Cauldron to Kitchen

Paganism, food and spirituality

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The hearth and the heart occupy the same place


b2ap3_thumbnail_fireplace1.jpgThis morning I started a pot of soup. The beef shanks came from a farm where the cows live on grass or hay and, during the summer at least, they spend their days outside in broad fields. The family that runs the farm has been raising and selling meat for a long time. They are all business in their farm store, perhaps even taciturn. But they are efficient, and their prices make up for any perceived grumpiness. But back to the soup…

The shanks get roasted in the oven and then left in the crock pot for a few hours to make stock (damn, I forgot to put in some onions! But there’s time for that.) Then the meat is picked off the bones, and set aside while veggies cook in the stock, and finally the meat goes back in. It’s a slow process. While I do have the capacity to whip up a quick meal – I keep organic frozen veggies handy and often take a day to make frozen entrees ahead of time – soup is just best if one takes some time.

The lush smell of it, the warmth on a single digit day, and the balance of flavors are all important, but the care that went into the making brings just at much to the table. It takes time and attention not just to make the soup, but to choose the ingredients. I’m picky about food. I want my food to be clean and grown by people who care. Some of it I grow myself because I love my garden and I do some canning and other food preservation because it saves us money. The soup is not just ingredients, it is time and labor, not just the act of making, but the labor that paid for the ingredients. How we spend our time and labor shows what we love.


And this is where it gets complicated.



I didn’t love cooking when I started out on this particular journey. The challenges I was dealing with would take too long to detail here, but suffice to say, I had caretaking to do when what I really wanted was to write and work on building a business. Nor were the beneficiaries of this caretaking particularly appreciative. Yet the job had to be done, the alternative was unthinkable. And I hated it.

Every day trying to come up with something that kept them from being bored, and one that was used to dry chicken breast cooked in a microwave. Left to my own devices, I am happy to make a batch of something and eat it for a few days. But now I had to plan. With Saturn in Pices that is not my strong suit, and since the two I was caring for both had ADD, I was the only one caring for the hearth. The goddesses who had guided me up to this point in my life were not hearth goddesses and had little to offer. I needed someone else.

My first inspiration came from the Northern Tradition. I have many friends who work in this tradition and I respect it. For the people of the north, the hearth was the center. All the raids made by the Vikings were to bring things back to the household that would improve the likelihood of survival and prosperity. In the home, the women ruled. Unlike their counterparts further south, Norse women could own property and even divorce their partners. They held the keys to the storage rooms, and these were a sacred trust, for without good management, a ‘steading would not make it through the long, harsh winters.

This model held me for a time, but I am not called by the Northern gods. In addition, my care seemed to extend into the garden and the primal touch of the earth on my hands. The garden, whether or not I was growing food, has always been a place of peace for me. I needed a deity that would encompass the care of the hearth and the elemental primacy of the dirt. And I found that solace and guidance, and with it the strength to endure several years of deep challenge.


The soup won’t be done for hours yet, but I’ll check on it soon and add some vegetables to the stock. The answer to why so much time and labor is love. Love for my partner, who also takes time and labor to care for me. Love for the world, because how I choose our food affects our ecosystem. Love for my body that needs good nourishment in order to function. Love for my friends, with whom I enjoy sharing a meal. Love for the animals and plants which I will consume. My time and labor honors their life and death.

The hearth is the place where things come together. We work, and sometime go to war, so that we will have a home, a place to let down our guard at the end of the day and rest. A place to feel safe, a place to get what we need in order to meet the next challenge. The create such a space for ourselves and for others is the work of the heart, it is, sacred.

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Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.


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