Leftovers in the Druid Kitchen

SpätzleTischHas that happened to you? You have bought this gigantic container of baby spinach leaves or arugula for that one fancy salad or as a garnish for a meal you made for your friends on the weekend. And now it’s the middle of the week, the half empty plastic receptacles clutter your fridge, and you just cannot have another one of these salads.

And throwing perfectly good food away is just out of the question; maybe because you’re on the Druid path, or otherwise tuned in. So what to do?

Well, one way of processing these leftovers is to work them into some nouvelle cuisine Spätzle. Because typically, you have all the ingredients for that at home.

INGREDIENTS

Spätzle (basic recipe)
2 cups of flour
3 eggs
1 cup of milk
Salt


Additional ingredients
Arugula, spinach leaves, or leek (1-2 handful)
1-2 cups parmesan (or other) cheese


Sauce
2 to 3 slices of bacon (optional)
Butter (if not using bacon)
Fresh garlic
(Light) Cream
1/8 Tsp dried stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
Pepper
For the Spätzle, put a large pot with water on the stove and bring to a bowl.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, milk and salt. Add flour, the leftover leafy ingredients, and the cheese and mix with a cooking spoon until you have a thick, sticky batter.

SpätzleBatter
Basic batter. If you add other ingredients (green leaves, cheese), it’s easier to do that right away

While waiting for the water to boil, cut the bacon into small cubes and heat up slowly in a small, deep skillet. Fry until slightly crisp. For the vegetarian version, heat up butter until foaming. Add chopped garlic and stir. When the garlic turns light brown, add light cream (about a cup) and heat up (watch to avoid overboiling). Once the sauce is hot, add the dried stock and stir until solved. Let the sauce simmer on low heat to reduce.

SpätzleArugula

Chop leaves, but not too fine to create a crunchier taste

When the water for the Spätzle is at a roaring boil, add salt. Take a small wooden cutting board, dunk it into the boiling water, dunk a big spoon into the boiling water, and slap some of the sticky batter on the wet board. (The water on the tools helps avoid having the batter stick to them, so do that frequently).

Hold the board on the edge of the pot, and, with a straight knife or any tool with a straight edge (be sure to use one that doesn’t get hot, or has a handle), flatten the batter on the board, cut pieces off and slide them into the pot. After you have processed a load of batter (two big spoons full), let the water come to a boil again and wait until all Spätzle swim on the surface. See video below.

SpätzleKochen

Bring water to a heavy boil, but then take Spätzle out quickly, so that they don’t get soggy

Take the Spätzle out with a spoon with holes and set aside in a container. Repeat until all batter is processed.
SpätzleBratpfanne

 

 

In a heavy skillet, preferably a cast iron one, heat up some butter and brown the Spätzle. Serve hot with sauce poured over them.

Salad greens, maybe with tomatoes, radishes, and cucumber freshen up the meal.

The writer is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps” on how to weave Alpine lore and customs into your own spiritual practice.

Available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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665 + 1 Omen

IMG_5751For the past few weeks, when my daughter’s team had a game on their home turf, and I stood at the edge of the field, subbing them in and out and frantically trying to instill into them the entire tactical concept of soccer while they sit on the bench for a couple of minutes, panting and gulping down some water, a crane (the bird) has flown over the field.

A crane. I’m a Druid. There are crane bags in Druidry. Cranes mean a lot to Druids. Does this crane flying over me every other Saturday mean something? Is it an omen?

No. It’s just a crane flying between a couple of bodies of water, probably with food for its kids in its stomach, which it will vomit out right into their throats. It’s not an omen. Nor was that owl in the picture above that visited us one evening in our back yard. We just have a lot of chipmunks.

When strolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds, I often run into questions posted like, “I’m at an amusement park, and see a lot of crows. Is that telling me something?”

I am really glad that more and more people build an awareness that there is much more to the reality we all experience, to the apparent world. It is healthy when we connect with the Otherworld, or just peek beyond the veil every now and then. Let’s just make sure that this remains healthy, and does get out of proportion.

So, let’s unpack this omen business for a moment.

