Friday, September 28, 2012

Jewish Holy Days: Sukkot

Building a sukka *
The Jewish people are finishing up the Days of Awe this week, and on Sunday at sundown they will begin to celebrate Sukkot. It's a true holy day and holiday, and it spans the full week from sundown on Sept. 30 to sundown on Oct. 7. Sukkot is a harvest festival, and in Hebrew it is called z'man simhateinu, which means the season of our joy. It is meant to be a festival of plenty, of joy, of getting together with family and friends to celebrate that which is. It's also a reminder of how God sheltered the Jews during their wanderings in the desert for 40 years. Prayers are said, and meals are shared.
"After the ingathering from your threshing floor and your vat, you shall hold the Feast of Booths for seven days. You shall rejoice in your festival... for the Lord your God will bless all your crops and all your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy." (Deuteronomy 16:13-15)
A modern sukka **
Jewish families build a sukka or booth in which to spend some or all of their time during Sukkot. The sukka has either 2.5, 3, or 4 walls, mimicking the Hebrew letters that form the word sukka. Some are built from wood, others are made with PVC pipe. The one pictured to the right is built with light weight metal pipes screwed together. The walls can be made of anything, provided they're present, and people have used everything from blankets to straw to wood paneling. The roof, however, needs to be made of natural materials such as corn stalks (traditional here in the United States) or branches.

The four species ***
During the time in the sukka, each Jewish family or congregation will take up the Four Kinds or Four Species, and shake them in the six directions (north, south, east, west, up and down). The Kinds are etrog (a citrus like a lemon), lulav (a palm frond), three hadassim (myrtle twigs), and two aravot (willow twigs). These very different items are representative of the different personalities and people who make up the Jewish family as a whole, throughout the world.

City of sukkas in Jerusalem ****
Throughout the world, Jews celebrate Sukkot at the same time each year. They build their booths or sukkas, and spend time in them with family and friends. It's traditional to invite over neighbors and friends to visit together in the sukka, to share in a meal or a drink. Families sometimes camp out in the sukka, although in the northern areas of America it's a bit chilly for doing that!

Whether you are Jewish or not, the idea of Sukkot is a wonderful one. The celebration of harvest and plenty, spending time with family, renewing old friendships and thanking people for current ones are all cross-cultural, interfaith moments.

Visit often for prayers, holy day celebrations, meditations and spiritual musings. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions!  If you purchase items I have linked through Amazon, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!

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* Image from
** Photo by RonAlmog / Wikimedia Commons
*** Photo by Gilabrand / Wikimedia Commons
**** Photo by  Effi B. / Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, September 27, 2012

For those who follow Hecate


For those of you who follow Hecate in any way, or even simply have an interest in her, the e-version of this book is available today on Amazon for free! It's normally $24, so you might want to act fast and download a copy. I know I did!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Living life to the fullest

I talk a lot about canning, both on this blog and my simple living blog, The Freehold. I also go on about dehydrating, preparing for emergencies, and living life to the fullest. For me, my spirituality is tied up in all those things. When I look at those roasted tomatoes above, drying in the dehydrator, I feel a small thrill of devotion to my gods.

You might wonder why preserving food is a spiritual act for me. I think back to my ancestors, both recent (my grandparents) and ancient (those of Greece, Scotland, Europe), and I see myself in them when I am preserving and planning. I might have better tools than they (an electric Nesco Dehydrator is a definite upgrade from drying on racks in the autumn sun), but the end results are pretty similar.

 There is a feeling of domesticity, of happiness, of inner peace that comes with a full larder and pantry. The memories of long, hard winters with no food available may be worn and faded for most Americans, but they still exist. There are many books out there, both in print and in e-book format, that keep alive the memories. They contain information from the past brought into the present so that we can share in the lives and times of our ancestors.

Books like:
Food Storage and Preservation by Bud Evans
Cooking with T: Preserving (The Amish Garden Kitchen) by Teresa A. Phillips
Seed Saving Tips & Techniques by Julie Turner

All of these are inexpensive e-books (and in some cases they are free), and they let you peruse older topics with a modern twist.

It isn't just the instructional books that are good, though. There are several free or inexpensive e-books that I find really give a good idea of how people lived 75 to 100 years ago. In a real emergency, whether Zombie Apocalypse or winter power outage, the information in the books is timeless and useful.

