Saving money can be pretty hard, especially if you need to actually hold physical cash in order to manage it. Personally, I know that unless I have cash in my wallet where I can physically hold on to it, I’m definitely prone to impulse spending–you know that moment of, “Oh yeah, I can totally afford that” even if I can’t tell you my exact bank balance. It’s not an uncommon mental phenomenon, and lots of financial advisers counsel their clients to lead a “cash-only” lifestyle (basically no credit cards, debit cards, or checks) until they have a solid saving habit established.
I’m a bit more in favor of learning how to use bank accounts myself, and that was confirmed to me last week when a cash-only friend of mine lost her purse. Now, this friend has been having such a problem managing her money that she completely closed out her bank account. Unfortunately, she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving her money in her home alone because she lives with housemates and doesn’t trust that they or their friends will leave her stuff alone. So she carries all her money on her all the time, all separated into a series of different envelopes, each marked for a specific purpose. When she lost her purse, there was several thousand dollars in it. And it was ear-marked for really important things like dental work for herself, birthday presents for her teen daughters, rent, groceries, etc.
Luckily, my friend did get her purse back, and all the money was still there. However, it definitely brought the importance of managing bank accounts up to all of us. So I devised a bit of a spell that combines the “gotta see it stack up” mentality with the abstractness of a bank account.
First, though, you’ve got to get an idea of how much of each paycheck you should be saving and how you should be budgeting. A good place to begin is with the 50/20/30 rule, which divides your monthly budget into three distinct categories of expenses, and ranks them according to importance. At least 50% of your monthly budget should be reserved for essentials, such as your rent/mortgage, food, staple clothing, transportation, and utilities. At least 20% should go towards “financial priorities” such as savings, debt payments, retirement contributions, etc. Finally, no more than 30% should be allocated to “lifestyle choices”, such as nights out, a million cable channels, that cute sweater you saw in a boutique, etc.
Now, if you follow this rule alone, you are on track…but you still really aren’t saving enough. After all, you actually need to be socking a quarter of your pay directly to a savings account–that way, at the end of a year you’ll have saved up approximately 3 months of salary, which is the minimum advised to have just in case you lose your job. Then you still have retirement to think of, as well as saving up for specific things, such as home and auto maintenance, vacations, etc. If you’re going to be fiscally conservative, you might actually consider a break down of something closer to 50/35/15.
To put this latter proportion into an example, if you are paid every 2 weeks and each paycheck is $850 after taxes, your monthly take home pay is about $1700.** Of that, $850 is reserved for essentials, which gives you roughly $400 for housing, $150 for bills and gas, and $300 for food and clothing. Then, at least $595 should be saved in some capacity, which leaves $255 for discretionary spending.
Once you’ve set your proportional budget for how much you should be saving, go to your bank and set up some savings accounts. Yes, that was plural. At the very least, most banks allow you to set up multiple “Christmas accounts” in addition to a primary savings account. Your primary savings account is going to be the “never ever touch unless it’s a dire emergency” account. The bulk of your savings are going to go there. The other accounts will be for things like Vacation, Auto/Home Maintenance, Moving Expenses, Tithing/Charity, etc. Figure out how many of these accounts you need, and how much money you are going to divert to all savings accounts every paycheck.
Once all that is said and done, the spellwork begins.
On a payday, get yourself two lidded jars or piggy banks, and two squares of green fabric and some string. In the center of each fabric square, add a few juniper berries (to prevent theft, either from others or from yourself), a cinnamon stick (for success), and a few clove buds, dried mint, and old fashioned oats (to obtain wealth). Write your savings account numbers on a scrap of paper and add it to the pile of herbs. Bundle the fabric around the herbs and paper, and tie the bundles off with the string. Set the bundles aside.
Gather up all the loose change you’ve accumulated since your last payday. Cast circle, and charge the bundles to your intent of attracting and holding onto wealth. Envision yourself setting aside money every payday into your savings accounts. Envision the balance in those accounts growing. Push that energy into the bundle, and put the bundles in your jars. Separate all the pennies out of your loose change, and put those into one jar. Put all the silver coins into the second jar. Envision these jars filling up with every pay day. Give thanks and close circle.
