Category Archives: hedonism

HPF 2016 Elemental Excursions: A Preview From the Sacred Experience Committee

It’s the final stretch, y’all: one week from today, Aradia and I will be disappearing into the woods to begin setting up the site for this year’s Heartland Pagan Festival.  The thirty-first of its kind, it will be my second year as a member of the ritual crew and my first year as a ready-to-take-the-blame committee head.  I’m stoked.  I’m scared.

elemental excursions art

We have a lot of fun and excitement planned for you all.  We’ve got great pagan speakers and musicians from across the country, and a local legend for our Saturday night concert.  Three days of workshops and rituals led by both our honored guests and members of our own communities.  Public rituals on all four nights, as well as the traditional night-hike Vision Quest on Saturday.

I don’t want to give too much away, or overstep myself by blurring the line between my HSA work and this, my personal blog, but I’m really excited about the four rituals.  For most of my time as an attendee, there were three main rituals: opening ritual Thursday, main ritual Saturday night, and closing ritual Monday (moved to Sunday a few years ago). Then, for a while, there were only two rituals: Thursday and Saturday.  Last year we re-introduced the Sunday night closing ritual.  This year we’re upping the ante by taking the elemental theme and escalating to four rituals.

First, Thursday’s Earth Ritual will banish the outside world and welcome everyone to the festival by introducing us to the spirit of the land.

Then Friday’s Air Ritual will clear our minds to find our truths, and help us name our ambitions in order to pursue them.

For Saturday’s Water Ritual, we will dredge up our individual fears so that we may confront and conquer them as a community.

Finally, with all obstacles out of the way, Sunday’s Fire Ritual will stoke our divine spark to roaring flame and impel us back into the world charged for action.

I really hope to see some of you there.

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Gandalf Style?

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Dramatic lighting is my friend.

Last week’s Sexy Pagan Friday offering is as good a place as ever to start off a little rambling about what has probably been my most significant magical practice since returning to KCMO.

Most of my effort, magical and otherwise, has been devoted toward settling in: to establishing my space, and to being in the right place at the right time.  Notice all the green in that photo: my hat, my scarf, my pocket handkerchief, the shirt you really can’t see because I got super dramatic with the lighting, and even my fucking socks are green.  Zip back through my last few spf posts, and you’ll find a shit ton of green in them, too.

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Saturdays I dress in black. The purple tie is usually for Mondays, but I was just feeling extra fabulous last week.

Taking a cue from Aradia, who did this diligently before she quit her office job back in June, I’ve been incorporating planetary colors into my clothing as much as possible.  (Wednesday is a fucking challenge: I look absurd in orange, which basically leaves me shit out of luck.)  It’s a simple, mindful thing, rather than an act of overt magic, but it’s something.  (Mondays are my favorite because purple.)

This also goes back to something I’ve touched on before: crafting a new image for myself as I become too old–and too committed to “professional” life–to let my freak flag fly full time.  Since then I’ve learned that I receive very different from both the mallgoers who patronize my jewelry store and the coworkers who’ve known me for six fucking years now when I wear a tie and nice shoes.  Simply put, they take me more seriously.   (This, of course, should come as a surprise to no one.)

And, I will say, it sure helps that men’s fashion has gone in some pretty awesome directions since I made this decision.  Vests are seriously back in style.  Colors and patterns are vibrant and fun.  And pocket squares!

It’s difficult to gauge the efficacy of general prosperity magic–yeah, I’m doing pretty alright, but I’m also busting my ass–but judging by the ways in which I do seem, increasingly, to be in the right place at the right time, I believe that I can call the experiment, at worst, a moderate success.  The things I want to buy are on sale and in my size, I sit down at the right table to meet close friends of the hosts of open events, people respond to my messages on OKC, the art store has a shipment of the strange craft supplies I’m after in the deep discount corner of the basement.

I want to escalate this shit.  I bet I can make a talisman out of a tie or a pocket square.  Can you enchant a suit?  I’ll fucking find out!  (And you can’t tell me no one has never tried.  The question is, did they blog about it?)

John Fucking Constantine

Solid character. Not a role model.

