Saturday, September 28, 2013

Kitchen Witchery

Kitchen Witchery
Kitchen Witchery is essentially the practice of witchcraft or folk-magic based in the kitchen or hearth of the home. The new rash of books on Kitchen Witchery may lead many to believe that it is a new practice, but magic in the kitchen and hearth goes back thousands of years and is practiced across cultures. Fire and stone ovens were thought to be magical with their trans-formative powers. In later centuries the large iron cauldron over the fire was the center of the hearth – where dinners were cooked, water boiled, and medicines made.

In peasant mythology the oven had a magic dimension, and ritual proprietors presided over the rising and baking of bread. Even the curdling of milk and the fermentation of wine were mediated through ‘spirits’ or elves in certain area where the Celtic substratum had left indelible traces. The oven was where food passed from the raw to the cooked state, and like all transitional places (chimneys, doors and so on) it held a powerful magic: the rising of dough was associated with the rise and ‘growth’ of the solar orb in the sky.” (Camporesi, The Magic Harvest, p.4)

The easiest way to see how important the processes of food making and agriculture were important to our ancestors is to look at their deities. There are numerous domestic and hearth deities across cultures (too many to list here), some of the more well-known ones being Brighid, Frigga, and Hestia. The Chinese have various deities whose specific role it is to watch over the stove or hearth such as Zao-Jun and Sui-Ren. There was even a specific Roman goddess Fornax whose role was to watch over bread baking and ovens. The list of agricultural deities is even longer.

Kitchen witchery is the continuing practice of domestic magic where for the practitioner, the mundane is magical. The stove, spoons, knives, pots, and ingredients are the magical tools. The rituals of the everyday are this witch’s magic. From our ancestors’ domestic rituals of baking bread, churning butter, brewing, and preserving to today’s rituals of preparing the daily meal, brewing a cup of tea, or making medicines – the role of the domestic witch hasn’t changed much over the centuries. A kitchen witch is obsessed with food and has a gift for cooking. They might have a large store of knowledge about the folklore and properties of different foods as well any rituals or superstitions surrounding them. They may be well-versed in rituals involving feasts and eating, which also go back thousands of years for various cultures and are part of many of our traditions today at celebrations. If witchcraft is practiced by a kitchen witch, then it is most likely to be done in the kitchen or through the medium of food. The pot boiling on the stove isn’t always edible; salves, decoctions, tinctures, and even candles are all made in the kitchen.

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