The Mystic Pyramid

Okay, so all the way back in May U.S. Games Systems sent me a fantastic widget to consider for review. Due to the nature of this widget, it took a while for me to get around to featuring it on the site. However, now it’s getting mentioned as we approach the holiday gift giving season, and since this would be an awesome gift for just about anyone, I’m kind of happy it took this long to get it up on the site.

I’m talking about the Mystic Pyramid! This gray pyramid helps those seeking answers with just a push down. Text doesn’t do the Mystic Pyramid justice. Sure, it may seem like just an electronic Magic 8 Ball. You ask a question, press the pyramid, and get an answer. But it’s so much better than a Magic 8 Ball! Even the most blasé of my friends couldn’t resist the charm of the Pyramid! And I suspect when you see this video, you’ll understand why…..

See what I mean? I couldn’t figure out a way to convey how absolutely fun the Mystic Pyramid is in simple text. It really needs to be seen and heard to get why it’s such a great time, and so it gets the distinction of being the item that finally forced us to do video for the site.

The suggested retail for the Mystic Pyramid is $24.95, putting it in a great holiday gift giving price range. Who wouldn’t enjoy having a Mystic Pyramid at home or the office? The day I put it out my friends could not stopping asking for its input, and these were people who scoffed at it when I first set it out to show them. Trust me, the Mystic Pyramid will be a fun gift appreciated by anyone on your holiday gift giving list.

Samhain and Pumpkin Cheese Cake with Dawn Hunt

By Dawn Hunt

Autumn in New England; what could be more beautiful? The trees turn deep crimson and burnt orange as the squirrels and chipmunks gather food for the harsh winter a head. We pile leaves into huge mounds and put away the garden tools for the season. Somewhere in the distance a fire burns in a wood burning stove and the scent dances on the cool breeze.

Somewhere in all of the summer craziness we may have forgotten that we are whizzing right by the Celebration of Lammas (which literally translates to Loaf Mass) in August. When Mabon, the Autumn Equinox comes we are usually so busy with back to school that we don’t take time to acknowledge this is Pagan Thanksgiving and the second of the three harvest Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year. But there is no mistaking Samhain. Thank Gods the last harvest of the season is rung in with Halloween and all the revelry the holiday has become accustomed to or we might let it pass us by too!

These three Harvest holidays are a Kitchen Witch’s dream!!! The Earth is giving so much during these first cool months here in New England. Everywhere you go pumpkins sit outside store fronts, from your local big name chain grocery store to your local farm stand. Apple picking is a big autumn tradition for Pagans and Non Pagans alike. I can remember it being such a big deal in my family that every October my family would travel 4 hours into the Catskill Mountains in NY to spend the day picking and nibbling on the freshest Cortland’s, Gala, Granny Smiths, and Macintoshes. Gourds, pumpkins and hay bales were strapped to our station wagon and set out in the yard when we got home to make sure the house had on its proper fall attire.

As I grew up and found the path of Kitchen Witchery these simple Fall traditions took on an all new meaning for me. Now I am not just decorating the home for the season, but I invite the autumn spirits in. The thrill of apple picking is not just a day out in nature collecting apples and creating memories, but it is a gathering of Magickal tools and ingredients. Now I ponder the recipes that will come from these wonderful things Mother Earth is providing. I imagine the smell of the apple pie as it bakes in my oven, the taste of the pumpkin spice bread as the butter melts into a slice right from the toaster, the warmth of the cider when it trickles over my taste buds after mulling all day with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Samhain, although the last of the blessed harvest celebrations, also marks the beginning of the dark time. Most witches and neo pagans consider it the end of the year, and the beginning of the next. Similarly to Beltane the veils between the worlds are thinnest at Samhain. In the spring we are more deeply connected with the spirits of life and the fey world whereas at Samhain we connect more with the underworld, and those spirits who have passed from this world to the next. It is the time to celebrate, reconnect and remember our loved ones.

Almost all of us have a recipe that has been in the family for years and years that has been passed from one cook to the next within the family. These recipes tell the stories of our families. Where did we come from and how we have changed? The ingredients keep us connected to the past and sharing them with our families and friends help us push those traditions into the future. This is the idea I like to call Heirloom Food Magick. In a sense it is all about those recipes and flavors our childhood memories would not be complete without. My grandmother, for example, had this bread she would make whenever the family gathered. It was commonly called “Grandma Bread” in our house. Although it was such a simple dish, stuffed Stromboli bread with spinach, cheese and a ton of garlic, every person in the family looked forward to a slice with anticipation from the children to the grownups. This recipe holds the spirit of Grandma. Although no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to get it exactly the same as her bread mine is pretty tasty if I do say so myself and I continue on the tradition of my family by sharing this with people I love.

