Tag Archives: wine

Dionysus: God of many brews

x wine drinker

Dionysus is a popular god, for obvious reasons. At first glance, his rites look an awful lot like wild parties. And it’s true, one of the things he’s really good at is breaking down barriers and societal conventions. But the purpose behind all that mayhem isn’t simply to have a good time. There’s meant to be spiritual growth involved, believe it or not.

Most people know Dionysus as the god of wine. He’s associated specifically with this beverage, which people have brewed for millennia, and his death is celebrated at the time of the grape harvest. Yes, he’s one of those so-called dying-and-reborn gods, though I think it’s more accurate to say he descends to the Underworld and then returns later on.

So why wine? The Minoans also brewed beer (the goddess Rhea is associated with grain) and mead (honey is the purview of the Melissae, the ancestral bee-goddesses). But Rhea and the Melissae link to grain and honey, not necessarily to the brewed beverages. And that’s a clue to Dionysus’ secrets: All the brewed drinks are ultimately his.

So yes, he’s a god of wine, but ultimately, he’s a god of fermentation. And that’s a kind of magic.

I’ve been brewing wine for more than 20 years, and the process never ceases to amaze me. Can you imagine what it must have felt like, tens of thousands of years ago, to be that first person whose bowl of juicy grapes or cup of barley gruel sat out a little too long and, instead of going bad, turned into a tasty fizzy drink that made you feel lightheaded? A drink that made it that much easier to reach a state of ecstasy in ritual. At a Pagan gathering, I once had a jug of apple cider turn into “apple champagne” all by itself, with no intervention from me. That was some awesome natural magic.

Fermentation changes one substance into another. It’s a kind of transformation, from an ordinary material (grapes, grain, honey) into a unique and special one. In a sense, it’s the earliest type of alchemy.

It’s transformation that Dionysus is all about: changing us from our ordinary selves into something greater, more expanded, more luminous. Pushing us outside our preconceived notions, outside society’s set of rules for how we should think, feel, and experience the universe. Fermenting us from grapes into wine.

May you become the very finest wine of all.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Ogham – M-Muin: Blackberry

M: Muin: Blackberry

  • The Moon-month for Muin, Blackberry, runs from 2 Sep – 29 Sep
  • Blackberry is the tree of joy, exhilaration and dark wisdom.

Many Ogham users work with the vine for this month. Although the vine is part of British Bronze Age art it is not a native. I prefer to use our native Blackberry.

In Celtic countries there is a taboo against eating blackberries after the 29th September … in Devon they say the devil has got into them, in Brittany they say the fairies will get you if you do. They do taste different after that date but – so far – neither devils nor fairies have swept me off.

Blackberry is a hedge plant, its fruit is very good, nourishing, and also makes an excellent wine. It fruits at this time of year along with some apples, as you probably already know the two together make an excellent pie – see recipe at the end.

If you make the wine then the first of it can be ready in time for a celebration of the coming darkness after the autumn equinox on 21st September after which there is more darkness than light each day until the spring equinox in March.

I find working with the idea of blackberry-and-apple pie brings me to the need for both light and darkness. The apple is Apollo’s fruit, the sun god, god of light. The blackberry is Dionysios’ fruit, along with the vine, the fruit of darkness and discovering wisdom within. Wine is also the fruit of madness – the madness of the gods in the case of Dionysian revels which, again, celebrated the death of the god and his giving of life, through his death, to the Land. As the time of blackberry is also the harvest time this is another part of the ongoing harvest festival and John Barleycorn.

Cooking Journey

Cooking isn’t often thought of as a spiritual exercise … unfortunately! … but it is one, or should be. You don’t have to go off into trance to journey, in fact, as you become proficient at it, you find yourself able to “walk between worlds”, to be here and there at the same time without needing to be sectioned under anyone’s mental health acts. Preparing food, changing plant and animal substance into a form that our bodies can digest and so receive the energy from is deep magic. What happens in cooking is serious magic … but we do it everyday, on auto-pilot, and don’t think about it at all, it’s just “what you do”.

The whole process of making blackberry and apple pie can be a journey.