When we talk omens, for example the meaning of the appearance of certain animals, we are already in the midst of talking about Magic. And every time we talk about Magic we talk about an intent and a mode of manifesting that intent. Typically, this mode is a ritual. Sometime, this ritual is highly verbalized, a spell. And then we need to understand that there needs to be a “transmitter” of the intent, so that, even though we sit here, the manifestation can happen over there. This transmitter is, in many cultures, seen as some kind of energy that flows through everything and everyone. The most commonly (relative to the world population) used term for that energy is ch’i or ki. Many other cultures have different words for that. In Druidry, we call it Nwyfre.

When we practice Magic, we manipulate that energy, that connecting life force. This manipulation is rather limited, comparable to manipulating wind when sailing. We cannot change the wind’s direction entirely, but a little bit by maneuvering the sail in such a way that the actual wind drives us forward, thus creating head wind. Which in turn, actually changes the direction of the natural wind just a bit, just around the boat. And faster we go.

So, if omens are part of Magic, there is necessarily some Nwyfre involved. It comes in as a direct link between the Omen and the person to which it presents itself. It’s just there for the moment, when the person and, for example, a crow are suddenly connected, directly linked by that life giving energy. For an instance in time a space, person and whatever presents as the omen share the same vibration of the life force.

Now, why does that happen? Again, we are talking Magic here, about intent and manifestation. And since the Omen is the latter, it follows that the Magus had to have conjure it through their intent. When we look at ancient reports, the first ones describing Druids of antiquity looking at the sky to watch the flight of birds and interpret it, we see clearly that this didn’t happen by chance. The Druid didn’t hopscotch through the village of thatch roofed roundhouses, chatting with the smith and the fish vendor about the latest gossip and whoops, a flock of birds revealed the fate of tribe.
No, the Druid would prepare for the public bird flight pattern viewing, don their Druid garment (probably not a white robe, but something official), maybe imbibe some psychoactive drink, have their helpers lead them to an auspicious place of observation, and invoke the Gods of old to ask them for an Omen. And whatever happened then, was one.
In other words, the Druid would have built up the energy, linked themselves into Nwyfre through ritually formulating their intent, and then observe its manifestation.
The stag that stared at the Druid last night when he took a piss at the edge of the forest during the feast was not an omen; just an animal weighing flight or fight.

I just described the situation using Druids. But the same counts for High and other Priestesses and Priests, Witches and what have you.

Intent – ritual (mode) – omen (manifestation).

However, sometimes it does occur that something happens out of the blue, like a murder of crows rises from the trees all around you, cawing like mad. And then you get one of these immediate insights. You know exactly what they meant. Yes, that’s an omen, too. And when you think about it, it most likely happened when you were somewhat spaced out, not really anchored fully in reality. Well, even though there was no conscious intent, there was one sub-consciously. And yes, you linked up with Nwyfre through your daydreaming (as some call it). These omens happen, but they are rare.

More often than not, if you want to conjure an omen, you prepare yourself for it, link into Nwyfre (or however you call that life energy) and see what happens. Caitlin Matthews describes one where you would, on a Monday morning before you do anything else, walk around the hearth three times, sunwise, then open the front door, and, while standing in the doorway, observe what happens.
So you have a liminal time (dawn at the beginning of a week), express your intent through a ritual (walking around the hearth), and position yourself in a liminal place (the doorway).
Or, an old Alpine tradition for a young woman to ask for an omen telling her whom she will have as a husband is to stand in the barn door (liminal place) on the night of December 24th (at the end of the three days of the Winter Solstice, a liminal time) and listen to the sounds around her. Sound will give her a clue of the profession of her future husband.

So, by all means, look for omens – intentionally. And be as much aware of omens you conjure through unintended spacing out in deep, meditative thought.

The rest of the time, don’t worry about the black cat crossing your path.

 

The writer is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps” on how to weave Alpine lore and customs into your own spiritual practice.

Available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

BuchVorderseite

 

 

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Paganism, Rules and Dogma

BlurryIt seems to me that my Druid colleague John Becket and I are more often than not picking up on the same vibes. Once again, as I was struggling with this blog post, John posted one that helped me come to terms with what I was trying to say (thanks, John). In one of his blog posts, “Pagansim Doesn’t Need Unity” he lays out that the important element of paganism is not unifying behind one holy truth, but to create enough robust versions of Paganism so that the beliefs and practices survive in the future.

