Falling in Love with Passion Pit

There were these potato chips, which sadly you cannot find anymore, from Snyder’s of Hanover. They were steak and onion flavored. My husband loved them, and took great delight in introducing them to others. “You can’t just eat one, you have to try three,” he would tell people. Why three? Because the first time you tried them, the first chip was just bizarre, your taste buds were overwhelmed with the sheer weirdness of it all. The second chip, you would start to notice the steak flavor, and attempt to process it all. With the third chip you would realize they were great! A potato chip that tastes JUST like steak and onions! How perfect!

One can say much the same of Passion Pit’s first album “Manners”.

At a first listen, Passion Pit’s debut album “Manners” seems to be nothing but sounds that shouldn’t work together: high light male lead vocals, disco rhythms that could easily work for doing The Hustle, catchy pop hooks, and lyrics of a depth that they could be read aloud as poetry. I have to admit, when I played it through the first time I found it a confusing, but enjoyable experience. Having heard their song “The Reeling” on both of my favorite online radio stations (that would be Indie 103.1 and WEQX 102.7, thank you for asking) I was prepared for a more electronic, dance feel (Despite hearing it initially on “alternative” radio stations. Of course now I hear it on my favorite online dance station too, 1Dance.FM, thank you again for your interest.).

On a second listen, things started to mesh together nicely. The album is infectious. I can’t listen to it without tapping my foot or swaying in my chair. I realize that Passion Pit is almost like a Bee Gees 2.0, an updated, next generation version. And let me take this moment to proudly announce to the world that I love the Bee Gees, you hear that world? Love them! I had an awesome Bee Gees lunch box in elementary school and it’s one of my greatest regrets that I don’t have that lunch box here with me now. Ain’t no shame in liking some foot tapping tunes, and Passion Pit gives you the foot tapping fun of disco, with a hip, updated sound.

By the third listen I’m enamored. Passion Pit’s album “Manners” is high light male lead vocals, disco rhythms that could easily work for doing The Hustle, catchy pop hooks, and lyrics of a depth that they could be read aloud as poetry! How perfect!

“The Reeling” that is a link in the previous text goes to the official music video on You Tube, unfortunately they don’t allow embedding. I did however find this live performance from Passion Pit at a radio station, which I can embed….so I did.

A Turkey Named Brotherhood

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States. I found myself wondering how is it that, three years of having a website, and I have not given appropriate Thanksgiving Day respect to “Addams Family Values”? It is a horrible lapse on my part, one that I will correct now.

It’s hard not to fall in love with Wednesday Addams when she states, “The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, ‘Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller’.” Inevitably I wander around the apartment singing “Eat me!” It’s a whole lot of holiday cheer for me, wrapped in a tight four minute bundle. When a student pressed my Native American Anthropology professor for an example of the appropriate portrayal of Native Americans in film, he instantly responded, “Addams Family Values”.

However you chose to celebrate Thanksgiving, be it with a take away meal from Boston Market, a day long event with friends, or at a resort, please accept this offering along with best wishes from The Magical Buffet.

Successful Spellwork

By Leandra Witchwood
(This article first appeared on her website, used here with her permission)

Lately some of my students have been asking me questions about Magick. Magick is a great subject because it is so personal and yet so universal. Several people can have the same intent and go about achieving it in very different ways, proving that there is no one right way to do things. The variety is stunning and holds special interest to me.

I had a one student ask me a question; I’m sure runs through everyone’s head when it comes to using Magick. Her question to me was, “What makes Magick work and why is it effective for some but not others?”

In my experience, several factors must work in your favor for a spell to be successful. This list of factors varies with each spell and each person, so getting things right is very important and tricky. I think this is where most of us get confused and deterred. The elements we need to work in our favor are not always within our control.

As many of you know a spell is commonly compared to a prayer, yet intensified. There are several elements to consider, like timing, tools, specific intent, location, etc. In addition, there are plenty of “don’ts” we are taught when it comes to spell casting. Who wouldn’t find the task a little daunting? I know I did at first.

I learned that if I follow some simple guides I tend to have great success with spells. Here is a list of things I have found help successfully create and cast spells. I am sharing this with my friends hoping that you can apply these ideals to make your own practice a little more effective.

