Hello and welcome to this weeks instalment of the Kitchen Witchcraft series!
This week I thought I would share something a little different and take some time to talk about Folk Witchery and Kitchen Witchcraft.
For the folk witch, so much of their inspiration comes from the world around them; the trees, woodlands, moors and nature sprits. The plants that grow, our ancestors, and even the weather can often move and inspire us.
But after the inspiration strikes what comes next? The answer to that is ‘action’. And where many witches may well gather in Covens or large open rituals, for the folk witch, our craft usually happens out in nature or within the home, either as a solitary practitioner or as a family unit (though folk witch circles are becoming more common as individuals increasingly look for group work that is different to extant styles such as Wicca).
The folk witch’s practice is more often than not of a practical nature that comes in many forms, such as of making herbal remedies, kitchen witchcraft, charms, house cleansings, doing readings for clients, or perhaps serving their community in some recognisable form (perhaps as medical herbalists, moot organisers, naturopaths, or as I do as a Pagan Chaplain and as a birth Doula).
When it comes to Kitchen practice, one particular adage comes to mind, that of “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates, 440BC), and this is a lesson that nearly every folk worker and folk witch has known all along! After all, if we look back through European history, we see countless examples of locals turning to the local wise woman or cunning man for advice or healing. Often the advice given was dietary, along with some sort of prayer and charm. And it was not just human dietary needs the wise folk advised on, even one of the Pendle Witches, Elizabeth Southerns (aka Old Demdike), was supposedly occasionally called on for to help easing sick cows for neighbouring farmers. There, Granny Demdike would charm the cows to health again and sometimes scold the farmer for the poor living or eating conditions that the cows were experiencing. Sadly, it was this reputation for scolding and being an outspoken woman that caused Elizabeth some of the local animosity that would later be used against her to point the finger of witchcraft.
Where some forms of witchcraft can often have a clear indication of the area of magic it predominantly represents, for example, poppets are more often than not are associated with curses (though in actuality they can be used for all manner of reasons, such as healing and protection) or charms for protection, kitchen witchcraft is usually connected to healing workings. This is largely accurate, but it should be noted that some workings occur in the kitchen for more malefic workings – nothing is ever clear cut with witchery, it always has it’s shades of grey.
Kitchen Witchery is usually associated with with workings of healing and peace. With the likes of tinctures, herbal teas, syrups, gut friendly pre and probiotics, and made from scratch foods like breads and cakes(recipes where lots of subtle and healing herbs can be added discreetly) involved.
This week’s example of folk kitchen witchery is that of my ‘blessing bread’ and is based on an old family recipe for Irish Soda bread. As many of you will know, working with my ancestors is very important to me, and one of the ways I have sought to connect with my ancestry is through my love of cooking!
Consequently I have spent the last seven or eight years researching and teaching myself recipes that hail from both Ireland and the Scotland (particularly foods from the Highlands and islands).
What Is Blessing Bread?
Blessing bread is a type of bread I use for any of the following:
- House cleansings and blessings (especially if someone has just moved home)
- Rites of passage, such as naming ceremonies or handfastings.
- To bring peace to a troubled home, especially after a divorce or death in the family.
- To celebrate Sabbats or Witchy gatherings
- Any other reasons that seems suitable!
The blessing bread is made the same way, regardless of the reason it is needed, and can be used in all of the above. You can gift it to someone, or share it together at a family meal! What makes it special is your intention, and being Irish Soda bread, it doesn’t need a lot of hard work or hours or proving and rising.
Recipe And Instructions.
- 400g of white wholemeal flour (for gluten free, use 200g buckwheat and 200g oat flour)
- 1 tsp of salt (1 tsp and a half for gluten free option)
- 1 tsp of Bicarbonate soda
- 1 or 2 tbsp of nettle seeds (depending on preference)
- 1 tsp of mixed herbs
- 2 tsp of maple syrup or honey
- 400ml of buttermilk or plain yogurt
Step 1: Pre heat the over to 200°C/gas mark 6 (180°C if it’s a fan oven)
Step 2: Sift the flour and bi carb into your mixing bowl. This creates a nice light mix and ensures there are no unpleasant lumps of bi carb.
Step 2: Add your nettle seeds, salt and mixed herbs, using a fork to gentle work the seasonings into the flour.
Step 3: Slowly add in your buttermilk or yogurt, adding a little at a time and stirring it into the flour mix with a fork – don’t dump all the buttermilk or yogurt in one go, it is harder to work.
Step 4: Once you have forked all of the ingredients together, it’s time to use your clean dry hands! Use your hands to form the mix into a nice even bread dough- but be careful not to overwork the bread dough. This will make it dense and chewy.
Step 5: Lay a piece of grease proof baking paper on to a baking tray and lay your dough on to the sheet. From here you can shape it any way you like, I usually do a simple circular shape. If you would rather a traditional bread loaf style, switch the baking tray for a bread tin, and line it with a cake liner or cut baking paper to size.
Step 6: Traditionally with Irish Soda bread, a cross would be marked into the top of the bread before it goes into the oven. This was a form of Christian sympathetic folk magic believed to free any fairies that had been caught in the flour from the field harvesting. It would also simultaneously bless the bread so that it was wholesome and nourishing to all who ate it. Over the years, I have adapted this custom to mark the bread with a pentagram instead of a Christian cross. Marking your bread is an important act of sympathetic magic when it comes to this kitchen working. It seals your intention of blessings and gives you the opportunity to say a chosen prayer, chant or affirmation over the bread for while it cooks. I have chosen to omit a specific bread blessing, instead I encourage you to create one of your own, it can be as simple or as wordy as you like! And in regards to the marking, you can mark the bread in whatever way you like. You can even play about with making your own sigil that can be used to mark the bread with.
Step 7: Bake for 30-40 mins (25-30 mins for gluten free). Your bread should sound hollow when you tap on it.
Step 8: Allow to cool before serving, it’s said to be extremely unlucky to eat bread “He who eats hot bread and never allows it to cool will never know the patience or hard work it takes to earn an honest living” (Unknown origin).
Step 9: Once the bread is out of the oven and cool, it is time to give the bread one final blessing. My preferential blessing is:
“The seed was planted and sun and rain made it grow.
The farmer harvested the grain and then it was milled it into flour.
I took the flour, put it in the bowl,
stirred it as I would the cauldron,
gave it herbs and milk, and made it into bread.
As this seed has transformed many times from
seed, to grain, to flour and then to bread, may
it also transform all who eat the bread.
Giving them the blessing of love, peace, and chances
for growth and transformation.
So shall it be”
By Zanna Buxton-Kelly 2016
Thank you taking the time to read this week’s blog, I very much hope that you enjoyed it! If you’re part of the private Facebook group, why not let me know what you thought of this week’s blog? Would you like to see more Kitchen Witchery, or are you more of a “I prefer to be anywhere but the kitchen” kind of Witch?
From the time, mists and distance between us, blessings from me to you.