And- more Handfasting Music …

The forecast is sunny and warm and we are all eagerly awaiting the eclipse tomorrow.   My partner is working on a CD project for our friend Marc Silber and the music drifting downstairs to the office reminds me to post some more handfasting song suggestions.

First, there are a couple of sites popping up with general advice for handfasting couples: Oak & Mistletoe at has sample vows and the general overall structure you will need to make it a legally recognized wedding in the US, Canada, and the UK.   I will add others as they come up. Please feel free to add your links in the comments section below. (Warning: this page is moderated, proselytizing messages for other religions will be deleted.)

While exploring this music, I realized that all of these songs are infinitely suitable for rituals celebrating the heiros gamnos (holy marriage of Earth & Sky) at Beltane or Midsummer.  The thought – also– has come to me that a songbook might be really helpful for couples (along with their friends and families) in planning their Big Event.  More thoughts on this to come…there is a lot to think about when considering publishing music in print form (or POD).  Obtaining good sheet music and permissions from the songwriters is just the beginning.  While I may need to tap a musician as a co-author, please send me your suggestions and experiences in doing this kind of project. while on the subject of books, it is very important that, when you create the “order of service” for your handfasting, that you credit the songwriters and composers of the music that you use.  This simple courtesy is often left out, and it should not be.  If you love it enough to use it on your handfasting day, then a thank you! to the songwriter is a small thing to do.

In the “Pagan song cannon” are some beautiful songs by Deborah and Rick Hamouris’ on their classic 1986 recording Welcome to Annwfn.  Available from CB Baby @ (clips and downloads are also  to be found here.)  In particular, Strolling Song, the classic chant We Are a Circle, and Love as a River lend themselves to handfasting planning.  We are a Circle is widely used, often without crediting the songwriters, and in questionable time signatures.  It never hurts to consult the original.

Also in the cannon is Demeter’s Song by Starhawk (1983); a beautiful blessing song designed for prosperity and good fortune and sung at events from Reclaiming’s annual Spiral Dance to smaller sabbats everywhere. From Let It Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance, which can be ordered from the Reclaiming Quarterly. Also on Moonrise: Demeter’s Song available on Amazon at: (A lyric sheet can be found here:  A tiny bit of tweaking here and there, and this song could easily form the basis for handfasting vows.

My linked entries for today are  songs by New Mexico’s singer/songwriter, Celia Farran.  All  links include lyrics and a downloadable MP3.  (all songs are copyrighted: By Celia © 2012 Red Granite Goddess ASCAP )

This is terrific for the meditative opening of any ritual: Ground, Center, & Shield also on For The Asking.

A nice song to call the gathered celebrants to the circle: “For The Asking”

This is fun –Please Take My Hand on Carry Me Home. (3:51)

Also on Carry Me Home is a lovely blessing song that is useful for creating sacred space: Bless This Space  (3:28)

Enjoy and— remember: laugh … kiss your sweetie often …and, breathe… especially when trying on your gown!


Well… it’s that season again …

The season for the green Earth to flower has come again.  That crazy season when siren that song that leads us into love – or, love again – or remember who we love and who we want to dance with once again in the soft starry nights of spring-into-summer.

For those who have danced this dance several times and are ready for it: it’s  wedding & Handfasting season.  As an artist and Priestess, I have assisted several couples in “tying the knot”  – a literal knot for Wiccan couples!  As everyone who has planned a Handfasting knows, the process is crazy-making, fun, annoying, occasionally infuriating, and sublimely joyous all in turn – sometimes in the same hour.  There are one thousand decisions to make: from the invitation list, the place, to the particulars of the ritual itself.  Lest we forget, (of course!) there is also the dress, the appetizer menu, parking, and, of great importance to many, the subject of this post: music.

I will use this space to make some suggestions to the couple and their friends and family, and the officiating priest/ess/es/ on tying the knots while reserving a modicum of sanity.

Music, as no other medium can, will bring together the disparate collection of friends and relatives at a Handfasting.  It will set the tone of the event and move things along in a natural, organic way.  The selection of music can bring your parents to tears (of joy, one hopes), bring smiles to lips of the gathered, cause the lovers in attendance to gaze at another and share in your joy, uplift the spirits of one and all, and, finally, make the feet of even your Ancient Aunt Trudy to tap her toes at the after-ritual reception.  It might even get her up for a turn around the dance floor.