  • First collect the blackberries. This likely requires a walk in the country, going out into the wilder places – wilder, at least, than one’s own garden usually is – and seeing the fruit as it grows for itself, for the goddess, for the land. While you’re out collecting you may well see various wildlife also feasting on the berries and in the hedges where it grows. Seeing, watching, wildlife, being quiet and still, not disturbing, not shouting, being invisible almost, unthreatening to the beasties and insects, that is a whole journey in itself.
  • Give time to your picking, harvesting. Harvest more than just the fruits, harvest the experience, the delight in watching Life work as it has for millions and millions of years with  no hassle from ourselves. Watch how easily and beautifully it all interacts. You will come home with more than just super fruit for the pie.
  • Look at the dark purple juice on your fingers, taste it, smell it. See how it changes your skin. Don’t think of it as “dirty”, thank the goddess for the juice, for the colouring. See the darkness …
  • Collect the apples. If you have the chance to go to an orchard, or have your own trees, pick the apples fresh. The scent as you do so is intoxicating – never mind Chanel !!!
  • Remember about apples … Merlin’s wisdom-fruit from the tree of knowing and reincarnation. Look back over the blog for Quert.

The whole process is one of journeying but it doesn’t have to be serious and solemn. Mindful, looking, watching, listening … all techniques of reaching out beyond yourself, losing preoccupation with yourself, all this is drinking the Black Cup of Forgetfulness that is also the cup of wisdom of the Celtic tradition.

Black Cup of Forgetfulness

Blackberries give the dark wisdom. This comes out of the ancestral knowing of the Earth herself, out of our own ancestors both physical and spiritual, and out of the “dark matter” of the Universe.

I find it fascinating that science is now talking of Dark Matter as the evidence of “missing mass” in the orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters. You can read more about dark matter at the link, it’s complex but has to do with gravity, which has to do with mass. We’d all wiz off into space without gravity! The earth couldn’t spin round the sun and give us day and night, light and dark, warmth and cold, all the things that make life possible, without gravity.

For many, the whole concept seems enormous, too big to contemplate, too far removed from “self”. Wisdom is like this. It needs that we relinquish the importance of the little-self, ego, allowing it to float in the sea of being that is all-that-is, that-which-moves, creation. It’s often a big jump to reach a place where you can contemplate your non-existence without terror eating you up. However, once you dare to do this the change in the whole way you and Life work together is fundamental, and it fills you with joy. Yes, really, the terror dissolves into joy. Your physical existence as the little personality you are in this incarnation ceases to constantly thrust its way to the fore. You are able to see yourself, feel, sense, as part of the whole. It’s spiritual growing up.

The Black Cup of Forgetfulness is about this. Blackberry is a pleasant way of beginning your journey to know this place, way of being.

Now … after all that heavy stuff, how’s about making the blackberry and apple pie, then sitting down to eat it with a large dollop of cream ???

Blackberry & Apple Pie Recipe

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 175g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 80 ml water

For the filling

To serve

  • Devonshire clotted cream

Method

1. For the pastry: put the flour in a mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar, followed by the water. Mix until the ingredients come together to form a ball of dough. Wrap this in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.

3. For the filling: put the apples in an ovenproof dish with the water and sugar. Bake them for 30–40 minutes until they are tender. Remove the dish from the oven and leave it to cool (the apples could also be cooked in a microwave oven). If they have given off a lot of juice, strain some of it into a bowl and set aside.

4. Turn down the oven to 170C/gas 3.

5. Put the blackberries in a saucepan with a dash of water and cook over a low heat until they have softened but still hold their shape. Tip the berries into a sieve and catch any juices in the bowl with the apple juice.

6. Combine the apples with the berries and moisten with just enough juice to give a syrupy consistency. Don’t discard any extra berry juices – save them for serving with ice cream.

7. Take the pastry dough out of the fridge and roll out two-thirds, on a lightly floured surface. Use this to line a pie dish and spoon in the fruit filling; put a pie funnel into the middle. Roll out the remaining pastry dough into a piece large enough to cover the pie dish. Dampen the edges of the dish and cover it with the dough, letting the top of the funnel poke through. Brush the top with beaten egg and dust it with caster sugar; use any pastry trimmings to make leaves and balls to decorate the pie. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and golden, then serve with Devonshire clotted cream.

