Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Samhain-The Night of Thin Places

      Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the year. I love Halloween night. Not for trick-or-treating. Not for the jack-o-lantern carving, or the noise, or the excitement, or the mess. And I SURELY do not like it for the way it affects my students, today OR tomorrow.  But I love it for the ancient Celtic traditions it is founded on, and the ways I am still able to practice some of those traditions today that make me feel connected to people and times and places of long-ago. Halloween, or Samhain (Sow-in) was originally a very pagan celebration which had much to do with the end of harvest and the time of year it was held. It became Christianized, and then again secularized, and has undergone much change, until what we call Halloween today has very little to do with its ancient beginnings. I don't much care about today's version, now that I no longer have little kids  excited to dress up, go door to door asking for candy, or stay home and hand out candy to the ghosts and witches and vampires of the neighborhood. What I do like, what I can hardly wait for tonight, is that this is the night that I can be connected to all those who have gone before me, generations and generations of wise, ancient and ordered people from the lands of thin places, of doorways between worlds, of traditions and wisdom and spirituality.
     When my children were little, it was a challenge to me, one I took seriously, to never speak their names after dark. Legend has it that to call out your child's name leaves them vulnerable to being taken.  Tonight is one of the nights when the veil between worlds is thinner, thin enough to allow beings from the other side to slip through, unnoticed.  Naming your child out loud is to give those beings who might wish to take one back with them the advantage; they, too, can call your child home with them, call them by name, and just like that, they've slipped away through that doorway between worlds. It's hard to take four small, overly eager, excited children trick-or-treating around town and never say their name out loud, but I worked hard to maintain that every year.
     I also make sure our house is blessed on All Hallow's Eve. I am not sure why it is done in this particular manner, but I do know that I have always circled the exterior of our home thrice, blessing and silently naming all within, all who reside there.  I don't feel that it's pagan to ask a blessing on my home and on my family. I feel it makes sense and it gives me a sense of "tucking in" my home and family on the night that ends the light half of the year.  Usually on the day following, All Saints Day, I bake "soul cakes."  I guess, traditionally, in Ireland especially, those were handed out on the night before, tonight it would be, which is where, it has been said,  the tradition of going door to door began. But for me, time-wise, with costumes and trick-or-treating, and parties, there was just never time to do those ON Halloween, so I've always made them a day later. Perhaps not so typically traditional, but traditional to MY family, in my own way.
     So, tomorrow begins the "Dark half of the Year."  I love it, because it is when I "hunker down" inside my home, and work on projects that can be done by evening's light inside. My goal for those dark half projects are to work on something of value, of worth, to create and be able to leave behind things to show for those hours spent indoors. It is the time of year I get out my crocheting again that I put away in the summertime, and work on a couple of blankets at a time. I focus more on trying to quilt, and sew, and complete projects I've let go over the summer in favor of time spent outdoors. I write more, read more, think more, create more. I intentionally use more colors, work a little harder, try to make our home a little more warm and comfortable. The Dark Half of the year is time spent indoors without guilt, working on leaving something of a legacy behind.
     I really do love this time of year. Every month, every season, has its own gifts, to be sure, but I really do love this evening the best of all, I think.  Happy Samhain, everyone.


Soul Cakes


    1. 1 cup butter, two sticks American
    2. 3 3/4 cups sifted flour
    3. 1 cup fine sugar
    4. 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    6. 1 teaspoon ginger
    7. 1 teaspoon allspice
    8. 2 eggs
    9. 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
    10. 4 -6 tablespoons milk
    11. powdered sugar, to sprinkle on top


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or a large fork.
  3. Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice; beat eggs, vinegar, and milk together.
  4. Mix with the flour mixture until a stiff dough is formed.
  5. Knead thoroughly and roll out 1/4-inch thick.
  6. Cut into 3-inch rounds and place on greased baking sheets. Prick several times with a fork and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  7. Presentation:.
  8. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still warm.

1 comment:

Peruby said...

Very, very interesting. I will have to read more on this topic.