’t eaten it before, because some people have unpleasant reactions even to mushrooms that are generally edible.
For many, the chantrelle, golden and shaped like the mouth of a trumpet turned upward toward the sky, is the prince of the wild mushrooms. (However, there is another mushroom named “the prince” that is a large, almond-scented relative of the grocery store agaric and not in the least related to the chantrelle.) Chantrelles are forest mushrooms, growing from mycorhizia. They are most easily identified by their thick, veined gills, which stand out as rounded ridges rather than the knife-edges of true gills. In our area, both the white and gold chantrelles are fairly common, though only the gold is hunted in large numbers for the commercial trade. Personally, I like the white at least as well. There are also more fragile black and blue varieties.
Not all native chantrelles are edible, there being a common inedible variety that is feathered across the surface of the cap. If in doubt, e-mail me and I’ll help resolve the problem for only a tithe.
Shaggy manes are another opportunist, and another mushroom commonly found in parks, on lawns and other haphazard locations. These look like tall, white eggs, standing on end, usually in grassy areas or on ground that has been disturbed in the last few years. On closer investigation, you will find these fragile, white mushrooms have hollow stems and a long gilled cap covered with delicate feathery white shags that almost completely hides the stem. As they age, the bottom edge of the cap begins to turn pink, and then dark, and finally dissolves to black liquid. This liquid is essentially the same as giving the shaggy mane’s buff-colored cousins, the inky caps, their name. It is dark brown, and thinned with water does indeed make a fine ink, well-suited to magickal use. In fact, collecting shaggy manes and inky caps for ink might be one of the safest ways to embark on mushroom hunting.
These days, many people are familiar with this white to grayish-buff wood-growing mushroom, since it is widely cultivated and available (for a fancy price) from most grocery stores. There are actually a great many varieties of oyster mushrooms, and they are common growing on trees and dead wood throughout this region. These are tender, gilled mushrooms that grow in shelf-like lobes with either no discernible stem or a stem off to one side rather than centered, as is the case with most familiar mushrooms. They fruit spring and fall, as conditions permit. In fact, a distinction is made between “angel wings” and “oyster” mushrooms, the former whiter and more delicate than the latter. However, both cook up well.
Happy mushroom hunting!
My Journey into Fall
by Erika Ginnis
I have had a love-hate relationship with autumn my entire life. It meant the end of summer: no more swimming, sunning, sleeping in. It was the end of the magickally long days, light until 10 p.m., dinner at 9. The particular song of the robin singing at dusk, sleeping bags laid out under the stars that were counted and drawn together with my finger, the silhouette of houses and trees barely noticed in my peripheral vision.
The call of “What’s to come?” has always been strong for me; whether to run to it or from it is my dilemma.
In late summer, the next grade loomed large. I hugged those warm twilight nights frantically, but my eye was already wandering; the promise of new clothes, plaid skirts and white pages beckoned.
I never counted my years in January (I wonder which of us really does) but from September to September. There is so much potential in the unknown, and that’s when I would feel it the most, looking forward to something that I still can’t put a name to, with both fear and excitement.
Years later, August in Seattle, the leaves shine buffed and waxed like the cars of my childhood. Then all at once, not at all gradually, there is a change. It always happens, and it always surprises me. Overnight, the color shifts, contains an undercoat of something new, something that wasn’t there the day before. The air is different somehow. You can feel it through the heat, standing behind the glistening days. Then there’s no going back. Like the moment just after you’re off the high dive, on that long inevitable journey to the water.
How Corn Came to Be, a Senecan Creation Story
Adapted from an 1883 recording by Jeremiah Curtin
In the time before time, the people lived high above in the blue sky. An
enormous tree grew in the middle of their village, a tree whose blossoms gave
off light. One woman dreamt that a man told her to uproot the tree. He said to
dig a circle around it, so a better light would shine brighter. The people cut
around their tree, and it sank under the ground and disappeared. Their world
became dark, and the chief, enraged, pushed the dreaming woman down into the
hole. Down, down, down she fell.
Still she fell. The world below was made of water, where waterbirds and animals
lived and played. They looked up and saw her fall, and began to make a place.
