January 19 is Brew a Potion Day. It is a fun day celebrating the magical and mystical mythology of potions. The word potion comes from the Latin “potio” which means to drink. Potions are thought to have magical properties, which can be used for healing or cursing, and are usually brewed by witches, wizards and other magical creatures. To celebrate Brew a Potion Day, concoct a potion of your own. It can be magical or non-magical, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, hot or cold. There are no rules, so have fun!
This is my first year of celebrating Brew a Potion Day and I’ve chosen to make a Bunny Mary, also called a Bloody Rabbit. A Bunny Mary is a fun version of a Bloody Mary where you replace the tomato juice with carrot juice. The spicy seasonings of a Bloody Mary can also be played around with. For my Bunny Mary I’m using Chinese five spice and garnishing it with a spring of mint.
My Bunny Mary concoction is inspired by the upcoming Lunar New Year on January 22. This year is a special one as it is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit and also the Vietnamese Year of the Cat. This means we have two animals to celebrate instead of just one! The element for this year is Water which is most appropriate for brewing up potions. The carrot juice pays tribute to the Rabbit while the mint pays tribute to the Cat as catnip is part of the mint family. To honour the Lunar New Year I’ve added Chinese five spice, as the five spices symbolise the five elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth).
Ingredients (makes one drink) 50ml vodka 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice 1 cup carrot juice good squeeze of lemon juice mint sprig for garnish
Instructions Pour the vodka into a tall glass. Add the spice mix. Pour in the carrot juice. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Give a good stir. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
If you can’t find Chinese five spice mix you can make your own. There is no specific recipe so you make one that suits your taste. This is my recipe:
Chinese Five Spice 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds 3 teaspoons ground star anise 2 teaspoons ground Szechuan pepper* 1 teaspoon ground cloves Mix all the ingredients together. Store in an air-tight glass container for up to 6 months. *You can use ground black pepper but it won’t have the same numbing effect that Szechuan pepper has.
Happy Brew a Potion Day! Happy Year of the Rabbit! Happy Year of the Cat!
We start the year with a Friday the 13th in January! Curious to know what other events are being celebrated on January 13, I did some quick research and found a couple of events that could pair well with Friday the 13th.
Blame it on Friday the 13th: National Blame Someone Else Day is observed on the first Friday the 13th of the year. Isn’t this the essence of Friday the 13th? If something goes wrong on this day blame someone or something else.
In fact, the inspiration for National Blame Someone Else Day is Anne Moelle from Clio, Michigan who appears to have done just that. The story goes that on the first Friday the 13th in 1982, Anne’s clock alarm didn’t go off which set in motion a day filled with late appointments. She spent the day making excuses and shifting the blame for being late. Her unlucky day supposedly inspired her to create this unofficial holiday.
The origins of this unusual observance are shrouded in mystery. Is the story true? Could it be that Anne is being blamed for creating a holiday that she didn’t create? Is Anne in fact a scapegoat used to mark a day on which people blame others for their troubles? That would be ironic! However, I’m not particularly inspired by a day dedicated to blaming others (even on Friday the 13th) so I’ve selected a couple of other January 13 special days to celebrate and added a Friday the 13th tweak.
Fun Ways To Celebrate: Writing or reading dark and Gothic poetry would be perfect for Poetry Break Day, or you could wish for auspicious dreams to help Make Your Dream Come True this night, hoping that they don’t turn into nightmares! Speaking of nightmares, Mari Lwyd, a horse that comes back from the dead, is part of Welsh New Year festivities which are celebrated on January 13.
Another interesting event is Quitters Day which is celebrated on the second Friday in January and is dedicated to all those who have made New Year’s resolutions but failed to keep up with them. Research suggests that about 80% of people abandon their resolutions within two weeks of making them. So if you made your resolutions two weeks ago and have already forsaken them, Happy Quitters Day! As for me, I’ll be celebrating Friday the 13th by making New Year’s resolutions with a skeletal horse. I’ll probably be celebrating a belated Quitters Day in two weeks time. 🙂
Thursday the 22nd is the Summer Solstice. It is the midpoint between Beltane and Lammas. The Summer Solstice celebrates the longest day of the year. After the Solstice, the days will slowly get shorter as the night begins its journey into ascendancy. Day and night will finally become equal at the Equinox. For now, the southern hemisphere will be enjoying/enduring some very hot weather.