In my opinion, the Harvest festivals are the time when Kitchen Witches come alive. I feel truly magickal at this time of year. Those of us who are in tune with the seasons can feel the change deep in the core of our beings. And Samhain is the time to do many magickal works in the Kitchen. Of course, gathering in a large Ritual circle with friends and family or local community is important. But for me a smaller more intimate ritual holds even more power. Samhain is a time for us to connect with our ancestors and what better way to do so then to prepare a meal in their honor and invite them to join us!

Invite the ancestors in with pictures set about the kitchen. Place the photographs of your passed relatives where you can see them as you cook. If you happen to have something of your ancestors bring that into the kitchen as well. Ideally cook with kitchen tools that have been handed down but if you don’t have that maybe you have a piece of jewelry or plate that has been passed down for generations, bring these items in to the kitchen. Enjoy the energy and guidance they bring into your cooking space. Make a meal that was a favorite of the person you are celebrating, a recipe that has been handed down for years, or even a meal that is indigenous to your national heritage. For me this is an easy one, because my family comes from Italy, but maybe your great uncle came from Poland and you make some nice porgies to celebrate him! I like to set a place at the table with photographs of the ancestors (all friends and family that I miss and want to celebrate at Samhain) and set a place for them. Pour a drink leave and pile the plate high with your feast. At the end of the meal you can offer the food to the nature spirits though the night!

This is a recipe that is perfect for your Samhain celebration. It is a variation on a traditional pumpkin pie and simply wonderful! It makes a fancy dessert with very little time and people will be so very impressed. It is a vegetarian dessert and if you have a gluten allergy like me, be sure to use a pre-made gluten free crust.

Pumpkin pie is a tradition for many family celebrations, Pagan or otherwise. But pumpkin actually has magical attributes of healing. Its round shape is also symbolic of the Mother Goddess. When you assemble this sweet and decedent pie, notice how the cream cheese layer looks like the full moon. Lightly trace the shape of the pentacle in it with your finger to bless this treat and all who eat it. Then you will layer the pumpkin on top sealing in all the protective energy of the blessing with the nurturing power of Mother Goddess energy from the Pumpkin. Also, using the cut outs for the crust can have magical energy too. As with all food magic intention is the key. Be mindful of your ingredients and put only your positive thoughts and intentions into this new twist on a traditional dessert. Invite the spirits of your ancestors to partake in the baking of this pie with you and start a new tradition for Samhain.

Pumpkin Cheese Cake Pie
1 package (2 crusts) refrigerated ready to roll pie crust

Cheese cake layer
1 8oz package reduced fat cream cheese softened
1/3 cup organic evaporated cane juice or sugar in the raw
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg

Pumpkin Layer
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Fit one piecrust into a 9” pie plate and set aside. Roll out second crust onto lightly floured surface. Using a small cookie cutter, no bigger than 1” cut out shapes of stars, holly leaves, or oak leaves. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Make 40 to 50 cut outs and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Make the cheese cake layer. In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, almond extract, and egg until smooth. Spread evenly into pie crust. Set aside. Make the pumpkin layer. In a large bowl, beat pumpkin puree, milk, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until smooth. Gently ladle or pour mixture over cream cheese layer. Brush edge of crust with beaten egg. Place cut out crust shapes overlapping around the edge. Brush lightly with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cover edge. Reduce heat to 350 and continue baking 45 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if you like.

About Dawn:
Dawn Hunt is the owner/president of Cucina Aurora Kitchen Witchery. Her products include everything from Herb and Energy infused olive oils to cooking tools. Her self-published cookbook has sold more than 250 copies in 6 months. She is currently working on a compilation Cookbook with Christopher Penczak and the Temple of Witchcraft called “Tastes of the Temple” due out in 2011. She teaches classes on Kitchen Witchery, Food Magic, and Seasonal Cooking on the East Coast. To find out more information, to purchase products, or for booking visit

Celebrate Samhain 2011

This past Saturday, October 22, 2011, was the 6th annual Celebrate Samhain event in Peterborough, NH. I’m so happy I was able to attend the event again this year. Organizers Kevin and Jess, with a staff of enthusiastic volunteers, once again put together an event that is fun not only for attendees, but for vendors and presenters as well. As much as I like The Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church’s building, Celebrate Samhain may be so successful that it’s outgrowing its current home!

So what all did I see and do at this year’s event? Not as much as I would have liked. The presenter schedule was jammed packed, so I ended up missing Raven Grimassi’s presentation “Old World Witchcraft” in order to eat some lunch and finish shopping. And when I’m saying I missed Raven Grimassi, well that tells you just how much awesome stuff was going on!