1. Will. Keep in mind, this is not the same thing as intent. I have learned that I must have a specific desire that drives me to plan and execute a spell. This isn’t as simple as a general need, but strong desire that drives me to work and focus. It needs to be clear and obtainable…

2.Talent and Skill. Some people have a lot of natural talent and some have to work at Magick a little harder. Others have a little of both talent and skill and seem to have no trouble with Magick. It doesn’t matter if you have a little or a lot, just try your best, develop your skills, use your natural talents, and you will be amazed…

3. Patience. Some times we need things right away, but many times what we think is urgent, can wait a little while longer. When we are patient with Magick and ourselves, we can achieve things on a grand scale. You could be going without for many reasons. Maybe there is a lesson you need to learn or you are undermining your own needs and desires. Keep in mind that real life is not like Bewitched, we can’t crinkle our noses and poof we have a basket of apples appear. Sometimes it takes years for your intention to become reality. Maybe your prosperity you are working on now will manifest later when it is a better time. Relax and let things happen, as they need to happen. Plus if you are following a spiritual path there may be certain expectations placed on you in connection to obtaining your need/want.

4. Wiggle Room. Give your energy room to adjust, as it needs. When we allow it to self adjust we allow it to work in the best possible way for our own benefit. Give your energy freedom and room to work. Keeping it contained and too tightly controlled is no way to get what you want and need. Perhaps you think your Magick needs to go right but in fact it should go left in order to be productive and successful in outcome.

5. Trust. This is HUGE! Trust in the energy you call upon as well as your own. If you doubt it, scoff at it, second-guess it, etc., you deplete yourself and the energy. I think the consequences are obvious.

6. Confidence. This next item also goes hand in hand with trust. You must have confidence in the energy you conjure as well as yourself. If you cannot believe that you and the universe have the ability to move and change things, you will get nowhere. Be confident about your work and abilities, and be wary of arrogance. Also feel and know that you are worthy of obtaining what ever it is you conjure.

7. Intent. Clear intent is essential most of the time. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what we need and that is when we leave it in the hands of a greater power, (which is when spell work is more like praying). Magick is not necessarily passive. Magick is usually direct, after all it needs a place to go. Know what you want. State your intentions as clearly as possible. If you intend to come into a large sum of money by winning the lottery then say so. Just a warning… be careful what you wish for… You might get it.

8. Attitude, be positive. A positive attitude is everything. If you are continually negative about your situation, stop it! This is something we all struggle with from time to time. When I find myself down in the dumps, I change my attitude fast and decide to make it a happier day. Much of how things happen to us and what happens to use depends on how we look at things and how we react re-act.

9. Organization, get yourself organized. Organize your thoughts. Organize your tools/materials. (If you need them) Organize the space where you plan to work. Write your spell out and list the things you will do first, second, third, and so on. Also, make sure your space and tools are clean. When you have it all together you can focus and therefore making your spell more effective.

10. Personalization. Make the spell YOURS! Sure you can get ideas from others, why not! Just don’t rely on the work of others (which usually is tailored to that other person’s needs) to work specifically for you. Yes, in some cases it can happen, but not all the time. Make the energy yours, make the intent yours, make the spell yours! Own the energy and live completely in the moment you create.

11. Space. Being cramped or in a place that is too open can be distracting and can hinder your progress. Also, keep in mind other factors of the space, like the temperature of and noise factors. You want to keep your focus.

12. No after thought. When you are done with the spell and you release the energy, forget it! Clean up your workspace and tools, refrain from picking your work apart, analyzing your techniques, questioning the effectiveness, etc. Just let it go. If hours or days later you find yourself thinking about the spell and thinking about it in detail, distract yourself and find something else to think about or do. When we continually think about the energy we send out we end up calling it back to us and taking it away from your goal, thus depleting it of the strength you gave it in the first place.

13.Action outside the spell. Look at your situation before you plan your spell. I like to use “money” as an example when it comes to spell work because we can all relate. If you are sitting down to plan and conduct a spell that will attract more money to your life it is always a great idea to look at why you are low on funds to start.

Could you budget a little better? Do you spend money on needless things or things that are not sustainable? Do you need a budget to organize your spending? Perhaps you could just use some discipline. Once you look at why you have no money explore and decide on a plan of action that will help you keep the money you bring in. There is no use in doing a spell that will bring you more money if you can’t keep it and use it wisely. Take time to identify the things you can do to improve your situation. Then after you cast your spell put these things into action. If you found that you need to follow a budget to control your spending, then create a budget and stick to it. You can even add an element into your spell that will help you establish discipline in sticking to your budget. The point is Magick doesn’t and cannot work if you will not help it and allow it to work.

14. Practice makes perfect. Don’t expect that because you did one spell successfully that you are a pro. Keep up the good work by doing spells as often as your personal energy allows. Perfect your techniques and skills through repetition. You can do simple spells for your friends/family (with permission of course), for your dog, your cat, yourself, etc. Also, give yourself variety by trying different forms and techniques. If you are good at Candle Magick, try Color Magick or elemental Magick next… Variety keeps you fresh and inspired.