Choose songs for the ritual itself that have meaning to you, the Handfasing couple.  Songs that you would sing to one another.  Temper these selections with your clergy’s suggestions of songs and/or chants that will move the ritual forward and keep that sense of participation by all gathered that mark a Pagan event from all others.  Sing and dance your way up the “aisle”? Go for it!  A folk-style circle dance or spiral dance to begin or end the ritual? A processional to or from the Circle into the reception hall while singing? Hire the local Morris or Sword team to take you to the circle? Great fun!  All of these are good.  Once upon a time, a wedding had special songs for the groom, the groomsmen, the bride, the bride’s women, the family, the clergy, generally speaking, for everyone present.  A Handfasting is a serious ritual of commitment, but it is also an occasion for celebration and merriment. Keep it serious, but remember to laugh. (and… breathe … remember to savor the day… it’s yours forever.)

Today, I am going to address music with a sampling of songs, with a little commentary, that I have heard over the years which lend themselves well to the celebration of love and commitment that a Handfasting is meant to be.    … and … to the heart of the matter!  These are songs drawn from the popular “cannon” that have some familiarity across generations.  The next blog ( entry will focus on Pagan artists’ music. I will add more as I think of them, and, please, use the comments section below to add your favorites.

For the gathering period as the hall, garden, or park (or your living room) fills with your friends and relations, a little instrumental music will “set the tone” for the event.  Unless you know the gathered crowd very well, save the dancing for the reception.  Choose music that will allow for the moments of confusion invariably happen as your guests gather, but keep the attention of those already seated.  Many couple choose a recording of classical or folk music.  Some hire a string quartet, others a single instrumentalist, or a folk ensemble for this period.  Plan for about 30 to 40 minutes and signal the start of the ritual itself with a song – either sung by a performer or by the guests – or, some combination of both.  I recommend that, even if  the music provided during the reception is all recorded or a DJ is enjoined to provide music, (especially for a large Handfasting) for this part of the day, that live musicians provide the music.

Suggestion: There is a lot of class in a harp ensemble. This is a video by Diana Rowan whose harping is exceptional, (Diana’s website:

Songs for the ritual itself:

Rubylove: Cat Stevens (Cat Stevens – Rubylove, live at Vorst Nationaal, Brussels – June 2nd 2011. Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam live at Forest National)

A good around, easy to sing and  choice.  A great song for processionals, recessionals, circle and spiral dancing. Or for just general celebrating and merriment.  If your relations “came of age” in the 60s & 70s, they will probably know this song, and – if asked – will sing along.  The translation of the lyrics sung in Greek are (insert your names):

Ruby glykeia (Ruby my sweet)
Ela xana (come again)
Ela xana konta mou (come again close to me)
Ela proi (come in the morning)
Me tin avgi (by dawn)
Hrisi san iliahtida (gold as a sunbeam)
Ruby mou mikri (You small Ruby)

Hired a band? Why not a little rock & roll to start things off with? a couple could Make an Entrance to remember with this one! (David Bowie – Modern Love – Live 2004 )

While we are discussing Bowie – (so…when isn’t it OK to discuss Bowie?) – every Handfasting needs a passionate love song as an integral part of the ritual:  (David Bowie- Wild is the Wind [live] )

There is a place in most Handfastings when the couple shares food and drink (champagne & cake?) this song lends itself to the  action in a beautiful way…(Sally Oldfield – Fire and Honey – “Water Bearer” (1978)

This lovely song by folksinger Loreena McKennitt will also lend itself well to this ritual sharing of food and drink.  Many couples will share the chalice and the place with the guests as well as in any ritual. This action always takes a little time to complete – a live musician will be able to judge and improvise accordingly to create that time far better than relying on a recording. (Loreena McKennitt– Dark Night of The Soul)

May you always find joy and laughter! BB!

