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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The Sun goes away. The Moon goes away. What do you do?

Obviously, you make fire magic. That's the logic underlying Hanuka.

We hear much of the pagan roots of Christmas; rarely, if ever, do we hear of the pagan roots of Hanuka. But that doesn't mean that they're not there.

In most years, the Jewish Festival of Lights spans the dark of the Moon closest to the Winter Solstice. Dark of the Sun, Dark of the Moon. So we make light to bring back Light, every night more light, until the Moon comes back and we know that the Cycle has been renewed.

Whew.

Rabbinical accounts make it clear that, as is usual with Jewish holidays, the holiday itself came first, with the historical etiology—the Maccabees and their trick oil cruet—added later to “sanctify” the old nature holiday.

Though I can't prove it, I suspect that what we see in contemporary Hanuka is the latter-day descendant of an old pan-Mediterranean Winter Solstice celebration. If we could travel back 3500 years to the temple-palace of Knossos at the time of the dark Moon nearest the Winter Solstice, I'm guessing that in the House of the Double Ax, we'd find oil-lamps in the windows and bonfires in the courtyards. Probably there would have been garlands of greenery decking the courts and doorways as well, since this was pretty much de rigueur for any special occasion in those days.

Chances are that they would have been eating fried foods as a special festival treat. The olive harvest, the last harvest of the growing season, would then have been newly finished; with the pressing of the olives would have come the year's greatest abundance of new oil.

So, probably, in additional to the usual singing and dancing, we'd have been eating some sort of fried holiday goodie similar to the banuelos of Sfardic Jewry: deep-fried dough soaked in honey syrup, and dusted with crushed almonds. The gifts of the olive: richness and light.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Gathering the Tribe Nut Roast
Nuts are some of the best food we humans can eat; they are packed with positive proteins and beneficial oils and are very tasty. This nearly effortless nut roastie is a great snack for movie night at home or party time anywhere and makes a savory appetizer for special meals. Here is what you need:
  • 10 ounces mixed nuts
  • 8 ounces of day-old bread
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 cups veggie stock
  • Soy or tamari sauce
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
Preheat your oven to 350°F and sauté the onion in the butter until softened. Mix the nuts together with the bread in a food processor or stir vigorously until blended well, then transfer to a large bowl. Heat the stock to boiling and pour into the mixture in the bowl. Stir in the onions. Season as you see fit with salt, pepper, and sage. Pour in a tablespoon of the soy or tamari sauces to add zing to your roast and give one last stir. Spoon the roastie mix into a greased baking dish and bake for a half hour. Take note as your kitchen fills with a fantastic aroma. Heating the nuts brings out more of their natural oils and intensifies the flavor. Like herbs and flowers, nuts have magical properties which are mainly to increase love as well as feelings of conviviality and peace, thus the name of this dish. When you serve this roastie, you are quite literally “sharing the love.”
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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Soulmate Superfood Smoothie
A friend of mine came up with this delicious and nutritious smoothie so her beloved husband could get all the things in one smoothie. He loves it, and so do we!
 
  • 1 banana
  • 1⁄2 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chlorophyll liquid
  • 1 tablespoon hemp oil
  • 1⁄2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons goji berries, presoaked (optional)
  • 1 packet Emergen-C, or vitamin C powder
 
If you are using goji berries, soak them for two hours before you make the smoothie.
 
Blend ingredients until smooth. Add a little more orange juice or water if the consistency is too thick for your taste.
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Corn and Whiskey: Sacredness and Community Borne from the Earth

A significant portion of my family originated along the borderlands between Scotland and England, mostly in Northumberland and the Scottish Border. A number of them were reivers, opportunistic and clannish cattle- and sheep-thieving mafiosos of the Tudor and Stuart periods. When King James I of England (the VI of Scotland) wrestled them into submission, they migrated at his behest with other lowland Scots into Ulster, Ireland, before eventually immigrating to Turtle Island, settling in what we now call Western North Carolina. Once again, they dwelled in a borderland, a liminal space between the lands still freely occupied by Native peoples in the west and the European colonies in the east. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful region, with rolling ancient mountains and fertile valleys, carved through with rivers and creeks and patches of swamps. They lived in this area from the middle of the 18th century to the early 20th century. For much of this time, they were listed as farmers in tax and census records, like many other settlers of the area.