The list above, for me, matters in all Spellwork. Of course, there are other things we can add to the list, but I think this is fairly complete. I found that no matter the day, phase of the moon, or the position of the planets I can execute a successful spell by following this guide. Sometimes all the elements fall into place on their own and other times I have to work at them a little more. It all depends on the situation.

About the Author:
Leandra Witchwood has served her local community as a Minister of Earth-Base Spirituality, an Animal Card Reader, Spiritual Counselor, Leader, Teacher, and much more. Leandra enjoys facilitating Labyrinth walks and educational seminars. She also teaches classes on mediation, Witchcraft, Wicca, and various Magickal techniques. Her spiritual teachings and readings are inspiring and revealing. Leandra is currently writing books and blogs to benefit the larger community.

To learn more, visit: http://leandradraconiswitchwood.blogspot.com/

To Do List (Things I Needed to Share)

December is rapidly approaching, and like most of you I’m going to lose all sense of reality as I attempt to keep my life on the rails while prepping for that magical holiday season that is SO magical that thinking about it makes me want to reach for the rum. What I’m trying to say is we’re all going to be getting very busy. With that in mind there are a few things I want to remind everyone, or let people know about before I forget.

First off, don’t forget that this is Movember! Have you told the man in your life that you care about his health? If not, do so now. (I’ll wait.)

Next, I just became aware of The Wild Hunt. This site is a great resource for anyone interested in non-Judeo-Christian faiths. It’s informative, well written, and just plain old cool. The man behind the site, Jason Pitzl-Waters, refuses to charge people for access to the information on his site, as is right and just in my opinion (don’t look to be paying dues for The Magical Buffet ever!). Of course running a website of a certain volume and stature requires funds (I’m small fries over here) and Jason does not want to assault his readers with advertising, which brings me to what I wanted to tell you. The Wild Hunt is doing a winter pledge drive from now until Sunday. If you want to support a website that is raising the bar on Pagan/Heathen journalism…..now is the time to do so. Visit The Wild Hunt to see what I’m talking about, and hopefully to make a donation to the cause.

Everyone here knows that The Magical Buffet is like a giant love fest for the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society! Anyway, my favorite paranormal peeps have relaunched their discussion boards, so if you’re looking to talk about the paranormal, visit http://nnyprs.com/forum/. It’s currently the only online forum I interact with.

Before everything blows up with holiday craziness, ask yourself, how can I be certain that I keep up to date with The Magical Buffet? Glad you asked. There are now five, count them FIVE, ways to stay current with the Buffet. One, My Space, two, Facebook, three, Twitter, four, subscribe, five, visit the site every day to see if anything has changed. I’m going to discourage you from option five, and encourage you to friend, fan, follow, or subscribe. Or any combination of those four.

Lastly, with the holiday baking season upon us, now seemed a good time to direct your attention to the website www.101cookbooks.com. 3 out of the 4 cookie recipes we’re making this year came from there. It’s also home to the BEST FREAKIN’ CORN BREAD RECIPE EVER! YES I AM YELLING BECAUSE IT IS SO BLEEPIN’ GOOD! (Also noteworthy, it was Heidi Swanson, the woman behind 101 Cookbooks, who helped me learn to love beans. If you ever see this Heidi, thank you.)

I have successfully cleared my brain of much of the stuff I wanted to share with you before things got too crazy. You may all continue on with your day now.

And as always, thanks for reading!

An Evening with Anthony Bourdain

Those of you who are my friend on Facebook or follow The Magical Buffet on Twitter know that this past Sunday I got to see Anthony Bourdain from the television show “No Reservations” give a lecture and attend a meet and greet with the author/television personality. I wasn’t sure I was going to write about attending the event, but I’ve had so many people ask me what the event was like that I figured it would be easier to write about the whole experience here than to send out many, many emails. Seriously, you guys really want the Bourdain dish!

Firstly, the turn out was insane! I couldn’t believe how many people showed up for this, especially assuming that most were like myself, and had no clue as to what was in store. The stage was empty except for a podium. I joked to my husband that Bourdain wouldn’t take the stage until his “hype man” came out to get the crowd warmed up. (Come on folks, get those asses up out of those seats!) In actuality, with no fanfare other than a disembodied voice saying “Anthony Bourdain”, he took the stage.

And there he was. I paid a lot for our tickets, more than I have for any other tickets in my life. Part of the ticket price went towards getting to attend the meet and greet after the event (more on that later) but also for genuinely awesome seats. Best seats ever. Now I got to find out what the heck Bourdain does on stage.