Birth Control – we won that battle a long time ago …

I need to write a bit of a rant, here. It is time to remind the GOP & the Demos (especially those in Congress) that 69% of all American women and a slightly smaller percentage of men (the actual number is harder to come by) have used Planned Parenthood for health services. What for? Cancer screening, STDs- prevention, treatment & referral, birth control including vasectomies, ligation, the pill – and condoms. Lots and lots of condoms. The stats for 2009 – alone – are:  Planned Parenthood provided 4,009,549 contraceptive services (35% of total), 3,955,926 sexually transmitted disease services (35% of total), 1,830,811 cancer related services (16% of total), 1,178,369 pregnancy/prenatal/midlife services (10% of total), 332,278 abortion services (3% of total), and 76,977 other services (1% of total), for a total of 11,383,900 services. The organization also said its doctors and nurses annually conduct 1 million screenings for cervical cancer and 830,000 breast exams. (From: Planned Parenthood, annual report, 2009/10)

 Call to Action:

Congress funds this incredibly popular service at 10% – largely because of “religious objections”. These figures may actually be larger, as not all people who use these services (especially the free condoms) fill out forms in the offices. It certainly does not include the dissemination of information regarding STDs and sex education throughout the country. We all vote. I move that we all flood the GOP with these stats & (graphic) photos of what advanced syphilis, gonorrhea, AIDS, chlamydia, untreated genital & breast cancer (of both genders), botched abortions, women worn out with too many pregnancies, and ignorant youth actually looks like.

It is time to stand up for the freedom to control our bodies, to choose what our families will look like, to have or not to have children, and our heath care choices. To let our elected officials know, in no uncertain terms, that it is not the time to end funding or limit our choices because of a loud minority, but to expand these services. To say, once again, “Birth Control: Free, confidential, and on demand for all Americans!”

Traveling Paleolithic in the Cyber Century

It’s really tough to do.

Wherever: not just temptation, but menus loaded with pasta, bread, dessert, sauces…

I discovered two things:

1. order off the “ala carte” and the “appetizer” menu.

and, 2. Restaurants won’t subtract the bread or the cream sauce from your bill.


So what to do?  Grocery stores, small markets and farmer’s markets.  Berries, fish, local fruit.  These all work here on the West Coast where it is dungeness (Metacarcinus magister) season from Waldport, Or. to San Francisco and smoked salmon is everywhere all year round.  In summer, fresh fruits abound, but in February, pickins’ is scarce.

I recently fled the City and headed north to the beautiful Oregon Coast to spend time with friends and family.  I found myself hunting for that “perfect paleo-meal” by the sea.  I didn’t find it… alas … Plenty of great food, but nothing reasonably priced that fit the paleo- profile.

I had a lot of smoked fish and apples.  I also had fish and chips, some fabulous pureed asparagus soup, and, for breakfast, some fruit plates with chicken-apple sausages on the side (thank the Gods that coffee is still on the menu).  Salads with shrimp, crab, and just salads.  In Oregon, those yummy little red cranberries are ubiquitous: dried, roasted in things, chopped and baked, as garnish on salads and soups.  I found them delightful.  I found that ordering a crab cocktail in Bandon worked out well  – if you ask for the sauce on the side.   And, yes, it was garnished with cranberries.  The saute of crab and asparagus comes with a cream sauce they don’t list on the menu. for those who love them: mussels, oysters, and clams can be found in almost every restaurant worth its salt, and a few that aren’t.  The bowl of mollusks steamed in wine and herbs is a Northwest classic.  That and – yet another – salad, and it looks like dinner.

I did learn one lesson: traveling paleo won’t get you cheap meals.  I acquired a roomy picnic basket and some utensils.  Those farmer’s markets near roadside parks and wayside stops are a lifesaver fort he paleo traveler.    Since a good many are also equipped with wi-fi these days, I could check my e-mail over lunch while watching the Pacific roll in.

Well… that’s about it for travel for now.  I’ll post a re-visited pureed asparagus soup as soon as I deconstruct the recipe.

Meanwhile, tonight it’s an award dinner at the local university – so it’s salad again …

Bowl of Clams in Wine With Saffron

Arrange 10 or 15 clams or mussels in their shells (or both) in a sturdy pan one layer deep.  Pour 2 cups of white wine over all.  Add a good drizzle of a fruity extra virgin olive oil. If you still eat butter, add a goodly number of dollops.

Add: 2 or three minced garlic cloves, the same number of sliced shallots, salt, pepper to taste and 5 to 10 saffron threads (depending upon the strength).

Cover and steam gently on low heat or over a campfire until the clams fully open.  Garnish with chopped parsley and a  few lemon wedges tucked between the clams.  Serve at once.

Inspiration Potion

I got a special little container. It is green glass with the word “Inspire” etched into it.

Iron Venice Potion Bottles

So I made a magic potion:

1 Meyer lemon – shave off the zest, then quarter.  Add the whole fruit

1 or 2 satsuma oranges, quartered, again, add whole fruit.