That is all good, and I wholeheartedly agree with John. I also do so on another stance of his, where he writes:

While we have an obligation to respect the religions of others (at least those that are worthy of respect – I don’t respect Christian fundamentalism and I don’t respect Pagan folkishness) we also have an obligation to examine beliefs and practices in terms of their truth and in terms of their helpfulness.
Sometimes this means we tell someone “if that’s helpful to you, fine, but it’s not true.“

This is where John struck the string of my mind’s harp, and it resonated with a recent discussion on social media. There I read a lament of a Druid friend of mine, where he shared his horrible experiences at a Pagan gathering in the Midwest of the United States. In his account of what he witnessed he mentioned that there were constant physical and verbal altercations, spell-cursing, heavy drinking and other substance use, and general alt-right behavior. My friend summarized the attitude at the gathering – the name of which he didn’t share – with the words:

After all, pagans aren’t supposed to have ‘rules’

And…let’s stop right here. Because no, that is absolutely not what Paganism is about. Because, no. because that’s where I would say, if I was as nice as John, “if that’s helpful to you, fine, but it’s not true!”

For me, it’s not even “fine”.

I guess in the land of the free one has to accept this kind of thinking as much as any other, but please don’t be mislead that unruliness makes one a Pagan. You can be unruly, rude, violent and generally a jerk as a member of any faith. No need to convert to Paganism if that’s what you’re after.

Yes, I do get where this idea comes from. Paganism is not dogmatic. There are no rules as in “if you’re a Pagan, then you have to believe x”. But that’s it in regards to anything that could possibly fall under the “no rules” attribute of Paganism. Any other moral value of our advanced society as homo sapiens sapiens still apply when you’re Pagan. Beating up your camp comrade (as it seems to happen at such Pagan gatherings) makes you as much of a jerk as it did 2,000 years ago in pre-Christian times.

And don’t be fooled that while the times back then were rougher, that there were no rules. There were quite many, and freedom of speech, just as an example, was not one of them. Unless you were a wealthy land owner with their own homestead and entourage, you pretty much didn’t have any say in anything, and just worked your butt off 16 hours a day, seven days a week. No vacation to go to a Pagan camp, mind you.

Oh no, there were plenty of rules in Pagan times; what you can wear, where you can sit, with whom you can talk, what piece of meat you get at the feast etc. etc. And general unruliness got you killed by those in power – which were not necessarily those with the greatest physical strength.

Again the behavior described above is simple unruliness, while what makes Pagan attractive to many, and should attract more, is the lack of dogma. That you can find what’s true for you by choosing your own path.

But even there some extend the no-dogma idea beyond what it is meant for. I say that because what I read and hear frequently in discussions amongst Pagans is the claim of some that they don’t follow one essential rule – we might even want to call that almost a dogma – the rule the Wiccans call Rede, the Druids call the Law of the Harvest, and many call by the more general term “Karma”.
Again, “if that’s helpful to you, fine, but it’s not true!” Or, more precisely: It doesn’t really mean anything when one says “I don’t follow these rules.” It’s like if you’d say, “I don’t follow stop signs.” That doesn’t make the stop signs disappear, does it? And it sure as hell does not exempt one from the consequences when breaking the rule and being caught. So, even if one claims not to follow these particular Pagan rules, that does not affect the rules as such. The stay in place, and you will be subject to them, no matter your personal belief (or non-belief). You can ignore them, but that will not mean they will ignore you.

So please, in our quest to bring Paganism to a more robust place in society, embrace the non-dogmatic essence of our movement, but don’t discredit and possibly destroy it with mere unruliness.

DSC00082

 

Unless it’s December 5th and you’re one of them. But that’s an entirely different story.

 

 

 

The writer is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps” on how to weave Alpine lore and customs into your own spiritual practice.