But it kinda fucks with my head.  I mean, yes, these are magical successes, in a sense, and I am having a good time with it.  But it’s all so fucking butch.  I no longer fit my own image of a witch, or even a wizard or a sorcerer.  I mean, there’s some precedent for a magician playing the straight man… but being a magician did some fucked up shit to my head: Aradia was preparing to stage an intervention.

The realistic solution is probably to get better at code switching: taking off the work costumes as soon as I get home and putting on clothes that are more in line with my self-image; finding times and places where those clothes are more appropriate.

And keep doing magic.

Always do more magic.

 

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Dark Moon Navel-Gazing: the Status of My Practice

There are a wide assortment of reasons that my magical practice (and, with it, my blogging) has been, at best, sporadic for the last year or so.  Some of them are magical dilemmas (how to incorporate the experiments and lessons of the previous two years into my personal practice), some of them are spiritual failings (see previous, also: devotional work is hard and scary), and some work and school related (overtime in the mall!  senior thesis!  trying to catch a date!).  But I think the biggest reason is that I’m lonely, and that I just don’t enjoy working or worshiping solo.

A good number of my most exciting magical and spiritual experience have been in group contexts: my first elemental energy work, my past-life explorations, the spirit-hunts, and the aura-games with my friends in and just after high school; the WPA/KU Cauldron before and after my failed life in St.Louis; discovering partner-magic with Aradia, and later with Sannafrid; the trials and tribulations of the proto-coven.  Even most of my best solitary experiences took place at times in my life when I had physical access to other practitioners to plan, brag about,and/or commiserate over my experiments and experiences.

Every time I go back to Kansas City for breaks, doing magical work with Aradia, Sthenno, Pasiphae, and Aidan are among the highlights of the trip.  When Aradia and I went on a cross-country road trip, we made a point of doing magic in each of the two parks we visited, and those moments were definitely among highlights of the vacation.

Since Sannafrid graduated, though, and since things got weird between myself and some of the local pagan group … I’ve had no one to practice with.  My current lover is, against my own rules, not a practitioner.  And our schedules don’t line up particularly well, leaving me struggling with another of the various unintended consequences of having taken the name Satyr Magician: too horny to think is also too horny to do magic, and there’s only so much I can do to take the edge off all by myself.

Now, I don’t mean to give the impression that anything’s hopeless: despite the flu that took me out for the entirety of the Full Moon, my practice is the best it’s been in a while.  With the help of my familiar spirits, I’ve been repairing the damage to my Inner Temple–escalating rites followed by a whole lot of nothing was pretty hard on the place.  I’ve been working hard (again) on getting my shields back to a level where they keep out what they need to without blinding me to the world.  (This seems to be one of those never-really-quite-work-it-out problems.)  My Sight has definitely been improving, though my mind-reading/empathy is still not back to what my crazy Scorpio ass expects it to be.

But it’s just not as much fun to tell Aradia about my latest adventures over the phone, or Sannafrid over chat.  I need a physically present community.  I need mentors and students and peers to keep me honest and innovative.  And I need it to be fun.  As hard or as frightening as an individual experiment or experience might be, my practice as a whole has to be pleasurable.  I am, after all, a hedonist witch.

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Spirits of Earth and Air

Last Friday Aradia and I skidded into KC at the end of a nine day road trip to the South Dakota Badlands and Rocky Mountain National Park.  As tempting as it was, in theory, to turn the road trip into a spiritual retreat, the fact is that I desperately needed the vacation.  And what a vacation it was.   Even after all the travelling I’ve done with Aradia and my family, I had never seen landscapes like the ones I saw over that week-and-a-half: the Karst cartography of central and south Missouri gave way to the Loess hills of northern MO and eastern Iowa before we set off across the grasslands of South Dakota.  We came into the Badlands from the north, via I-90, and I don’t even know how to describe the feeling when the earth dropped off in front of us, only to rise back up in magnificent spires of white and red stone.

A view from the Juniper Forrest trail.

A view from the Juniper Forrest trail.