Let’s talk shopping because this year I actually came with a shopping list. By the end of the day Jim and I had almost all of our Christmas and Hanukkah shopping done! We started at Dawn Hunt’s Cucina Aurora Kitchen Witchery table. Not only did Dawn have all of her delicious oils and spice blends, but she had brand spanking new glass plates and mugs hand etched with Celtic knots, and other witchy things. On top of all the edibles we bought Jim decided he wanted a glass mug that reads “Kitchen Witch” to be his new morning coffee mug. Since Jim takes his morning coffee very seriously, this purchase speaks volumes about the awesomeness of these new Cucina Aurora mugs.

Dawn Hunt of Cucina Aurora

Next up were our friends at FairySpa who continue to not only create wonderful, all natural, small batch blended lotions, washes, and fragrances, but they keep adding new products too! They recently launched a whole men’s line that appears to be doing well. I picked up another bottle of their Intense Lotion for me because I LOVE it! I did some other shopping, but since most of what was purchased is for readers of this site, I can’t get into details.

Just a sampling of some of the products from FairySpa.

I got a chance to visit with the great folks at the Temple of Witchcraft table. For those of you interested in attending Templefest 2012, mark your calendars! The 2012 Templefest will be on Saturday June 23rd. I had a great time there last year! But in the surprise news of the event for me, I learned that Christopher Penczak along with Raven and Stephanie Grimassi are doing a “Pagan Dream Cruise” January 19, 2013! It’s a 7 day cruise of the western Caribbean that will feature 4 classes, meditations, a cocktail party with open bar with the three of them, along with all the other cool stuff that comes with cruising. I couldn’t believe it! If you’re interested you can contact Liz Mardis at Books, Beans, & Candles at 205-617-2089.

Some of the friendly folks from The Temple of Witchcraft
Haunted Wood Crafts

Jim and I visited Mike Dolan at his Haunted Wood Crafts table. As usual he had some fantastic new wands to show off along with a dizzying selection of of runes. The big thing for me was the inclusion of traditional tarot images on wood. By an odd coincidence he had a small framed Hanged Man, and that is my favorite tarot card! So that little guy came home with me!

The Hanged Man from Haunted Wood Crafts

My last bit of shopping was probably my favorite of the day. After conversations online and the interview for the site, I got to meet Judika Illes. Everybody told me that Judika is incredibly nice, and they weren’t wrong. She is so friendly and sweet, if I didn’t already adore her, I would now. Instead I am just assured and stable in my state of adore-her-ness. I got to pick up a copy of her book “The Weiser Field Guide to Witches” and her latest book “Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints, and Sages”. I’m super excited about both of them so I suspect you’ll hear about them again on the site at some point.

In a side note, I did manage to resist temptation and not buy anything from the Pentacle Press/Muse Gifts & Books tables. They had a lot of great stuff there so it was pretty tough to resist, but somehow I managed….. this time.

Some of the things I resisted purchasing from Pentacle Press and Muse Gifts & Books.

Okay, now let’s talk presentations. After missing her last year I made a point to see Dawn Hunt’s presentation “Cooking with Heirloom Magick”. For a presentation she admitted to still be polishing, it was an interesting and entertaining time. For starters, she fed us banana muffins! Yum! She went on to talk about cooking and how it can connect us to our ancestors. Dawn speaks with a lot of heart, if you get a chance to attend one of her workshops (she’s at Muse Gifts & Books in December) definitely go.

Dawn Hunt taking questions.

The next presentation I attended was Christopher Penczak’s “The Dark Garden of the Witch”. Much like last year I was amazed at the wealth of information that he has accumulated (Seriously, does the guy ever sleep?) and the ease at which he can present it to an audience. Also, I was impressed with the subject matter, which was working with the baneful side of herbalism and plant magic. When the speaker gets to look at the audience and say, “This will kill you dead.”, well, you get props from me for going there.

Christopher Penczak addressing the group.

The last presentation I attended was Judika Illes “The Secrets of Successful Spellcasting”. This is what you call “as advertised” since for an hour Judika Illes spoke about ways to be successful when casting spells. Her presentation was reassuring and accessible. There was information there for someone who has never tried casting a spell, but also some thoughts for those who are well practiced. I found it interesting, inspiring, and entertaining. Did I mention that whole “I adore her” thing?

Judika Illes, so magical that her hand is out of focus.

At this point I was 100% exhausted so with great regret I left before getting to see Frenchy and the Punk (formerly The Gypsy Nomads) perform. However I don’t need to have been in attendance to know that without a doubt they kicked ass.

If you’re anywhere in the general vicinity of Peterborough, NH you absolutely must attend Celebrate Samhain. I can’t imagine a better event than what these guys put together.

Change the Way You Speak, and Change the Way You Think

An Excerpt from Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work by Michael Michalko

We often describe things, good or bad, in terms of what they are not. For example, this morning I ran into an old friend and asked him how he was feeling. He answered, “No complaints.” Now, what does that mean? Does it mean he has a list of complaints taped on his bedroom wall that he reads every morning to see if he has anything to complain about?