Available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

BuchVorderseite

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Gender Equality Is the New Alchemy

The-FferylltSometimes, when I lie still in my bed and sleep has not come yet, I have those deep thoughts. Questions, really. One example: “Why is gender equality so important to me?” And when I say “important”, it’s not just like that I say “I stand with women” in opportune moments, or click “like” on social media posts about gender equality. It’s more like that I get upset when I notice inequality, yap back at posters and go down rabbit holes with trolls even though I know it makes no difference. Or does it? It goes so far that I was personally touched, and proud, when a known feminist TV personality started following me on Twitter.

I mean, I am a man, right? A husband, father, boss, assistant soccer coach. For all intents and purposes, I should be happy about being privileged in terms of gender, too (I am also a Caucasian European). So wouldn’t me supporting gender equality be like shooting into my own foot? No, it’s not like that by far, but I do ask myself why.

So much so that, late at night, those darker thoughts and questions pop up, eventually.  Thoughts like ‘What’s going on here? Is there something wrong with me? Am I just brown-nosing women? Having ulterior motives? Or am I a weak specimen of my own gender? Or, what if I am subconsciously transgender, want to be a woman and just want to make sure that I wouldn’t lose out if I turned into one, in terms of privileges and money?’
I know, right? Sounds like psych-hypochondria.

Typically, I fall asleep before I find any answer to these questions, though.

But thanks to the Gods, there are two locations and times where answers come to me as easy as pie. In the bathroom, and, believe it or not, on the subway. The revelation about my question at hand came in the latter.

See, I am a modern Druid. So I have an app for Philip Carr-Gomm’s DruidCraft tarot deck on my phone. I use it when I do a tarot reading and need some help interpreting a card (much easier than schlepping the book with me). And, on my morning commute on the subway, I check the “Card of the Day” offered by the app. It helps me memorizing the deck.

So here I sit one morning on the T (as we call the subway in Boston, Massachusetts), rumbling along, and today’s card is XIV of the Major Arcana, the Fferyllt. In standard tarots that would be the Temperance card. And there I read:

The traditional name for [this fourteenth] card [of the Major Arcana] is Temperance, which comes from the Latin temperare, which means to blend and harmonize opposing factors. This process is fundamentally alchemical and touches upon the central theme of DruidCraft, depicted in the alchemical tale of Ceridwen and Taliesin, and ritually enacted within the Great Rite.

[…] You may find that you are in a position to restore harmony among competing factions.

And then, amidst all that shaking an bouncing on the train, the announcements for the next station and the chatter of people riding the T together, it dawns on me. The answer to last nights late contemplative and uncomfortable questions:

Gender equality, for me, is pure alchemy.

Not the alchemy of making gold out of lead. But the much grander alchemy of finding, nay, creating The Balance. Between everything really (race, age, ableness, what have you), and particularly between the masculine and the feminine. And it’s not like that this is just a philosophical quest. No, I need that balance around me, I thrive on it. It is that alchemical equilibrium what makes me feel well embedded in my environment, gives me the sense of a calm and serene surrounding that must not be tempered with. (And if that balance is disturbed, I let people know what I think about it.)

Have I mentioned that I am a Libra?

So for me, and hopefully for many more of my fellow homo sapiens sapiens, restoring that harmony between the genders, that equilibrium that has been out of balance for millennia, is not a mere progressive fad of the day, but a true Druidic calling.


 

The writer is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps” on how to weave Alpine lore and customs into your own spiritual practice.

Available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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Finding Solace in the Old Gods

Rauris GlockenblumenWE LIVE in somewhat tumultuous times. Not the most tumultuous times the world has ever seen, but certainly when I look back at the past 50 or so years of my own life. What it exactly is, I cannot really say. It’s just too many things adding up, and it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint it down to one particular cause. But it has certainly to do with the fact that we are so connected these days, through internet and social media. And with that, we have access to literally billions of opinions, making it harder and harder to decipher what is true, what is a spin of the truth, and what is just plain and simply made up.