3 green cardamom pods

one piece of star anise

1/4 tsp mahleb powder

1 cinnamon stick

pinch nutmeg

1 cup sugar

31/2 cups  water

5 saffron threads

Put everything into a crock pot or on the stove at the very lowest heat. Simmer until the sugar is fully incorporated and the steam is aromatic. Cool, strain through a seive and put it into your favorite decanter.  Serve either warm or chilled when you need a little inspiration.

Rainy Day Fish Stew

Making fish stew on a rainy day …

It’s not that difficult, you just have to love it into the stew pot.  Start by making a court bouillon:

Use all sorts of shells:

You can freeze these as you enjoy the meats and use in making your bouillon when you need them.  Use crab, lobster, shrimp, crayfish – saute in butter & saffron (four or five threads will do) until they are pink. (If already cooked, skip this part.)

Throw all of these into a pot with some water, vermouth or white wine, salt, pepper, a bundle of fines herbs tied into cheesecloth with a piece of twine, a little more saffron, crushed garlic and 2 or three quartered onions.

Add any fish bones or some scrap fish parts from the fishmonger (you may have to ask for these to be saved for you). The skin and bones of smoked fish adds a nice, rich smoky flavor to your court bouillon. If you don’t have any on hand, use a little smoked ham or bacon.

Simmer for about an hour.  Cool, then strain through sieve and set aside.

Make a roux.  Roux is an art form; There are several recipes and you can use either the “brown” roux New Orleans-style or the lighter classic French styles. Here is a site with photos describing the Louisiana style of roux:

I actually like to divide the fats in my roux into equal parts clarified duck or goose fat and butter (not clarified) and a few drops of olive oil.  I also rarely make the NoLA-style dark brown roux unless I am attempting a gumbo –  But – I live in California where these things are highly individual.  Roux freezes, so if you make too much, put the extra into the freezer.  A video that’s OK about the classic French style of making roux:

Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.  Set aside when you’ve achieved your roux.

Chop up:

2 peeled carrots, or a handful of “baby carrots”;  3 or 4 Brussels sprouts – cleaned and the ends chopped off.  Quarter your Brussels sprouts, or use them sliced like cabbage or whole, depending upon how you like them;  2 onions and 2 garlic cloves, rough chopped, and several chopped stocks of celery with the leaves  and the heart if you  have one.  Quarter one (you just need one) good, sweet tomato of any variety and add to the pot.

Add one bay leaf, more thyme than you think necessary; and, to taste, whole anise seed, a pinch of nut meg and salt and pepper.  You do not need to be careful about measurements, just season to taste – make this a couple of times and you will know what works for you.  Saute over a low heat until the onions are soft. When I made this earlier today, I used a leek (tossing aside the tough leaves for making stock), a half of a red onion left over from something else, and two big shallots.

When the onions are soft, add 1/2 cup of dry sherry and about a fourth cup of your roux. Sir and check for seasoning.  Heat up your soup kettle and pour in your court bouillon – you will need about 6 cups.  Add the vegetables, scraping the bottom of the pan for all the bits on the bottom.  Cook – very slowly – all day.  Around a half hour before dinner, add your favorite fish, both white and red, cut into mouth-sized chunks (not too small), some smoked fish (if you like it), a few large shrimps shelled and cut into pieces (again, not to small), and anything else you might like. Cover and cook, very gently at a low temperature, until the fish is done.  If you like some added spice, add in some chopped andouille, calabrese, or hot Italian sausage, cook well.  Serve.

If you want to make a real splash with your presentation, steam a few clams or mussels (add in the nectar when they are done), some squid (cleaned), and a couple of crab legs just before serving in a large tureen.   Garnish with chopped parsley and  it looks great at a party.

Add in a basket of fresh bread and a salad.

Music to cook by: The classic “Fish Heads” by Barnes & Barnes:

Also for your inspiration – some rain music:

“Rainy Mood”

Gene Kelly – Singing in the rain

George Benson – Rainy Night In Georgia

A Rainy Night in Soho (Videoclip) – The Pogues

Oh Yes…Paleolítico Tapas!

