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Samhain 2015

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My Samhain offerings at the local cemetery

I tend to view all the Pagan Sabbats as a “season,” with the official date of the Sabbat acting as the epicentre of the season with ripples into the days before and after. That’s one reason why I decided to hold my solo Samhain ritual on the Full Moon prior to Samhain, and why I didn’t actually hold any sort of ritual on October 31st itself.

WP_20151031_14_14_24_ProHowever, I did make some Samhain Soul Cakes yesterday, using my favourite recipe with added matcha (Japanese green tea powder). Matcha is interesting to work with – when used as an ingredient combined with other things, it only really looks green in the presence of moisture, so the dough didn’t look green until I added milk, upon which it turned a very vivid shade of green. Unfortunately, when the moisture evaporated on baking the cookies, they reverted back to mostly brown with only a slight greenish tint. I can see that if I bake with matcha again and want to retain that green colour, I’m going to have to use a lot more. But this in itself is tricky because matcha is a bit like saffron – it’s expensive and can have a strong flavour, so you don’t want to use too much, ideally. It went really well with the cinnamon and nutmeg I also added to the mixture (hint: don’t be afraid to use quite a lot of cinnamon!)

I used a wonderful set of “Day of the Dead” skull cookie cutters. These were a gift from my sister-in-law, and it was great to have such a perfect opportunity to use them.

My husband and I took the cookies to my parent’s house, where we were taking part what’s close to a “religious observance” for my Kiwi husband and Welsh mum – the Rugby World Cup final! (To my husband’s delight, the All Blacks were victorious). But keeping with the Halloween theme, my Dad had bought the biggest pumpkin I’d ever seen, carved it and hollowed it out, and used the innards to make delicious pumpkin soup and toasted pumpkin seeds. So even though I didn’t hold a particular ritual on Samhain Eve, it was still meaningful for me to spend it with my family and enjoying some very Halloweeny food!

Traditionally Samhain continues into November 1st, and so today my husband and I went walking in the local cemetery, where I placed my offerings originally given at my altar on the previous Full Moon for the deities of death, departed friends and ancestors. It was an absolutely perfect day to do so – overnight a mist had descended over the town, and the cemetery looked beautiful and very otherworldly.

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I found a moss-covered tree stump that acted as a perfect natural altar, and placed my offerings of a miniature pumpkin, garlic, soul cake and dog treats there, as well as sprinkling some incense. I also offered a fallen branch of rowan. My offering was not only to my own ancestors and loved ones, but to all those whose spirits rest in the cemetery. I hope they liked my gift.

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On our way back, I noticed something I had never noticed before, even though I have been in this cemetery many times –  a grave with a pentagram on it!

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The pentagram is a sacred symbol in Christianity as well, so it’s not particularly shocking to see one on a 19th century gravestone, but nevertheless it seems to be quite uncommon. I wonder why Sarah’s relatives had chosen this symbol for her grave as opposed to a more traditional funerary symbol? Were there Freemasons in her family? Or did they simply like the design? In any case, I am really surprised I’d never spotted this before and I was so glad to see this reminder of the connection between Christianity and Paganism in our cemetery. Perhaps the spirits within the mist, still dwelling in this world while the veil to the Otherworld is so thin, had given me the extra clarity to see it today!

I wish everyone a very Blessed Samhain!

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Samhain 2014

SoulCakes

My first ever Soul Cakes

Samhain Blessings everyone! I managed to fill much of my day with Halloween/Samhain activities for my first ever Samhain as a Pagan.

Things kicked off with making Soul Cakes in the morning. I used a simplified version of this recipe, which appealed to me because of the cinnamon and nutmeg involved! I’m really not much of a baker at all, but getting into Paganism has slowly gotten me more interested in cooking, and these Soul Cakes turned out pretty well!

I went to work in the afternoon, and took some Soul Cakes with me to give to colleagues. Only one person made a comment on the “satanic” pentagrams I scored on the cakes, but of course I told him that the pentagram is a universal symbol of magic that can be found in practically every culture, even Japan.

My husband picked me up after work and we went to the Curzon Mondrian cinema to see a special preview of the New Zealand vampire comedy What We Do In The Shadows. It’s a hilarious mockumentary that any vampire fan will love and it was perfect for Halloween.

We got back home pretty late, and it was time for me to perform a Samhain ritual.

This was more difficult than other rituals I’ve performed recently. For one thing, I was feeling pretty worn out and not hugely in the ritual mood – however, as usually happens, I found myself getting more and more energised as the ritual progressed.

The other problem was that I hadn’t really prepared for this ritual as thoroughly as I usually do. I wasn’t anticipating doing a solo Samhain ritual at all as I originally planned to do it with my moot Medway Pagans, but my brother-in-law suddenly planned a birthday meal for my sister the same day so I had to skip it. This meant that I hadn’t had time to write out a script for the ritual, which is what I usually do. Although it was quite interesting to attempt a ritual without writing it out beforehand, I think it was less successful because I left out a lot of things that afterwards I felt I should have included, and I didn’t feel it was as special as it could have been – it just felt very much like a regular Esbat.

In the spirit of Samhain, the Feast of the Dead, I called the quarters widdershins and orientated my altar West rather than East as I usually do. Offering some of the Soul Cakes and wine, I called upon the Great God and Great Goddess as their incarnations as Gods and Goddesses of Death, and also offered blessings to my ancestors and to friends and family who have passed on. Finally, as I often do, I took a Soul Cake and the wine and left it as an offering to Hecate (and other wandering spirits) by the local crossroads.

I was disappointed not to see the local foxes out (it being Halloween the streets are a bit noisier than usual), but as I said farewell to the Western quarter, a black and white cat appeared from behind the garden wall and looked me straight in the eyes, which was quite an intense moment and a very good omen for Samhain!

I hope everyone else’s Samhain was magical, spiritual and blessed!

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