November 24, 2017
Samhain (sow-in), a Gaelic tradition and Celtic name, celebrates summer’s end and the end of the season’s harvest. Samhain commemorates the commencement of the death cycle. It is the time of year when the advancing darker winter months cause the earth to withdraw her bloom. All her siblings introvert. Nature shuts her doors. All visible forms of plant life collapse unto themselves. There is a returning to recuperate in the dark of the womb for nourishment and shelter.
In the days when the Irish built their own huts and faced loss and experienced scarcity, Samhain was revered as sacred. People practiced gratitude. It was a time of year full of meaning to those who ploughed the earth and understood that God worked the fields alongside them.
At summer’s end, the soil was picked clean, turned and fertilized. The earth was then draped with coarse hemp sacs to keep the ground from freezing. Beyond the fields as far as the eye could see, the reapers recognized the signs: day yielded to dark sooner than expected, clouds gathered thick and grey racing over the barren fields shedding rain, wind, and storm.
Every harvester would have to leave the great outdoors and seek shelter indoors. At home families, friends, and neighbours prepared for winter’s inclement weather. The Irish secured their roofs from leaks, sealed windows and doors against drafts; repaired worn quilts, reknitted woollens, gathered the bog and piled kindling and wood near the hearth. Their larders stacked with sacks of wheat, oats, and rice. Their shelves lined with jars of homemade sauces, honey and preserves, pickled fruits and vegetables; including a reserve of smoked fish, aged cheese, salted meat, and medicinal herbs. Each bundle tied and strung to dangle from the rafters.
Hardy homemade lamb stew and fish pies, brown bread, creamy butter, a pint of ale, were family comforts to be shared with friends, with strangers. This is how the long winter evenings where spent indoors; sitting before a fire where family and intimates gathered to remember the dead, tell their ancestral stories, create myth, and invent lore.
To honour the season of rest and hibernation I was invited to a gathering to share our ancestral stories, and remember our relationship to our beloved dead. Folks bought mementos to show and help recount their stories: Sepia and aged black and white photographs were displayed of relatives, friends, acquaintances; along with monogrammed hankies, crochet doilies, hand-carved smoking pipes. Men and women read postcards and letters some handwritten in Gaelic some not. Others spoke about the cherishing of a tattered ribbon, a keepsake medal, how someone had left flowers dried and pressed between the pages of an 80 year-old book.
Following the Samhain tradition, we left handfuls of chestnuts, apples, and several pumpkins on the doorstep to the entrance of this house. Then we lit candles and placed them on the windowsills so the spirits of the souls we once knew, could find their way home.
As always I keep a reserve of blank SoulCollage® cards, glue sticks, and magazines in my car. When the moment appeared ripe for an introduction to the process of SoulCollage®, I asked if anyone wanted to make a card in honor of this occasion. Both men and women were delighted to participate as our host brought out her stash of magazines, and laid them at our feet in front of the fireplace.
In the silence held by the tearing and the cutting out of images to be pasted on the boards, I felt that by making our cards we had added something new to the traditional way of celebrating Samhain eve.
Afterwards we went around the room, relating why and for whom each of us had made his or her card. We shared tears, fears, and laughter long into the night. Then we placed our cards before the hearth as everyone quieted down and the stillness of the moment overtook us.
Some of us closed our eyes. A few people sobbed. I said a prayer to honour our Samhain together, and having been given the opportunity to remember those long-past-gone.
SoulCollage® Committee Suit Card: I Am All That You Intend To Be. “Remember even though this body dies, consciousness and all you experienced in this body, both learned and believed, along with whatever was misunderstood will carry on into the next life. Consciousness continues to experience life in different forms, in different spaces and realms. As long as there is desire, consciousness will seek to reincarnate until it need not be anymore.”- I.Ebaen, 2017, Samhain Eve.
Committee Suit Card: Honoring the Dead and the Not So Dead. “I am the one who comforts you when you feel you have no family. I am here to tell you that everyone is family. In truth there is no such a one as sister or brother, mother or father, aunt or uncle. These are only titles like names we give each other, only words to distinguish a clan: In truth, we are all human beings in relationship to one another. So do not fret. Learning that everyone is humanly related and we must care for one another, is everyone’s responsibility.”-I.Ebaen, 2017, Samhain Eve.
An Irish Fruit Cake for any Samhain Eve:
Preheat oven: 220°c
Yields: 3-4 cakes (for smaller portion use half the recipe)
20g baking powder
1 orange (zest)
2 lemons (zest)
25g ginger jam
150g orange jam
25g shredded almonds
800g mixed dried fruit of choice (dried cherries, currants, dates)
600g eggs (yolks & whites)
650g unsalted butter (room temp.)
400g powdered sugar
950g T55 flour (sifted)
In a large bowl add the butter, salt, the zest of the orange and 2 lemons, and the sugar- mix together with a wooden spoon
In a separate mixing bowl add eggs, sifted flour, baking powder, and gently mix then add these ingredients to the larger bowl of butter, salt, sugar, orange and lemon zests, and carefully mix with a spatula
Using a spatula incorporate the jams and all the dried fruit to this mixture
Cover with plastic wrap and keep in refrigerator for 4 hours
Before the 4 hours are up, butter the bottom and sides of 4, 20cm cake pans
After 4 hours remove bowl from refrigerator, even out the dough to fill 3 or 4 cake pans (each at least ¾ full)
Set pans in the oven and bake at 220°c for 3 minutes then reduce heat to 160°c and bake cakes for 1 hour 15 minutes
Check to see that the cakes are done by poking the center with a knife
If knife withdraws clean, turn the oven off, use oven mitts to carefully remove cakes, and set them on a tray or kitchen counter to cool before serving
Serve with crème fresh and enjoy!