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Ancestor Stew

Author: Willow Moon
Posted: November 21st. 2010
Times Viewed: 6,006

I remember with such accuracy and fondness the smell of my kitchen as a child when Shadowfest grew near. I looked forward to the pomegranates, squash, bread, grapes, dates and figs that would become the focal point of our family meals. It was a special time, a time of gathering and preparing, laughing and growing closer together as a family unit while exploring the depths of the ancestral energies that are so prominent in an Italian household.

Each of us held certain honors at this time of year; I assisted with canning and drying for winter stores while my brothers harvested our garden wealth and prepared the yard for the coming winter. My Nona (grandmother) took care of the cooking and freezing, working her wondrous magic and creating a way’ for the ancestors to find’ once the time was “just right”. It is this way’ that I remember so fondly

As I gather the ingredients for Ancestor Stew I remember those feelings, those unshakable knowings and yearnings and the need to replicate the recipe “just right” so the way’ may be made’. I shop on line for Fava beans only to find small, insignificant beans, not the monstrous beauties that are a requirement…nay, a necessity to create a gate through which my ancestors will arrive. With time becoming an ever-growing concern I decided to try a Middle Eastern market; two weeks prior to Shadowfest I have my mammoth beauties.

With the beans taking a full 24 hrs to soak (rather than 6-8 hrs) , I have some time to gather my resources. With prayers and intention I gather the herbs that I’ve nurtured in my little container garden all season. I am especially pleased with the fennel; she needed more sun than she was able to receive and whether through my nurturing or my lack of bother she has become strong and proud, full of aroma and waiting for this one moment to add her magic to the way’. The oregano is curly this year, as if the ever changing – ever same pattern of the spiral is insistent upon being a focal point; smiling and humming, the herbs are gathered with mutual reverence and respect. I add these precious bundles to the soup stalk that is now warming gently upon the stove, releasing the fragrance that completely permeates the room; instantly I am swept backwards in time.

I remember my Nona standing in front of a huge pot adding the same herbs and releasing the same wonderfully comforting fragrance. I remember coming home to that delicious fragrance after a long day walking home from school in the cold air of early evening that marks the changing of seasons in Eastern Washington (Spokane) . As I stand in my own kitchen cooking with the beautiful spirits of the herbs I have loved and nurtured I continue to cast my mind back, to earlier times, to ancestors whose stories I have heard and to those I have never known.

Pomegranate is added, its rich plum sweetness adding to this spell through time. Dry red wine induces the fragrance, teasing it to a darker richness and bringing about an awareness of age and honor. The cornucopia continues with all things being added and layered in their appropriate time at the peak of waiting so as to enhance the “just right” moment of the creative force that is opening the way’.

It is time to add Favas, beautiful beans that are shaped like a pregnant Goddess and are held in high regard, they are considered holy when creating rites of passage. Although they are used in birthing rites and wedding rites, their “real” purpose is in assisting those who have crossed from this realm. Bringing gifts of inception and manifestation these beautiful beans are historically potent in several countries across the globe, but perhaps for their associations with death (or with life) Americans are reluctant to embrace their beauty and potency.

I pick up handfuls of a few beans at a time and gently rinse them in cool water; I am keeping the skins intact and allowing the beans to maintain their firmness and shape. I think back to all the times I have created this same ritual. To the many times at my Nona’s side, watching her gentle twisted hands working the beans through the cool water. I imagine the long line of my ancestors all washing these beauties together, as sisters, as mothers, as daughters, as granddaughters, as those who are ‘finding their way’ together. I feel ancient and fearless, proud and humble, gifted and honored. I feel the way’ opening.

Gently adding the favas to the stew the aroma is at once mellowed and deepened. I understand why we create this stew each year, at this same time, in this same way. It is a fullness that culminates, with beauty and honor holding equal measure.

Eventually I add the seasoned meat; sausage is traditional. This addition is intended to be a remembrance of our bodies, our flesh; impermanence, and the realization that we are all subject to the universal laws of change and adaptation. Even those who chose not to partake of meat (or red meats) eat ancestor stew. It is our calling to awareness that our flesh will transform, will become food, and will nurture through transformation.

The aroma becomes at once sweet and rich when the conversion is complete. I feel my ancestors waiting in anticipation as the magic becomes strengthened and solidified. I feel the way’ is open. I pull some bowls out of the cupboard and ladle the blood red liquid into these miniature representations of the womb. I place cream in the center to represent the lactation of birth and the cervical mucus plug; I add cheese around the cream to represent the nutrients within amniotic fluid.

I place the bowls on the ancestor altar, inviting my ancestors into my world, my home and my family. I feel happiness surround me, and the pleasure of my company is known. I feel honored. I ladle my family some bowls of stew with cream and cheese, so that we may birth together through the transformative energies of death. I ask my Goddess (in this case; Hecate) to allow this union to bring what it may. This is our way’.

Blessed Shadowfest to my family!

Copyright: Copyright © 2010 by the article's author


Willow Moon

Location: Everett, Washington

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