Diver-to-Darkness brought mud up from below. Loon told everyone to get some
more, and heap it onto turtle’s back. Beaver flattened it with his tail. Then
kingfisher gently brought falling woman down, and they worked together to make
the world. The earth grew, trees grew, bushes and flowers appeared. The woman
gave birth to a baby girl.
The girl grew up very fast. When she was a young woman, she went out walking,
talking to the animals and birds, gathering flowers. She met a fine young man.
When they made love, day and night came. At the morning star, she went to meet
him, and the earth shone with light. At twilight, she returned home, and
darkness fell. One night as she left him, she turned to say goodbye, and she
saw only a huge turtle where he had been. She knew the turtle had tricked her.
Young woman went home to her mother. She had gained the turtle’s wisdom, and
knew she would soon die, and her body would become changed and beautiful. She
told her mother this would happen.
Young woman give birth to two babies and then she died. Her mother buried her
and covered her body well. From her breasts grew two stalks, and on those
stalks ears ripened. When the cornsilk was dry, and the leaves bright green,
the Grandmother fed those children the new grown corn. That is how Corn came to
be, nourishing the people ever after.
Grass became as milk to the creatures of the animal kingdom, and corn became the
milk for mankind Frank Waters
The corn comes up; it comes up green; here upon our fields white tassels unfold.
The corn comes up; it comes up green; here upon our fields green leaves blow in
As the preeminent native grain of the Americas, the importance of corn to the
cosmology of Native Americans is inestimable. In most instances, corn alone
initiated the evolution from nomadic life to sustained farming life; changed
only by the Northward rumbling of wild horses in the 16th Century. Just as the
nursing mother and hungry baby need each other, corn needed the people to
replicate it: its seeds are too closely packed to self germinate. Likewise,
the people needed the corn as a dependable food source, and so experience
settled village life.
To the Maya, the cosmic world family tree is a corn plant in the shape of a
cross: at each stalk grows an ear of corn, on each cob grows a human head. The
Maya Maize God is akin to the European Green Man in that he is a foliate deity,
whose thoughts germinate the corn, whose blood nourishes it. His hair is made
of corn silk and it sprouts cobs and leaves, his hands are made of waving
leaves, and his eyes are always closed as he dreams to life the grains. Maya
hieroglyphs of “growth,” “finding” and “beginning” are all interrelated with
symbols for maize. Even now, Mayan descendants save their best grains of maize
to pass on to relatives when they are near death. They especially save the red
pearls for, as Betty Fussell writes in her comprehensive The Story of
Corn(1992), in it the “Maya see not only the cosmic globe but a drop of blood
that condenses all human history into a single germ of life.”
For Zuni people, their legendary seven maidens of the corn actually define
Earth’s elements. Oldest yellow corn daughter comes from the North and cold.
Blue corn maiden hails from the rainy and wet fertile West. Red sister comes
from the hot South. From Eastern daybreak of light, comes White corn maiden.
Speckled corn maiden comes from the clouds above, the spirit world. Black corn
sister grows in the womb cave of the Earth Mother. Littlest baby sister is
sweet corn. After they perform their “Beautiful Corn Wands” Dance, the
mischievous and fertile flute players, whose humpbacks contain seeds for all
that grows–the Kokopelli, make love with them. Instantly they disappear to the
Summerland, but are brought back by the God of Dew. Like Persephone of Greece,
they may only return to the world for part of the year, and so took care to tell
the people to love their bodies in the Spring, then bury their flesh in the
dying time of Autumn.
The Hopi creation myth revolves around an Earth Mother who gives birth to a corn
plant baby who is presented to its Sky Father at dawn, and is then sown into the
sky. Hopi real life birth rituals are intimately intertwined with corn. A
grandmother presents mama and baby-sized corn dolls to the newborn, whose face
is rubbed with white cornmeal, the symbol of new beginnings. Babies’ first
taste of maize comes from a tiny blessing of this gift from the Earth Mother
placed in its’ mouth with the whisper that it will be so nourished lifelong.