Try these:
The Cabin on the Prairie by C. H. Pearson
The Quest of the Simple Life by William J. Dawson
Homestead on the Hillside by Mary J. Holmes
Life in the Backwoods by Susanna Moodie

As I read these books and others like them, I find myself drifting back to what is, in some respects, a much simpler time. Yes, there was a lot more work involved. Yet there was more peace, as well, and more space between neighbors. When we try to carve 15 minutes out of our busy schedules to worship our gods, we're almost shoehorning them into our day timers. Our ancestors knew the truth of it, that they needed their gods, and they made time out of their day for worship. Sometimes, that time came from their few moments of relaxation. It was a different world.

So yes, when I can and dehydrate and freeze the produce I grow or get at the CSA or market, I harken back to those times and those people. I think about my Scottish heritage, and that as recently as a hundred years ago they were still living in wattle and daub huts in some places. I contemplate my Hungarian heritage and realize that only 50 years ago, my grandmother and her mother were living in a structure that's a lot more like a yurt built into the ground, and a lot less like the house I'm used to.

It humbles me. It makes me realize that my grandparents and great grandparents took their own full days (both sides were farmers at the time of the "greats") and made certain they had time for worship to nourish their souls. They sang hymns as they canned or dehydrated. They read their Bible or told myths and legends on cold nights while darning socks and mending work clothes. I can't do any less.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Today's grattitude awared goes to...

I got my copy! If you want to go read the whole gratitude post, pop on over to the Freehold and you can read it there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Grateful for autumn plenty

Tonight I made up a dish called "40 clove chicken" which was the most tender, tasty chicken I've ever made. It was easy as sin, too. I cooked it slow, for about 4 hours, and the garlic (of the 40 cloves, above) was all soft and squishy and delicious. I plan on making this one again!  I roasted the chicken up with organic local carrots and local potatoes, and herbs right out of the garden.

For lunch, I made creamy crab pesto with pasta. The pesto I had made with basil from my own garden, and local garlic. I made "one batch" but of course you don't use a lot of pesto. A little goes a long way. Mixed with cream and cheese and crab and mushrooms, it was incredible. I wish I'd been able to put the nice big chunks of crab on it, but I made do with a can of minced crab meat. The idea was sound. The flavor was excellent.

So today, I'm grateful for the plenty that comes at this time of year. There are jars in the pantry, full of garden goodness. There are packages of grain, of corn, of barley and beans and split peas, all waiting to be used over the cold season. Gratitude comes from the stomach, today.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gratitude for autumn

These pretty flowers are the last of the cosmos that I sprouted in February. It took them quite a while to take off in the garden, but when they did, they totally overpowered all the other flowers in their section! Next year I will plant these again, but they'll go behind the roses, where they can kind of use the rose bushes as props.

In any case, my lovely cosmos were all falling over and it was time this past weekend to begin winterizing the gardens. Sis cut them all down and pulled out the roots. The organics got composted, but the flowers went into a milk jug on the table. Most of the flowers are white, but there's one bright pink one that just pops.

So... I'm grateful for autumn, cut flowers, and gardens.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Friday, September 14

Today, I'm grateful for taking the time to write for ME. I've been doing a lot of writing for other people and venues, and I need to step back from that for a number of reasons. Friday marked the first day in a very long time that I wrote something that I truly enjoyed. If you decide you'd like to see, feel free to check out the post, with pics.

Saturday, September 15 

My gratitude today goes out to all the people I took the Boundary Awareness Training with. I attended a class with about 9 other ministers and lay people, learning about boundaries, both how to set them and how to respect them. I learned a lot more than I thought I would, and I had pretty high expectations to begin with. I hope to continue my study on Boundary Awareness on my own, because I feel it compliments and enhances my own personal Code of Ethics.

Sunday, September 16

Today I'm grateful for six beautiful jars of canned tomatoes, a dehydrator full of roasted tomato wedges drying away, and the knowledge that our pantry is full and getting more full by the day. Our preparations for winter are coming along nicely and there's nothing quite so calming and relaxing as knowing that, even in a worst case scenario, there's enough food around the house to carry you through 'til spring.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Re-post from Examiner, February 2, 2012

"I pray," you're probably thinking. Most people do, at some point in their lives. You've put your hands together, perhaps even gone down on your knees, and said a proscribed set of words or begged for something to arrive or go away. This is only one type of prayer, though, and there are many at  your disposal. Before delving into different types, ask yourself what the purpose of prayer is.