Pay attention to how your friends and colleagues talk. You will find that many speak a language of exclusion, a language about “what is not,” instead of “what is” or “what can be.” You give an idea to your supervisor at work and you hear, “Not bad.” Does that mean every other idea you offered was bad? You suggest that you implement a new plan or idea and you hear, “It won’t hurt.” Does that mean that everything else you implemented did hurt?

How many times have you heard a friend say to you something like, “Why don’t we get together for lunch?” What’s interesting is that when someone asks another person “Why don’t we,” the receiver frequently replies with some type of “no.” When someone says, “Why don’t we…?” our first unconscious impulse may be to begin to think of reasons why not to get together. The phrasing creates ambivalence. However, if you were to change the question to “How about getting together on Monday?” or “Let’s get together on Monday,” the ambivalence would disappear.


Because most adults focus on deficiencies, they phrase some of their thoughts and ideas with negatives such as no, never, don’t, and not. As you read this, you might be thinking, “I never would have thought of that” or “Not a bad insight.” Rephrase your thought to “This is the first time I ever thought about that.” Or “That’s an exciting insight that could explain a lot.” Notice how the switch from “what is not” to “what is” affects your perception of the information. You now feel interest, curiosity, surprise, and even fascination. You can feel your consciousness expand.

Children, before they become educated, speak a different language, a language of inclusion, a language of “what is” and “what can be.” If you ask children how they feel, they’ll tell you. They’ll say, “Great,” or “Awesome,” or “Sleepy,” or “I’m sick.” Offer an idea to a child, and the child will reply, “Great” or “Interesting.”

Suppose you go to Disneyland with your family, and you have a wonderful time. I come up to you and ask, “How did you like Disneyland?” If your response is “Not bad,” that description of what is not may come across in a cool monotone barren of enthusiasm.

But what if you say, “Great”? Notice that there is a difference in volume, in affect, in intonation — in the whole feeling associated with the word great. Your volume goes up. Your mouth gets more relaxed. Your thoughts and feelings are different when you talk about what’s there, as opposed to what’s missing.

By changing your language and speaking patterns in a positive way, so that they are about “what’s there,” you guarantee a feeling of optimism and real output in performance. What you say affects how you feel. How you feel affects how you think, and vice versa. All language, feelings, and thoughts interact with each other, and the entire accumulation of those influences creates your output and behavior.

Thought is not different from emotion. Suppose a friend keeps you waiting for two hours. You can get angry, thinking, “What does he mean, treating me like this? He has no concern, no consideration for me. He’s always treating me badly,” and so on. By thinking in this way, you get very angry. Then, when he arrives and explains that he was late because of an accident that held up traffic, the anger dissipates. This shows that the emotion was influenced by thought. If you change your thought, the anger fades.


If you change one element — your language — your thoughts and feelings will be changed as well. The cumulative impact will be new patterns of output and behavior. This is where you can make a conscious decision to become a positive-thinking person by creating positive speaking patterns.

Once I stayed at the storied Ritz-Carlton in Montreal. Usually I don’t like staying in expensive hotels. Yet in the Ritz I felt great. I discussed my feelings with the manager, and he told me his secret. He told me that the most significant factor for their success was training their employees to frame everything they say in a positive manner. For example, employees who perform services for you will say, “It’s a pleasure,” instead of something like “No problem,” when you thank them. Or “Our restaurant would be pleased to serve you tonight,” instead of “Why don’t you visit our restaurant?” Guests feel welcome and appreciated, and find themselves feeling happy and positive. By the end of my stay, I was framing everything I had to say in a positive way. The Ritz-Carlton experience demonstrates how language allows us to influence ourselves and others in a particular way — we can transfer our own mental state to another’s mind.

Starting any behavior pattern is easier than stopping one. It’s easier to concentrate on starting to breathe clean air, starting to eat more healthy foods, starting to learn to relax, starting to hit the golf ball down the fairway, and starting to be more upbeat by changing your speaking patterns. Stripping negatives from your speech pattern and speaking about “what is,” instead of “what is not,” will, over time, cultivate a positive attitude and change your perspective on your work and, indeed, on life itself.

Excerpted from the book Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work ©2011 by Michael Michalko. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

Michael Michalko is the author of Creative Thinkering, Thinkertoys, Cracking Creativity, and ThinkPak. While an army officer, he organized a team of NATO intelligence specialists and international academics to find the best inventive thinking method. He has expanded and taught these techniques to numerous Fortune 500 companies and organizations. He lives in Rochester, New York. Visit him online at

10 Questions with Claude Lecouteux

A little note here from me (Rebecca). Claude Lecouteux, in my opinion, is a certified bad ass. His book “The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind” became an all-time favorite of mine as soon as I read it. In the two years since of doing book reviews “The Return of the Dead” is still one of my favorites to recommend. Lecouteux’s latest book, “Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt and Ghostly Processions of the Undead” is simply amazing. I’d say go buy it now but I want you to stick around because it was my extremely giddy honor to get to interview Claude Lecouteux and I want everyone to read that. Seriously, like every single person ever, because I got to interview Claude Lecouteux!