 

Tragically, as our visit coincided with the Perseid meteor shower, it rained on us briefly every day we were there, despite the arid climate, and every night was overcast.  That unseasonable water made it all the more shocking when I tried to get a sense of the spirits of the place and sensed nothing by Earth and Air: ancient, slow-moving things from whom I sensed not just a vast indifference to human life, but to mortal life in general.  My poetic nature wants to describe that indifference as “bordering on cruelty”, but I think that’s a little bit of projection and a great deal of anthropomorphization; I think the spirits that ancient stone, weathered by the wind and by water whose brief appearances is as destructive to the rock as it is necessary to the survival of plant and animal life, are simply the most alien things I have yet to come into contact with.

The Badlands were vast, alien, and austere.  So far from my lands in which I have invested my power, and from the Water which makes up so much of my nature, I felt empty—sucked dry.  Surprisingly, that feeling was healing and cathartic: my waters have been murky, almost poisoned for the last year, by the stresses of my personal and academic life, and by the rigid forces of the ceremonial I had been practicing.  By travelling outside my own personal bog, I was able to let some of those “contaminants” (to continue the metaphor) dry out and be carried off by the constant winds of the desert.

From there were traveled south and further west, cutting through the top-left corner of Nebraska into eastern Wyoming, where we skirted the foothills into north-eastern Colorado where, after gaining elevation slowly over hundreds of miles, we finally ascended into the mountains proper.  The thin air of the Rockies hit me hard, and I was nearly useless for the first twenty hours or so.  The green and grey vistas of the mountains hit me as hard as the desert had, and I found the magical climate much more to my liking, but even farther from “home” and equally alien.

A View from Alpine Ridge Road.

The Rocky Mountains, as viewed from Alpine Ridge Road.

I don’t know if the Rocky Mountains are actually younger, geologically, than the Badlands, but they felt that way to me.  More patient, and with an indifference to my passing that was somehow less hostile.  Earth and Air still dominated, but Water was more familiar, perhaps even more welcome.  When I finally had the opportunity to perform the Stele of Jeu on the last day—something that I had been trying to fit in for the whole trip—the local spirits wanted reassurance that I was not attempting to dominate them, but they took me at my word that I only sought to purify myself.

By the end of the trip, as we came down off the mountain to get coffee in Denver and struck off eastward for dinner and a hotel in Hays, I finally felt like a person again: scoured clean by spirits of Earth and Air.

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My Liberalia

English: Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus...

English: Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus and Liber (also Liber Pater). Liber (“the free one”) was a god of fertility, wine, and growth, married to Libera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Calendars are a problem.  The more of them you have, the harder they are to match up.  At this stage in my life, I’m struggling to reconcile four: the Gregorian, the academic, the lunar, and the Wheel of the Year.  Sometimes, it can be a fucking mess, especially as I try to splice in ancient festivals AND keep everything relevant to the life I actually live.

So, it was very much to my delight last year when I learned of an interesting coincidence: namely that Saint Patrick’s Day (an “Irish” American drinking festival, for those who don’t live in the USA) and the Liberalia fall at about the same time.  Even more fortuitous, both coincide with the beginning of Spring Break (an academic American drinking festival) at my particular institution of higher education.  My celebrations last year were impromptu and (mostly) solitary.  But I did start a batch of mead with this year in mind.

Now the date approaches and  I watch with some curiosity as Sanion anticipates Anthesteria. I am trying to find time to do research into what “traditional” festivities would have included, and then decide / beg for divine inspiration as to which elements to maintain, which to adopt from other festivals, and what to make up whole cloth.

There will be wine, of course, and mead: both drinking the mead I started last year and will bottle in about a week, and the starting of a new batch for next year.  And feasting: I never open the Sunrise Temple without providing food.  Offerings aplenty to the God, and a special altar erected to him for the occasion.

But what else?  I don’t really have the resources to put on a play of any kind, and playing movies in the background seems … a weak

Statue of Dionysus of the "Madrid-Varese ...

Statue of Dionysus of the “Madrid-Varese type”. Roman artwork based on a late Hellenistic original (ca. 125–100 BC). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

substitute at best.  (Besides which, all the appropriate movies that I own will be played for the same people three weeks prior at my Midsem party.)  Perhaps I can encourage participants to declaim from the various hymns to Dionysus; a lot of them are thespians, they’ll probably get a kick out of it.  And should I bring in elements of the Urban Dionysia, which falls about the same time of year (depending on the vagaries of the lunar calendar) but much less fortuitously in terms of free time to devote to worship?

