24.5.14

Kitchen Witchery

Medieval kitchen fireplace
One of the fireplaces in Gainsborough Old Hall
Although I may not call myself an out-and-out kitchen witch, I have felt the joy of cooking with magical intent and tasted the sweet results. I could call myself an occasional kitchen witch because I find that I express my excitement for the Sabbaths and other important events best through arts & crafts and in the kitchen. I drive myself into this cooking frenzy and always try to find new fun recipes, games and crafts ideas with which to celebrate the holiday at hand. So I will try to share my love for this subject with you my dearest readers. :)

Kitchen witchery has become quite a popular practice lately. Notwithstanding, it has very deep roots. The first witches were wise men and women; they knew all there was to know about herbs, spices and even poisons and were thus always the ones to turn to in case of an emergency or any dilemma. The kitchen witch will also have extensive knowledge on the ingredients he/she uses in the kitchen and will use this knowledge for good. 

The beautiful image of the medieval kitchen above can help you visualize what it would have been like for the "first witches" to practice their beliefs, make potions or simply cook dinner. Like everyone else, these people usually didn't have enough money for fancy tools, so they used everyday objects to perform their rituals (if this is even an appropriate word as these rituals weren't very ceremonial in nature). This practice has been incorporated into modern kitchen witchery, so don't be surprised if you see a kitchen witch slicing tomatoes and casting a circle with the same knife...this is completely natural to them! In addition to this, a common belief is that, by using these tools as often as possible, more energy is put into them and the tools are made more powerful. Many practitioners of magic may not agree with this stance; they may claim that ritual tools should be restricted solely to magical use and that any mundane practices desacralize them. But opinions differ. :)

Kitchen witches often have much in common with hedge witches or green witches. Some differentiate these terms, while others equate them. Personally, I liken hedge and green witchcraft, but find kitchen witchcraft to be slightly different. The former commonly imply the knowledge and usage of herbs for magical purposes, but kitchen witchery may cover a wider spectrum. Not only do kitchen witches cook using herbs (sometimes adding meat and other products to the menu), but they are usually also big fans of arts & crafts; they experiment with making teas, ointments, creams, cosmetics and other herbal products, but also get creative with jewelry, home decor, clothing and other useful goods. Still, if one was to compare the three traditions, they would also find many similarities (apart from the use and study of herbs). All three are based on a little thing called "Low Magic". Now Low Magic isn't called low because of any bad connotations. This adjective simply refers to a deep connection to the ground and everything akin to it (plants, animals, the mundane, the practical etc.). Those who practice Low Magic often improvise in their rituals because the restrictions of High Magic practices (such as Ceremonial Magic) are too much for them. These improvisations can be seen in both the spoken words and body movements, but also in the tools which are used (everyday objects, kitchen supplies, objects coming directly from nature such as sticks, stones and so on). Also, this connection to the earth enables the practitioner of Low Magic to borrow energy from the ground and everything that lies within it (crystals, plants and let us not forget the soil itself) rather than from a certain higher power that may be incomprehensible to some.

In short, kitchen witches see no distinction between the magical and the mundane; this is why their kitchen supplies and ritual tools are the one and the same. In fact, the act of cooking, or preparing a medicine, or creating something artistic is in itself a ritual (but only if you are capable of perceiving it as such and treating it with the respect it deserves).

When I speak of these acts as rituals, or as magical operations, I don't really make any difference between them and any other ritual. This is because energy is always the main focus. Only the methods of its handling, use or raising may differ, but energy still remains the main ingredient (so to speak). So when kitchen witches prepare a meal, or medicine, or knit a sweater, they put their whole intent into the process. In fact, intent is important from the very beginning; from obtaining the ingredients for the recipe (or buying the wool for the sweater) to the serving and eating of the dish itself (or putting the sweater on for this first time). Every second of the process is permeated with the intent and energy of the practitioner (and sometimes even others involved in the process). The kitchen witch is highly aware of every ingredient (or material/object) used as well as its function in each step of the way.

Because so much time, energy, thought, will power and intent are put into a specific process, it becomes magical. The area in which the process is realized also becomes magical, as do the final products. They, in turn, consecrate that which they come in contact with. This is truly a beautiful evolution which I believe anyone can enjoy and benefit from.

Of course, not all kitchen witches have the same practices and traditions. Some may decide to make this whole mundane/spiritual unity slightly deeper and make a kitchen altar. As is the case with most Pagan altars, this one also has a god/goddess figurine on it, although one will usually find a hearth deity in this place what with the kitchen being the modern hearth and all. Other items that may be seen on this altar are candles, food/drink offerings,  /a cauldron or other ritual/kitchen tools. 

Other kitchen witches may decide to put more emphasis on the magical aspect of their practices rather than the religious ones. They will usually be aware not only of the practical uses of all their herbs (or ingredients in general), but also of their magical uses and even take into consideration the phase of the Moon/time of day/year when they gather them as all of this is thought to affect the energy of the process. This is why many kitchen witches decide what herbs to use in their recipes based on their magical properties as well as the taste they wish to achieve (so they will use angelica for purification or protection, cabbage for luck, pecan for material wealth, saffron for promoting happiness, figs to increase fertility and so on and so forth). To give another example, they may also decide to stir batter deosil or widdershins depending on what they wish to achieve with the food. I have even heard of kitchen witches arranging food in magical symbols, or according to color correspondences and even using condiments to draw sigils.

And then there is the practical side, of course. Each kitchen witch has to do some research before actively engaging on this path. He/she has to know herbs both physically and spiritually in order to fully work with them. General cooking (or artistic knowledge in other cases) is also needed as well as a fertile imagination. I believe an awareness of ones surroundings is also necessary. So a pleasant ambiance and calm household will definitely result in a better meal (or handicraft) than a hectic environment. Many kitchen witches thus pay attention to cleanliness and tidiness; each spice has its place, everything is organized, the kitchen surfaces are clean and everyone, including the witch him/herself is restful. Even though this is not always possible in reality, it's at least something to strive towards. :)

In the past few years, I have come to appreciate the calm and fulfillment that come from creating something with your own two hands; be it a meal or a piece of jewelry, or a home-made gift for a loved one. I see the magic that happens in this process and the wonderful results that follow. The best I can do now is let you experience this for yourself. :) And give you a few recipes or pieces of advice. 

So if you feel like cooking will bring you this joy, I recommend you have a look at the "Witch's Cookbook" section of my blog where you will find tested recipes for all eight Sabbaths as well as links to other great blogs and web sites related to the subject. You may also find the Kitchen Witch Corner a very useful source of culinary inspiration. If you think that arts&crafts is more your style, then have a look at the "Art Corner" section. As for books, I am always happy to give some suggestions. Unfortunately, not all of them are available in pdf format, but I hope you will manage to get to them somehow. :) I sincerely recommend the following ones:

Martin, Deborah J. - Herbs: Medicinal, Magical, Marvelous! - Note: Deborah Martin is known as the "herby lady" and really is an expert on the subject, so have a look at her web site; you'll be sure to find much more useful information! :) and be sure to check you her recommended reading list (you will find some of the book available for download here).

Enjoy the books and have fun with your cooking, arts&crafts projects or whatever else you may take up! :D 
Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

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