Crap, what did I actually set out here to say? Oh yeah. Claude Lecouteux is French and as such English is not his native language so some of the phrasing and use of language may seem “off”. Since the only French I know comes from the song “Lady Marmalade”, I was impressed at how good his answers came across.

1. With previous books such as “Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies” and “The Return of the Dead” it seems like much of your work has now culminated in your new book “The Wild Hunt and Ghostly Processions of the Undead”. Is that the case?

It is not the case. The field of my research is so large that I was constrained to go step by step. “The Return of the Dead” showed me the different facets of the believes connected with the death and the dead. This book was a first approach, the basis of my other investigations: I could not say and explain all the ramifications of the subject just in one book.

In “Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies” I found the answer to a question that bored me: what returns? A shape? A corpse? A soul in human form? The answer was the alter ego, the root of the believe in an external soul.

The “Phantom Armies of the Night” explores the return of troops of dead and tries to show that we are confronted with a blend of different legends which roots are the believe in a life after the life, the dangers for the livings to meet such troops, what often involves an obligation, and a warning: don’t have an unsocial behaviour, don’t transgress the moral codex of the community.

2. For readers unfamiliar with the term, could you describe what The Wild Hunt is?

The Wild Hunt is a band of the dead whose passage over the earth at certain times of the year is accompanied by diverse phenomena. The leader of that Hunt is a giant or a devil or a warning rider. Unfortunately the Wild Hunt was confused with the legend of the Wild Hunter.

3. How does The Wild Hunt differ from other troops of the dead or phantom armies that show up in folklore and mythology?

The Wild Hunt differs from the other troops through its highly Christian character and through its message: be careful in all you act! A bad life involves the damnation, the members of the Hunt are sinners.

4. With so many versions of The Wild Hunt and associated processions of the undead how did you go about sorting through all of it to find the definitive stories?

I search first the common points, then the sources of the differences, I compare all the testimonies I have found and analyze the part the Medieval church plays in the variations. A myth is the result of all its variations.

5. One of things I find fascinating in your books is how you show the role Christianity has played in shaping and/or distorting Pagan folklore. While researching your books do you find this an interesting puzzle to work out or just a frustrating obstacle in getting to the heart of a particular legend?

I found it an interesting enigma. I am like a detective investigating for traces. One of the aims of my studies is to raise the veil of the Christian distortions.

6. You kick off “Phantom Armies of the Night” discussing “The Good Women Who Roam the Night”. Although later in the book they are sometimes associated with leading unbaptized children who have died (obviously an unpleasant thought), and of course there is the mandatory demonization by Christianity, at the heart they seem like perhaps the only group discussed that doesn’t do harm or act as a harbinger of bad things to come. Is that correct, because I may opt to see if they’ll eat at my house this year.

You are right! The good woman leading a troop of dead children is not a harbinger of bad things to come. And if the good women, three in number, visit your home and if you have done what they expected, you’ll be happy and lucky.

7. My readers may not be aware, but you are French and live in Paris. Your latest book, “Phantom Armies”, was actually published in French in 1999 under the title “Chasses fantastiques et cohorts de la nuit au moyen age”. Do you get nervous about having your work translated into other languages?

I am not nervous if I can read the translation before publication. But it’s not always the case. My books were translated in 12 languages – Chinese, Czech, etc. – so that I have no control. I just understand the west and north European languages.

8. Since your work is published in France and then America, what are some upcoming projects that my readers can look forward to in either country, or both?

Jon Graham will translate two other books of mine: my analysis of the poltergeists and my Dictionary of the magical and medicinal stones and gems.

In France the next book is entitled “The poisonous maiden”, an anthology of legends and fairy tales of the Middle Ages; this is a part of my corpus of research, like my other anthologies on Werewolves, Dwarfs, Vampires and other selections I published.

The translation of Franz Obert’s “Tales of Transylvania” (collected 1856) I made with my wife will appear soon.

My last project I began 1995 is a Dictionary of the magical words and formulas; to day 1000 entries!

9. You conclude “Phantom Armies of the Night” by saying, “As you will have guessed, an investigation such as ours here is an attempt at discovery. We cannot reach a conclusion, and to reach one would be presumptuous, as long as so many texts remain to be exhumed, so many testimonies remain to be pulled from unpublished archives that are piled on library shelves.” With the book already being 12 years-old, does this mean perhaps we can look forward to an updated edition in the future?

It depends not from me but from the editors!