Corn Goddesses, Myths, and Traditions

Maize, what we Americans call corn (in Europe, corn can mean any grain), was a crucial and sacred crop to many Native tribes. As explained on the Native Languages website: “Corn played an important mythological role in many tribes as well-- in some cultures Corn was a respected deity, while in others, corn was a special gift to the people from the Creator or culture hero.” For the Cherokee, the Goddess Selu is the Corn Woman. She was the first woman Who came into being, and She was ultimately killed by Her twin sons, who feared Her power. Yet, as She died, She taught Her boys how to farm corn so that She could be reborn (“Selu, the Cherokee Corn Mother”). The Iroquois Corn Goddess is Onatah, Who with Her two sisters formed the Deohako, the “Life Supporters” -- more familiar to us settlers as the Three Sisters. In an Iroquois agricultural myth, Onatah was kidnapped and hidden underground, which caused a famine that only ended when She was liberated and returned (“Onatah, the Iroquois Spirit of the Corn”). In both myths, there is a theme of descent into the underworld -- through death in one, and being hidden in the other -- and a reemergence, which we see every year in the farming of maize.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

Our story so far:

Since the 17th century (at least) the rising of the Sun on Yule Morning has been greeted in Shetland with the plaintive and darkly beautiful fiddle tune The Day Dawn. For four hundred years (at least), the tune had words no more than the birdsong which greets the same dawn.

Then, a few years back, Jane Hazelden wrote lyrics for The Day Dawn. They're good, maybe even very good: as good a nutshell definition of Yule as any that ever I've heard and, indeed, better than most.

But they don't quite fit the tune.

To fit her new words to the old fiddle tune, Hazelden has truncated some of the musical phrasing, notably certain repetitions and, in so doing—to my ear, at least—thereby diminished something of the tune's integrity, and dulled something of its luminosity.

(Forgive me, giver, if I destroy the gift, the Goddess once, through Laura Riding, told Robert Graves: It is so nearly what I want, I cannot help but perfect it.)

So I've tweaked Hazelden's lyrics to fit the original tune by matching verbal repetitions to the musical ones.

Well, you be the judge. Maybe you're a fiddler and don't need words at all to sing the Sun his Old Song.

But out on the bridge, singing the Sun up out of the Mississippi valley on Solstice morning, these are the words that I'll be singing myself.

So join me if you will.

 

The Day Dawn

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
WeMoon Sweet Potato Cakes

Hearty and oh-so-healthy, these pancakes make for a marvelous full moon meal. Sweet potatoes are truly beneficial to women’s health since they contain estrogen; these tubers are good for you inside and out, as they also give your skin a nice boost. But their main magic for everyone is that they are a grounding tonic. Anytime you feel spacey or out-of-sorts or distracted, this food will serve you well, even if you just bake and eat a sweet potato. For this savory sweet, you will need:

  • 2 large semi-baked sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 large semi-baked russet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 3eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • Chives, sage, and rosemary

Mix the potatoes and carrot in a large bowl. Beat the eggs, then add to the veggie mixture and mix thoroughly. Grind the rosemary and sage to a very fine powder in your mortar and pestle and add in a tablespoon of the herbs; salt and pepper to taste. Shape into round balls, enough for eight mooncakes. Warm the oil slowly until it is nice and hot. Place the balls in the oil and flatten into rounds with a spatula. Cook through until they are golden and beginning to crisp on both sides. Plate up and top with organic yogurt and chives. If you’re feeling decadent, dollop on sour cream, then enjoy with a circle of friends under the sheen of a bright and holy moon.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Healthy Dose of Self-Care

One of the things that we can always feel grateful for is good health. Without it, we often can't perform the simplest of daily tasks on our to-do list. Because it's such a basic and instinctual need, it's all too easy to take our well-being for granted. With patients exercising a healthy suspicion of certain drugs being over-prescribed by the medical community, it's no surprise that holistic and alternative medicines are being sought out more than ever before. Many therapies and treatments originated in the Far East, such as Qigong, reiki, cupping, and acupuncture.

Needles You Needn't to be Afraid of

Acupuncture can be traced back as far as 6000 BCE, and was first practiced in China substituting long, pointy bones for the needles. The concept behind inserting the needles into the human body to combat anything from stress to pain is intriguing. It all centers around each individual's life force, or "qi," running though the body. When certain areas are in disharmony, your qi cannot easily flow the way it is supposed to. You become blocked and this can lead to chronic discomfort and illness. A set of up to 20 sterilized needles are gently pushed into the skin for up to 30-60 minutes at a time. Acupuncture enthusiasts affirm that it really works for them, and they start to notice the benefits very soon after their first few treatments. Just remember if trying this experience for the first time yourself, it helps to keep your eyes closed and stay in a meditative state—otherwise you can't let the healing work for you and through you!

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