Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen) is known as the Third Harvest. This is the time of the slaughter, when in ancient agricultural communities, the livestock was thinned, butchered and prepared for storage over the winter, because you can’t keep the entire herd fed over the winter, nor warm with you and the kids in your yurt, and well…the point of raising livestock is to eat it…duh. In Eastern NC there are hog kills and they are a lot of hard, gory work on the farm, but make for a great feast of pork barbecue. mmmmm…..
Samhain is a Greater Sabbat and the peak of the tides of the Autumn season, when the earth is in decline, just like old age. It is celebrated when the sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio, or on the calendar date of November 1. Remember that if “Hallows” is Nov. 1, then “All Hallows EVE,” would be the night before, on October 31st. In the US Halloween is celebrated far and wide with gory, horror shows, costume parties, traipsing through the night with lit jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating for candy (or else! Its sanctioned extortion, I tell ya.) For one night you can be your shadow self for the night, which in this college town seems to reveal the latent desire to be porn stars, but anyhoo…. While the roots of these practices are indeed from our pagan ancestors, and a lot of fun to do with both the kids, and all my wacky, witchy adult friends, I don’t consider that part of my spiritual practice. Don’t get me wrong, I LERVE me some Halloween; I’m over-the-top intense about my costumes and decorations, and I throw a huge Witches’ Costumed Ball
every year, but I separate the two sides of the holiday, and celebrate Samhain on the astrological date during the first week of November.
The Wheel of the Year mythos of this time tells the story of the Sage God, who sacrificed himself to feed his people at Lammas, and began his descent to the underworld at Mabon, now arrives and enters his deep slumber of regeneration, just like the hibernating animals of the wild.
The Crone Goddess, having joined him for her rest and preparation for birth of the new light at Yule, has fully withdrawn her vital energies from the earth, just as the sap has withdrawn, rendering the branches scraggly and bare. Best to have brought in all the harvest from the field by now; anything left behind beyond Samhain needs to be left for the Spirits, or its bad luck.
This last harvest is about letting what no longer serves our highest good die away, clearing out the refuse, and making space for that fallow period. It is an austere time, polar opposite of the decadence and frivolity of Beltane, as it should be. Whereas Beltane was the marriage, Samhain is the funeral.
This is when we honor the very important aspect of death within the life-cycle. Without death, we would be seriously screwed. I mean, just think about EVERY zombie, or vampire movie you’ve ever seen. That shit ain’t natural, and its terrifying to think about.
Speaking of shit, every time you take one be grateful for the fact that what food you ate that “died” to sustain you, can be broken down into energy, and the refuse removed from your body, being replace with NEW LIFE! We NEED death. Within the Great Work of our spiritual intentions, we start to release attachments to those things that have come to their conclusion because of the Work, or that need to be cleared away to make room for the full harvesting of the Work. We honor the dead, we remember our ancestors, we sit in silence and share the “dumb supper” with our beloved dead. We mourn our losses, but losses make us wiser…they pierce the veil and allow us to see further, and recognize the big-picture patterns forming around us.
From Samhain, we then turn the inner eye back over the whole cycle and appreciate it’s end and what it taught us. We, too, enter our “hibernation,” and should take this “between” time to contemplate, integrate, and “hold the space” in that dark, silent, still, dreamy period ahead; Winter is coming.
Here are a few of my favorite Halloween and Samhain recipes that I’ve long loved for both Costumed Ball and Samhain Dumb Supper with the Tribe; may they brighten the feast of the dead. Enjoy!
1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 (8 ounce) Cool Whip, thawed
Baked Jack-o-lantern Brains
1 pie pumpkin about the size of a volleyball that sits upright easily
1 box Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice with Original Recipe seasonings,
or 6 oz. of the grain of your choice, with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup raisins
1 chopped fresh apple
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried mint leaves
1 can tomato soup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your rice or grain according to package directions and set aside.
In large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef and onions, stirring occasionally to break up the meat. Pour off the excess fat. Remove from heat then stir in the lemon peel, raisins, apple, walnuts, parsley and mint leaves.
With a sharp knife, create a removable top around the stem by cutting at an angle a 4-6 inch diameter hole. Scoop out the seeds and loose pulp, trim the stringy pulp from the top. Stuff the pumpkin with the skillet mixture, replace top. Sit your stuffed pumpkin in a large baking dish, add 1/4 inch of water and cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour or until flesh of pumpkin is tender and easily scoops away with a spoon to be served with the stuffing.
While pumpkin is baking, blend the tomato soup, lemon juice and cinnamon and heat either in a sauce pan over low heat or warmed in the microwave for a few minutes. When serving, pour tomato sauce over the stuffing.
Lentil Veggie Turkey Soup
1 onion, chopped
3-4 stalks of the heart celery with all the tender leaves, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of Thyme leaf
1 teaspoon celery seed,
copious black pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
1 can of diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can of corn, drained
2 boxes of prepared chicken stock – I don’t actually know how many ounces were in each, but they were the standard large-ish box available in the grocery store soup section.
1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, to taste.
1-2 cups of prepared wild rice (I happened to have some left-over in the fridge. It was Uncle Bens, with the seasonings already mixed in.) OR you can add a half cup of dried wild rice and an extra 1 cup of water.
6 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari sauce
A turkey or chicken part of some kind, like a leg on the bone. Mine happened to just be the tail bit off a bird I’d roasted a while back and had frozen the extra pieces for making stock. I added it while frozen, then let it simmer in the stock the whole time.
I sauteed the fresh veggies in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then added the lentils, spices and canned veggies to saute a bit more. Then I added the rest of the ingredients, except the prepared rice and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, covered, then reduce to medium low and simmer for about an hour, possibly two on very low. This can be an all afternoon affair if you’d like. Stir frequently. Before you serve, remove the turkey/chicken piece, separate the edible meat, chop into bites, and add back to the soup and discard the bones, etc. Add in the prepared rice and soy sauce. Taste it. Is it too earthy? More vinegar and pepper. If it isn’t salty or rich enough? More soy sauce.
For a vegetarian version, use veggie stock instead and omit the poultry, obviously. I suggest mushrooms as an alternative.
Why? because this is an Italian dish with mushrooms and I’m stretching for Witchcraft related names, just go with it!
1 pound of peppardelle noodles (wide, flat ribbon noodles)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound of thick sliced pancetta, cut into long strips
(or substitute thick-cut bacon)
3 yellow onions, sliced into 1/8 inch ribbons
2 pounds of assorted fresh fungi (crimini, chanterelles, portobellos, porcini) sliced 1/4 inch thick or halved if small.
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage and thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pancetta and stir occasionally until lightly browned. Add onions and saute until almost tender, 7-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. In the same pan, melt the butter and saute the mushrooms just until they release their liquid and soften. (You may have to cook the mushrooms in 2 batches depending on the size of your pan.) Add the onion mixture back into the mushrooms and reheat over high heat. Add the balsamic vinegar, sage, thyme and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm. Meanwhile boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and transfer noodles to a large serving bowl. Add the mushrooms and toss gently. Serve with Parmesan cheese.