Another factor in this mix of Angst and agony is terrorism. Obviously. Although I have to say that I have witnessed terrorism since I was about eight, when the assassination of Jewish athletes was carried out by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Later, I remember, as a student on a field trip, I was scraping out hand grenade shrapnel from the walls of the Synagogue in Vienna, years after a terrorist attack there. When commuting to the University of Vienna in the 1980, passing by the Turkish embassy when riding the streetcar was accompanied by some anxiety after Kurdish bomb attacks there. And let us not forget the mayhem the IRA caused in Northern Ireland and England, the kidnappings of industrial magnates by the German RAF or the train station bombings by the Italian Brigate Rosse. So it’s nothing new to me. But again, the complete and utter interconnectedness puts everything front and center right away.

Back then, the consensus was to report on these terrorist activities, but not let any terrorist organization get into our heads, paralyze us with fear. Nowadays, it’s not only them, it’s government officials who strike fear in us with tweets, making us afraid of those very people who try to make us afraid in the first place. Everyone runs around in fear these days. If not fear struck because of the activities of those who made it their life purpose to drown their fellow human beings in terror, we are made afraid by our governments – or those who aspire to govern – that someone could terrorize us. It is a vicious circle.

A cycle I feel the need to escape, et least every now and then!

AS A DRUID, I do have a number mechanisms to do that, and I wanted to pick out one that helps me find solace despite this whirlwind of information and the tsunami of Angst we are exposed to constantly. And no, not as simple as ‘oh, I think a little bit about the Gods and Goddesses and the world is fine.’ It is much deeper than that.

First, I purposefully connect with the Old Gods. Not because the later Gods, the pantheons of Greek, Roman, and particularly (for me) Norse and Celtic provenience aren’t good enough, but because the latter are more humanlike than the Old Ones. There is a very important reason for why the older Gods help me more in these situations. It’s because whatever Gods are for us individually, they reflect us, the human species on a divine level. This allows as to identify and communicate with them, makes as understand them much better on our level. But that’s not what I am after here.

The Old Gods are not that easy to conceptualize. Belenus, (D)Anu, Taranis, Teutates, and Esus/Cernunnuos are not the Sun, Earth, the Sky, and Nature in human form, but they are the very essence of exactly what they are, the Sun, Earth, the Sky, and Nature. They are everything that encompasses these basic elements of our lives, but in a grander scheme. While the Welsh Goddess Rhiannon weds and loves her husband in the Mabinogi in an almost human way, the old Earth Mother Danu loves all creatures in a very equal way. She loves the worm that eventually eats our brain (unless we choose cremation) as much as the mosquito that causes disease for us, and as much as the bear that has enough strength to rip us apart with its bare paws. Taranis conjures the weather as needed and as appropriate, no matter our wishes. And Cernunnos, Nature, nurtures us as much as he can take over whole cities in a few years, levelling to the ground grand structures erected by us humans as if they were sandcastles.

Worshipping an awesome force like the Old Gods thus puts one’s own life into a different perspective. One that sheds all anthropomorphisms like specs of mud from the skin. Praying to them for special treatment, because we are humans, is absolutely futile. There’s barely any identification with these forces possible either; no comparing oneself to Taranis like one could try to compare oneself to Loki, claiming to be just as much a trickster at that Æsir God. We are so much not like them. They have been there since the beginning, and they will be there long after our species has vanished.

Sounds somewhat like a Debbie downer, doesn’t it? We are nothing and they are everything? So why bother?

Well, because Cernunnos, Belenus, Danu, Taranis and Teutates do love us – just not more than anything or anyone else. But also not less. And, more importantly, they are absolutely open to receive our love, our devotion. In fact, despite them being so awesomely powerful, we are still responsible for their well-being. We need to do everything in our power – as little as that might be – to keep them from harm. Not sure how to go about that with Belenus, the Sun, to be honest. But it seems very clear to me what can be done to protect the Earth, the Sea, the Sky, Nature.

A LITTLE BOY once made me realize how deep my own love for our Mother Earth goes. It was during a Samhain ritual with my Druid Grove in Massachusetts, shortly after Fukoshima had happened, that I dedicated some time of the rite for anyone who wanted to say something to Danu, bring some offerings and whatnot. So I crouched down in the center of the circle and patted the ground, saying while choking up, ‘I am so sorry, mom” Then this three or four year old boy comes over to me into the center, also squats down with the ease of a kid of his age, looks me in the eye, and asks, ‘Is that really your mom?’