I’m thinking that there may be some ritual (and playful) flogging, both to purify and to excite (though, contrary to Pausanius’ Skiereia, it will be everyone getting lashed).  Possibly arts-and-crafts, especially the making and donning of masks and thyrsoi.  I may encourage cross-dressing, in honor of the god’s youth spent hiding from Hera, and in memory of Tieresias and Cadmus, who donned women’s clothing that they might participate in the rites when the other men of Thebes followed Pentheus’ lead in denying Dionysus.

Hopefully everyone will have enough fun to get naked, because … Maenads and Satyrs, duh.  Should that happen, face and body paint are great games.

I have numerous Tarot decks, and it might be an interesting occasion on which to employ the oracular powers of Dionysus.  Also, the ouija board.  (Of course I have a ouija board.  Don’t look at me that way.  You have one, too.)

All this would be just a little easier, of course, if I had a more concrete relationship with the god.  When I do my thrice-weekly offering rites, I hail him as I pour the libations: “Dionysus, Liber Pater, Lord of the Vine, source and surcease of madness.”  But if those things were all that he is to me, then I would not need to have a festival: I would simply meditate on what passes for my sanity whilst drinking until I cry.  But Dionysus is more than that.  So much more.

I struggle in my search for how best to honor him.

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Hyperbolic Masculinity as an Expression of Queerness and a Source of Magical Power

In the ancient world, the power of magic was sometimes understood to be fueled by twistedness and inversion[1]: twisted, spiraled, and backwards writing; calling upon the restless dead for aid; binding.  In a sense, I have been drawing on that for years: flaunting my difference, my Otherness, and making it into a source of distinction and recognition.  I have, at times, less-than-half-jokingly referred to my gender identity as “witch” rather than as masculine, feminine, or even genderqueer in the sense that word is usually understood.  I wear skirts instead of pants whenever possible, and make elaborate ritual robes for myself which double as “costumes” and festival garb, and I wear my peplos in effeminate fashion.

I am queer and I am a witch and people fucking know it.  I am that I am.  Certainly there are disadvantages to this, but there is power in it, as well.

And yet …. Gayatri Gopinath would argue that my “cross-dressing”[2] is, itself, an expression of another form of hegemony, which conflates same-sex desire with gender deviance.[3]  Thus, disdaining the Euro-American emphasis on androgyny and inverted gender expression, she argues that what she describes as “hyperbolic femininity” can be and is a clear expression of queerness and queer desire among some women.[4]  Because she is largely discussing this phenomenon in the context of popular South Asian culture and the tension between nationalist and diaspora populations, she cites a number of films for exempla of this phenomenon: Fire (1996), Ustav (1984), and Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (1994), in particular.[5]  This idea is particularly moving to me at this stage in my life, when, given my career choices, publically “cross dressing” as I currently do may well be barred to me. 

I am not willing or able to live without being visibly queer. Interestingly, though, I have already been engaging in behaviors which could well be described as “hyperbolic masculinity”: adopting and adapting exceptionally butch tropes to serve my queer sorcery.  For much of my life I have shaved with a particular brand of razor; to my annoyance, they have phased out my preferred model, and even if they had not, my environmentalist and feminist ethics, as well as my poverty, all agree that I should cease to patronize the company.  So I have acquired an old fashioned straight razor from an estate sale, and am simultaneously learning the art of shaving with a deadly blade and the skill of keeping it adequately sharp.  When not in use, the razor lives in the box on my altar with my Venusian seals and talismans.[6]  Having recently given in to social pressure and conceded to the wearing of a neck tie—at thirty-two years of age, a (hypothetically) cisgendered-presenting male can’t get away with disdaining them in a “professional” or formal environment—I have committed myself to learning complicated and uncommon knots.  My favorite, so far, is the Eldredge knot, which I find works particularly well with my Jupiterian tie.  The Trinity knot is also fun, though I haven’t quite mastered it.  My taste in the ties, themselves, is just as eccentric.  I wear a vests and jackets at times and in places where they are entirely over-the-top: my co-ed campus where pajamas are as common as cargo pants and my favorite dive bars, for example.  My chivalry knows no restraints of class or virtue:  I hold the door open for everyone;  I will come to the aid of anyone who asks nicely, male or female, “purest” virgin or even sluttier than myself; and I do the damnedest to keep my nose out of other people’s business unless that business is actually hurting someone else.