He opened up with the funny. Bourdain explained that he was backing off on picking on Rachael Ray. He found out that Ray is a fan of the New York Dolls and that she said nice stuff about him on television. Follow that up with a fruit basket and Bourdain decided that he was ready to let it go. This was a story that those who read his blog were already familiar with. He followed it up with the story of him getting inappropriately touched by Sandra Lee, again, something from his blog.

The rest of the evening was a surprisingly honest and personal discussion.

Having found out that the network he despises, The Food Network, has purchased the channel his show is on, he finds himself in the awkward position of not knowing if he can work for his former masters. (Bourdain’s first television show, “A Cook’s Tour”, was on the Food Network.) Does he stay, does he go? Is he selling out? What is selling out? Should it be something he does? Is it something he’s already done?

The politics of eating. Organic, local, healthier, better. However, expensive, unattainable for many, guilt inspiring, and creator of fundamentalism.

Everyone in the crowd got to watch Bourdain have a lively debate with probably the only person who really challenges him, himself.

There was a question and answer at the end. Many of the questions are what you would expect. Where have you eaten in Albany? Answer, no where, although Chef Yono Purnomo of Yono’s fame provided food backstage. What places have you fallen in love with? Answer, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Colombia. Favorite NYC deli? Katz’s. What do you love to eat when you’re drunk? Followed by his guilt-ridden admission of loving Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Macaroni and Cheese. Advice to aspiring chefs, current chefs, home cooks. There were many people expressing gratitude for him visiting Albany, NY. Thanking him for inspiring them to cook, to travel, and to eat.

All in all, an interesting and entertaining time. Now that it’s over, we’re looking at the meet and greet.

I mentioned that our tickets were pricey. However, I felt better about the price of admission when I saw how great our seats were, knew that I was going to get to meet Anthony Bourdain, and when I saw what the meet and greet room was like. This wasn’t just a stand in line, get your book signed, and get out. There was coffee, desserts, beer, and wine. Tables were set up so you could mingle with other fans. It was a fantastic spread. Of course I couldn’t enjoy it until I faced my fear, speaking to Anthony Bourdain. So Jim and I got into line right away. While in line I glanced over and saw Chef Yono Purnomo standing to the side, unassuming and unnoticed. Although never having eaten at Yono’s, the reputation of the restaurant, and its Executive Chef, were enough to leave me star struck. Noticing my admiring gaze the Chef actually gave me a smile and a bow while I was in line.

Then the room broke out in applause, Bourdain was in the building. He looked at the crowd of us with a mix of, holy crap, you all paid just to see me, and holy crap, I’m going to be signing books forever. However, the line moved quickly and soon enough I was standing in front of Anthony Bourdain, a writer who I admire immensely and fear.

“This is a blog that I wrote for my website The Magical Buffet sir,” I started. Surprising myself that my voice was steady and calm. “Your love of pho inspired me to go out and find a place to try it. I liked it so much I wrote about it and dragged a bunch of friends out to try it.” He signed the print out I put in front of him, and said that was “Excellent.” I stood beside his chair for a photo, which unfortunately turned out blurry, and thanked him again. Then it was over.

Tree Medicine, Magic, and Lore: Hawthorn

By Ellen Evert Hopman
Illustration by Will Hobbs

“Beware of an oak,
It draws the stroke,
Avoid an ash,
It courts the flash,
Creep under the thorn,
It will save you from harm”

“The fair maid who the first of May
Goes to the field at break of day,
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be”

–Ancient British Rhymes

Tradition holds that where Oak and Ash and Thorn are seen to grow together one will be likely to see Fairies. All of these trees are valuable medicinals besides being edible and making excellent firewood, (and building materials and wood for tools with the exception of Hawthorn which must never be felled). The Fairies, being highly intelligent, would certainly frequent these trees.

Another tradition holds that a solitary Hawthorn on a hill, and especially if there is a spring or a well nearby, indicates that a doorway to the land of Faery is close at hand. For this reason Hawthorns are sacred to the Goddess Carnea, wife and mother of Janus, God of entrances and exits. People will deliberately avoid or seek out such a place, according to their predispositions.

One of the duties of a Druid, in the days before television, radio, and newspapers, was to keep an eye on the local Hawthorn tree. The day it first blossomed was reckoned as the official start of summer, the festival of Beltaine, or May Day. Hawthorn blossoms were used to decorate the house and May Pole but it was considered very unlucky to bring them in the home, probably because of their attraction to the Fey Folk.

Hawthorn is woven into the crown of leaves worn by the Green Man, a figure dressed in green leaves and ribbons who symbolizes the return of summer’s verdure. He can often seen dancing through the town in a traditional May Day celebration.