As cute as that was, it showed me one thing above all. That little dude felt my deep connection to the Earth, maybe even more than I would ever be able to feel myself. There was no doubt in his mind that I meant it. All that was confusing to him was how that would work.

So yes, you can worship, even love these grand Gods of old, find solace in there mere existence and in their love for you, even though you have to share this love with everything else on this Earth, or this Universe. Or, actually, exactly because of that. Considering that vastness, just imagine how big their love really is.

Altaussee

The writer is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps” on how to weave Alpine lore and customs into your own spiritual practice.

Available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

BuchVorderseite

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Schoolkids Are The New American Revolutionaries

madkinggeorge

I am watching the news coverage of the Marches for Life all over the US today with a proud, yet bleeding heart. Being a Druid, the quintessential Triad (guiding principals expressed in threes) defining my spiritual path comes to mind:

Three tasks of the Druid:
To live fully in the presence;
To honor traditions and the ancestors;
To listen to the whispers of the future

I can’t but live fully in the presence, surrounded by news of violence, watching kids being forced by their circumstances (yes, I am saying that) to give speeches while at the same time re-living the madness of being exposed to bullets buzzing around their heads, brutally tearing the life out of their friends. PTS, Post Traumatic Stress, halts their presentations as they choke down tears and overwhelming emotions. Pray that this PTS will not become a Disorder. But I fear that prayer will not be heard for the most part.

Following the Triad, let me look back into the past, and honor the ancestors of these kids. No, not only MLK, or the suffragettes. Who comes to mind are groups of hard working people in a British Colony, subjugated to laws and processes that kept them from creating their prosperity, who were not allowed to vote, and who were dying left and right because those who assumed the power to rule – a mad king and his government – thought of the status quo as unchangeable, God-given.
These groups, who became known to history as the American Revolutionaries, gathered to listen to speeches about how they had enough of this injustice, how the government’s pigheadedness has become a danger to life and prosperity, and how they need to take matters into their own hands. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Now, when I am taking to heart the third task of the Druid, to listen to the whispers of the future, I foresee that these New American Revolutionaries, speaking and marching and crying for their departed peers, will invite the current establishment to a Tea Party the land hasn’t seen before. Go out and vote in 2018!

This is my prophecy.

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Celebrate the Spring Equinox With a Seasonal Dinner

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Thirteen days from now, the Earth’s path around Belenus, the Shiny One, the Eye in the Skye, will reach a point where the Sun is lined up with the Equator. He will be exactly midway between the Tropical of Cancer and that of Capricorn, the most northern and southern, respectively, reaches of our own star in his trail through the azure dome we call the heavens. While the Tropicals are much different from each other – Cancer is a water sign of summer, whereas Capricorn an earth sign of winter – just as the solstices are, which happen when the Sun reaches either one of these latitudes, the Sun crossing the Equator means the times of the Equinoxes. Times when day and night are of equal length. Anyone noticed the accumulation of the prefix “equ” here, indicating a time of balance?

Yes, this is the time when we celebrate an equilibrium in Nature, a tipping point when the land finally escapes the claws of winter and awakens to the joys of summer. And all the work associated with that subsequent season, especially for the farmers. Remember them, the folks providing our food?

Many on the path of Druidry, or of other Pagan faiths, feel that attunement with the seasons is an important component of their work. Is it a tradition of old? Or a rather new invention, this Wheel of the Year, the celebration of the stations of the Sun? Being one with the churn of the seasons has definitely been an essential feature since the Neolithic era, when nomadic hunter-gatherers turned into farmers. Maybe the seasons weren’t that much celebrated back then, because they were such an integral part of life anyway. Or maybe less celebrated by the farm folk, but more acknowledged by Druids and other Pagan celebrants. Who knows for sure? Ronald Hutton maybe. He wrote a book about it.

May that be as it is, I find the attunement to the seasons is of utter importance to us today, particularly to those of us who live in ways no longer determined by the seasons. Because if we want strawberries, we just go to the store and buy some. Not too long ago, even when I was a kid, we had to wait until they grow in our land. Now I grab them from a shelf. We are utterly detached from the coming and going of the seasons, often enough flee them when they become too harsh for us, too cold or too hot. And therefore, no matter the age of that tradition, it is a wise idea to celebrate these stations of the Sun. The Vernal Equinox coming up next.

