(This post was published on my Polytheist Witchcraft blog June 2019)
As a kitchen witch, I love baking. Creating my own sourdough starter is a project that has been a long time coming. What I didn’t realize was that, in creating this Kitchen Witch Sourdough Starter, I would also be learning a great lesson about life and spell casting. That’s the beauty of kitchen witchery – magic is everywhere.
Before I get into the lesson, however, let me back track and explain. I bake when I’m happy and when I stressed out or anxious, the first to celebrate and the latter because it calms me. I mostly bake easy things like cake or cookies when I’m happy. When I’m stressed, I look for a challenge. I want something that will get my mind of what is going on around me. For this, I need something that will take up brain space. Breads usually do the trick. Bread is complicated and takes time (usually). It also makes the house smell amazing! While yeast is my usual go-to for bready bakes, I’ve been wanting to play with sourdough.
Starting My Sourdough Journey
In January I began my first experiment in creating my first sourdough starter. This was after a long stretch of research. I read everything I could about creating a starter. Most of what I found was contradictory and some of the recipes and tutorials were as obscure and confusing as an ancient grimoire.
Finally, I settled on this recipe from one of my favorite companies – King Arthur Flour. You can read their recipe here. I was fond of this recipe because it had FAQ’s, related blog posts, and I like their flour and what I’ve read of the company.
The first 4 days went great! It bubbled, smelled yeasty, and was all a wet sourdough starter should be! I shared images of my starter on Instagram, Twitter, and in the Modern Heathen Homemaker’s group on Facebook. I had people offering to barter with me for starter or bakes. The King Arthur Flour company peeps responded with encouragement! Social media friends and followers were loving on my shares as if they were pictures of my son. I thought I had this in the bag!
Then I checked on my starter that evening it had quite a bit of liquid (hooch) on the surface. I panicked and checked online and read that my yeast was pretty much starving and to feed it. I did..without discarding. The next morning my starter looked like white glue in a mason jar. I thought I’d killed it. In my worry, a few thoughtless words from family members and a rotten email sent me over the edge. With tears, I tossed my starter, cleaned my jar, and made the best yeast-based white bread I’ve ever made (the last part is a post for another day).
I found out that nothing was wrong with my starter. Either the kitchen wasn’t particularly warm or I’d over-fed it and it needed time to digest before returning to its bubbly self. In my upset, I’d scrapped the project before it had fully begun. With this knowledge, I did some processing internally.
After a break, I returned to the kitchen and began work on my 2nd attempt at a sourdough starter. Determined, I re-read the recipe, saw some places I’d overlooked before, and learned a lot just from coming at this with the experience I’ve had.
I began this one much like the first. A cup of whole wheat flour, some water, and a blessing. I then prayed. I asked the Norse Goddess Fulla, keeper of Frigga’s chest and shoes, Mistress of the storehouse and pantry, to bless my working, vowing to create an offering of good sourdough bread once this process is completed.
On Day 3, my starter had the same glue-like look. I skipped the evening feeding and by morning it looked exactly as it should. On Day 4 things we had some delicious pancakes made with starter discard, my starter sits bubbling away near the stove, happy as yeast can be. Her name is Heilva from the Germanic “heil” meaning happy and healthy.
Spell Casting Lessons from Sourdough Starter
What I’ve learned from my Kitchen Witch Sourdough Starter is directly related to my own magical practice and spell casting. This might seem strange to a non-kitchen witch, but mundane tasks that are done with magical, religious, or spiritual focus and intent often have this effect.
My experiences in the kitchen and my experiences with magic are very similar:
- Both start out of a need – a need to nourish, a need to celebrate, or a need to make things better, among other reasons.
- Experimentation is necessary for both. While I love research, it only gets you so far in the kitchen and in magic. Getting your hands dirty is the best teacher in so many situations.
- Keep an eye on your work and know what to look for. Whether its watching for bubbles and a yeasty smell to form in a sourdough or keeping your intuition tuned and an eye out for Divine Opportunity – awareness and an idea of what outcome you’re wanting is needed.
- Many times, when we don’t see any results, we become discouraged – and shouldn’t be. Things are happening even when we can’t see them. Patience, Faith, and Timing are key.
- Keep feeding – Keeping a starter fed is what will develop a good sourdough. Keeping a spell fed with energy, intention, and purpose will do the same.
- If you feel as though you’ve failed – clean up, step back, process, ask for help.
- Don’t be scared to try again, and again if necessary.
- You can learn something new each time you try something, even if you’re doing the exact same recipe. There are factors out of our hands – weather, astrological alignment, people with bad moods, etc. Each attempt allows us to learn about ourselves and our work.
- The outcome can be delicious, the process is nourishing.
Kitchen Witch Started, Never Finished
I share this experience for a few reasons. First, I’ve been asked to share more of my life as a practicing witch. Second, honoring Fulla means being helpful to other women and witches where I can. Third, spell casting aid is a passion of mine and I feel I best express this when showing how I better my own practice.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, made your own sourdough starter and have tips, or have any questions or requests regarding kitchen witchery – please comment below!