Prayer is most simply explained as talking to God. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jew, Wiccan, Buddhist or a member of some other belief system, when you pray you are directing words to the Higher Power in charge of your world. Your purpose in praying is to communicate to God your fears, concerns, devotion, love, or confusion. The purpose of prayer is to communicate.

There is no secret to perfect prayer, just as there is no secret to communicating with friends and family. If you sit (or kneel or prostrate yourself) to pray with an open mind and a good idea of what you want to say, you will do just fine.
Over the years, people have given different names to forms of prayer: blessing (thanking Deity for gifts received), intercessory (asking Deity to intercede to help another person), petition (asking Deity to bring something to the person praying), thanksgiving (saying thank you to Deity for the joys and sorrows of life), and praise (without asking for anything, glorifying the Deity). Most prayers fall into one of these five categories. 

Remember that a prayer is any communication with your Higher Power. This is one of the reasons certain sects of the Abrahamic faiths expect their followers to never swear. Using the name of God to curse another is a very negative form of prayer, and is destructive to the self! Before blurting out "damn you!" or some other explosive phrase, consider what you are saying, and to whom it is directed. 

Consider the five main forms of prayer, and how you have used them in the past. Have you used one form over another? Is there a type of prayer that you do not like or have never used? Think about the reasons you have or have not used the different forms, and why!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thankful for ... yeah that's hard today.

I missed yesterday, so...

Wednesday, September 12 - Today I'm grateful for the ability to put food away for winter use. It's a lot of work canning up tomatoes, and my feet are sore now that I'm done, but there's a definite moment of pride seeing the finished product. The tomatoes aren't yet canned, but the various tomato products are made, and waiting for canning tomorrow.

Thursday, September 13 - Today I'm not feeling horribly thankful, and I'll explain in a moment. However, I am sticking to my guns on my thankful journey. So today, I'm thankful for a new recipe to use up the tomatoes and zucchini in the fridge. It's called Vegetable Tian. I found it on Pinterest, then modified it to what I happened to have on hand. However, it smells and looks heavenly, and I can't wait to serve it up with fresh pasta and pesto tonight.

Why I'm not thankful today - I've been keeping up on the attacks on our Embassies in the Middle East. It's been upsetting, watching people who are innocent of wrongdoing paying the price because of idiocy here in the States. Why did people start attacking our Embassies? That would be because they hate us. At least that's what seems to be coming out. But they used a YouTube hate video and a Q'ran burning as excuses for attacking American soldiers and Ambassadors. In Benghazi, our Ambassador (apparently well loved by the local people) was not only subjected to violence and humiliation, his body was also dragged through the streets. We don't know yet whether he was alive or dead when that happened.

Killing anyone over burning paper or making a video (no matter how hateful the material) is just not acceptable. My only saving grace lies in the picture I have here and a few others, showing the people outside what's left of the embassy at Benghazi, showing the people standing there with signs in English and their own language saying that they despise the people who did it, and that they are not Muslims, but "thugs and killers."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Running behind

I don't know if any of you read Girls with Slingshots, but they got hacked on Aug. 31st and only just got their site back up. If you don't read it, you should. It's hysterically funny, full of comic goodness, and includes such diverse characters as a dominatrix, a ghost cat, a talking cactus (McPedro, pictured above), and a wide variety of lesbian, gay, straight, and questionable people.

September 7th

Today, I am grateful for getting my article out on time. I have been struggling with my articles for Examiner, and it was good to have one come fairly easily.

September 8th

I'm grateful for today's bbq in Manchester, NH. There was a lot of good friendship, chat, and even a wee bit of beer!

September 9th

I'm so grateful for Lyrion ApTower's salons, especially today's. I wish the time we spent there was longer, but there was so much to do. We watched The Burning Times, which I had seen before, but it was good to watch it again. I found myself both interested in it and embarrassed at the hair, because the film was made during my own entrance to Wicca. I know I looked just like them. LOL!

September 10th

I'm glad it's quiet, and that things got done today. I'm especially grateful today for having gotten word that my old mentor is alive and well after disappearing for several months.