That said, I won’t go into too much depth about the meaning of the Spring Equinox, for that can be read about in countless blog entries and social media posts around this time; also in books, I might add, which may give you a better sense of the truth of the matter.

What I would like to talk about today is food. Which is why this blog entry comes two weeks in advance of the day, to give you ample time to prepare for the menu I am suggesting later on.

But: why food? Well, to be honest, at least in the European culture in which I grew up, everything is about food. Even when sitting at the table ingesting the food in front of us, we talk about food. But not only that. Food played a big role in our (European) ancestor’s lives. There were laws about who is to sit where at the table, gets their food on what kind of dishes, and who gets what cut of the meat. Food found its way not only into law, but also into literature. In the stories of the Welsh Mabinogi, thirteen banquets are mentioned, some described in much detail, and we encounter phrases similar to “going to feast” over sixty times in the text. Here is an example:

And they retired that night, and the next day Arthur prepared to depart. “My lord,” said Owain, “this is not well of thee; for I have been absent from thee these three years, and during all that time, up to this very day, I have been preparing a banquet for thee, knowing that thou wouldst come to seek me. Tarry with me, therefore, until thou and thy attendants have recovered the fatigues of the journey, and have been anointed.” And they all proceeded to the Castle of the Countess of the Fountain, and the banquet which had been three years preparing was consumed in three months. Never had they a more delicious or agreeable banquet.

Talking about celebrating something with a dinner.

So let me suggest a menu for a Spring Equinox banquet, as it would be traditional in the Alps. There are some alternatives to the recipe for folks who don’t have access to some of the ingredients. And, as a heads up: the main course is not vegan/vegetarian.

The menu was chosen to reflect the time of year. Wild garlic is a plant that only grows in early spring. When you forage yourself, however, be careful to not confuse it with Lily of the Valley. If you do, you may die. Seriously. Although it is hard to confuse, wild garlic smells like, well, garlic, and Lily of the Valley doesn’t. But you always want to be certain. So, you might either buy the leaves at the market, or substitute with leek.

Lamb is the meat of the season for a good reason: the ewes gave birth to them six weeks ago, and the farms had an abundance of them in spring. Sacrificing one of them for the Equinox celebration was not something folks of old did light-heartedly. They would choose the one that would most likely not make it, and considering that any animal needs fodder and space to roam, these restrictions were always something farmers had to work with. And, it was a sacrifice after all, a choice that pleased the Gods, hard as it may have been for the people.

Finally, as a desert, we (that would be my late father, who wrote up the recipes, and I) suggest one of m favorites: Kaiserschmarren.

With spring at the doorstep, the supply with eggs is improving again, cows produce more milk, and we need to use up the flour of last year before it goes bad. What better way to use these simple ingredients to transform them into a dish that was a favourite of His Majesty Emperor Franz Joseph I. of Habsburg, last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918. Legend has it that the Kaiser (German for emperor), who was a passionate hunter, decided to rest at an alpine hut one day. His entourage asked the dairy maid living up there to make some food for the emperor. The poor soul, completely taken by surprise, had no choice other than make this traditional fluffy pancake, ripped apart before serving (i.e. making a mess, a Schmarren, out of it). She sprinkled it with sugar and served it. Franz Josef was quite content and asked the woman to give the recipe to his entourage, so that they can relay it to his court’s pastry chef.

So far the legend.

It is true that his Majesty liked the dessert and often demanded it after his meals. And he may have learned about it during one of his hunting trips. But the sweet dish has been known for centuries before the Emperor’s reign. It was very popular amongst the Kaser, the folks living in Alpine huts over summer, herding cattle and making butter and cheese. The German word for cheese is Käse, or in Alpine dialect, Kas. So it was the messy pancake of the Kaser originally, only later dedicated to Emperor himself.

lambstew

INGREDIENTS

4 Cups Beef broth
2 Hands full wild garlic leaves (or 2 stalks of leek)
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt
White pepper
½ to 1 Cup heavy cream

wildgarlicsoup

WILD GARLIC SOUP

Blanch the wild garlic leaves and set aside. Melt the butter in the soup pot; add the finely chopped onion and sauté over medium heat until glassy. Add the flour and stir continuously to avoid clumps. Keep sautéing until the flour turns ever so slightly yellow. Pour in the soup while still stirring. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Now add the blanched wild garlic leaves – except for two or three – to the soup, then the heavy cream.

