Hello, wonderful witches!
The newsletter is coming at ya a few days earlier this month to celebrate the full moon in Leo. And as a Leo who loves full moons, it’s my time to shine! (Or glow, for a more moony word.) I’m not planning too much, but you can be sure I’ll be lighting a candle and taking some time to sit in a moonbeam. Remember—even if you don’t have a lot of time or energy to celebrate things like this, that doesn’t make you a bad witch. I talked all about this in a recent episode of the Hidden F&B podcast, where I was a guest. Listen to it here.
I’ve also got some news for everybody. Longtime subscribers know that publishing frequency has decreased from weekly to monthly. I have not, however, adjusted the paid subscription rates to reflect that change. So I’m doing that! Starting today, paid subscriptions are now $30/year. Monthly is still $5/month, because Substack won’t allow me to set it lower than that. Paid subscribers still get the same perks: access to bonus content, special issues for sabbats, and the opportunity to register for workshops before free subscribers. I still plan to pay my featured writers—that amount ($100/article) will not be changing. Paid subscriptions allow me to do that, and also help keep my lights on and my rent paid. I’m also adding a tip jar option for anyone who wants to contribute but cannot afford a full subscription. Thank you all so much for your loyal readership!
Now I want to get real for a second. (I know this is a longer than normal intro and it’s getting longer, but this is important!) I’m not one to typically open up about my emotions—I much prefer to compartmentalize and move on with life, which is… unhealthy. But part of the reason the newsletter’s frequency changed is because I was depressed. A combination of the pandemic, work stress, and just (*waves hands around*) everything sent me spiraling. Plus, my little Boston terrier Ollie was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, which will eventually paralyze him, and that more or less pushed me over the edge. I stopped talking to my friends, I started missing deadlines at work, and I felt no joy in pretty much anything. I pulled back on a lot of things. I don’t often suffer from depression, and because of that, I had no idea I was even depressed. I just saw deadlines flying by and an inability to do anything and thought, what’s wrong with me? Why am I like this lately? I didn’t understand what had happened until a few weeks ago when I emerged on the other side of it and started to feel things again. But I knew I needed to make some changes to truly take care of myself, which started with stepping back into my daily witchy practice and taking some work off my plate. I’m in a much better place now. I’m grateful to all of you for sticking with me through the dark times, even if I didn’t realize what was going on, and for rolling with the punches as the newsletter suffered because of it. Depression is not an easy thing, but if you’re feeling it, you don’t have to go through it alone. Feel free to reach out any time so I can tell you all about how awesome you are.
OK, now back to business. Watch your emails for a discussion thread/poll in the next little bit here to pick out the next workshop topic. The tyromancy one was SO fun, and I’m excited to run another one. So stay tuned for that.
Today’s featured article is about goblin fruit and Labyrinth.
Goblin Fruit: Recipes Inspired by the Dark Magic of Labyrinth (1986)
By Archita Mittra
“The Fae Folk are cunning and beautiful,” my mother warns. “They’re not to be trifled with.” Beneath the ancient trees in our garden, she leaves offerings—a portion of the day’s meal, wrapped in a banana leaf, or small hard sweets from a jar. She cautions me against walking beneath the same trees at night, especially with my hair untied. “The spirits are always watching, unseen,” she says, and I look for them behind doors, in the dark of cupboards, in the mold beneath the tub. In the stories I grew up with, they enchant unsuspecting maidens, whisking them away to the otherworld for an endless dance, while their mortal spirit slowly wastes away.
In the stories, the Fae are shapeshifters, with their own rules and clever stratagems. They speak the truth but in riddles. If you give them your true name, they will own your very soul. They will offer you their food and drink—concoctions too delectable and tantalizing and impossible for mortals to create—but one bite of that faery cake, or magical fruit, or the Ice Queen’s Turkish Delight, and you’ll be trapped in the otherworld forever. The tales go back further; in Greek myth, Persephone unknowingly ate six pomegranate seeds, condemning her to spend half a year in the underworld with her captor, Hades.
Thumbelina, Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell, and Cinderella’s fairy godmother are friendly spirits we may adore or wish upon. But the Fair Folk are more than just miniature garden faeries, flitting between sweet-smelling flowers. Elves, brownies, goblins, leprechauns, hobgoblins, and sprites are all members of the Seelie Court, and most of them have a darker side where mischief turns to malice. Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) is a cult film that explores the tricksy and cruel side to the Fae, telling the story of the young and imaginative Sarah whose little brother is stolen by goblins. Unless she solves a near-impossible labyrinth with twists and dangers on every path, Jareth the Goblin King (played by David Bowie) warns her that she will lose the child forever.