Hawthorns are often chosen as sacred trees near Holy Wells. People leave small bits of cloth tied to such a tree to personify their prayers and needs.

At marriage ceremonies on the Greek isle of Delos, singers and dancers were crowned with Oak, Myrtle, and Hawthorn. Hawthorn blossoms, symbols of chastity, were included in the marriage wreath. Athenian brides once wore Hawthorn blossoms and used them to decorate altars sacred to Hymen, the Goddess of marriage. In Ireland and Celtic Britain newly married couples danced around a Hawthorn tree, to receive its blessing.

Hawthorn is a valuable medicinal whose fall-picked berries and spring-gathered new leaves and flowers are tinctured to make an all-purpose cardiac tonic that benefits virtually all heart conditions.

It is said that to cut down a Thorn tree is so unlucky that the offender is bound to lose his house, his children, or a limb.

about the author:

Ellen Evert Hopman is a Druid Priestess, herbalist and author of “Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey”, “A Druids Herbal – Of Sacred Tree Medicine”, “Walking the World in Wonder – A Children’s Herbal” and other volumes. Visit her website for more!

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10 Questions with Ellen Dugan

1. What does it mean to be a “Garden Witch” or to practice “Garden Witchery”?

I define a Garden Witch as: “A practical, down-to-earth type of practitioner. A Witch who is well versed in green magick, herbal knowledge and its uses and who is a magickal gardener.”

2. How does your new book, “Book of Witchery”, differ from your previous release “7 Days of Magic”?

Well, to begin with its more than doubled in size! The 2004 manuscript which was made into 7 Days of Magic was only 34,000 words long. Book of Witchery finished up at over 87,000 words long.

I have been teaching classes all over the country from the information in 7 Days of Magic for years. So when the opportunity arose to re-release the book I told the editors that I wanted to expand the book make it more in depth and to make it bigger.

So Book of Witchery, has all of the basics, that folks have come to expect from me, but I added to the information and went deeper. It also now it features daily mediations, potion and philter recipes, magickal craft projects, a daily ritual, and a new chapter on “Full Moon Witchery”.

The “Full Moon Witchery” chapter goes a step farther than your usual magickal book and explores what magickal energies are in play when the full moon occurs on the different days of the week. For example, what will happen when a full moon occurs on a Monday- which is the day of the week devoted to the moon and lunar magicks….. This final chapter allows you to think outside the box and to learn something new.

3. Why write a book that focuses on the days of the week?

Because knowledge is power! Once you know your daily correspondences you have options and amazing opportunities to personalize your Craft and to advance your own magickal skills all on your own.

It always astounds me when I go to teach a class, and then I’ll ask folks, how many people there know their daily correspondences by heart, how few people actually do.

Adding this practical information to your spell casting repertoire is a smart thing to do. Since once you have that information in your memory, it opens up worlds to you. You won’t have to dive for your reference books and look things up. You will know what works the best, what items and deities compliment each other and work in harmony together- on any day of the week. Allowing you to successfully cast your spells no matter what phase the moon is in, because now you have a deeper knowledge and more spell-casting options.

4. What is your favorite day of the week and why?

I honestly don’t have a favorite day. In truth, each day has its own unique magickal energies and powers. I truly enjoy working with the different planetary energies throughout the entire week. Every day has new options and a different magickal theme- the opportunities and possibilities are endless. It’s fun and exciting, and as a Witch, I never get bored exploring all seven of the days of the bewitching week.

5. What challenges do you see facing the Wiccan/Witchcraft community? How can the community resolve those issues?

We are growing so fast as a community, people from all different backgrounds, experiences and incomes, and I think we all need to be more tolerant of each other and of the various different magickal traditions.

I see people getting into huge debates over silly things, like what a “Hedge Witch” is, and about how to pronounce athame, for Goddess sake. I have seen the self proclaimed “Grand High Pooh-Bahs” sneer at someone else who happily calls themselves self taught or eclectic. And I’ve seen Wiccans treat ceremonial practitioner like they were radio active or something. Its really getting old all of that “My tradition is real and yours is not”, type of thing. All this dissension among the ranks is such a foolish waste of time and magickal energy!

We can be different, and we can have different styles of magick, and different Craft practices and ideas, and still be a community. We do have to stand together and we do have to work together. Is it going to be easy? Probably not, but diversity is a beautiful thing. So embrace it, see what you can learn from other traditions and styles of magick and then grow from the experience.

6. You also wrote “Elements of Witchcraft: Natural Magick for Teens”. Why did you feel it was important to write a book specifically for teenagers?

At the time I wrote the book back in 2002, all of my children were teens.

