Oh my, it's that time of year — whoooo-haa-aa! — with ghouls and goblins gathering force and much bewitching and skullduggery to be had. While blood-sucking politicians, I mean, vampires and glassy-eyed zombies are pretty popular characters these days, two Halloween classics are as timeless as magical spells.
The mighty pumpkin, for one, which Margaret Visser rightly pegged as an idea — one of orangeness and roundness, given it's actually a squash. Recent headlines heralded this, upsetting some folks that their tinned pumpkin was really tinned squash, as if pumpkins were masquerading around with some kind of evil intent.
The other stalwart Halloween classic: witches. Yes! Despite sales of Donald and Hillary costumes exploding this year, at least for adults, witches and pirates remain in the No. 1 and 2 spots, thanks goodness. Take that you glittery pink princesses and Pokemon specials! I've always had a fond spot in my heart for witches, mostly because I was due to be born on Halloween night. To my eternal regret, I popped out two nights early, one of the few things I've ever been early for in my life.
But the really good news is you can stay on trend this Halloween when it comes to whipping up victuals. Authentic witchy business can easily be yours in the kitchen, and I don't mean gummy worms, frog leg soup with eyeballs, or those amazing sugar cookies that look like amputated fingers, with blanched almonds for fingernails and red food colouring at the stump end for blood.
So, gather round my young beauties, and learn from the experienced hag, for that's the way of witchcraft — the old teaching her protégés á la Goya's famous etching, In it the ancient witch flies high on her broomstick, the young apprentice hanging on behind.
To start, remember that even in these times of Wicca (the modern version of witching), people are often limited in their idea of "witch" as someone associated with Satan, and/or practicing black magic.
"At the very least many still state that a witch is a sorceress and an ugly old woman," writes Raymond Buckland in his classic, The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism. He goes on to name some of those who've exploded that myth through the ages.
"In the Odyssey," he writes, "Homer speaks of the Witch Circe (the cap "W" is Buckland's) as a "goddess with lovely hair... radiant...". Hecate is a beauty, and Medea, the Witch in the Golden Fleece adventures, is described as a beautiful young princess..." Maybe those princess costumes aren't so bad after all.
The thing is, in pre-Christian and early Christian times, witchcraft was a magical and healing practice in pagan religions. By Buckland's reckoning, good witches were pretty much the norm.
So, my good witch, are you heartened for a few good turns in the kitchen? As Witcheslore.com states: "Everyone has to eat, and if all food is prepared with an intention for love, money or protection, cooking will help you to manifest what you want out of life." I'm not so sure about the money thing, but love and protection are right up there.
Many of the tips and recipes also embrace popular wisdom with one or two new twists, such as stirring in a clockwise motion as it's in harmony with the way the sun appears to move across the sky. Well, it couldn't hurt.
Otherwise you're encouraged to do things like cutting your food into shapes that align with your intent, such as hearts for love, or a pentangle for protection, and, I presume, a dollar sign for money. The central idea, though, is to cook with intent and care, not a bad idea anytime.
Many Witcheslore.com dishes could have come from a healthy cookbook with that added dollop of common wisdom. Lovers Breakfast is European-style yogurt with honey and strawberries or passion fruit — things you might eat any day or conjure up especially for Valentine's. There's a Chocolate Love Cake and Rhubarb Lovers Delight, replete with the symbolism of red for love and chocolate with its chemically proven aphrodisiacal properties. A fig loaf brings prosperity. Pumpkin pie money (!) and healing.
If you want to get more into spells and rituals, there are any number of books around. I especially liked Kirsten Riddle's Beginner's Guide to Wicca, which was loaded with ideas in an appealing format.
For casting spells you need three things: intention, action and belief. For protection, bamboo, blackberry, blueberry, broccoli and more are good ingredients. For good health, you can try carving the word "strength" into a mango skin, leaving it to dry, then massaging orange juice into it while picturing yourself glowing with good health. Put the dried skin under your pillow for a week.
Thyme is popular with fairy sprits and used in love spells, while rosemary is connected to love and the Greek goddess Aphrodite. It was used in rituals for protection and strength, so before an exam or other important event drink mild rosemary tea and picture a clear head. Mint, a sacred drink amongst Druids, is useful for protection when tucked under your pillow.
Oregano is yours for promoting peace and harmony. Sprinkle some in the water you wash your floor with, visualizing "a stream of golden light sweeping into your home, bringing with it love and happiness."
Not exactly what you'd expect from witchery, but then that's why we have Halloween. Have a spooktacular time!
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who still has parts of her Grade 3 witch's outfit.