September 11th

Today, I am grateful for Gray. He was supposed to be working near the Pentagon, perhaps driving right past the part that got it, eleven years ago. It took hours for me to get ahold of him. It was the day I realized I didn't just like him; I loved him. I'm so grateful he is a part of my life.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A call for submissions!

Crossing the River

Call for submissions for Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, edited by Literata. Submissions will open 10 September 2012 and close 28 February 2013. Submissions may include, but are not limited to, scholarly articles, poetry, short fiction, retellings or original translations of stories and texts, artwork, and rituals related to the experience of sacred journeys.

For more information, click here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thank you for crisp salads

I made my autumn salad again tonight, and I hit just the right combination of salad dressings and contents. I made it with pecans, as well, and boy, it was delish!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Grateful for stewed tomatoes

On Tuesday, we picked up a bushel of fresh roma tomatoes. Today I opened the first box and peeked inside, wallowing in the red, heavenly scented goodness. They're huge, meaty, and have very few seeds. I spent this afternoon dunking them in boiling water, cooling them in an ice bath, peeling them, then chopping them up to make stewed tomatoes. This was a test batch, so I made only 3 pints (plus enough for sauce for tonight's spaghetti!), but the flavor was incredible.

I stewed up the tomatoes with fresh basil, parsley and oregano from the garden, several cloves of garlic, a medium onion, and two tablespoons of turbinado sugar. I jarred it all up, put on the lids and rings, and slid my 3 jars into the pressure canner.

Tomatoes can be water bathed but I decided that 45 minutes in a water bath was a long time in comparison to 15 minutes in the pressure canner. I'm still waiting for the pressure to drop enough to let me open the canner, but pressure was well maintained throughout. I'm quite happy with myself.

So I'm grateful for my stewed, home canned tomatoes!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Amazingly grateful

Sunday, September 2:

Today I'm grateful for the opportunity to head out to a new/old church. I attended Nelson Congregational out in Nelson, NH. I've preached there several times now as pulpit supply, but this was the first time I'd had the opportunity to be there as a congregant. It was nice. Rev. Dawn is quite the preacher, and touched on things of great interest to me. Add to that it's a place that has always had a "spiritual home" feel to me, and it was just a great time.

Monday, September 3:

There's always a sense of deep gratitude to the earth and the local farms when your pantry is full of stored goodness for the winter. We're not fully stocked yet, but the season of plenty really is just beginning. Right now there are stockings full of onions hanging in my newly organized and decorated pantry, all ready to hang there until spring. It's good to know that I have at least a couple of months worth of onions there, as well as a bunch of dried minced onions as well.

Tuesday, September 4:

No pictures yet, but today I'm grateful for the amazing pallet compost bin that my friend T helped me build yesterday. Who am I fooling? She did all the hammering because I couldn't get a single nail in straight! She was just fantastic, and between us we managed to get it all put together. The next time it isn't raining, I hope to get all our (rather loose) compost pile over and into the bins, which will both clean up the yard a bit and turn the compost at the same time. The micro-homestead is finally coming together.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gratitude for shopping

Today, sis and I got to go shopping. We've done some minor grocery shopping in the past month, but money has been so tight that we have not been able to indulge in even window-shopping, in case we saw something we needed. Well, today we had a bit of money (not a lot but a bit, thank you MiL) and were able to make a trip out to Ocean State Job Lots, where we got neat binders for the high school girl in our life, fun but useful and nutritious (and very store-able) foods for the next couple of weeks, and even a couple of little things for ourselves.

I have SOCKS! Woot! I have an obsession with knee socks that has lasted about 5 or 6 years now. Job Lots carries a brand of socks that is both cheap, and fits around my rather large calves. I got four pairs of socks, all of which fit beautifully, are long enough, aren't so large in the foot that I feel like the heel is up at my mid-calf, and are "funky" looking. So today, I'm grateful for silly shopping trips and cheap but wonderful socks that I really, *really* needed for the winter.

Gratitude for women

Friday, August 31st:

I am grateful tonight for the Blue Moon which gave me the opportunity to be with a group of women worshipping together. We talked, shared, sang, drummed, and communed together under the light of the VERY full moon. I feel so full of life and love and energy that I can't help but be grateful!