I wrote a book that was smart, practical and focused on the natural elements, as opposed to fancy and expensive doodads and accessories. Interestingly enough it is just as popular (if not more) with adults. The book does not talk down to the reader. That is important to me, to be respectful to my readers no matter what their age or magickal experience level.

Today, I use the book as required text for my online class, “The Four Elements of Witchcraft” because the information there is solid, basic and accessible to any reader no matter what their actual age. The online classes have been very popular with my adult students and the feedback has been phenomenal.

Bottom line: Natural magick is very user friendly and it’s a great place for anyone to begin their studies when they want to understand, and to learn the Craft and magick on their own.

7. I see you now offer online classes, what can people expect from these?

My classes are affordable, practical, fun, and self paced. I keep my classes reasonably priced ($30.00 to $40.00) because in today’s economy its tough to come up with a few hundred bucks for an online class.

I began offering the online classes because I had so many requests from students all over the country and in the UK who did not have the opportunity to take a “live” class from me. That got me to thinking… and now I offer three on-line classes. With two more classes in the works. The newest class should be up and available for purchase within the next few weeks. The topic of the new class? “Hearth & Home Magick”. And folks are already clamoring for it.

With my online classes, you can expect new spells and charms for you to work on your own. Magickal folklore, deity information, and lessons that will challenge you to think for yourself and to stand strong and grow in your own style of magick and witchery. There are homework assignments, such as: creating different theme altars, working on your own books of shadows, writing your own spells and journaling exercises. There are some pictures in my Myspace albums of student’s altars form the “Four Elements of Witchcraft” class. Check them out if you’d like to see them.

8. As a Llewellyn author I’m curious as to your opinion, if Raven Digitalis and Deborah Blake got into a drunken fist fight who would win?

No Comment.

9. What can my readers expect to see from you in the future?

I am working on my twelfth book for Llewellyn Worldwide. It will be released in early 2011. The topic and working title is a secret- but I will tell you this… its different from my other books, a bit darker and the topic is heavier. Yes, there is still practical magick and humor, (I’m writing it after all.) But it is different. Even the writing process has been different for me this time. So its been an adventure and very exciting to see where it ends up. I love it when I get the chance to learn and to grow myself, as I write a book!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

One of my books is getting a new cover this fall, Herb Magic for Beginners. The new cover will be available in November. There is a picture of it in my Myspace albums. I love the change, (well its green and has flowering herbs on the cover- so you know I like it.) What do you all think of the new artwork?

I think it’s cute!

About Ellen:
Ellen Dugan, the “Garden Witch,” is an award-winning author, a psychic-clairvoyant and a regular contributor to Llewellyn’s almanacs, datebooks, and calendars. A practicing Witch for over twenty-five years, she is also a certified Master Gardener.

Ellen has written several books, including Garden Witchery, Elements of Witchcraft, Natural Magick for Teens, Cottage Witchery, Autumn Equinox, The Enchanted Cat, Herb Magic for Beginners, Natural Witchery, and How to Enchant a Man. Her Garden Witch’s Herbal, and Book of Witchery was published by Llewellyn in 2009.

When not spending time with her family, Ellen unwinds by working in her perennial gardens at home with her husband. She wholeheartedly encourages everyone to personalize their green spellcraft by getting their hands dirty, discovering the wonder and magic of the natural world, and connecting with the spiritual side of nature. To find out more, visit her website at www.ellendugan.com.(Photo © Mickie Mueller)

A Letter: Part Four

When I relaunched The Magical Buffet website, I opened up with my letter to then President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, then Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Chuck Schumer and then Senator Barack Obama with regards to the situation in Zimbabwe. Despite great appreciation from friends of The Magical Buffet, I received no response, from any of them. A pox on all their houses!

Being the spunky, or some could say annoying, gal that I am, I decided the perfect welcome to the new job gift for now President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be shiny new letters, about how they ignored me even while courting my vote. I went Kucinich, but there was no way they could have known that then. Based on the responses I received he’ll be getting my vote again next Democratic primary because he’s a man who at least knows how to send a form letter, thank you very much. And you know he’ll run, because that’s what he does. That, and have you SEEN his wife?! Holy hot potential first lady Batman! I mean Michelle Obama is beautiful, but Elizabeth Kucinich is beautiful, with a British accent, and a tongue piercing. A TONGUE PIERCING! Wow, where was I? Oh yeah, so I sent our shiny new change bringing President and our feisty new Secretary of State letters that were quite good, if I do say so myself.

To that I received nothing from Secretary Clinton’s office, and I got a wonderful form postcard from the Obama administration. I mean, not even a letter in an envelope, a post card, sent bulk mail I suspect. Seriously? I’ll admit it, I’ve been feeling daunted since then.

