Samhain Approaches

So … what are you going to be doing on Saturday? Handing out treats to the kiddies (big and small) who come to your door? Going to a costume party? Celebrating the original reason for the holiday?

When we lived in the city, we handed out treats until full dark and then went to a party of some kind. But on arriving home from the party, I took time to remember that Samhain is the beginning of the pagan new year … the harvest is in, most plants (in the northern climes) are dormant, cattle are slaughtered for food during the winter months, and it’s a time for reflection.

Samhain is also the time of the year when the veil between worlds is the thinnest, allowing spirits of ancestors and others to spend time with us. The wee folk seem to be more active, too, playing pranks on unsuspecting people. The Celts carved their Jack-O-Lanterns with scary faces, placed a candle inside and put them at their door to scare away unfriendly spirits. (In the British Isles, the Jack-O-Lantern is traditionally carved from a turnip. Pumpkins didn’t come along until the US was colonized.)

Many pagans do a “dumb supper” … they set a place at the table for those spirits wishing to partake and the supper is conducted in silence. Since I don’t cook and we generally eat in front of the television set, it would be ludicrous for me to set another place at the table. But I’ve always invited friendly spirits to visit – a cocktail party, if you will, with mulled apple cider served. (Apples are one of the traditional fruits of Samhain.)

Now that we’ve moved to the country, there are no children nearby so we don’t get trick-or-treaters. Nor are we about to drive 2 hours to go to a party back in the city. But I still honor the holiday. We live on what used to be Cherokee land, so there are a great many spirits around that aren’t related to us but to the land itself.

I invite the spirits to join us for the evening by placing a candle in the window. Two of my spirit guides are relatives and both smoked in this life (and enjoyed it), so I put a little tobacco by the candle. The Native American spirits like the tobacco as well. Just like trick-or-treaters, they come one or a few at a time. (I don’t even mind the wee folk visiting but our cats dislike them and generally try to hide.) When it’s our time for bed, I extinguish the candle and that’s everyone’s clue that it’s time to go.

This year my grandmother will be pleased, I think. She was a huge baseball fan, as am I. The World Series, which is running later than usual this year, will be on our TV that evening. The mulled cider (or Wassail) recipe is hers:

2 quarts apple cider
1 pint cranberry juice (optional)
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 small orange liberally studded with whole cloves
1 cup rum (optional) (spiced rum is wonderful here)

Combine all ingredients in a crockpot. Cover and cook on high for one hour, stir well, then simmer on low for four to eight hours. You can do this stovetop but it needs to be watched. Makes 12 cups.

However you celebrate, Happy Samhain!