Before marriage, the young woman offers cornmeal and bread to the groom; then
she spends four days in meditative grinding of meal within his house, as his
womenfolk daily bring gifts of corn in a rainbow of colors. Village women
prepare cornmeal for the feast, while men weave the bride’s dress from pure
white cotton. The ceremonial wedding cake is made of blue corn. Likewise, at
death, one enters the spirit world with a face dusted with cornmeal.
Just as the Inuit of the Arctic have hundreds of different words for snow, so
too have the Central and Southwestern American tribes hundreds of ways to
prepare corn. The Hopi make a thin, wafer like bread called piki made from
powder-fine, silkily fine cornmeal. Betty Fussell claims that some kinds taste
salty from fermented lime, some rich and milky as biscuits, some red, sweet and
delicate; and that this labor-intensive piki-making skill is undergoing a
revival among young Hopi women. Powdered corn can become an instant drink
called pinole or atole lately flavored with maple, cinnamon and sugar or cocoa
when mixed with milk or water. Fussell describes a Peruvian/Spanish hybrid sweet
soup recipe of dried purple corn revived with water, cooked with dried fruit and
sweet potato flour and spices. Mexicans in the time of Montezuma used cornmeal
to make all manner and shape of tamales: some sweet, some savory, with meat,
turkey eggs, honey or beeswax, and fruit. Eastern and Midwestern tribes dried,
grilled, roasted corn, and scraped the kernels and sweet milk for stews. Hidatsa
tribal life (formerly located in North Dakota) centered on rhythms of corn
farming. Before Autumn frost they usually ate corn roasted with the husks on,
later storing their corn and squash underground in uterus-shaped cellars winter
long. Most tribes parched corn: popping it dry in sand then grinding it fine to
make light “journeying corn” to be taken on travels and reconstituted with water
to make a paste. For the Seneca tribe, corn was so central to life that their
vocabulary contains nearly thirty words defining various stages of corn growth
It is raining up there under the mountain.
The corn tassels are shaking under the mountain.
The horns of the child corn are glistening.
As Autumn’s element is water, all study of rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans
apply, including the science of hydroelectric energy. Emotions are ever near
the surface in Autumn. Blend water and emotion and we may easily feel grief at
this time of year. For older children, exploring issues of sadness, guilt and
regret as they pertain to history and the environment–honestly facing the
ambiguities, integrating the shadows and the light–can serve to deepen the
learning experience and heal immigrant consciousness. As emotions take us deeper
in understanding in Autumn and we begin to ready ourselves for the cold, we
watch for the signs and patterns in nature: seeking patterns in stories and
lessons, history and crafts (quilting, weaving, journaling, beadwork) at Mabon.
Watching for clues about how what has come before shapes us today.
Nature–wild nature–dwells in gardens just as she dwells in the tangled woods,
in the deeps of the sea, and on the heights of the mountains; and the wilder the
garden, the more you will see of her there. …..Herbert Ravenel Sass
H A R V E S T R E C I P E S
SAGE DRESSING WITH AMISH APPLE SAUSAGE
I make this every year for our Thanksgiving celebration, and it is delicious!
This makes enough for a 9 to 11 pound turkey. Look for a fine Amish style
sausage at gourmet or natural food groceries.
2 to 3 medium links Amish apple sausage, casings removed (see below)
2 T. butter or bacon grease
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large cloves minced garlic
3/4 cups chopped celery
3/4 of a bag of good quality herb bread cubes for stuffing
1 cup cubed cornbread
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock/broth
1 Tablespoon dried rubbed sage (or less, depending on how much you enjoy sage)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup dried cranberries
If you can find it, use a fine, pre-mixed sausage with apples added to it (Amish
style). Otherwise, use 2 cups of fine sausage and add 1/2 cup sautéed, finely
chopped apples to it. Sauté onion, garlic and celery in butter or grease until
softened over medium heat. Add crumbled sausage and cook until browned. Season
with salt and pepper and sage, and add cranberries. Add all undrained to the
bread cubes. Mix together, and add stock to soften, making sure it does not
become soggy: some cubes should still have dry spots. Stuff into the cavities
of a turkey ready to cook. Bake in the bird. After the meat is thoroughly
cooked, remove stuffing straightaway and refrigerate separately.
