Secure the blessings of the fruit of the earth in a braid of grain. Author, witch, and therapist Carmen Spagnola will be joined by Finnriver founder Crystie Kisler and Finnriver grain farmer Keith …
Secure the blessings of the fruit of the earth in a braid of grain. Author, witch, and therapist Carmen Spagnola will be joined by Finnriver founder Crystie Kisler and Finnriver grain farmer Keith Kisler to host this weaving ritual of thanks and reverence on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 & 18.
To help set the scene for Harvest Home, Carmen will read excerpts from her forthcoming book, "The Spirited Kitchen," and share some of the lore and folk magic of the season.
Harvest Home, like Thanksgiving, is an example of a modern update to the ancient celebrations in honor of the last harvest of the year.
“I know for me and my family and many people I know, the customs and the history of Thanksgiving isn’t a very good fit anymore, but we still want to give thanks for the harvest. And we still want to celebrate abundance, and we still want to come together to give thanks and to prepare for the long, dark winter ahead,” Spagnola said.
Modern updates and ancestral, earthly roots explored through rituals like these are all in Spagnola’s upcoming book, which weaves in recipes throughout the seasonal Wheel of the Year.
“It is a human impulse to ritualize important moments and to make art, and to make something beautiful,” Spagnola said.
Spagnola first publicly declared herself a witch in 2016 during a keynote speech entitled, “Learning to See in the Dark” that she gave at the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit. (That speech is still available online to listen to through Spagnola’s “The Numinous Podcast.”)
“The witch has a particular role in society; one is as an advocate healer, another is as a liberatory figure that is resisting tyranny in all forms using means both magical and tangible,” she said.
In her book, she treats food as medicine looking to the importance of eating in accordance with the seasons as well as with the spirit.
“Every recipe is delivered with some spiritual guidance,” she said.
In the back of the book she also indexes more than 200 ingredients and their “Magical Correspondences,” listing the spiritual significance of each.
“Whether you’re developing your own recipes or your own spells, you’ll be equipped … It may be kept on your cookbook shelf or it may be kept on your alter,” Spagnola said with a laugh.
Spagnola’s roots to food go deep with training at Le Cordon Blue Paris and over a decade in the food-and-beverage industry with time spent as both a chef and sales rep for food and wine.
For the event at Finnriver, however, there is the ritual of protection in addition to food preparation.
“Wheat weaving is so important because — though it looks like we’re just making something that’s a craft or a trinket — what we’re actually doing is we’re saving the best grain for the next year,” Spagnola said.
“The seed is our most treasured item, so of course it makes sense that our ancestors made really elaborate, beautiful offerings to the God of Grain in order to say, ‘Thank you for your blessing and please bless us in the future.’”
Spagnola and Kisler will be guiding participants in an easy harvest braid technique known as the Glory Braid. If they have time, they might also attempt to make a Grain Mother, which in olden days would be hung up above the festivities like the angel at the top of a Christmas tree.
The event takes place during Jefferson County Farm Tour weekend, where farms across the county will be open to the public for tours and activities. This workshop is offered from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 at the Finnriver Cider Garden. To sign up for the wheat weaving workshop, go to shop.finnriver.com/product/Wheat-Weaving-Workshop
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