To live in accordance with this spell, do not spend any money on your subsequent pay days until you have taken your money and divvied it up into your different accounts accordingly. Once that has been done, take all the loose change you’ve accumulated since your last pay day, and divide it up into your jars, envisioning them growing as your accounts grow.
When the silver coin jar is full, take it to your bank and have them deposit it into one of your savings accounts. When the penny jar is full, turn in the pennies for cash. Use this money as “sacrifice.” Give it to a homeless person, buy some charcoal or salt for the covenstead, give it to a kid who looks like he could use a treat…whatever floats your boat. As you have enriched yourself, pass the seed of that enrichment onto another.
Continue your payday ritual as long as it helps you.
Ages ago when I was helping my mom through a year of illness and feeling completely overwhelmed by all the housework, I discovered Marla Ciley’s housekeeping book Sink Reflections. Now Ciley (A.K.A. The Flylady) is no Martha Stewart, and her book is no Homekeeping Handbook, but it did help me out quite a bit. One of the most important lessons I learned from it is that “you can do anything in 15 minutes.” If I get home and my house is a wreck, I turn on a timer for 15 minutes and spend that time just putting things in one room away. I don’t let myself get sidetracked by something like taking a handful of pens from the living room to my office and then straightening everything on my desk. I just put the pens away and return to the living room. Once that timer goes off, I stop and evaluate. Am I done? Am I too tired to continue? Do I have enough juice left to do another 15 minutes somewhere else?
Now, I know from lots of mundane experience that I usually finish the ‘clutter busting’ in just about 5 minutes or so, and I can often get two or three rooms finished in 15 minutes. And I’m usually not exhausted like I thought I’d be. But even though I know this, I’ve been a downright slob as of late. My new shift at work combined with summer’s long daylight hours means I’m not getting near enough sleep, and my job’s mandatory overtime means I take my precious off-hours very seriously–I don’t want to do housework, I want to have fun! So while I know I can keep my living space looking nice with just a few minutes of effort…I still find myself procrastinating.
To combat this, I’ve taken to turning my 15 minutes into a bit of a spell. Before I start my timer, I light a scented candle or put some oil into my diffuser. Then I take up a cord and tie 15 loose knots into it while holding the image of my finished task in my mind. With each knot, I say something to the effect of “No delay, time is slipping away. From this task I will not stray.” Then I undo the knots, chanting something like “In fifteen minutes, my task is done. Then I shall take some time for fun.” Then I set my timer and get to work, and I work without letting anything interrupt me or thwart me from my task.
I think I do concentrate better on my task when I do this little spell than when I don’t. I think that taking just that little bit of time to still my mind and focus on the task at hand–and the goal of completing it!–gives me just the little bolt of energy I need to see it through. And, better still, I’m not living in a pig sty.
This is definitely my week for drooling over international crafts. Today we jump from Lisbon, Portugal to Budapest, Hungary, where Borbala Arvai creates her needle felted dolls for her Etsy shop, BoriDolls.
Like Pedro Santos, Arvai is not necessarily a Pagan practitioner, but she at least speaks our lingo. In addition to the gorgeous Horned God and Earth Mother pictured above, she creates fairies and mermaids. She’s not all Pagan and fantasy, though: she also creates dolls in a variety of yoga poses and has created a whole needle felted Nativity. She creates a number of Earth Mommas, too, with hair and continents in every color of the rainbow. In fact, she even has a rainbow-festooned Momma to help remind us to celebrate our diversity.
Generally, I’m no great fan of fiber arts, but I can definitely see using these to create an altar for very little children. There’s something very Waldorf and Montessori about them. These are hands-on figures, and they practically invite children to grab them up and play with them. (No, I *never* got in trouble for playing with my parents’ saint statues as a kid…nope, nope, nope!) I can certainly think of worse things for Pagan toddlers to do than to re-create myths with these dolls. It’s certainly a lot more wholesome than the plastic action figures du jour or Barbies or what have you.