The thing of it is, I take a great deal of pleasure in my male body.  It’s the constraints and strictures of masculinity which I despise:  The presumption that I must dominate or be dominated.  The presumed (and violently enforced) limits on my capacity for emotion and its expression: that being hurt by someone, or sympathetic to the pain of others, is proof of weakness and failure.  The constant “threat” of loosing my Man Card—I burned that piece of shit long before I began identifying as a queer or a feminist—and all the Guy Rules I’m supposed to follow in order to keep it, and the way in which my refusal to play those games threatens the masculinity of others, and thereby exposes me to the risk of physical and sexual assault.

But my my body?  The flesh which thousands of years worth of mystics and puritans have said that I must despise if I’m ever to touch the divine?  I love it!  The mass and strength of it: the wide shoulders and large hands, and the long, square lines.The warmth and shelter and pleasure I can offer by virtue of my size and above-average core temperature.  All my hair; both that on my head and all the rest. The nipples which serve no purpose save for my pleasure, and being pierced.  The push and pull of penetrating and of being penetrated

It helps that I’m pretty, of course.  But I think I’d like my body even if I weren’t.

And it infuriates me that the value of my flesh—the likelihood that I will be aided by the police, or assaulted by them; the quality of the medical treatment I will receive; my chances of promotion or even employment; and so many other things—depends on the degree to which I conform to the hegemonic expectations of others.  I hate that my ability to survive in the world is dependent on playing into a rigged game that literally kills the losers.[7]  I hate even more that, when I play, the game is stacked in my favor.

All of which is why I have, traditionally, drawn my power from my identity as an outsider, the monstrous Other.  Sadly, though, that game may be played out for me.

My best hope, now, is to discover if I can draw power from from the other game, too.  There is magic in the authority that flows from being perceived as a butch (cis-het) man. I just have to hope that if I’m very clever, maybe I can figure out ways of making certain that my share of that hegemonic current always undercuts the banks of its headwater. And I have to hope that if I’m very lucky and careful, as well, maybe I can do it without being poisoned when I drink from that most bitter well.


1 – Ogden, Daniel. “Binding Spells, Curse Tablets, and Voodoo Dolls in the Greek and Roman Worlds.” Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome. Edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. p.29

2 – A problematic frame that implies there is some validity to the distinctions between gendered clothing, that the “line” I am “crossing” in my dress is in some way real.

3 – Gopinath, Gayatri. Impossible Desires.  Durham: Duke University Press (2005).  You should read it.  It will make you smarter.  It also digs into the way heteronomativity and nationalism are intertwined.  Good stuff.

4 – Ibid. 104

5 – Ibid. 24, 103-13.  Actually, it’s pretty much her core methodology, but these passages are particularly relevant.

6 – In an unrelated note, even if you don’t use a straight razor, I really recommend making the switch to an old school shaving brush and mug with a good organic soap: it’s actually cheaper than chemical shaving cream, works much better, and feels really, really good.

7 – Through race- and class-based differences in health outcomes, a racialized and classist prison industrial system, and institutionalized racial violence in the forms of police brutality and murder, and the unequal enforcement of the death penalty.  There are months of research to be done on this subject, though, so, no: I’m not just going to cherry-pick you some links.  The science is in; do your homework.

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After-Action Report for Enchantments of Fall 2012

When I came back to school in the fall of last year, I enchanted heavily for a few things.  Some of those I doubled down on over the course of the semester.  I mostly used sigils, though there were also a few planetary rituals, and a few projects that started over the course of the semester.

Sigils for Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

These results were mixed. 

One sigil was specifically aimed at getting people to give me weed for free, and that worked splendidly: I was given some smoke to bring back to the temple with me from KC, and when that ran out I was able to make it through the rest of the semester on the generosity of friends when I visited their homes and on shake and roaches provided to me by my neighbors.  Hell, I’ve still got some of that left.  That sigil is DEFINITELY getting recharged.