When the soup is done, purée it with a blender (immersion if available).

Cut the remaining whole wild garlic leaves in fine stripes and use them as garnish when serving.

INGREDIENTS

1.5 lb Boneless lamb shoulder
1 Celery root
2 Carrots
1 Parsley root
3 to 4 Shallots
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Flour
2 to 3 thick slices of breakfast bacon
Pepper and salt
Rosemary and thyme
1-3 Garlic toes cut in tiny cubes
Beef or vegetable soup (optional, mixed with white wine)
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tsp. red berries to garnish
200 g Tagliatelle (wide noodle pasta)

LAMB STEW

Peel the shallots and cut into quarters. Chop the root vegetables in slices. Set aside. Cut the lamb shoulder into one inch pieces. In a pot big enough for the meat and the soup, mix the lamb with the spices and briefly sauté in hot olive oil. Dust with flour. Add the bacon and keep frying. When the bacon is crusty, add the chopped root vegetables, the shallots, and the garlic. Sauté until the garlic turns golden, and then pour soup in until the contents of the pot is fully covered. Let the stew simmer for about two hours.

When the lamb meat is turning soft towards the end of the two hours, mix the corn starch with cold water and add to the boiling stew. The liquid should become viscid like chowder.

Cook the pasta according to the specifications from the producer. From Italians I have heard the recommendation that the process of cooking noodles should be as follows: Fill a large pot with water – a large quantity of water ensures that the starch in the pasta dissolves and doesn’t act like glue – and bring the water to a boil. Only then add salt, and then the noodles. Reduce to medium heat and stir so that the noodles don’t stick together. Check the consistency of the noodles frequently to catch them right at the point where they are al dente. Drain the water in a strainer, but don’t rinse. Melt butter or heat olive oil in the pot the noodles were cooked in and return the strained pasta there.

INGREDIENTS

6 Egg whites
6 Egg yolks
2 Tbsp sour cream
5 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
200 g Flour
1 Cup milk
1 Large apple
Walnuts
Salt
8 Tbsp Butter

kaiserschmarren

KAISERSCHMARREN

Mix the milk with the egg yolk, the vanilla extract, sour cream and the flour to a smooth batter. Beat the egg white and the sugar to a stiff peak. Carefully fold the beaten egg whites in the batter.

Heat a tsp of butter in a large, flat pan (clad iron is best), reduce the heat to low and pour the batter in. Bake until golden on the bottom and bubbles appear on the surface. Flip the pancake over and continue to bake.

When the other side is golden brown as well, rip the pancake into pieces (don’t cut). That makes it into a Schmarren, a mess. Sprinkle sugar over it and brown slightly in the oven, preheated to 400 F (200 C).

While the Kaiserschmarren is baking, chop the apple into small pieces. In small pan, melt sugar and butter and add the apple and the walnuts and caramelize. Take the Kaiserschmarren out of the oven, mix in the apples and walnuts, and serve garnished with powder sugar.

When it needs to go faster: Mix milk, flour, salt and the whole eggs together and bake on both sides in the pan. Process apples, walnuts as described above, and mix under the torn apart pancake pieces. This version doesn’t make the Kaiserschmarren as fluffy though.

Drinks:   For the lamb stew we recommend a light red wine and for the Kaiserschmarren a sweet white wine (Muskat) or a strong Chardonnay.

This recipe and seven others, for all eight stations on the Wheel of the Year, can be found in the book “Steinkreis, Stosuppn’n und Grüner Veltliner – Österreichische Küche im Keltischen Jahreskreis”. Currently only available in German, but it’s being translated into English currently.
Get the German version at amazon.de

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For other musings over the ancient Celts, please consider my book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps”, available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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