If you follow me on Instagram you already know I am a Foodie. I’ve got an eBook copy of Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene on reserve at my local library and in the next few weeks I’ll be buying myself Gwion Raven’s Magick of Food as a Lammas Day gift. Yet even so it wasn’t until a recent flash of insight that I realized I am a High Priestess of the kitchen. Before (or while) you roll your eyes and laugh at my seeming hubris or what may appear to be at best an associative leap, hear me out.
Priests have their cassocks, ministers and deacons have their albs, witches and pagans have their Ritual raiments, and I have my apron. The act of putting it on before the ritual of cooking signifies to me and others that some practical alchemy is about to take place, that the raw materials assembled around me are about to undergo a transformation fueled by my intention and skill (and, in the case of breads, with the kind cooperation of another living entity). Soon, something will be created that did not exist before I brought it into being.
For years I cooked using my grandmother’s measuring spoons. They’re certainly nothing fancy—just an old, cheap, fairly flimsy set of tin spoons—but when the ¼ teaspoon started to show dangerous wear between its handle and the bowl of the spoon I knew I had to retire the set. It took months for me to wrap my heart around the fact that I would no longer be able to use those spoons, placing my hands over where my grandmother’s hands used to be.
You might think, well, they’re JUST SPOONS! But to me they were lineaged and a tangible connection to a woman who helped raise me during a tumultuous time when the adults in my life weren’t behaving very well. Granny’s spoons have stayed in the kitchen drawer next to the new measuring spoons, and during Samhain I display them on her shrine, but it’s not the same. I still miss using them every day.
Just as one might reserve a particular chalice and a specific wand or athame for sabbats and esbats, so too do I have a particular wooden spoon that is used in the making of the queso and a particular pastry cutter for the making of the dough. That’s not to say I couldn’t use any of several other wooden spoons or pastry cutters, but the ones I use have some mighty positive energies they’ve accrued over the years. To me, picking them up and using them as instruments of my will parallels directly with the image of The Magician in tarot selecting from the tools at their disposal.
If you’re looking for another way to have a direct experience of how the elements impact our magics, I invite you to make bread. If you live in a region where there’s an appreciable difference in temperature between seasons, you’ll notice your bread dough rises faster when it’s hotter outside. Same with humidity—flour is a thirsty beastie; the more humid the air surrounding it, the wetter the dough. Same goes for elevation—your measurements for leavening agents will be one amount above sea level and different amounts at or below sea level.
When you take into account the heat (air/fire), humidity (air/water), and elevation (earth), bread-baking becomes a form of elemental magic. As witches we work with a higher understanding of the elements, combining our energies with the energies of the elements to manifest our intentions. That pretty much describes bread-baking to a tee as well. Over-knead the dough and you get tough bread with a rock-hard crust. Under-knead it and you get flat bread that’s way too dense. You need (see what I did there?) a sensitive touch and an awareness of your surroundings to create a magical loaf of bread.
I was at a Meetup virtual tarot tea with some local witches a couple of weeks ago. As we talked about Spirit and intuitive reading, it occurred to me that working with Spirit could be thought of as being somewhat similar to working with yeast.
Yeast is, to me anyway, an alien lifeform. It’s related to mushrooms and molds. It’s a reactive entity that responds to stimuli, and when I work with it I have to understand and respect its ‘boundaries’ if I’m going to be able to manifest edible alchemy. If I don’t work with it (not work on it), it will not work with me. To me, this sounds an awful lot like how we might approach our deities.
I’m reminded of something Byron Ballard once when a workshop attendee lamented about having to go back out into the mundane world. She said, in essence, that magic isn’t reserved for Festivals or Gatherings. Magic’s in the mundane, too. It’s everywhere; you could say the mundane is magic.
It’s in the kitchen too. If we think of magic as only occurring over a cauldron at an altar in the dead of night, we’re missing countless opportunities to connect with the magic that is all around us at every moment. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.” Your kitchen as an altar? I could see that. The food you create as alchemy? Why not?
You as the High Priest or Priestess of your kitchen? It’s all in how you look at it.
You can hear more of The Corner Crone during her Moments For Meditation on KPPR Pure Pagan Radio on TuneIn.