Of course since then the situation in Zimbabwe hasn’t necessarily gotten worse, but it sure as heck has gotten more confusing. A few weeks ago the MDC pulled out of the unity government, apparently they had some hang ups about political prisoners not getting released as promised and wide spread violence against MDC supporters. (I believe the personalities over at Fox News would calls those types hippies.) Now, like an abused spouse the MDC has returned giving their violent spouse President Mugabe 15 days to get with Prime Minister Tsvangirai and outline all the deal breaking issues and then that no good Mugabe has 30 days to clean up his act or else the MDC is out the door and presumably moving in with mother. Seriously, it is strange and dangerous days in Zimbabwe, our kinsmen are still in peril. So I’ve decided to find the un for my daunted, get my butt off the couch (despite there still being new episodes of “Castle” in my DVR) and do something.

Obviously, I’ve essentially tapped out the fun of poking my elected officials. I’m not saying I’m done with them, but I needed something suitably large and bizarre to bring a smile to my face.

I considered a letter of support to the Movement for Democratic Change, complete with my husband taking a picture of the postal employee as I asked for postage to Zimbabwe. I also considered a letter to the President of Botswana. Something to the effect of, you guys seem to be a reasonable sort, can’t you do anything? Again, that had the appeal of the confused postal employee when I went to get postage, but then I had a truly inspired idea.

United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

And when I discovered how hard it is to get an actually letter in the mail to him (just try and find me a mailing address on that U.N. website!) I loved it more. I smile thinking of his Communications Director going, someone, from someplace that isn’t New York City in the state of New York has written a letter to Secretary-General Ban about Zimbabwe?! This has some seriously fun potential. Obviously, I’ve been to this party before, so I’m not actually expecting a response. However I do feel confident that someone over in his office is going to certainly be perplexed. I can feel the Nobel Peace Prize in my grasp.


Dear Secretary-General Ban,

I’m not going to insult your intelligence, or waste your time needlessly. Let me get right to the point, Zimbabwe is in trouble. It’s been in trouble for a very long time now, but you know that, don’t you? I mean, everyone knows that, and you’re the Secretary-General of the United Nations, so you know better than me. Especially after Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, was not allowed admittance into the country at the end of October. So, no long explanations as to why I’m concerned, no acting like we’re not on the same page. Of course we’re on the same page. Anyone that is even remotely paying attention to the situation in Zimbabwe is on this page with us.

In July 2008 I wrote a letter that I sent to President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, then Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Chuck Schumer and then Senator Barack Obama expressing my concerns and arguing that the United States of America, more than any other country, had an obligation to attempt to help facilitate change. Despite it being an election year, a time when more than ever American politicians endeavor to engage and interact with the American people, I did not receive any response. Not one.

When Senator Hillary Clinton became Secretary Clinton for the U.S. State Department. I wrote her a letter expressing my concerns and told her how I was looking forward to seeing how a fresh administration, one built on diplomacy, would approach the situation. Again, I received no response.

I also wrote what I felt was a compelling letter to now President Barack Obama immediately upon him taking office. Again, concerns were expressed and impassioned pleas were made. I received a response in the form of a post card that did not clearly indicate if anyone within the Obama administration had actually read my letter.

That journey is what brings this letter to your office. I had hoped that America would take note of the situation in Zimbabwe and at least acknowledge that someone in the country cared. I do not feel that has occurred. So now I turn to you, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, a leader of the international community. Do you think there is anything to be done to help Zimbabwe? Can you at least take note that there is someone in the United States who is concerned with what is happening in the country?

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the situation.

Rebecca Elson

Attachments: 2008 letter, 2009 letter to Secretary Clinton, 2009 letter to President Obama

Stay tuned for any responses or other zany ideas!

Russian Magic

It’s not that I never think of Russia, except that honestly I don’t really think about Russia. Nothing against the country, just for some reason, they never really cross my mind. That’s why I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review “Russian Magic: Living Folk Traditions of an Enchanted Landscape” by Cherry Gilchrist. I was hoping that I would come away with a refreshing understanding of a country that I had obviously overlooked. I was right.

“Russian Magic” is everything a book of its type should be, potential authors of folkloric books take note. The book is engaging and covers a surprisingly large swath of Russian traditions, religious practices, folklore traditions, and more. It is well researched but also filled with first hand accounts from the author brushing up against these practices.

There were the “standards” such as Baba Yaga and Matrioshka (those adorable nesting dolls). However I was also introduced to a colorful cast of characters like Father Frost, Mokosh (Damp Earth Mother), and Perun (Lord of Thunder). I learned about various divination practices, dates of unique celebrations, the landscapes, and even the significance of the architecture of the traditional village house! Better still, whereas most books of this type would only look at these things from the perspective of their significance in the past, the author takes all of that history and shows you its influence on modern society in Russia.