In the northern hemisphere the opposite is happening. The Winter Solstice is the midpoint between Halloween and Imbolc. The Winter Solstice celebrates the longest night of the year. As Winter is a very dark time, naturally there are a bevy of scary legends to chill your Midwinter soul.
For those of us celebrating the Summer Solstice, we may have to get creative to add darkness and gothness to a festival celebrating the Sun at its most powerful point. Or do we? After a quick dance through the internet I managed to find a pretty scary Midsummer tradition. Well it’s particularly scary if you are a witch!
In some Scandinavian countries, the Summer Solstice is tied to the birthday of Saint John the Baptist. On the eve of his birthday, fires are lit to ward off any evil sprints that may come calling. As part of the celebrations, a large effigy of a witch is burned. Sometimes the witch is filled with firecrackers. One writer suggests that the sound of the exploding firecrackers mimics the sound of a witch screaming. Okay, this isn’t sounding good. I need to find another way to goth-up Midsummer.
If burning a screaming witch effigy doesn’t appeal to you either, then maybe you can add a bit of darkness to the light by joining me in celebrating Gothmas! Gothmas is simply a dark and gothic Xmas (think Halloween but with Xmas decorations) and it is fast becoming a tradition in both hemispheres.
This is the first year that I’ve started collecting Gothmas decorations and so far I have a witchy advent calendar with a cute fox date marker, a black Santa hat, and coffin shaped Xmas present earrings in Xmas colours. I even got a surprise Gothmas present as the earrings came with a “Merry Gothmas” tote bag!
As this turbulent year finally winds to its end I would like to wish everyone a Happy Gothmas and a Harpy New Year! (Yes I did mean Harpy) 🙂
Bram Stoker was born on the 8th of November 1847 making this Tuesday his 175th birthday!
This year Bram will share his birthday with a Full Moon in Taurus, a total lunar eclipse and Blood Moon. If that isn’t enough, the astronomical date for Beltane in the southern hemisphere, and Samhain in the northern hemisphere, will be celebrated on the eve of his birthday. Stoker’s most famous novel, Dracula, is a symphony of oppositions exploring life, death and rebirth. I think it is very fitting that Stoker’s 175th birthday falls on the eve of these most appropriate festivals.
To celebrate this very special birthday I decided to pay tribute to Bram’s Irish heritage by making an Irish milk punch called Scáiltín. It’s basically a spiced milk hot toddy. Milk and dairy are traditional foods/drinks used in both Beltane and Full Moon festivities which makes this a perfect drink for Bram’s birthday this year.
For the spices, I used pumpkin spice instead of the traditional ginger and cinnamon to add a bit of Halloween to the drink. If you don’t have pumpkin spice you can replace it with a 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. I’ve also added an optional toasted marshmallow as a reminder of the bonfires that will be burning on both sides of the globe.
Happy Birthday Bram Stoker!
Irish Milk Punch (Scáiltín)
Ingredients (Makes one generous cup) 1/4 cup Irish whiskey 1 cup full fat milk 1 tablespoon honey 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice freshly grated or ground nutmeg for serving 1 marshmallow for serving (optional)
Instructions Warm the whisky and milk in a small saucepan over low heat. (Do not let the mixture boil). Add the honey and pumpkin spice and whisk until bubbly and combined. Pour into a heatproof mug. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Top with a toasted marshmallow if desired. If you don’t have access to a bonfire, you can toast the marshmallow by spearing it on a fork and slowly turning it over a low heat on a gas fire until it is toasted to your liking. (Be careful not to drop it as it softens).
Once upon a time, Australia didn’t really celebrate Halloween. There were no ghoulish goodies to buy, no spooky houses to visit, and no trick-or-treaters visiting on All Hallows Eve. Thank goodness times have changed!
Halloween is an Autumnal festival celebrating the beginning of Winter, so being a Pagan who lives in the southern hemisphere, I celebrate Halloween on April 30th. But I’m also a Goth so I celebrate northern hemisphere Halloween on October 31st because one Halloween just isn’t enough!
The corresponding festival to Halloween is Beltane, a festival celebrating the beginning of Summer. I’ve always felt I’m cheating Beltane by sharing it with Halloween and I’ve tried to work out ways of dealing with this tricky issue. Happily this year I have found a perfect compromise! I’m going to celebrate Halloween on the usual date and Beltane on an astronomical date. However, understanding astronomical dates can be a bit tricky too. 🙂
Halloween and Beltane (and Imbolc and Lammas) are cross-quarter festivals that mark the approximate mid points between the Solstices and Equinoxes. Like Xmas they are fixed date festivals which means they are celebrated on the same date every year. The Solstices and Equinoxes, like Easter, are moveable festivals meaning they are celebrated on different dates each year. The fixed date festivals mark the approximate midpoint between Solstices and Equinoxes but you can actually work out the exact astronomical date too. If you do this, you’ll find that the dates of the fixed festivals will now change every year as well.