Just like Alice’s Wonderland, the world of the Goblin King is lush, decadent, and topsy-turvy. Although a fairytale at heart, the film illustrates the laws of the Fair Folk, the way they twist words to extract a promise or bargain. Unwilling to babysit her brother, Sarah wishes him to be taken away by the goblins and so they arrive to fulfill her command. She loses herself in the labyrinth because she asks the wrong questions, or the fantastical creatures that she befriends are ready to betray her. A magic peach that she eats transports her into a masquerade where she dances with the Goblin King, entranced. Although the fey are pulling the strings in the background, Labyrinth is also a young woman’s coming-of-age story and her sexual awakening, teaching the importance of trusting oneself and one’s core beliefs over an alluring stranger’s honey-coated promises and lies.
Watching the film for the first time as a teenager filled me with wonder and magic. I went back to certain scenes, such as the masquerade sequence and the final face-off with the Goblin King, drawn in by the characters and the evocative fantasy world they inhabited. And like Muses, the Fae influences wove into my hobbies, into my writing, art, and cooking.
Cooking for me is a both a love language and a form of spellcraft. I learned the basics watching my mother and grandmother cook, while also improvising with sudden bursts of imagination and a desire to recreate something familiar but not easily grasped. The recipe ideas below are inspired from Labyrinth, wherein I’ve tried to evoke a dark and delectable magic, the tempting and sinful delights of fairy food.
Peachy Muffins: Unsurprisingly, peaches are considered to be aphrodisiacs in several cultures. When I wish to evoke that dreamy rose-tinted wistfulness that Sarah feels when she dances with the Goblin King, I add two or three peaches (chopped and peeled) to my cake batter, along with a tablespoon of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla icing, to bake soft peachy muffins.
Indulgent Irish Coffee with Choco Syrup: I’ve never personally liked the taste of espresso, so making coffee is a chance to indulge myself. I mix the finest ground coffee with cream, milk, some brandy (or rum), chocolate ice cream, and brown sugar, and top it off with a Belgian dark chocolate sauce to create a heavy drink worthy of the Goblin King.
Cranberry Underground Cake: To evoke the magic and mysteries of the underworld, I try to imagine a richly layered cake, coated with white and dark chocolate flakes and cream, and topped with cherries, cranberries, and pomegranates. I make sure to add different varieties of dried nuts and berries into the batter as well, so that every bite feels sumptuous and unique.
Sinful Black Currant and Dark Chocolate Milkshake: When chocolate isn’t enough, I mix it up with black currant syrup and a dash of strawberry flavoring, along with chocolate syrup, milk, and cream, in the blender. The resulting milkshake is gorgeously thick and delightfully sweet—perfect for those lonely winter evenings when the sugar cravings are at an all-time high. Stir clockwise for added luck.
Of course, most of the time, I end up improvising with whatever I have in the pantry. Instead of chocolate, you might want to switch it up with blueberry and blackcurrant. If you are vegan, you can bake eggless muffins and honeycakes. Those with an allergy can ditch the nuts for more berries. Similarly, you can adjust how sweet (or tangy) you want a dish to be, and adapt it accordingly.
But whatever you prepare, make sure you leave a small offering for the Fae by the windowsill or in the garden, so that they are not offended. And as you sip your magical drink in the hours of twilight, do not forget the wise words of Christina Rosetti, enshrined in “Goblin Market” (1862)—an intoxicating poem about the dangers of dealing with the fey, and the triumphant power of sibling love:
“Dear, you should not stay so late, Twilight is not good for maidens; Should not loiter in the glen In the haunts of goblin men.”
Archita Mittra is a writer and artist based in Kolkata, India, with a love for all things vintage, magic, and darkly fantastical. She also reads tarot cards, has more hobbies than she can count, and loves blueberry milkshakes. Her work has been published in Strange Horizons, Thought Catalog, Mithila Review, Luna Luna Magazine, and elsewhere. You can say hi to her on Instagram and Twitter @architamittra and check out her blog here.
In the next issue…
Coming up soon, how herbs can be used for chronic illness, and a paid-only Ostara issue.
See you then!