A Witch's Kitchen
A Witch’s Kitchen
In the Spring of 2000, having written articles on magical topics for a number years for publications such as Quest, Pagan Dawn, and Witches’ Wynd, I suddenly felt that I must write a book about my own personal experience of studying witchcraft and putting it into practice in the modern world. The title, A Witch’s Kitchen, came to me immediately and seemed pleasing, both visually and to the ear. So, I typed the title onto the blank screen and made a start.
Back then we only had one computer in the house and that was in my husband’s office, so he found himself having to share both the machine and the space with me. Sometimes I typed my ideas directly onto the computer, but for parts of the book, I wrote my thoughts out by hand and typed up the electronic version later. I had no plan and the book just evolved over a period of three months, but it took on a very logical structure which, almost in story form, mirrors the important aspects covered in the magical training course that we were running at the time, and still run today.
So, the book covers each of the magical Elements which are the building blocks of our lives and our magic. It begins with the very basics of life, a chapter on food, the fruits of the Earth, seasonality, sustainability and health, with mentions of what were some of my most often cooked dishes at that time and some of my favourite preserves too. The chapter based around the Element of Water, talks about the magical and practical importance of rivers, covers drinks of all sorts, from herb teas to wines, tells the story of St. Withburga’s Well and relates my experience of visiting the hot springs in Bath.
There is a chapter on plants, with information about some of my most prized herbs, along with recipes for vinegars, syrups, oils, ointments and soaps. As a keen spinner, weaver and felt maker, I have always seen the magic of textiles as being intimately connected to thread of life, so it was important to me to talk about this kind of magic and to share a little of how to tackle these techniques, which were once second nature to most people, but are now often regarded as a harmless, quirky hobby.
I included a whole chapter on colour magic too. Many witches favour black of course, and it is very stylish and practical, but I have always adored bright colours and have been fascinated by the process of dyeing yarn with plant material, which was one of the skills I learned during my time living in Sweden. In the Autumn there, I used to go out into the woods with my neighbour, carrying one basket to pick mushrooms for eating and another for those we were going to use to dye our hand spun yarns, in a fabulous range of colours, including greens, reds, oranges and yellows.
The chapter based on the Element of Air discusses the magical significance of fragrance, of perfumes and essential oils, as well as the importance of incenses for meditation, and looks at the different resins, woods and herbs which are popular for people who prefer to create their own incense blends. The Element of Fire is covered in a chapter which speaks of the bringing of Fire from the Gods to humanity, of Prometheus and of Lucifer, the bringer of light. This chapter includes many ideas for making your own candles and a little tangerine skin oil lamp, which perfumes a room as well as giving off a warm, citrusy glow.
Most witches love animals and many have familiars or totem animals, so including some stories about our magical creatures was essential. So, cats, frogs, snakes and guinea pigs all feature in the story, as well as a discussion of the shape-shifting process. The tools we use in our magic and ritual are also mentioned, as is the need for magical protection.
I still remember the feeling of reaching the end of the book. For the last few days, I wrote obsessively, barely stopping to eat and, although at that time our house was practically a Pagan drop- in centre, being sociable was completely out of the question. All I could think about was getting it completed. So, finally, on a really hot Summer’s day, when normally I would have preferred to be outside in the garden, I typed out The Blessing of Wisdom, which I had written for a very specific ritual and which had proven very popular with my fellow practitioners, checked the manuscript through and pressed the “print” button.
I am very grateful to Capall Bann for taking on the book and agreeing to publish it, even though I was a first-time author with no proven track record. But it worked out well for them and for me and, twenty years on, the title remains in print and still sells well in our local magic shop, Inanna’s Magical Gifts.
Standard paperback copies are available to purchase via Capallbann.co.uk
Signed paperback copies are available at Inanna's Magical Gifts, Norwich