On that note, I get the impression that Arvai would be happy to take on custom work. Horned God and Earth Mother not your primary deities? I betcha she’d happily take on Shiva and Kali. I’d love to see her create a Ganesha. If I had kids, I betcha I’d ask her to make me a whole Greek Pantheon.
Maybe at that point I should just learn needle felting for myself?
I love our contemporary global marketplace. In what other period in time can a girl in Seattle lust over a Welsh handicraft executed by a gentleman in Portugal? It’s a brave new world, folks.
And that is exactly what I did today. After a couple weeks of go-go-go, I decided to enjoy a leisurely morning of browsing through Etsy, and I came across these contemporary takes on a traditional Welsh craft: carving lovespoons. Now, the earliest known example of a lovespoon dates from around 1667, but the tradition is thought to have been longer-lived than that. Essentially, a lovespoon is a token of affection carved by a Welshman to give to his sweetheart…but with the intent to demonstrate his skills to her father. The spoon is a symbol that is supposed to show that the suitor can provide for his daughter, and the intricacy of the carving is to demonstrate that the suitor’s skill will “keep the bowl full”. Today, the practice has largely disbanded and the manufacture of the spoons has become a folkcraft, though the spoons themselves remain a popular gift for weddings, anniversaries, and the like.
Today, craftsman Pedro Santos out of Lisbon, Portugal continues the tradition of making these spoons, and he sells them through his Etsy store, PabreauWoodworking. I don’t get the impression that he is a practicing Pagan, but he sure can talk the lingo! I love this particular set spoons; so simple they are and yet so powerful. I’d absolutely love them for my altar…but at about $340 for the set, I think my drooling will be limited to sharing their gorgeousness with all of you.
Obviously, I read a lot. It was pretty much my job there for awhile. And I love me some fiction…the kind you can read over and over again and discover something new about it each time.
Monica Furlong’s “Wise Child” series fits that bill, and they’re Pagan-positive to boot. I first discovered these books back when I myself was a young adult, and they still hold up as quality texts even though I’m now an adult…and a literary critic to boot.
I sincerely doubt that Furlong originally intended these books to form a series, if only because they were written over such a long period of time. Wise Child was first published in 1987, with its prequel Juniper following in 1990 and Wise Child’s sequel, Coleman, finally arriving in 2003. Given the latter’s conclusion, I speculate that Furlong would have indeed turned this story into a still longer series, but her death in 2003 obviously prevented that. Overall, the series does read somewhat unevenly. The first novel is wonderfully wrought in detail and feeling and really can be considered a great novel. The other two books, however, miss the charm of the original and do read more as stories of narrative than novels of art. There’s definitely much more emphasis on conveying the “what happens next?” feeling rather than that exquisite rendering of a metaphoric scene that great writing conveys.
I do treasure each of these books, for Wise Child captured me so completely when I read it as a teen that I desperately wanted to know how this marvelous person of Juniper came to be wrought, and was therefore thrilled to read her story, though I missed the ‘magic’ of the first book. I can’t say I had the same desperation that would have led to Coleman, which I entirely missed as it was published while I was in college. Wise Child‘s ending is such that it carries enough of a conclusion that one isn’t hungering for more. It resolves so that its narrative is complete: there’s no need to see Wise Child grow up into her adolescence and see those whom she loves challenged. And yet, I appreciate Coleman, for–even though it is decidedly an adventure novel and brings the trilogy’s magic into more of a ‘fantasy’ rendering–it does nicely depict how a magical person can struggle with choosing to continue with the path, obviously something that could resonate for every contemporary Pagan.
But Wise Child…that is where all the charm of the series lies for me. I suppose that in some fashion, it sort of resembles the archetype of Cinderella, but one in which the stepmother component is radically tweaked.