I also need to tell you that I couldn’t help but be pleased when the domavoi made an appearance. Some readers may remember that WAY back in 2006 I wrote an article about these helpful and potentially harmful house guests. What I didn’t know then, but do now (thanks to “Russian Magic”) is that the domavoi’s birthday is February 10th! If you have one of these guys in your home, that’s the day to really kiss up to him! And now you know.

And if you’re looking to know more, I highly suggest picking up this entertaining and enlightening book.

The Blog of the Seven Veils

illustrated by Will Hobbs

Veils. Has there ever been such a complex piece of cloth? Essentially a veil is just a piece of fabric that traditionally covers the hair and/or face, and yet it means many things to many people. For some a veil conjures up the image of sensual belly dance, for others an emblem of paying proper respect to their religious faith. Not everyone has taken the time to think about veils and their symbolism, but with such a long and varied history the only thing to be certain of is that everyone can find a veil they like.

According to my favorite anonymous resource, Wikipedia, the first recorded example of women wearing veils is in a legal text from the 13th century BCE, which stated that only Assyrian noble women were allowed to wear veils. Common women and prostitutes were forbidden from wearing them. In fact, the idea of women of higher status wearing veils was also practiced by the ancient Greeks.

In modern times, veils are often pinned to hats worn by widows at funerals and through whatever designated period of mourning is appropriate after the burial. And of course, everyone thinks about the wedding veil that brides wear. The veil is a symbol of purity and, if worn by the bride, when the bride’s face is revealed by the father lifting the veil, it’s a gesture of handing over possession of his daughter to the groom, when lifted by the groom, it signifies what will be taking place in the marriage bed, you know, when the clothing comes off!

Often times, in traditional Catholic or Christian churches, women are encouraged to cover their heads, which means that for many, attending church means wearing a hat or veil. Oddly, men are to remove their hats when attending church. Apparently it has something to do with Corinthians and how man is in the image of God, so he shouldn’t be all ashamed and covered, but woman is the glory of God…which you would think that would be good enough to show your hair, but what do I know? I wouldn’t have even known about Corinthians if it wasn’t for Wikipedia again!

Married Orthodox Jewish women, in compliance with the covering head requirement, related to the modest dress standard called tzeniut, cover their hair by using wigs, hats, and scarves (Which can be awfully veil like, right?). Why do they do it, what does it symbolize? I don’t know. I’m Jewish, but I’m what’s called in theological parlance a “bad Jew”. If any of my Jewish peeps know the skinny on the tzeniut and why Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair, leave an informative comment at the end of the article!

Let’s be honest, the war in Afghanistan has really introduced the concept of Muslim veiled women to the west. In fact, in the Muslim world the ladies rock so many varied veils that I can’t keep the names straight! And that’s why I’m just going to flat out quote the Wikipedia entry here.

“A variety of headdresses worn by Muslim women in accordance with hijab (the principle of dressing modestly) are sometimes referred to as veils. Many of these garments cover the hair, ears and throat, but do not cover the face. The khimar is a type of headscarf. The niqāb and burqa are two kinds of veils that cover most of the face except for a slit or hole for the eyes. The Afghan burqa covers the entire body, obscuring the face completely, except for a grille or netting over the eyes to allow the wearer to see. The boshiya is a veil that may be worn over a headscarf; it covers the entire face and is made of a sheer fabric so the wearer is able to see through it.”

Now if you think I’m a bad Jew, you won’t be amazed to learn that I’m super less than an expert on the Muslim faith, but here’s my stab at talking hijab. Women of Islam were instructed to cover themselves when they go out so that everyone will know they’re women and will be left alone and not harassed. I’ve also been given to believe that the basic concept is that because women are so hot (as in sexually attractive, not in measurable temperature) and that men are so easily distracted, that women being covered when in the presence of men who are not family is just the smart way of doing business. If any readers have the 411 on the practice and perhaps symbolism of this kind of veil, leave a message in the comments section so we can all learn something new!

Obviously these days discussing the veiling of Islamic women is an issue of religion, politics, and civil rights. Guess what I’m not going to do? Stick my head into the middle of all of it. Let me just say, there are days when the idea of not worrying about my clothes, hair, or make-up is appealing, as long as it’s my decision when to cover it up and when to flaunt it.

So what the heck do we have here? A symbol of purity, of mourning, of social status, of marital status, of faith, of sensuality. Now that’s a heck of a lot for one square of fabric!