Real witches don’t eat newt eyes. Nor do they eat frog’s toes, dog’s tongues or any of the other cauldron nonsense we’ve been led to believe by Shakespeare and countless other writers.
Instead, today’s Wiccans look to the magical qualities of plants when casting their spells. And at this time of year – known as Halloween to muggle folk but as Samhain to Wiccans and other pagans – the lines of communication between the world of the living and the world of spirit are the most clear, making it an excellent season to cook up some magic.
According to Leslie Linder, an ordained minister with a master of divinity degree from Vanderbilt University and a member of the Temple of the Feminine Divine in Bangor, there are many Wiccan traditions involving food.
“One thing that’s growing in popularity is kitchen witchery,” Linder said. “It’s not new, but the idea is to be aware of the magical correspondence of your ingredients. It’s about reminding ourselves that the common things we eat every day are sacred because they’re of the Earth.”
Practitioners of kitchen witchery view cooking as akin to spell-casting and make sure to imbue their meals with specific intentions and positive energy.
“What we believe magic is is energy,” Linder said. “The use of magic is channeling energy to meet our goals. So if we charge food with an energy we want, then that’s magic.”
Linder shares ideas about the intersection of plant-based foods and witchcraft on the Vegan Wiccan blog (veganwiccan .blogspot.com).
“Not only do we not kill cats, but a lot of us are animal rights activists,” Linder said of practitioners of this form of Earth-based spirituality.
Rather than tending bubbling cauldrons filled with odd animal parts, real witches are much more likely to brew special teas at this time of year. Linder said followers of the Wiccan path use herbs for their medicinal qualities but also consider the planets ruling particular plants.
When brewing a magical Samhain tea, Linder said, Wiccans choose their ingredients carefully – depending on what outcomes and energy they want to bring into their lives.
“Partnering with the energy of the plants, you put your intentions into the tea,” Linder said.
Julie Rogers, a Wiccan high priestess from Whitefield who has taught witchcraft for more than 12 years, said at this time of year her coven conducts a ritual that aims to cultivate the type of energy members are seeking and discard any negative tendencies. As part of the ceremony, members of the coven enjoy spiced cakes and sacred teas.
“This time of year is fabulous for spiced teas,” Rogers said. “I love a spiced orange tea or a cinnamon apple tea.”
Her recipe for orange spice tea includes orange peel, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and cloves. She adds the ingredients to water and brings it to a boil, then removes the pot from the heat and allows it to steep for a few minutes. Rogers then strains the tea and adds honey to taste.
“This tea has many benefits besides tasting delicious,” Rogers said. “Orange actually can ward off negativity. Clove brings prosperity and detoxes the body. Cinnamon is also good for money or prosperity spell work, as well as healing spells. Nutmeg is good to get rid of unwanted entities.”
Two other food-related rituals practiced by Wiccans at this time of year, according to Linder, are the Mourning Tea and the Dumb Supper. The Mourning Tea happens at lunchtime on or near the Samhain holiday. Those who attend the tea bring photos of loved ones who have passed away and might create a scrapbook or do another activity to honor the dead.
“Tea choices would have to do with their goals – a calming blend for people in grief, a dream-enhancing tea for people seeking spirit communication,” Linder said.