This year the exact astronomical date of Beltane in the southern hemisphere falls on November 7th. I’m really excited about this date, as it is the eve of the Taurus Full Moon, a perfect symbol for Beltane. On November 8th there will be a total lunar eclipse which also happens to be Bram Stoker’s birthday. A lunar eclipse on the birthday of the author of Dracula brings me right back where I want to be – Halloween!
October 20th is Bela Lugosi’s birthday. To celebrate, I’ve listed some interesting facts about the fascinating actor.
The Young Lugosi: Bela was born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20th, 1882 in Lugos, Hungary which is now Lugoj in Romania.
Bela chose Lugosi as his stage name to honour his place of birth.
Lugosi left home when he was 12 years old and did odd jobs before debuting on the Hungarian stage in 1902.
Lugosi played small roles in plays and operettas, performed in Shakespeare plays and also acted in silent films. Critics called him “the Laurence Olivier of Hungary”.
Lugosi eventually emigrated to the United States where he became famous for his portrayals of the vampire Count Dracula on both stage and screen.
Lugosi and Politics: Lugosi fought in World War I in the 43rd Hungarian Infantry. Lugosi was wounded while serving at the Russian Front and awarded the Wound Medal.
Lugosi was a proud unionist and was interested in helping actors and theatre workers fight for better wages and conditions. Lugosi helped found the Free Organisation of Theatrical Employees. This organisation eventually expanded into the National Trade Union of Actors, one of the first film actors’ unions in the world.
Due to his union activities, Lugosi was forced to flee Hungary. He eventually made his way to America. Lugosi arrived in New Orleans as a crewman on a merchant ship. He then made his way to Ellis Island and became a naturalized U.S. citizen a few years later.
In America, Lugosi continued to fight for the rights of actors. Lugosi and fellow horror actor Boris Karloff, fought to improve working conditions and safety standards on film sets. They were both union organisers and charter members of the Screen Actors Guild.
Happy 140th Birthday Bela!
I hope these brief facts about a very complex person have inspired you to read more about Bela Lugosi. Here are some links:
The Spring Equinox is here again! This year it falls on Friday the 23rd of September. The Equinox symbolises balance as the hours of day and night are roughly equal on this night. After the Spring Equinox, our hours of daylight will slowly increase and the days will become longer than the nights as we head towards the Summer Solstice.
The Spring Equinox usually makes me feel like doing a spring clean. Sometimes it’s house cleaning, sometimes it’s cleaning up my emotional and spiritual state. This year I’m spring cleaning my living space! A collapsing clothes cupboard has forced me to take a look at my storage and has inspired me to do a big clothing purge.
Seeing my crumbling wardrobe made think of a fruit crumble, but rather than a sweet one I decided to make a savoury zucchini crumble. Vibrant green zucchini, combined with a light filling and topping, is a refreshing way to celebrate the Equinox and prepare for upcoming spring cleaning.
Ingredients for the filling 500g zucchini, finely grated 1 tablespoon semolina 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 125g feta
for the topping 1 cup wholemeal flour 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 80g unsalted butter, softened 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
Instructions Preheat oven to 180C / 350F. Lightly oil a 24cm x 18cm baking dish. To make the filling: Squeeze zucchini, making sure all liquid is extracted, then place in a bowl. Add the semolina, rosemary, salt and feta and stir until just combined. Spread the mixture into prepared dish. To make the topping: Add the flour and salt to a separate bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. Add the nuts and continue mixing until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the zucchini mix. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.
International Red Panda Day (IRPD) is celebrated on the third Saturday in September which this year falls on Saturday the 17th. IRPD was created by the Red Panda Network (RPN) to highlight the issues endangered red pandas face in the wild such as habitat loss and illegal poaching. IRPD is observed around the world with special events and red panda themed events. Some zoos celebrate on different days, so check with your local zoo to see if they are doing anything and on what day. If you’re lucky enough to have a zoo that does red panda encounters, IRPD would be a perfect day to treat yourself to one of these special experiences.