Another sigil was targeted at convincing people to give me booze.  This, too, worked like a champ: people brought booze to my house and abandoned it, they bought me drinks at bars (even when they didn’t know me), and I was even able to get a couple commissions for my homebrew operation.  The effects even continued over winter break, with two different people handing me large quantities of honey to ferment.  Another sigil for the permanent collection.l

Finally, and this may be part of the problem, I had several sigils aimed at getting laid.  I took several different tactics: my sexual needs are met, people feel comfortable approaching me for sex, I have generous and intelligent lovers … all to no avail.  The only people to grace my sheets last semester were my partners Aradia and Sannafrid.  Unfortunately, they were each only there for a week at a time (not the same week; my life isn’t quite that awesome) out of the eighteen week semester.  I was getting a little desperate by the end, and as things stand I have no new prospects for this coming semester.  (Anyone reading this blog is, of course, welcome to volunteer.)

Sigils for Health and Happiness

Again, results were mixed.  I specifically enchanted that I be “sound of body and mind”.  Perhaps that wasn’t clear enough.  I also enchanted for the solidification of old friendships and the establishment of new.

Physically, I was healthy for most of the semester.  I was laid up with a fever for a couple days, once, but it wasn’t that bad.  What really fucked with me, though, was the bouts of insomnia.

Mentally, things were much worse.  Maybe it was the Chaos Magic.  Maybe it was the absence of friends on campus.  Maybe it was Saturn in Scorpio, combined with the psychic backlash of Aradia’s Saturn Return.  Whatever.  I spent the majority of the semester depressed, neurotic, and struggling with paranoia.

I didn’t make many new friends this semester, but I did make one or two, and I was able to really solidify some existing acquaintances.  These are good things.

Sigils for Wealth and Prosperity

These enchantments were utter failure, at least in the short term.  I tapped every resource I had and called in every favor owed me, and I still had to beg for money from friends and family to make it back to KC for winter break.  The school actually threatened to not let me come back next semester unless I paid them part of what I owed them before the start of this semester.

Now, that’s all been worked out.  In fact, I may actually end this semester ahead rather than behind.  But it took a lot of enchantment—some of it by friends of mine—and more than a little hard work in the material world to get there.  And I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Sigil for Academic Excellence

I haven’t been invited to Phi Beta Kappa yet, but I did earn an honors GPA this last semester, despite being on the verge of mental collapse.  3.69 for the semester is nothing to sneeze at, particularly given that I was doing two dead languages at the same time.

Shielding Talismans

These, made toward the end of the semester, were a resounding success.  Coming back to classes this semester, in fact, it’s been a little bit of  a shock to me to realize that I actually need them at school more than I needed them in the mall.  Apparently, at least right now, I find the psychic miasma of adolescent angst and the occasional authority-abusing professor to be more toxic than the capitalist nihilist malaise of the indoor mall environment.

Conclusion

So, overall mixed results for manifesting my will last semester.  I got most of what I needed, but not everything I wanted.  Two sigils, though, proved so effective that I’m going to turn them into semi-permanent talismans, which is a definite win.

This semester, I have set myself a challenge of launching a shoal of sigils every Sunday.  For myself.  For my friends.  For politics.  For the world.  For whatever.  Three to five sigils every seven days.

Let’s see how this goes.

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Lavender Infusion

At the same time that I started my wormwood infusion experiment, I started an infusion of lavender vodka.  The recipe was simple: 1/2 cup of lavender flowers infused into 750ml of 360 Vodka.  I let them steep for three days, then strained them out with a coffee filter and funnel.

The results are beautiful.  Sweet Dionysus.

Over rocks and with a proper portion of tonic water, the lavender vodka is like a glass of pure summer: lying in the sun at the edge of the water, the wind playing through my hair.

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Mad Satyr Wormwood Infusion

a Henri Privat-Livemont poster advertising Abs...

a Henri Privat-Livemont poster advertising Absinthe Robette. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My primary flying potion is absinthe.  Although a touch unconventional (not having any deadly poisonous hallucinogens or rendered baby fat or any of that), I find it highly effective, particularly when combined with drumming and occasionally marijuana.   The major problem is that it’s fucking expensive, and it flies a little in the face of my DIY ethic.  So I’m trying to make my own.

