The ancient Pagan festival of Samhain begins on October 31st and ends November 1st. The purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the coming of the harvest and the darkest part of the year. It is believed among Pagans that during this time the barrier between our world and the world of the spirits is at its thinnest, making this an ideal time for necromancy and other spirit summoning practices. If you and your friends want to get together and try out a seance this is the time to do it.
Generally Samhain celebrations involve dancing around a bonfire, partaking in feasts and creating altars to honor the ancestors. Symbols of the harvest such as pumpkins, apples and potatoes are often given as offerings to the spirits or used to decorate these altars. If somebody close has passed away the celebrants might make the persons favorite meal and set a place for them at the table. It is traditional to put a picture of the person by their plate along with a lit candle. A lot of people insist that the meal should be eaten silently but I believe it’s better to speak with the spirit as if they were sitting there with everyone, after all it would be very strange to invite someone to your house only to sit there silently the whole time while everyone eats.
The Halloween tradition of jack-o’-lanterns comes from an old Irish Samhain custom in which people would carve scary faces into turnips and potatoes and place them in the windows to scare away evil spirits. Later on when Irish immigrants moved to America they started using pumpkins instead. The name “jack-o’-lantern” originated from an Irish folk tale about a character named Stingy Jack. In the story Jack invited the Devil to drink with him. Jack didn’t want to pay the tab so he tricked the Devil into turning himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Yes, it’s an Irish folk tale that revolves around getting drunk, I know, I know.
Delicious Soul Cakes are a popular food to serve on Samhain. In ancient times they were thrown onto the fire as offerings to the Gods and Goddesses of the season. During Samhain the poor would go from home to home begging for these treats. Nowadays instead of beggars little kids in costumes show up asking for candy.
If you would like to bake your own Soul Cakes you will need 1/2 cup milk, 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp Ginger, 1/2 tsp Cinnamon, 1/4 tsp Allspice, 1/8 tsp Cloves, 1/4 tsp Nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 beaten egg. If you wish you can use a food processor for this recipe as it will make things easier. Heat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the butter and keep mixing until you get a crumbly consistency. This kind of work can be easier if you use your hands, just keep squeezing and grabbing the dough. Beat the egg and vinegar together in a separate bowl and gradually mix them in with the other ingredients. Press all the other ingredients together in a ball and place the bowl in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
While your dough is cooling take the time to grease up a couple of cookie sheets. When the dough is ready flatten it with a rolling pin until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter to cut out several pieces of dough and place them on the cookie sheet. If you want to get fancy lightly cut the shape of a pentagram into each of the pieces with a knife. Bake the Cakes for 11-15 minutes, you’ll know the cakes are ready when the tops are light gold in color.
Once the Cakes have been removed from the oven and cooled down they’ll be ready to serve. Be sure to seal up any Cakes that aren’t eaten in an airtight container as Soul Cakes go stale very quickly.
Happy Samhain Everyone!- Zwahk (Image from Unsplash.com)