The art of alchemy, combining two or more elements into something better, is the technique used in Feminine Alchemy. The intent is to provide pathways for introspection, self-help, and healing. When used with care and consciousness, ritual becomes the formula, the recipe, for personal, cellular alchemy. —Feminine Alchemy by Xia
Feminine Alchemy by Xia (Introduction)
“I learned to enjoy the alchemy of turning flour into bread, meat into stew, water into beer,” declares the heroine in Anita Diamant’s New York Times bestseller, The Red Tent. For me cooking has always been this kind of magical experience. As with so many other women, The Red Tent evoked in me a cellular memory of the power of women in community. The feminine history and myth related in this amazing novel stirred a desire to define my own personal lineage and the alchemy of my own evolution.
One of my earliest memories is standing on a chair beside my mother as she made biscuits—my job was to pat down those little gooey lumps of white dough. It’s what Southern girls are taught to do. I was amazed at the magic my mother performed when she put all that “stuff” together. Her hands quickly mixed everything, and with dizzying speed she snapped up pieces of dough, rolling them faster than the eye could follow into neat little rows of white, powdery balls, which she then patiently led my three-year-old fingers to. My hand in hers, we traveled up and down the rows of dough. She gently pressed my fingers into each little sphere. I was awed at the mark I left. Somehow I became part of the magic too. Heaping praise on me, she dusted the flour from her hands, and with a knowing smile, put the pan in the oven.
The wonderful smell of bread baking began to fill the house, and I followed my mother around the kitchen as she prepared the rest of supper. Once in a while she would open the oven door with gentle admonitions to “Stay back baby, it’s hot.” while I eagerly strained to see the enchantment happening behind that closed door. Eventually the magic would be done, and she would take the biscuits from the oven and put them on the table with the rest of dinner. My mother would open a steaming biscuit, butter it, all the while telling my father and brothers how I had made the biscuits. She placed the buttered bread on my plate with a wink and a loving smile. I received her love and encouragement as I received nourishment, stuffing the biscuit into my eager mouth.
Unknowingly, my Southern Baptist mother created a cooking ritual that affected me for the rest of my life; she placed my proverbial feet on an ancient, sacred path of feminine expression and ritual discovery. This expression was a lifetime exploration, a journey into feminine myth and literature that opened my southern, wide-eyed self into a heretofore unknown historical awakening; a pathway of knowledge that encompassed cutting-edge archaeology and women’s studies that opened my very insulated Southern world to a political perspective that changed my life. I have been nurturing others, and fulfilling some unknown human imperative, through the alchemy of ritual cooking long before I truly understood what “ritual” was. It is no wonder that the art of ritual has become my essential, creative expression.
Somewhere on my spiritual journey I discovered that most everything in life can be a ritual and naturally began a book, a grimoire of sorts, that was to become a guide for the unknown path ahead. Feminine Alchemy is the culmination of my journey as a woman, witch, seeker of truth, and as a daughter and Priestess of the Goddess. While my grimoire–a book of magical knowledge–has recipes for the body, they are recipes for the mind and soul, as well.
Each ritual in Feminine Alchemy is also a recipe–once defined as a medical prescription. Feminine Alchemy uses cooking as a woman’s metaphor for personal transformation by focusing on the archetype of the sacred feminine as a container for healing. The ancient stories of the Goddess inspired a healing concept which was then crafted into a recipe to become a transformative ritual for women. Feminine Alchemy uses Goddess as the cauldron—the container, the metaphoric cooking pot—and ritual as the alchemical recipe to produce transformation, which is the essence of magic, change.
The art of alchemy, combining two or more elements into something better, is the technique used in Feminine Alchemy. These individual elements, when blended together with consciousness, become feminine alchemy—or ritual art for women. Combining a cross-cultural feminine myth with a healing ritual and recipe creates an individualized, personal rite of passage that takes the ritualist/cook on a journey of inner exploration and healing. The intent is to provide pathways for introspection, self-help, and healing. When used with care and consciousness, ritual becomes the formula, the recipe, for personal, cellular alchemy. When all the elements of this book are combined, it becomes ritual alchemy . . . or ritual art.
After many years of creating ritual art, I believe that everything we do can be a ritual. When we take the ordinary and mundane tasks of our lives and consciously do them, then we are creating extraordinary, ritually rich lives. The next time you come home from a bad day at work, take a ritual shower, and let the water wash away frustrations, anger, self-recriminations. If you’re packing and moving, make every box you pack an altar to a new beginning in your life. When you put your foot on the floor in the morning, make it the start of a new chapter in the book of your life. This book of ritual art or feminine alchemy is a reflection of my personal, spiritual, feminine journey.
Ritual is an expression, a healing modality, a tool for transformation, and an art form.
Ritual, for me, is a way of life, a way of living a conscious life.
Ritual is alchemy in its highest form.
Ritual is Magic.