I have been so busy with grad school that I have let my updates slip a little, but I have finally seemed to get a handle on my coursework. So, I’m back, and you can once more expect frequent updates!
Around this time of year, I start to think more and more about family, because this is the time of year when I am reminded of some of the losses I have experienced. By age seventeen both of my parents had died, and so I find myself grieving during the fall season. From my perspective, fall brings us the holidays that most exemplify the need for togetherness, family, and community, as we prepare for the long slumber that Winter
brings with her.
While thinking about my family this fall, I found myself remembering my favorite parts of family celebrations, and how magical those moments were, then it hit me. The memories that were playing in my mind were magical.
When we think about rituals in the neo-pagan paradigm, we envision circles, bonfires, twirling blades, and dancing in the moonlight. We also all have our different traditions concerning how rituals are appropriately performed, and the same goes for family gatherings. Going to a family party comes with expectations like what food you are going to eat and who is going to make the food to a post-meal movie outing with your cousins to listening to grandpa telling stories from his days in the war. Without these elements, family rituals can feel “Off” because the things that you enjoy are missing and the joy you get from it can be anywhere from absent to very different from before.
I made the connection between family gatherings and rituals when I realized, as in magic, the things that you do in that space, as well as the people who attend, have power, and give off their own energy. I remember the first Christmas my mother wasn’t there for; it was hollow and empty. My mother was a huge part of my life and without her presence, the magic of the holiday had died with her that year.
With my mind pointed toward the crossroads of Memory Lane and Writer’s Way, I realized how I would go about addressing a topic that I have wanted to talk about for a long time – first experiences with magic.
My first experience with magic was time spent in the kitchen with my aunts during the holidays. I was interested in what they were doing, and so, they taught me to bake. When I was a child, the number one thing that made christmas Christmas was the smell of my aunts’ houses after helping to churn out the holiday goodies, and in particular, my Aunt Rosie’s chocolate chip cookies.
As I grew older, I helped more and more with the baking and holiday meal prep. By the time I was in my twenties; I had begun to take on some of my Aunt Rosie’s responsibilities when she wasn’t feeling up to the task just like my cousin did before me. However, it is on very rare occasion that either my cousin or I manage to recreate the flavor of the dishes that became an essential part of every holiday. My personal boast is having perfectly replicated my aunt’s chocolate chip cookies on one lonely day in New York City. I’ve asked my Aunt Rosie about why my cousin nor I can ever make things like she does, and her response was because of La Mano – The Hand.
In my culture, we believe that when you are cooking, your hands add your own distinct flavor to a recipe, and therefore it can never be replicated. Looking at this cultural feature with neo-pagan eyes, I believe that my people are talking about the transfer of energy when talking about La Mano. If the cook is angry while working, it is thought (and personally witnessed by me) that the food will come out poorly, but if the person is filled with joy, it will be exquisite. Just as if a witch tries to heal someone with their heart full of malice, the quality of the healing will be quite weak.
Learning to bake as a child never crossed my mind as a magical act let alone magical training at the time. In my adulthood, though, I don’t recall as clearly any other moment when I first felt energy stir within me as powerfully as I did when I was helping in the kitchen. So, as it turns out, my first experience with magic was not the first time I cast a spell, nor the first time I invoked the old gods, but rather was a child’s lesson in baking cookies.
Thanks for reading and best wishes,