Wise Child is the daughter of the handsome merchant Finbar and the beautiful sorceress Maeve. Unfortunately for Wise Child, Maeve neglects and abuses her daughter until she leaves the village altogether to work her malicious magic to increase her fortune. Finbar equally abandons his daughter, as he basically is permanently away in his trading. Left in the care of her grandmother, Wise Child lives a semi-spoiled life until her grandmother dies and the village witch, Juniper, steps up to raise the child in Finbar’s absence.
And so begins the joyous part of the novel. Juniper here is somewhat like Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Her home is the type that any child would love to grow up in: slightly eccentric, full of interest, and incredibly safe. And Juniper herself proves to be a near Platonic ideal of the mother/teacher. She is kind and warm, and she allows Wise Child to work out answers to questions for herself. Eventually, Juniper reveals that she is a doran, or–as Wise Child later defines it–”someone who loves all the creatures of the world, the animals, birds, plants, trees, and people and who cannot bear to do any of them any harm [... ,] who believes that they are all linked together and that therefore everything can be used to heal the pain and suffering of the world [... ,] who does not hate anybody and who is not frightened of anyone or anything.”. In short, Juniper and Wise Child basically live as how many Pagans dream of living, and the fantasy is deliciously enticing.
The novel is saved from being a piece of wish-fulfillment by a couple challenges. The first is the temptation to the dark side, in which Maeve tries tempt Wise Child away from her doran training by showing her was comforts magic-for-power can provide. Wise Child, of course, struggles mightily with this until she eventually realizes she does not desire that power and that her mother is not capable of loving her. She eventually embraces Juniper whole-heartedly as her own mother. The second is the Christian church’s erroneous position that all magic is evil, and Furlong masterfully walks the political tightrope here, noting that Juniper while definitely appreciates the root of the Christian movement (once asking how one could possibly help loving Jesus), she also understands how it has been twisted into a quest for power instead of love and healing. Furlong’s depiction of the egomaniacal priest certainly stands as an excellent example of how ‘good’ can be ‘bad’.
Though these three books are geared to a Young Adult market, they all–especially Wise Child–carry artistry and nuance enough to keep skilled readers hungrily turning the pages, and they carry a beautiful message of the positive side of paganism: a message beautifully wrought by a devout Christian author.
During a recent trip to Portland to see my friend Johnathan, I challenged him to take me somewhere in the city we’d never been before. And that was how a Witch and an atheist ended up spending the afternoon at The Grotto, or The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother. The place is gorgeous, and Johnathan and I very much enjoyed the natural setting and all the various shrines and things…but we probably had the most fun checking out all the Catholic paraphernalia in the gift store. In particular, he and I spent a very long time going over all the different prayer cards in the place. We had a bit of fun reading off some of the prayers to each other, but they were all sort of wishy-washy…that is, until we got to Our Lady of Knock. “Whoa, Johnathan,” I said as I flipped the card and skimmed the text. “This one is hardcore. Listen.”
My Queen! My Mother! I give you all myself, and, to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my entire self. Wherefore, O Loving Mother, as I am your own, keep me, defend me, as your property and possession.
It sent shivers up our spines, and we readily agreed that this was the prayer card for the Catholic BDSM enthusiasts. Of course, I bought the card (Johnathan left with a holographic one where a beam of light splits a nun’s head when you flip it around). I did a bit of research and discovered that this particular prayer is supposed to be that for the Mother of the Universal Church and that there’s another one for Our Lady of Knock specifically…but the two got combined recently, so I guess we just go with the more dramatic prayer.
The thing, though, is that I really quite like the prayer. It reminds me of our five-fold kiss but takes it to a really intense place. We have all this rhetoric in contemporary society that tells us people are neither property nor possessions. Even in the kink community where this sort of thing is played with in a more positive sense, a 24/7 service sub is a bit of a rare thing. And yet, when that relationship is applied to that between the Gods and man, it seems very, very attractive. If this was a relationship I had with the Gods, I feel like I could just let so much of my day just…go. As the possession of my God, what I do is entirely his will, and I can give up all my experiences to him and just be receptive. And that seems to be a really neat place to be.