Enjoy 🙂

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather taleneted cat …
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3 “Love Potion #9 … #10 … #11 … ad infinitum

WILLIAM MALTESE

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL

#3 “Love Potion #9 … #10 … #11 … ad infinitum

July column for “The Pagan and the Pen”

We all know the scenario:

Night. Dark forest. Full-moon. Owl-hoots. Wolf howl. Wind through skeletal bare-branch trees. Flickering flames. Dancing Shadows. Cauldron. Three attending witches.

 “When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won…”

Or, how about the equally stereotypical …?

Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog, adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg…

 Okay, okay, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, is what I always say, and the above haven’t become “the” standards by not having some basis in reality. In that—confession, here—I have danced naked in the dark woods, have joined in mutual cauldron-stirs, have searched out eye of newt, toe of frog … albeit wing, not wool, of bat … lizard’s leg…. and a helluva lot of other crucial ingredients specifically called for by lotions and potions and salves and balms…

If I’ve found most of the potions, even those concerned with conjuring love, to be improved by uncalled-for salt, the very fact that salt is uncalled-for usually makes the end results either less potent than they should be or nullifies the effects altogether. So…

Don’t be surprised that I’m more, apt, when asked to provide the catalyst for sparking any love relationship, to recommend, something other than some foul-tasting concoction, even of mine, for the best end results. In that, there is nothing a woman or a man can serve a potential candidate for seduction, with better chances of success, than a genuinely good old-fashioned meal (salt highly recommended).

This is why, way back in 1988, when I’d achieved world-wide recognition as “Willa Lambert”, author of best-selling Harlequin SuperRomances, Diane Crawford approached me for recipes for her RECIPES OF ROMANCE, A ROMANCE NOVEL COOKBOOK, and I eagerly complied, as well as supplemented with …

“I love to cook! I cook to love! While there’s a ritual to restaurant dining that I do enjoy, there’s no better recipe for bypassing that stale chestnut ‘Would you like to come in for a nightcap?’ than both of you already relaxed on your couch, the magic of the preceding good meal undiluted by any car ride to get there.”

And…

“More men have loved a good meal than have ever loved a good woman. The magic is to get them to somehow equate the one with the other!”

 What I believed then, I believe even more whole-heartedly now, to the extent that I’ve recently come out with a cookbook, BACK OF THE BOAT GOURMET COOKING, with the help of Bonnie Clark who is as much a gourmand as I am and is certainly as cognizant of how there’s no better way to get your man than provide him not only with a genuinely fantastic meal, on a grill, BUT to do so while out boating on some lake, ocean, or river… or while just sitting pool-side or in some wondrously secluded backyard.

http://www.amazon.com/Back-Boat-Gourmet-Cooking-Pool-Side/dp/1434411540/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280077212&sr=1-1

Granted, this isn’t my first cookbook, although my THE GLUTEN-FREE WAY: MY WAY (written with Adrienne Z. Milligan) was aimed specifically at several friends, gluten-intolerant, on the outlook for some gluten-free ways to reel in their men.

http://www.amazon.com/Gluten-Free-Way-My-Guide-Cooking/dp/1434457192/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280077277&sr=1-1

As equally a firm believer of wine as a decidedly pleasant ingredient for successful seduction, I’ve been contracted to do my WILLIAM MALTESE’S WINE TASTER’S DIARY series, the first, SPOKANE/PULLMAN WA WINE REGION, presently at the printers and ready to begin rolling off the presses next month. On all the books in the series will be my specially estate-bottled DRAQUAL Cabernet Sauvignon 2005BV on whose label is my portrait, in my persona as the sexy vampire Vlad Draqual, as painted by Mike Bliss.

Finally, I can’t tell you how many love potions have clove as an ingredient, to the extent that I, having again assumes my love-authority Willa Lambert persona, have just published my romance novel, AFRICA: SPICE ISLAND LOVE, first in my contracted Seven-Continent series, with a story line chockablock with love influenced by the heady aroma of clove always wafting the air of exotic Zanzibar.

http://www.amazon.com/Africa-Spice-Island-Willa-Lambert/dp/160820197X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1280077973&sr=1-1-fkmr0

Speaking of Zanzibar, and my truly ghostly personal experiences there, those will be saved for another day.

In the interim, Bon Appetit! And good loving.

TEXT AND PICTURES ©2010 WILLIAM MALTESE