Karin Ueltschi, a friend of mine, wrote her PhD on the subject; I was in the jury and I can say her book (published in 2008) can be considered as the updated edition of my study.

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

Hi! It’s Rebecca again. I think the kind of joke of asking me a question got lost in translation, so I’ll use this space to share a few final thoughts.

1. Buy “Phantom Armies of the Night”.
2. Please Inner Traditions, hurry and publish an English version of “The Poisonous Maiden”!
3. When you do publish it (soon), for goodness sake keep the title “The Poisonous Maiden”! What a great title!
4. I get a review copy of that, right?

About Claude Lecouteux:
Claude Lecouteux is a former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous books on medieval and pagan afterlife beliefs, including “The Return of the Dead”, “The Secret History of Vampires”, and “Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies”. He lives in Paris.

Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore

Ellen Evert Hopman’s latest book is called “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore”. This title really doesn’t do the book justice, however I suspect Pendraig Publishing would have found the title “Absolutely Every Damn Thing EVER about Scotland” to be a hard title to live up to. Of course, they would be wrong. The book starts with “A Note to My Readers” that says, “This book contains folklore, magic, and traditional practices from all areas of Scotland; from the Highlands and Lowlands to the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.” This was my first clue that the always thorough Hopman was going to working overtime sharing everything Scottish.

Right now I sit at my keyboard overwhelmed by the breadth of information “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore” imparted. Where on earth to begin? I guess we should start at the beginning. To help give readers a sense of context Hopman starts with what she calls “A Thumbnail Ancient History”. In an easy to follow, compact form, she manages to share with readers the Picts, the Celts, Hadrian’s Wall, the influence of the Vikings, the arrival of Anglo culture, the Battle of Nechtansmere, and more. From there it flows smoothly into discussing the rest of traditional Scotland. I hate to do this, but it will really give you guys a great idea of how all encompassing “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore” truly is, here is the “Table of Contents”.

The Druids, The Old Gods, Lore of the Elements (which includes information about water, fire, and earth magic), Stones, Bones, and Talismans, Holy Days and Holiday (with recipes for the holidays!), Life Passages (such as marriage, childbirth, and death), Divination Practices, A Highland Herbal (where you’ll find those Scottish herbs from the title of the book), Fishing Magic, Boats, and the Lore of the Sea, Farming, Fertility, and Harvest Customs, Domestic Life (like food and whisky), Sacred Birds and Animals, Magical Practices (which features rituals, healing and protective magic, curses, and more), Elves, Spirits, Witches, and Monsters, and The Fairies.

I know, right? Whew! Hopman does an excellent job propelling the reader through a diverse range of topics in 272 pages, which includes an appendix of a pronunciation guide and the bibliography. What’s even better is that the book is thoroughly indexed! When you have that much information you’re going to want to refer back to the text for specifics from time to time, and thankfully, unlikely many books, “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore” has 36 pages of index which means you will definitely find what you’re looking for!

Ellen Evert Hopman provides a definitive book on the traditional Scottish lifestyle. As Hopman offers in the conclusion to “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore”, “As people’s lives become once more agriculturally based, folk will look to the old ways for inspiration as they seek to honor the Land Sprits and the seasons. It is for these future generations that I offer this book, in hopes that they will tend the Earth and Her creatures, the seen and the unseen, with loving care.”

What is New Age Music? And the New Paul Avgerinos Album.

Often times I find it difficult defining labels for types of music. It’s pretty funny considering I worked in music retail for 10 years. Although in thinking about it, it might not be so much of an inability to define a musical sound as much as me personally bristling at attempting to apply super specific labels to music that can preemptively dissuade someone from giving an album a listen, or give up trying to find it in a store. I prefer broad strokes; rock, rap, country, classical, dance, etc., etc. What is really accomplished by going crazy with the genres? Can’t we safely say that alternative, punk, and heavy metal are rock? Do I really need to see a bluegrass mini section within the country music section? Should I have to wonder if Simon & Garfunkel are rock or folk? And what does that mean for finding Paul Simon as a solo artist? I think you get what I’m trying to say here, right?

I started thinking about all of this when I decided that I was going to mention friend of The Buffet, Paul Avgerinos’ new album “Bliss” here on the site. Paul Avgerinos creates “New Age” music. I began to wonder if all it took to be classified as New Age was that the music was relaxing. Is my Sa Ding Ding album New Age? What about the Atman cd? Surely the “Pure Moods” cds I own are New Age. But wait! Those albums have songs from Moby and Peter Gabriel on them. Those two artists aren’t New Age, are they? All of those artists, albums, and more (including Paul Avgerinos) live in my “Relaxation” playlist on my iPod. Is that enough for them all to be New Age?