But I’ve concluded that my relationship to my Gods is not as their plaything. In the Gnostic Mass, participants state “There is no part of me that is not of the Gods” after receiving a Cake of Light, and I think that is closer to how I view my relationship to the Gods as a Wiccan. There is a part of me that is divine, that is part of what ‘God’ is. It doesn’t make me an equal to the archetypal Gods, but it prevents me from being their possession, too. I get an agency–my experiences become the Gods’ experiences and we all learn something because of them. And so, alas, as much as I like the Knock prayer…it’s not really one I’m going to adapt to my own practice.
Still…I’d forgotten how much meditation and prayer I could get out of a prayer card. Maybe I should look into creating a series of Pagan Prayer Cards, eh?
I got a couple e-mails over the weekend expressing interest in what is needed to make successful batches of sauerkraut, how expensive everything is, etc. In a couple conversations I had with people, it seemed that the general picture people had in their heads was something like this:
This is my own mother (who dresses in an old pair of her work scrubs for big, dirty projects) setting up a big batch of sauerkraut in my grandmother’s basement. She shreds and salts batches of cabbage into her biggest mixing bowl, then runs everything to the basement and puts it into a huge, 8-gallon stoneware crock. Then she tamps it all down using a big, glass inverted cake plate she has and repeats the shredding, tamping process until the crock is pretty much full. Then she rinses off the cake plate, pops it on top of the cabbage (and under a bit of the brine), then sets that white jar on top to weight it all down. That white jar is an empty 2-gallon jar of my brother’s protein powder, and Mom fills it with saltwater to act as a weight. She uses saltwater just in case the jar has a leak or gets punctured or something. The saltwater won’t dilute the sauerkraut brine overmuch and make the whole batch unsafe to eat.
Now, this is pretty much the way we’ve done sauerkraut for years, and none of us have died yet. However, there’s some major drawbacks to this method. The first is that we’re putting all our eggs in one basket. If the crock goes bad, the entire batch is wasted. The second is that our crock, lovely as it is, is so heavy that we put off sauerkraut day until we just can’t wait any more…or we just give away our cabbages and buy our kraut. That crock is also a pain in the ass to properly clean–which you have to do twice, once when you’re finished with the kraut and once when you’re starting up your batch. And you have to rinse the hell out of it, especially if you use anti-bacterial soap since a tiny bit of the soap trapped in a microcrack can ruin the whole batch. Third, I get nervous when my mom whips out the cake plate to use as a tamper. If it gets chipped or shatters with the repeated blows, we’ve just ruined the whole batch.
The tamper is an easy fix. Just get a block of wood. You can even get fancy and get yourself a proper kraut pounder. I’ve got two of them. This one here is Big Bertha. She’s a maple beauty with a 4-inch diameter striking surface, and she’s 21 inches long. She’s roughly the size of a toilet plunger. Now, I’m not going to lie to you. Huge pounders like Bertha are kind of hard to find. I came across Bertha in a store here in Olympia, the Eastside Urban Farm and Garden Center. A local artist, Jay Shepard, makes them for the store out of upcycled and reclaimed woods. Either the store or Jay might be willing to ship. I got Bertha for about $55, but most of the pounders are a touch smaller and go for about $45.
Obviously, Bertha only gets used during the major kraut batch. For smaller stuff, I use a pounder I got in Eugene. The foundation makes them up and ships them pretty much anywhere. The large end is perfect for a wide-mouth mason jar, and the smaller handle can actually be used in a standard-mouth mason if needed. They go for about $30.
Now all you need is a container. If you want to go the crock style, I recommend just getting a few Anchor Hocking Heritage Hill containers in the 2-gallon or 1-gallon sizes (they also have 3-quart, 2-quart, and 16 oz sizes). Glass cleans well, is a lot lighter than stoneware, and is transparent–which means you can visually monitor the progress of your kraut without getting into it. These jars also come with a non-airtight lid, which helps a lot in keeping your culture clean. The 2-gallon jar is also usually just about $15 or so at most Targets and Walmarts, so it’s not going to break anyone’s bank.