This is a hearty bread, not too cake-like, and good for use in stuffings or to
eat with chili.
1 cup cornmeal…Mix dry ingredients together; add egg, butter, half n’ half and
milk, and blend well with a mixer. Pour into a greased bread sized pan and
bake. Serve with butter and honey.
1 cup flour
3/4 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping T. sugar
1 large egg
6 T. melted butter
1/2 c. half and half (half milk and half cream)
3/4 cup milk
WILD RICE WITH APPLES AND WALNUTS
1 cup wild rice
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil…Cook rice and oil in water for 50 minutes.
1 cup walnuts…combine nuts, celery, onions, raisins, drained apple and lemon
rind and set aside.
1 rib of celery, chopped
4 chopped scallions
1 cup raisins
1 red apple, peeled and chopped, set aside in lemon water
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3 T. lemon juice…whisk together juice, salt and pepper, garlic and oil and add
to cooked rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. salt
1/3 cup olive oil
pepper, to taste
Add fruit mixture to the rice (to which has been added oil, spices and
juice) and mix well. May be served cold or heated.
GREEN CHILE, from my sister Erin, enough to cover 4 burritos or so
1 cup mild, diced green chilis
4 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes and juice
1 T. butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 T. flour
salt to taste, optional: fresh cilantro, ground cumin
1/2 cup minced onion Saute garlic and onion in butter until softened, then
add chilis to soften. Add a bit more butter or water if its too dry, and then
set aside. Cook the flour in the oil to make a paste, whisk in a bit of juice
from the tomatoes, and then add rest of tomatoes. Salt, season and simmer on low
heat for 20 minutes, and serve with beans, rice and warm tortillas, or other
SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
I make this every Thanksgiving: its delicious, and not over sweet
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and steamed until completely soft
3/4 cup orange juice
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg…mix juice, eggs, sugar and spices and blend thoroughly with
potatoes using an electric mixer. Spread into a greased 9″X13″ pan.
1/2 cup flour
1/4 c plus 2 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans…mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and
nuts until crumbly, spread on top of sweet potatoes and bake at 350 degrees
for 30 minutes.
A p p l e L o r e
At the center, a dark star
wrapped in white.
When you bite, listen
for the crunch of boots on snow,
snow that has ripened. Over it
stretches the red, starry sky.
Apple Varieties of the World
Abas, akaro, Alexander, Antonovka, Ambri, Baldwin, Ballarat, Ben Davis, Black
Gilliflower, Bledisloe Cox,Blue Pearmain, Boiken, Boskoop, Bottle Greening,
Bramley’s Seedling, Buckingham, Calville Blanche, Cordlandt, Cox’s Orange,
Croften, Danziger Kantapfel, Decio, Delicious, Democrat, Dillingham Beauty,
Dougherty, Drap d’Or, Duchess of Oldenburg, Early Shanbury, Edelboredorfen,
Fallawater, Snow, Fenouillet Gris, Fenouillet Rouse, Fuji, Genniton, Geeveston
Fanny, Giant Geniton, Golden Delicious, Golden Reinette, Goldparmain, Granny
Smith, Gravenstein, Grimes Golden, Grusnovska Moskowskaya, Haralston, Hawkeye,
Hook, Hubbardston, Idagold, Igrid Marie, James Grieve, Johnagold, Jonamac,
Jonathon, Jupp’s Russet, Kapai Red, King, King Cole, King of the Pippins,
Kittageskee, Kokko, Lady,Laxton’s Suprub, Legana, Lobo, Macfree, Macoun,
Margaret, McIntosh, Mutsu, Newtown Pippin, Nonpareil,Northern Spy, Northwest
Greening, Nova Easygro, Ohrei, Pippin, Pound Sweet, Prima, Priscilla,
Quinte,Ralls Jenet, Reinette de champagne, Reinette de Mans, Reinette de
Franche, Reinette de Gris, ReinetteSimirenko, Red Astrachan, Red Thorle, Rhode
Isalnd Greening, Rokewood, Rome Beauty, Russet,Savstaholm, Sheep’s Nose, Shinko,
Sir Prize, Smokehouse, Spartan, Spigold, Spitzenburg, Splendour,Strakcrimson,
Stark’s Delicious, Stark’s Earliest, Sturmer Pippin, Summer Pearmain, Swaar,
Sweet Bough,Talman Sweet, Tasman Pride, Telstar, Tetopsky, Tropical Beauty,
tydeman’s Early Worcester, Wagener,Wealthy, White Transparent, Widdup, Willy
Sharp, Winesap, Winter Banana, Winter Pearmain, WorcesterPearmain, Yellow
Bellflower, Yellow newtown, Yellow Transparent, York Imperial
A tough apple skin means a hard winter.