The First Experiments:  Bacardi 151 Rum (151 proof) vs. 360 Vodka (40 proof)

Herbs – ground together and sifted into repurposed  glass bottles.

3/4 oz. wormwood (~1/2 cup)

2 Tbs. star anise

1 Tbs. fennel

1 Tbs. mint

1 tsp. hyssop

1 tsp. angelica

1/2 tsp. coriander

1/4 tsp. caraway

Infusion – liquor poured over the herbs.  Then the waiting.

One batch of herbs is being infused into 151 proof rum, the other into vodka.  While my recipes call for high-proof rum, or even pure grain alcohol, I have some serious doubts as to how that’s going to work with the flavor profile.  I’m also a little skeptical that the high proof is actually necessary for thujone extraction.  Finally, in the backassward states I live in, high proof alcohol is taxed to the point where it is actually more expensive than alcohol fit for human consumption (and, living in the United States, there’s always the issue of denaturing).  My research recommends three to ten days for thujone extraction, and basically the same time frame (at least three days, or until you run out of patience) for other herbal infusions. These, my first experiments, were infused for four days.

Results

Neither infusion took on the characteristic green color of absinth: both are rather brownish.  If I recall correctly though, the green comes from a second variety of wormwood and from the mint, which I may add more of.

Both varieties have a strong bitter undertone, which I had hoped to avoid with the short infusion period.  The rum infusion tastes much more like absinthe than the vodka, and the native flavor of the rum covers the bitterness a little.  Mixing the vodka infusion with sugar and water opens up the flavor and dials back the bitterness; I believe that a second lump of sugar will perfect the cocktail.  (I will report on the rum infusion when I deliver it to the friend who paid for the experiment.)

Visionary results from the wormwood infused vodka were well within expected parameters.  I suspect the same will be true of the rum infusion.

Conclusions and Sources

One of my two primary sources for this experiment recommended infusing the alcohol with the wormwood first, then the other herbs.  I will do this for my next experiment, tasting it as it steeps so as to better gauge the efficacy and bitterness over time.  I may also steep each of the herbs individually so as to best understand their flavor elements, as well.

Each 750 ml experiment lost about 20% of its volume to the herbs, which I had infused loose.  I will tie the next batch in cheesecloth or cotton, which satchel I will be able to better extract the finished potion.  Larger batches may also help solve this problem, as the herbs can only absorb so much liquid.

The above experiment was cobbled together from two recipes:

Dangerous Minds DIY Absinth – Originally intended for use with a still.

Ingredients: Alcohol 80% and herbs (the most common bought in the chemist’s, in grams per 1 liter of alcohol):

Herbs:
Wormwood: 100 g
Fennel (fruit): 50 g
Anise: 50 g
Mint: 15 g
Melissa: 8 g
Chamomile: 3 g
Cumin: 10 g
Angelica: 10 g

Original “Classic” Formula

750 ml. 151 rum

One ounce dried chopped wormwood

One tablespoon fennel or anise seeds
One tablespoon dried angelica root
One teaspoon dried hyssop leaves
One half teaspoon coriander seeds
One quarter teaspoon caraway seeds
One pinch cardomon pods
750 ml. 151 rum

And for future reference: another Homemade Absinthe Recipe.

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Red Beans and Rice

IMG_5509Ingredients

3 cups dark red kidney beans (~1.5 lbs)

4 cups rice

1.5 lbs Cajun sausage

3 lbs small onions

4 sticks celery

1 clove elephant garlic

IMG_55104 medium carrots

1 bell peppers

1 jalapeño

3 bay leaves

2 tbs paprika

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp sea salt

IMG_5513sprig of fresh basil

1 tsp worcestershire sauce

1 tsp habanero hot sauce

Directions

(Grossly oversimplified, use your favorite search engine as needed)

Soak and cook beans.  Finely dice all vegetables.  When ready and add the sausage, vegetables, IMG_5514herbs, spices, and sauce.  Cook for one hour while you prepare the rice.

Serve with beer and corn bread at a 1.5:1 rice to bean goo ratio.

Devour.

IMG_5517

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