There’s a witchy/pagan meme that sometimes makes the rounds:
You: Being a witch must be so ethereal and dangerous. I imagine you walking through the woods, naked, after sunset, eating only the dew off the ferns. Exquisite. Divine. Otherworldly.
Me: There’s literally a bread holiday, Susan.
Many of us are up to our elbows in flour in these days leading up to Lammas, thinking about how our celebrations might embody themes of harvest. I’m no different, but today I want to examine bread—in this case, pizza dough—as a metaphor for the process of spiritual awakening.
If you make a yeasted bread of any sort, you already know there’s some real work that goes into kneading. I’m not going to head in the direction of human physical labor; instead, I want to look at what the mass of dough is enduring on its way to becoming a pizza crust.
The recipe I use involves a stand mixer and, after directing the baker to hand-mix the ingredients into a rough dough, the recipe instructs “using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 to 6 minutes, until it becomes a vaguely menacing mass.” You can see the Very Artistique Video I made of that process, below.
I think of words like “paddle” and “beat” (and another word later on in the recipe, “scrape”). Mixing this dough at high speed for 5 minutes—stand mixer gears screaming and bowl rocking and trembling and clanking under the onslaught of the paddle blurring through a sticky wet mass—well, that dough is beat to hell and back before it gets a chance to rest.
And isn’t that what it can feel like for us, when we’re in discernment about new spiritual insights? Or for that matter, when we’re enduring the seemingly never-ending onslaughts of COVID, of isolation and quarantine? As we Say Their Names? As we speak Truth to Power?
We can feel battered, beaten, and the furthest thing from proactive—we’re reactive, with only enough energy to respond to the stimuli—the hits—that just keep on coming. And sometimes we don’t even have enough energy to be reactive—we just keep spinning, trying to hold ourselves together as best we can. We may well feel like “a vaguely menacing mass”.
The dough gets scraped out onto an area made soft with flour; it’s folded in half to rest for 10 minutes. Sticky and sluggish, the dough takes several seconds to release from the confines of the mixing bowl and oozes down onto the surface. This action, too, feels familiar.
I think about how we, too, can feel so beat up that we simply crawl into bed—metaphorical or otherwise—almost too exhausted to breathe, almost too shocky to even think. When we’re feeling besieged it can be easy to lose our spiritual way—we can feel far from our deities or no longer fed by our practices.
How can we assimilate any new learnings or insights when we’re in such a state? If we’re lucky, we rest. After the pizza dough has had its 10 minutes on its softly floured bed, it’s divided into 2 equal pieces—a kind of mitosis, if you will. Each piece is gently rolled into a sphere, heavily dusted with flour, placed on an oiled plate, and loosely covered with plastic wrap. The dough at this point is pillow-soft, with good heft. It will rest undisturbed in a warm space for 3 hours or until it rises to be at least double its size.
This reminds me of what can happen to us when, resting under our metaphorical blankets, we too find the still, quiet place where we can begin to understand what has happened to us and how we can make meaning from it. Maybe that happens through meditation or journaling or heartfelt conversations with our most trusted friends and/or mentors. At some point, if we’re lucky and intentional, we might feel ourselves expanding as the meanings we make from our experiences are incorporated into our being.
At the end of 3 hours the dough is punched down, sealed in a plastic baggie, and refrigerated for 1 to 7 days. Metaphorically, I think of this last bit of the raw dough’s journey toward pizza crusthood in terms of The Hermit in tarot. The Hermit is about taking time for heart-searching and self-analysis, which happen most effectively in some form of isolation.
As we go through these sometimes-brutal experiences on the way to whatever it is we are going to spiritually become, we need some form of cave time. Time in the dark, dealing with whatever has been dumped into our Shadow selves. In human terms, wrestling with whatever we find in our dark places is something we must do as a crucial step in our journey toward spiritual wholeness.
Finally, after having gone through all of this—the beating and the scraping and the resting and the rising and the punching and the stasis—we are ready to reap what we have harvested, be that a pizza crust or a re-centering and re-focusing of our spiritual selves. We’re fed by the nutrients both physically and spiritually; we’ve restarted up our core and that energy once again feeds upon itself.
Yet even as we rejoice in the harvest – and we’ve earned some rejoicing time! – we’re still ever-aware that the seasons, our own seasons, are cyclical. Eventually, because we seek growth and deeper knowledge and because sometimes life is what happens while we’re making other plans, we’re going to have to endure the entire process of making spiritual meaning again. All things in their season, all purposes – and pizzas – in their time.
So, there you have it—my Pizza Dough Wisdom for you this Lammastide. May you bring in a worthy crop from all that you have worked to harvest, and may you be well.
You can hear more of The Corner Crone during her Moments For Meditation on KPPR Pure Pagan Radio on TuneIn.