There was an old woman lived under a hill,
and if she isn’t gone she lives there still.
Baked apples she sold, and cranberry pies,
and she’s the old woman who never told lies.
UNITED STATES, TRADITIONAL
Stick an apple seed to each of your eyelids, naming one “home” and the other
“travel.” If travel stays stuck longest, you’ll take a major trip before the
end of the year…if home stays on longest, you’ll remain a homebody.
KEYS TO THE PERFECT APPLE PIE
Recipe isn’t as important as following these simple directions for the perfect
Use chilled shortening in the crust, and always include just a bit of butter,
for good flavor.
For a flaky and light crust, combine dough ingredients until just blended, and
chill the dough if still quite soft. Awful crust (tough and salty) is caused by
over-mixing, adding too much salt and by using too much flour too often while
While cutting apples, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice so they don’t brown. Lemon
juice also imparts a tangy flavor.
Cut apples into very small pieces, so you don’t get large, tough pieces in the
pie later. One can also pre-cook apples to make sure they are very soft, and so
the flavors (of apples, cinnamon and sugar) have melded well.
Always use some tangy flavored apples in the pie (such as Granny Smith) so the
pie doesn’t taste boringly sweet.
Here’s to thee, old apple tree! Stand fast root, bear well top. Pray Goddess
send a yearly crop! Whence thou may’st bud and whence thou may’st blow and
whence thou may’st bear apples enough…hats full and caps full, bushels full
and sacks full, our pockets full too. Apples and pears, with right good corn,
come in plenty to everyone! Eat and drink food cake and hot ale, give Earth to
drink, and she’ll not fail.
MABON: SEPTEMBER HARVEST FESTIVAL AT AUTUMN EQUINOX
September 20-23…………Autumn Equinox, Equal Time of Night and Day
Origins: Mabon is named after the Welsh God, the “great son” or “great hunter.”
Some scholars refer to Mabon as bringing the “harvest home,” although others
insist “harvest home” occurs at Lammas. Certainly September’s “harvest moon,”
the nearest to earth all year, and the largest-looking full moon has always
helped farmers bring in the grain far into the night. Mabon ushers in the dark
part of the year which lasts until Yule. The myth of Persephone and Demeter
defines this holiday, as does any myth about travel to the underworld and a
resulting cold and death upon earth. Mabon reflects themes of balance,
thanksgiving and harvest. Native American agricultural peoples honored this
very time of harvest variously within North America–celebrations which parallel
those of Europe–yet are centered upon corn, the native grain of this continent.
A lively, growing expression of earth religion depends on altering it, with
reverence, to our circumstances. So here Mabon is re-interpreted from a North
There in the garden, in the sweet, steep Autumn light, she was
singing to the corn: a dark haired woman with hair tied up like a
flowered squash fruit. Dressed all in white buckskin, when she
laughed I could see where crows had left their footprints near her
eyes. Leaves have already begun to turn, and the breeze is cool
where the black and white Koshares, the clowns, spit seeds in the
watermelon patch. A sinewy, muscular and fierce looking man in a
wheat colored shirt led us to the activity. The entire tribe was
preparing for the feast. The woman and I brought the corn to the
table, where her friend in the black striped skirt washed it with
quick, graceful hands. Jay was hurrying all around, in his blue
flannel shirt, bossily organizing everyone. Folks moved aside as a
big boned and graceful woman brought her trout and berries to the
table. A gentle eyed, slender woman quietly gathered together some
skittish, black eyed girls wearing brown striped sweaters to look
after the children. A pacing, skinny boned Grandfather in loose
jeans and a tan beard shot with gray hung around, eager to get some
food. At the table shaped like a turtle’s shell we all sat down
together : coyote, deer, chipmunk, bear, bluejay, raccoon and
snake…and so many others gathered in the spirit of thanks-giving.