Now, a few people eschew glass for fermentation because it isn’t light-proof. That drawback is easily remedied if you keep your ferment in a cabinet or basement, or even just throw a towel over it (or make a cozy like this lady). But–honestly–as long as you’re not parking it in direct sunlight, you’ll be fine. You will, however, need a weight if using a crock. Just get a glass plate big enough to hold the bulk of the kraut below the brine and hold it down with a mason jar full of salt water. Done.
As I mentioned earlier, I tend to just use glass jars for most of my small-scale kraut purposes. Mostly, I use mason jars just because I have oodles and oodles of them. You don’t really have to fuss with a weight or anything when your scale is this small; the only thing you have to worry about is the lid. See, standard mason jar lids actually can become airtight even if they are not processed. This can be slightly problematic if you’re fermenting in them since the ferment will create gas. If the jar fails to off-gas, it will explode. And the mess is terrible.
What I do is make an airlock top for my mason jars. It’s really easy. I just buy the Ball white plastic storage caps (they come in standard and in wide mouth) or the Tattler reusable lids and drill a 1/2″ hole into the top. Then, I insert into the hole a rubber grommet that has a 1/2″ outer diameter and a 3/8″ inner diameter. Then you just stick a standard homebrewing airlock into the grommet until it is tightly inserted, and then follow the manufacturer instructions to fill the airlock. If I’m using the Ball lid, I do slide a Tattler gasket into it before screwing it onto the jar so that the lid and jar seal will be airtight. If I’m using the Tattler lid, I just make sure to set the gasket onto the jar and get a clean canning ring to screw everything together. But if all this is too much, different companies make the assemblies: There’s the Perfect Pickler, the Pickle-Pro, and Kraut Kaps, which all really just use the same materials I’ve mentioned above. Also, some people use Re-Caps with standard bungs and airlocks, and that works out well.
If I was going to sink some money into this style of airlock, however, I would probably go with Fermentools. They’ve manufactured a stainless steel lid that you can use in conjunction with a Tattler gasket and standard home-brew bungs and airlocks. This pretty much eliminates the whole fear of letting a plastic near your acidic ferment. (They also have nice glass weights, too.) If you think you can just re-create the Fermentools lid by drilling a hold in a metal jar top, think again. I’ve drilled many a hole into a metal lid, and it is exceedingly difficult to get it smooth enough so that there aren’t many burrs or very sharp edges. I’ve torn up tons of gaskets trying: just don’t do it.
Finally, you can eliminate the whole airlock mess just by throwing your ferment in a European-style canning jar. They’re not considered safe for home canning in America since the gasket will allow off-gassing, which can hide spoilage and potentially lead to death if a person doesn’t inspect the food before consuming it. But it is that property of naturally off-gassing that makes them perfect small-scale fermenting vessels. Two favorite brands in America are Fido and Le Parfait. Fido jars are usually easier to find, especially at discounted stores like T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, Ross, and Marshalls. The full range of sizes can also be found in stock at most Sur La Tables. The main difference between the two is that Fido jars are shaped like squares with rounded corners (except for the largest size, which is round) and Le Parfait jars are round.
There are many smaller companies that do make airlock tops as described for mason jars for these European jars, too. Pickl-It is a prominent one, and does put out a quality product. If you’d like to try your hand at DIY-ing it, The Seasoned Homemaker has an excellent tutorial complete with links to all the specialized tools. However, as Lea Harris from Nourishing Traditions has tested time and time again, the extra airlock isn’t necessary at all. Very rarely someone may allow some brine or something to overflow and make the jar’s gasket sticky, and that could prevent the primary airlock from working. However, in the hundreds of cases I’ve heard from fermenters, only a couple Fidos have exploded–and the person always understood why it did. If you have questions about this method, I highly recommend joining the Fido Fermentation Facebook group. They’re always willing to share stories and recipes!
So, there you go: all you really need is a glass jar and a pounder. The rest is up to you.