The Mediterranean region may have the most varied and all around delicious cuisine on this planet.  I’ve been experimenting with the national Spanish pass time of tapas:  Those “small bite” plates of pure  delicioso that are part of the culture of Spain.  It’s … well … bar food.  Wonderful, surprising,  tasty, bar food.   This means the dishes are easy to prepare, quickly made, and served exquisitely, usually with a good sampling of wines.  One sits, dances, converses, and samples tapas ranging from slices of  Jamón  and chorizos to cooked plates of seafood, meats, poultry and interesting preparations of things like duck and shellfish.  Sometimes going from bar-to-bar through a long evening with friends. Tapas bars have become fashionable in many cities all over the US and elsewhere.  Often, they serve mediocre to good Spanish wines that are somewhat moderately priced, by the glass or the bottle – but – those “little bites” can be both very little and very pricy.

There is good news: for the foodie “paleo” devotee, outside of the high-priced tapas bar, tapas is easy on the budget, is genuinely delicious, and  … it is composed of small plates by design.   Start with a little bowl of nuts (almonds are essential to the tapas table), with or without salt, roasted or raw, a few really good olives, and add a plate of thinly sliced Jamón or some smoked fish.  Add a bowl of crudités (chopped raw veggies), with or without a dipping sauce;  some spicy Garlic Shrimp or a plate of the classic Patatas a lo pobrepoor man’s potatoes“.  Select a bottle of something really tasty and a glass, serve everything arranged on beautiful small plates and there you have it: dinner.  The wonderful secret is this: in all of the samplings I’ve tried (devoured greedily), over half of the recipes are ready-made paleo-perfect. (There will follow a listing of cook books from my collection – stay tuned).

Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Variations on this dish can be found in restaurants served with angel hair pasta, rice or just alone.

Preheat oven to 400

Shrimp: rule of thumb: 4 or 5 per diner.

Vary amounts below according to how much shrimp (and how large) you are using.  Many fish mongers sell the larger varieties as “prawns”.  Always start with fresh, wild varieties, never “pre-cooked”, frozen  or canned.  Do not use “salad shrimp”.  This recipe works well with any fresh crustacean. Be very careful about over-cooking and watch closely.

  • 1/2 tsp. of pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • a tsp. of dried thyme
  • a little salt & pepper
  • chopped parsley to garnish
  •  a little sherry

In a heavy sauce pan or in small Spanish cazuela, place three tablespoons of a good extra virgin olive oil.  Add 1/2 tsp. of pepper flakes, 4 cloves of minced garlic, a tsp. of dried thyme,  a little salt & pepper, and put into a hot oven until it’s hot and bubbly.

Meantime, wash enough shrimp to make your meal.  You do not have to remove the heads, shell or de-vein the shrimp unless you prefer them that way.  Place in a small container with a little sherry, set aside as the cazuela heats.  You may add salt and pepper at this stage.

Remove the cazuela  from the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, add the thyme, shrimp with the sherry, stir it up so that the oil and pepper flakes cover the shrimp and return to the oven.   Watch it closely and the very second all of the shrimp are pink, remove, garnish with the parsley, and serve with a few lemon wedges on the side.

A nice variation is to thinly slice a little Serrano ham and toss into the mix when you add the shrimp.

Cuban Mojo Sauce for crudités

The secret to delightful crudités is to serve them beautifully arranged in finger-sized pieces cut in interesting ways.  Take a look at some books by chefs for tips on cutting.  Here’s a site for inspiration:

Suggestions: asparagus tips, “baby” and/or young carrots, radishes, jicama, cucumbers, sun-chokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes), mushrooms, fresh edible-pod peas … anything that’s fresh and tasty raw will do. Be careful about tomatoes, they can make a mess…

This sauce keeps up to a month in the refrigerator and it’s good for everything from dipping crudités to serving over a plate of poached salmon. I even have a (non-paleo devotee) who swears by it over popcorn. This link is pretty comprehensive: Taste of 

My “quick & easy” variation:

  • Squeeze the juice from 3 not-especially-ripe juice oranges (or use Florida “bitter oranges” if you can find them)  add the juice of one lemon and one lime.
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil (a good variety)
  • mince 6-8 cloves of garlic (or enough to choke that proverbial horse, whichever is greater)
  • tsp ground cumin – or – if you only have whole cumin, roast it briefly in the oven and use whole
  • 3-5 tblsps. smoked paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat an iron skillet to piping hot, turn off the heat.  Add the olive oil, fry the garlic, but do not brown – quickly add the cumin, paprika, and juice while briskly stirring with a whisk.  Take care! The hot oil may splatter!  Serve hot or cool in small containers for dipping your veggies into.