In preparation for IRPD, I visited Billabong Zoo to have an encounter with not one, but two red pandas! Rato and Tito, two elderly red panda sisters, were very keen to have breakfast, so when they saw me enter their enclosure with a bowl, they didn’t waste any time and quickly climbed down the tree for treats. They were very polite as they waited while I fed each of them tasty bits of fruit in turn.
During the encounter I made eye contact with the beautiful elder girls and my heart swelled at how gentle they were. As I looked into their stunning red panda faces millimetres from my from own, I felt a connection with these very special creatures. They seemed to know that I needed healing as it has been a very difficult couple of years. I was feeling rubbed raw emotionally and spiritually.
Being in the presence of two seemingly old and wise red panda ladies, I felt a huge burden lift from my shoulders. As I stared into their happy little faces, an overwhelming sense of calm and balance coursed through me. For the first time in a long time I felt happy, positive and ready to face the challenges ahead of me. The road forward is uncertain, but with the promise of more red panda encounters in the future, I’m ready to start journeying again.
August 21st is Elizabeth Bathory’s deathiversary. It’s also National Sweet Tea Day. When I realised this, I couldn’t help picturing Elizabeth sipping a sweet tea. Seeing as two of her epithets are the “Blood Countess” and “Countess Dracula”, maybe it isn’t sweet tea she is sipping.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory (born 7 August 1560 – died 21 August 1614) was a Hungarian noblewoman who was accused of torturing and murdering young girls. Bathory was eventually tried and convicted as a serial killer. She was imprisoned in her castle until her death. There is ongoing debate as to whether Elizabeth Bathory was a blood thirsty murderer or the victim of a witch hunt.
As a wealthy and influential landowner, there were many reasons to discredit her and take her land and power. This has led to questioning how the evidence brought against Bathory was gathered. Some testified that they had not seen her commit crimes but had heard stories about her while the eyewitness accounts from Bathory’s servants were mostly gained through torture. The enduring tales of her drinking and bathing in the blood of virgins to retain her youth appear to have been written after her death. Whether guilty or innocent of these crimes, Elizabeth Bathory has lived on in folklore, especially in vampire mythology.
And now onto something sweeter than blood – Sweet Tea! National Sweet Tea Day is a day to enjoy the pleasures of a refreshing glass of iced sweet tea. The difference between sweet tea and iced tea is that sweetener is added to the tea at the time of brewing. National Iced Tea Day is celebrated on June 10.
To celebrate National Sweet Tea Day, I’ll be enjoying a sweetened Earl Grey tea. To pay tribute to the contribution Elizabeth Bathory has made to vampire mythology, I’ll be adding a slice of blood orange. It won’t be chilled either as I believe that tea, like blood, should be served warm.
As the wheel slowly turns toward Spring in the southern hemisphere, many are getting ready to celebrate Imbolc on August 1st.
Imbolc is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It brings the promise of Spring in the midst of cold Winter weather. Nights are still cold but the days are warming as nature begins to slowly awaken from a Winter slumber. It’s a beautiful time of year and one of my favourites.
One of the things I like to start thinking about at Imbolc is spring cleaning. This year I began with my pantry and found a bottle of rose syrup that I had forgotten I had. I decided to use some of it to make a rose syrup jelly (jello) that reminds me of Turkish delight. Rose syrup is a syrup made from rose water with sugar added. If you don’t have rose syrup you can use rose water but you may have to add extra sugar to get that sweet flavour of Turkish delight.
I added hibiscus tea to my jelly as I wanted to get a nice pink colour. I also find the tartness of hibiscus balances out the sweetness of the rose syrup. If you don’t have hibiscus tea, you can add food colouring or just enjoy the almost pink blush of the jelly.
Rose Syrup Jelly
Ingredients 1 cup water 1/4 cup sugar 1 titanium strength gelatine leaf* 1 tablespoon rose syrup 1 tablespoon hibiscus flower tea leaves cream for serving (optional)
Instructions Soak gelatine sheet in cold water for 5 minutes. While the gelatine is soaking, place the water and sugar in a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. Squeeze out gelatine sheet and add to the saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir once or twice until the gelatine has melted. Stir in the rose syrup and hibiscus tea. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain into a heatproof jug. Allow to cool then pour into serving bowls or glasses. Cover and refrigerate until set. Serve with cream if desired.
*check the strength of your gelatine leaves and use as many as you need to set 1 cup of liquid.