THE HORNED ONE; THE HARVEST KING
The God speaks:
I am the radiant King of the Heavens, flooding the Earth with
warmth and encouraging the hidden seed of creation to burst forth into
manifestation. I lift My shining spear to light the lives of all beings
and daily pour forth My gold upon the Earth, putting to flight the
powers of darkness.
I am the master of the beasts wild and free. I run with the swift
stag and soar as a sacred falcon against the simmering sky. The ancient
woods and wild places emanate My powers and the birds of the air sing
of My sanctity.
I am also the last harvest, offering up My grain and fruits
beneath the sickle of time so that all may be nourished. For without
planting there can be no harvest; without winter no spring.
Worship Me as the thousand-named Sun of creation, the spirit of
the horned stag in the wild, the endless harvest. See in the yearly
cycle of festivals My birth, death and rebirth – and know that such is
the destiny of all creation.
I am the spark of life, the radiant Sun, the giver of peace and rest,
and I send My rays of blessing to warm the hearts and strengthen the
minds of all.
As the days and nights are equal and balanced, So am I. I am balanced intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. I am an equinox within.
~from Moon Dragon
Autumn Equinox, around September 21, is the
time of the descent of the Goddess into the
Underworld. With her departure, we see the
decline of nature and the coming of winter.
This is a classic, ancient mythos, seen the
Sumerian myth of Inanna and in the ancient
Greek and Roman legends of Demeter and
In September, we also bid farewell to the
Harvest Lord who was slain at Lammas. He is
the Green Man, seen as the cycle of nature in
the plant kingdom. He is harvested and his
seeds are planted into the Earth so that life
may continue and be more abundant.
Mabon (“Great Son”) is a Welsh god. He was a
great hunter with a swift horse and a wonderful
hound. He may have been a mythologized actual
leader. He was stolen from his mother, Modron
(Great Mother),when he was three nights old,
but was eventually rescued by King Arthur
(other legends say he was rescued by the
Blackbird, the Stag, the Owl, the Eagle, and
the Salmon). All along, however, Mabon has
been dwelling, a happy captive, in Modron’s
magickal Otherworld — Madron’s womb. Only in
this way can he be reborn. Mabon’s light has
been drawn into the Earth, gathering strength
and wisdom enough to become a new seed. In
this sense, Mabon is the masculine counterpart
of Persephone — the male fertilizing principle
seasonally withdrawn. Modron corresponds with
From the moment of the September Equinox, the
Sun’s strength diminishes, until the moment of
Winter Solstice in December, when the Sun grows
stronger and the days once again become longer
than the nights.
Symbols celebrating the season include various
types of gourd and melons. Stalk can be tied
together symbolizing the Harvest Lord and then
set in a circle of gourds. A besom can be
constructed to symbolize the polarity of male
and female. The Harvest Lord is often
symbolized by a straw man, whose sacrificial
body is burned and its ashes scattered upon the
earth. The Harvest Queen, or Kern Baby, is made
from the last sheaf of the harvest and bundled
by the reapers who proclaim, “We have the Kern!”
The sheaf is dressed in a white frock decorated
with colorful ribbons depicting spring, and then
hung upon a pole (a phallic fertility symbol).
In Scotland, the last sheaf of harvest is called
the Maiden, and must be cut by the youngest
female in attendance.
From “Celebrate the Earth” by Laurie Cabot,
Green Witchcraft by Ann Moura, Llewellyn’s Witches’
Calendar 1998, and The Witches’ God by Janet and
“The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honor the Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time…. Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World….”
– Mabon by Akasha