Like all matters such as these I turn to the anonymous peeps at Wikipedia to help a sister out, “New Age music is music of various styles intended to create artistic inspiration, relaxation, and optimism. It is used by listeners for yoga, massage, meditation, and reading as a method of stress management or to create a peaceful atmosphere in their home or other environments, and is often associated with environmentalism and New Age spirituality.

The harmonies in New Age music are generally modal, consonant, or include a drone bass. The melodies are often repetitive, to create a hypnotic feeling, and sometimes recordings of nature sounds are used as an introduction to a track or throughout the piece. Pieces of up to thirty minutes are common.

New Age music includes both electronic forms, frequently relying on sustained synch pads or long sequencer-based runs, and acoustic forms, featuring instruments such as flutes, piano, acoustic guitar and a wide variety of non-western acoustic instruments.

Vocal arrangements were initially rare in New Age music but as it has evolved vocals have become more common, especially vocals featuring Native American, Sanskrit, or Tibetan influenced chants, or lyrics based on mythology such as Celtic legends or the realm of Faerie.” And that sounds as good as I could hope with regards to defining New Age music.

All of this is just a really wordy, rambling lead in to me telling you guys that Paul Avgerinos has a new album out called “Bliss” and if you like “New Age” music or just music to relax and reflect to, you should consider checking it out.

Marlborough Musings

On October 1, 2011 my husband and I hopped in the car and drove out to Marlborough, NH so I could give my presentation, “The Everyman’s Guide to Protective Magick: Religion, Folklore, and Myth” at Muse Gifts & Books. I was excited to see the store and was nervous because Muse has hosted talks from some very well known and respected authors; such as Raven Grimassi, Ellen Evert Hopman, Dawn Hunt, and Christopher Penczak. I knew the staff and their customers were accustomed to having access to some of the best workshops around!

I have to tell everybody, I’m so freakin’ jealous of the folks who have easy access to Muse Gifts & Books! They have great speakers pretty regularly and they host “Tea and Tarot” (where customers come in for a beverage and a tarot reading from a variety of readers) regularly. Muse also has an impressive selection of books and tarot decks from a wide variety of publishers and tons of beautiful trinkets (including a gorgeous statue of Kwan Yin several feet tall!). Everyone at Muse, staff and customers, were so nice and enthusiastic. I had a wonderful time there! I also did some shopping!

Now originally I wasn’t going to write about my trip to Muse Gifts & Books because how boring to read me talk about, well, me talking. However I was so blown away at how fantastic Marlborough was I wanted to give you guys a bunch of reasons why you should visit!

First, obviously, is Muse Gifts & Books. What a great store! See my phat loot from my shopping trip!

Books, Kwan Yin necklace, Bloodstone, and Tiger's Eye (not shown, a bottle of Infused Oil from Cucina Aurora).

But before we went into Muse, Jim and I quick popped into a vegetarian cafe called Zeppelin & Kaleidoscope. While there I had one of the best muffins I’ve ever tasted. It was a raspberry lemon muffin that wasn’t too sweet and was fresh out of the oven. Yum!

After the event at Muse, Kevin (the owner) took myself and Jim out for a meal at Lee and Mt. Fuji. This place had a full Chinese cuisine menu along with a full sushi menu, and I spotted some other Asian specialties buried in there too! I ordered a sushi roll I had never encountered before, a Garden Roll. It was raw tuna wrapped in cucumber with roe. It was served with a faintly sweet, slightly vinegary sauce. Because of the shape it was served on an embarrassingly long plate and I had to actually cut up the pieces with a fork and knife to eat it. Perhaps not great for one’s dignity, but it was a tasty treat!

Before we left town Kevin heartily recommended a stop in at store called Inkubus. I, and I’m sure my credit card company, are glad he did! It’s difficult to describe Inkubus. I guess at its most basic you could call it a goth clothing store, but that might make you think I’m talking about a Hot Topic store. Inkubus is what most Hot Topic stores wish they could be! There is a stupidly huge selection of men’s and women’s clothing, ranging from t-shirts (I bought one with a Day of the Dead sugar skull on it!) to high end dresses. They have loads of accessories: purses, shoes, lunch boxes, ashtrays, make-up, hat, and more, more, more! Most importantly, to my absolute shock and pleasure, they had this for sale….

Mexican Sugar Skull Mold and Meringue Powder

If I attempt to make them, I’ll be sure to let you know how it went!

Marlborough, NH is a two and a half hour drive for me to get to, so a bit far to try and visit on a regular basis. With just the little bit I saw and experienced I’m envious of those who live closer than that. And if you do live close to Marlborough and you don’t visit, you’re an idiot.

Geek Month in Review: September 2011

by JB Sanders

Falling into September

3D-Printed Self-Assembling Virus Model
So this professor of Molecular Graphics (now there’s a specialty!) designed and then 3D printed a plastic model that, once you put in the magnets, will go from a jumble of pieces to a full globular model of the virus it’s based on. And there’s video!

