The Rituals of Welcoming & Cooking By Samantha Winters
I love ritual, and I love how accessible it has become in the holistic community that we are all apart of. Indeed, in “The Ritual of Intent and Mindfulness” by Stefano Tripney (from the last newsletter), Stefano made very clear the definition of ritual and what it could be for all of us; simply by practicing mindfulness we can make even the most common and mundane task a holy act. He gave us a bridge to access ritual in our day-to-days and our night-to-nights. Sending Stefano a multitude of gratitude, I am going to take this one step further and say that for me:
Ritual is synonymous with self-care.
Like all things, ritual takes practice. Mindfulness takes practice. It takes trial and error, discovering what you like, discovering who you are, really. Were I a betting woman I would wager that a very high percentage of us, even those of us in the holistic community who are aware of its importance, often forget to practice self-care. My friend, Lina Skukauske touched upon this in her article in March’s newsletter. While self-love and self-care are two separate things, each encompasses the other – almost like an infinite loop with self-love and self-care being the two visible loops.
Ritualizing our lives is a deliberate choice to put self-care at or near the top of our priority list.
I am a hearth-woman, and being a cancer in both my sun and moon signs, those who are astrologically inclined will know that my home is my most favorite place. Through the aforementioned trial and error I have learned that homemaking in all of its different branches provides me the most comfort, and it is in the home – particularly the kitchen – where almost all of my rituals take place; in alignment, of course, with our earth.
Within the last few years I have done significant research into my heritage, particularly my Scottish/pagan heritage, and my most favorite rituals stem from it. They combine cooking and celebrating the earth, its seasons, and every blessing nature offers within each. I believe that feeling one’s connection with nature reinforces our human connectedness to all things in the universe, solidifies our own particular feelings of purpose while on our life journeys, and creates a will to live consciously in all areas of life. My way of doing this begins here with one of welcome and merriment, and food, and it is my hope that by sharing with you some of my rituals they bring you some comfort, and that they make you closer to the earth and to your Self.
Let me welcome you into my home at this last spoke along the earthen Wheel. Let me embrace you after you cross the threshold, like the old friends that we are. While we drink tea, or one of Iris’s elixirs, or coffee, or wine, or beer together, while we break bread – tell me of your life, of your happiness and sadness and passions and complexities. Tell me of your favorite foods and music, your heritage, your favorite places in the world.
Lughnasadh – August 1
Lughnasadh (loo-nah-sah) is the first of three harvest celebrations and in my house it is the beginning of the autumnal season. On this day we discuss and celebrate hard work – be it physical or the mental/spiritual work done on oneself, accomplished goals, transformation and change, and we voice gratitude for garden abundance, and abundance in life.
Had I the pleasure of having you in my home last week for Lughnasadh, you’d have found it full of fresh vegetables and fruit from the garden, a pile of zucchini so high you’d need a step stool. You would have the sweetness of a warm, fresh cherry tomato still in your mouth from a bite. You’d have found a small vat of local cream in the fridge; my daughter’s leftover breakfast on the counter, and the countertop would smell slightly of dill and vinegar. Upon sitting in my hearth room you’d see bundles of grasses and lavender and marigolds for late summer wreath making.
I’d bring out a tray for us.
On it would be a small dish of honey, fresh butter, a basket of bannocks, and depending on the hour, fresh coffee or cold beer. Sweet bannocks are a traditional Scottish treat for Lughnasadh, and are some of the simplest oatcakes to make. The original recipe for these was found in the cookbook “Outlander Kitchen”, however I altered the recipe a bit. Here it is for you.
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus additional for kneading)
1 cup coarsely ground rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 heaping tablespoon kosher salt
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup buttermilk (I make my own by adding 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to ½ cup milk – let it stand for around 15 minutes so the milk thickens!)
- To grind oats, place them in a food processor and pulse 5-6 times for meal, taking care to leave some full flakes. If you have the time, you could also use a mortar and pestle.
- Heat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Grate in the cold butter. I use a whisk to mix it into the dry ingredients as I grate it.
- In a separate bowl stir together the milk and the buttermilk.
- Add the combined milk to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to make a sticky dough. It will seem like there isn’t enough liquid at first.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Press it together with your hands. Knead it lightly five or six times, working in enough flour so that the dough isn’t sticky to the touch.
- Pat it (or roll) into a (roughly) 8x8 inch square, ½ inch thick. I use a fine edge and slice the dough into rustic shapes; some square, some rectangle, some triangle. Place them on your baking sheet and bake until they’re barely golden, 12-15 minutes.
- Let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
- We eat ours warm with butter and honey, cheese, or smeared with a raw blackberry or two. (If you try them, please reach out to me and let me know).
The first of these rituals is welcoming you. Inviting someone, stranger or friend, so near. So here we would be, nibbling on bannocks and beginning the process of finding Source within each other. Becoming friends, becoming closer friends. When you cross that threshold into my home from one space into another – such a sacred thing – know that I am your keeper, know that you are safe, loved, and welcome.
I find myself in you. I find love in you.
The second… whether it’s kneading the dough for the bannocks (or something as simple as folding freshly laundered white clothes), feel the wonder and power of your working hands. Look at the marvelous ingredients from the earth before you and feel the divinity working through you. The god or the goddess working through you, becoming you. I never feel more connected to anything and everything than I do when I am cooking. All at once you are a part of a ritual as old as humanity itself, an act of alchemy, taking a few simple things and creating something beautiful from them.
It is the ultimate personal act of self-care, ritualizing, isn’t it? Whatever rituals may be for you I hope to one day know them. I hope to hear them from you and learn from you, your ways of self-care.
Until then I will be in my kitchen celebrating the sabbats with my family, waiting for you with an open door.
Samantha is a hearth-woman; an army wife and a mother, and holds a master's degree in African Politics. Her mission is to lead others to rediscover their divinity. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and can be found barefooted in the garden or the kitchen with her daughter in tow.
Connect with Samantha and follow her journey via Instagram