One of the activities commonly associated with Lammas is baking bread. I’m not much of a baker – as a matter of fact, I really don’t care for cooking. But I do like arts & crafts, so I have found an alternative to baking bread for Lammas that uses that Lammas essential, flour, and one which is easy to work in a little magic – making salt dough! [Read more]
Tag Archives: salt dough
Last post, I posted pictures of some of the Holly King decorations I made out of salt dough to give to friends and relatives for Christmas. I’ve made a few more, as well as painted and glazed them, so I thought I’d share the finished items here!
This was the first one I made; I based the shape very much the one on the Green Man mask I made for Beltane. My husband thought it looked a bit scary from a non-Pagan perspective – a bit devilish, perhaps? So I tried to make the other Holly Kings without such pointy horns.
I really like how this one turned out; I thought the shape looked very “classic,” like the Green Man faces you see at churches.
This is another one of my favourites. I think it looks a little like a pixie! This one I didn’t put a hole in for the ribbon as I wasn’t sure if the final products would be strong enough to support their own weight when hung so I made some without holes – it turns out that after baking, they are pretty strong and I didn’t have anything to worry about. I plan to stick strong magnets on the backs of the ones without holes.
I experimented with making a Holly King with a proper face, rather than just a mask. It turned out alright, but I decided I preferred the mask design better.
Some other small masks, including an Ivy King (Queen) at the bottom.
This is the smallest one I made. Making eye holds within the holly leaves on such a small scale is really difficult, so I cheated and poked in the eyes with a straw after putting in the holly. I don’t think the result is as nice as shaping the holly around existing eye holes. I think this one turned out cute though.
These two were my least favourite – they were made in the second batch, and for some reason the salt dough didn’t turn out as well that time (I think it needed more flour), and the result was harder to shape and a bit flat. Also, with the Ivy King I experimented with a different painting process (painting dark on light as opposed to light on dark which is what I did for the others), and didn’t like the result as much. But as a pair, I think they go together really nicely so I’ll give them as a couple.
Today I was racking my brains trying to think of the perfect Christmas gifts for some of my relatives. Then I remembered that one of my aunts likes to paint us pictures as gifts, and I thought, why don’t I try making something as well?
I thought about the Green Man mask I made for Beltane, and wanted to try something similar. So I decided to make some salt dough Holly King ornaments that my relatives could put on their Christmas trees. I’ve had a go making things with salt dough before and found it pretty easy and fun.
Above is the result. It was a lot of fun, and because they’re flat, the Holly kings turned out a lot better than my first salt dough ornaments. Now all I have to do is paint them and puts some nice ribbons on them for hanging on the tree! And if they turn out well, I think I’ll make some more…
Now that the Winter Solstice has passed, I’m already thinking forward to the next Sabbat – Imbolc in February!
As a Shintoist, I plan on celebrating Imbolc together with the Japanese equivalent, Setsubun. Celebrated at the same time as Imbolc, Setsubun celebrates the coming of spring. Setsubun is associated with a lot of activities and symbols, but perhaps the most well-known ritual is to scatter soy beans outside houses while crying out “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” (literally, “Demons out, fortune in.”) It’s a type of purification ritual, meant to drive out harmful spirits.
It’s interesting that both Imbolc and Setsubun are strongly associated with a particular goddess. The Celtic fire goddess Brighid is usually venerated by Pagans at Imbolc, while Setsubun is closely associated with an obscure female character known as Otafuku, who personifies luck and joy.
Although Otafuku is commonly regarded as a comical figure, I agree with John Dougill of Green Shinto that she is probably an aspect of Uzume no mikoto, a central figure in one of Shinto’s most important myths. Uzume is said to be the goddess of passion and mirth whose comical yet sensual dancing lured the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami out of the cave from which she was hiding from her frightening brother. It seems very likely to me that a figure attributed with leading the sun goddess out of a cave would have close ties with the coming of spring – a time when the sun emerges after being hidden in darkness during the winter.
I also suspect that Otafuku is also a symbol of fertility. Depending on how it is depicted, her face is often yonic or phallic in nature. Again, this would tie in with her connection to Uzume (identified as a goddess of love), as well as the coming of spring.
Because I’d like to celebrate both Imbolc and Setsubun together, I decided to make a miniature mask of Otafuku to put on my altar in the run up to the festivals. I made her out of salt dough painted in acrylic. Now all I need is something to represent Brighid…
Inspired yet again by Ozark Pagan Mamma’s blog, I decided to try making some things out of salt dough. I’d actually never heard of salt dough before reading her blog, but I’ve since learned it’s something that mothers like to make with children as it’s really simple, cheap and harmless if swallowed (but pretty foul tasting – believe me, I tried!). I loved the idea of crafting with something so easy to make and environmentally-friendly, not to mention that it’s a combination of basic, sacred ingredients in Paganism (water, flour, salt) so I thought I’d give it a go!
I was surprised at how easy it is to make the dough to the right consistency. It’s similar to working with clay, but it’s more brittle and small-scale fine detail is hard to achieve. It also tends to collapse under its own weight a bit, hence most salt dough ornaments you see are flat. Yet it’s easier than you would think to shape and smooth. And it took less time than I thought for them to harden as well; baking them on a low heat, I’d say about 2 hours is sufficient (but I left them in for two hours longer for good measure). Again, I was surprised at how well the figures fared in the oven – they didn’t develop any cracks, but they did lose their shape a little.
I’d had the idea of making some little salt dough kodama figurines from Princess Mononoke (one of my favourite Pagan-friendly movies!) as they’re so cute and appealing, plus my husband really likes them as well. Not to mention that their design is really simple! The above photo shows my attempt – they were really fiddly to make with the right proportions and still sit upright without crushing themselves under their own weight. None of them turned out looking brilliant, but for a first attempt I’m fairly satisfied with them; I learned a lot about how to use the dough in the process.
I also made this little statue of Jizo which I thought would be good to place in our spare room – Jizo is the guardian of travellers, which seems appropriate for a room used for guests. Unfortunately, he fell over in the baking process which now means he can’t stand up on his own (he’s being propped up in the photo!) I could give him a base, or try and make a better one next time.
I finally made a miniature mask of Otafuku, a figure representing luck at Setsubun, the Japanese “bean throwing” festival held about the same time as Imbolc. I haven’t featured a photo because she won’t look anything like Otafuku until I paint her. I plan to display her on my altar during Setsubun/Imbolc.
I’ve found working with salt dough really enjoyable and I definitely want to try again! It’s a bit of a shame that it seems generally considered something for kids, as I can see so much potential for adults to enjoy working with it as a serious craft tool. And seeing as you only need three common ingredients that most people usually always have in the house, there’s no reason to just start making some salt dough right now!
Finally, seeing as the kodama are tree spirits, I thought they’d look great on our Christmas tree! So here they are enjoying their new home…