I Think There’s a Horror Movie in This
Folks in the Philippines capture a crocodile 21-feet big.

You Have 150 Half-siblings, and Counting
This sounds like something from a scifi novel about clones, but no. It’s modern day. Apparently some fertility clinics have let those couples seeking to have children via in vitro fertilization use “popular” sperm donors a little too frequently. Some donor-fathers have upwards of 150 biological children conceived this way, and thus those kids have 149+ half-siblings.

Self-lacing Nikes? Check!
Nike patented the self-lacing sneakers (ala Back to the Future) and are now set to bring them to market. Really. How many more items do we need to come true for Back to the Future to be Right Damn Now?

Abandoned Technology Across the World
Including a sub base! How cool is that? If it wasn’t in Albania, that might be a fun little fixer-upper opportunity.

It Eats Fridges
Because that’s what it’s designed to do. GE has this giant machine that breaks down any old fridge into it’s component parts, for recycling.

Victorian Kitchen Unearthed
So this couple is doing a renovation of their stately mansion and when clearing out the clutter discover a Victorian-era kitchen blocked off and untouched for 60 years. It’s both geeky and gothic.

Dinosaur Feathers Found in Amber
You know what comes next, right?

How the Romans Invented Atomic Theory
Not kidding, not a conspiracy theory. There’s a guy named Lucretius who came up with the idea that everything was made of really tiny particles about 200 years before the birth of Christ. Ironically enough, considering my dating scheme, he also said that the universe was created without the need of gods, spirits, angels or cosmic intelligence. The NPR story is about not only the mind-blowing nature of that theory but how his book survived 2000+ years.

How Wrong Can You Be? Pretty Damned Wrong.
Experts frequently predict things that simply don’t come true. Telephones, light bulbs, iPads — oh wait, no.

Spectrographic Analysis of a Box of Crayons
Ever wonder how blue that blue crayon in the box is? Wonder no more! With handy poster of the resulting color graphs.

One Car, Printed to Order
Not scifi anymore, this company is actually poised to produce these things en masse. Even if it looks like something a production designer for a scifi film cooked up overnight for his “future car”.

See Your Dreams on YouTube
Because that’s not a scary thought — not at all. Scientists at UC Berkley have had some success in “decoding and reconstructing people’s dynamic visual experiences”. They’re using fMRi technology and some serious computers. Wild stuff.

Electric Light Cycle
Yeah, you heard that right — those crazy motorcycle guys who created a gasoline-powered light-cycle (yours, for a mere $50k) now have an electric version, which just seems cooler overall.

Microbial Messengers
How awesome is a code made up if microbes that fluoresce different colors? Pretty damned awesome.

Trying to Find a Great Book?
Look no further than NPR’s Giant Flowchart of Scifi (and Fantasy). It’s amusing and snarky!

Flying Car? No. Flying Carpet? Yes!
So this PhD student read a paper which changed his research direction from printed circuits using nano-ink to undulating waveforms based on biomimicing manta rays. It’s a weird world, isn’t it? He’s had some success in small-scale trials in making a “flying carpet” — by using magnetics to stimulate air currents and creating the same kind of ground-effect cushion of air that a hover craft has. Neato, huh?

My City Has an Operating System
Let the jokes commence. This company is developing an OS just for running cities (traffic lights, waste systems, energy supply, etc) called UrbanOS.

The Tinyest RPG Ever
So small, it fits on the back of a business card. See it and believe it.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

Think Before You Pink 2011

I was at Wal-Mart recently and was immediately struck by a big ol’ display filled with pink and pink ribbon embossed merchandise. I turned to my husband and said, “It’s almost October.” Since it is now October and we’re in the thick of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is time once again that I ask you all to “Think Before You Pink”.

This will be my fourth year trying to bring awareness to the work of Breast Cancer Action and their “Think Before You Pink” campaign. In 2008 I did a brief summary of the campaign and shared critical questions you should ask yourself before buying a big cart full of pink merchandise. In 2009 I shared their campaign to tell Eli Lilly to “Stop Milking Cancer”. And last year I shared why I support Breast Cancer Action. So this year I find myself wondering what to say….

On September 14, 2011 Marie Clair published a thorough and eye opening article by Lea Goldman that I would encourage you to read before you buy one piece of pink merchandise online or make one charitable donation over the phone. I encourage you to give it a read.

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Some $6 billion a year is committed to breast cancer research and awareness campaigns. Is it any wonder that the disease has become a gold mine for pink profiteers and old-fashioned hucksters?

And as always, I also encourage you to visit the “Think Before You Pink” website and the website for Breast Cancer Action.

What to do next year. Should I just start all over again and recycle the 2008 article? Check back in a year to find out!