I’ve been busy this last week updating and sending off the Samhain module which is part of the Wise Woman Training Course. danusirishherbgarden.com/wise-woman-training/ I am delighted that so many are engaging with this course which goes around the Wheel of the Year. I have always enjoyed Samhain. As a child the possibility of magic and mystery and the potential opportunity to see a ghost made me look forward to Hallowe’en – as I knew it then. Now, as an adult my understanding has changed and I celebrate Samhain, the Celtic New Year. Samhain is SO much more than the nonsensical Hollywood version which is really, just another attempt to denigrate women – “evil witches and hags”; whilst at the same time trying to separate us from Nature and from our Dead. The terrible fear around death at this moment, all over the western world, is because we have lost our connection to the Dead and we have forgotten that the soul is immortal. To many people today, death seems to be THE END, something to fear. Whereas, if we celebrate Samhain instead of Hallowe’en, (with all its commercial, nasty plastic and diabetes-inducing sweets), we feel comforted to know that those we loved are still with us even if they are elsewhere. We can sense, through our intentional celebrations that they are close by.
The traditional celebrations include saving a place at the table for the Ancestors to join in the main meal. I set an extra place and put out food as if a corporeal person was there and then after the meal I offer that plate to the Nature Spirits. The meal is conducted in silence so that if our ancestors want to speak to us, we are more able to hear them. It is also traditional to leave whiskey and tobacco at the fireside should the Ancestors want to sit by the fire once we are in bed. These little acts give us the chance to do something again for our loved ones and to let them know that they are alive in our hearts and minds. Perhaps if we sit by the fire quietly we will sense their presence and feel comforted.
This year, as always, I will create an altar that celebrates Samhain. This altar will represent the New Year, the Ancestors and Seed Fall . ( danusirishherbgarden.com/2017/11/Have a look at this older blog post) I will include photographs of my Ancestors and perhaps some items of sentimental value that connect me to them. In the evening, with the beginning of the new day, we will begin our feast. We often start with a root vegetable soup – carrots, parsnips, turnip, onions and potato. The sweetness of the root vegetables makes us feel a little brighter now that the nights are getting dark earlier. The feast always includes Colcannon, one of my favourite dishes and we have so much kale growing it would be a shame not to use it.
This year I have made something for the first time, which I will be putting on my Colcannon and my veggie sausages – Hawthorn Berry Ketchup.
This has been made from the last of the harvest. Going out to collect or forage the last of the summer and autumn fruits reminds us again that life is cyclical and that there is life in death.
That actually, there nothing to fear. I added some late Blackberries to my ketchup and here is how I made it.
I rinsed the fruit and removed the stalks from the Hawthorn berries with a fork
I then placed all the berries into a pan with some water and Apple Cider Vinegar – organic of course – brought to the boil and simmered for half an hour or so until the berries had split.
The next step was to strain the liquid through a sieve into a clean pan, pressing the fruit through too. Quite a laborious job.
I then added some sugar and spices to the mixture, brought it back to the boil and simmered until it had thickened. Then I poured it into a sterilised bottle and labelled it.
I made up my recipe by amalgamating about three others so here it is – adjust it as you will.
1lb/500g Hawthorn berries and some Blackberries, 300ml ACV, 300ml water, 1 small onion finely chopped, 175g (-250g) of brown sugar, (I used about 200g) Salt, Fresh Black Pepper and spices – I used Chilli Flakes, Cumin, Coriander seeds crushed, and pinches of Sage, Thyme and Rosemary. Herbs that I grow myself in my garden and that called to be a part of this.
At the feast, we will also enjoy an Apple Pie and a traditional cake – the fruit Breac.
The fruits and the vegetables of the Samhain Feast connect us with the harvests and lead us to remember how much abundance we receive from Mother Earth. Samhain is also known as Seed Fall as so many plants are going to seed with the promise of more abundance to come later in this New Year. As the winter progresses we can feel nourished by Mother Earth and feel safe to go within, to assess how we did this last year and to make our plans and set our goals for the coming year. As there is little to be done out on the land, we can now take the time to commune with our ancestors and to heed their wisdom. The Grandmothers and Wise Woman of our past communities marked the seasons, acknowledged Mother Earth and shared the wisdom of the Ancestors. This female power has scared the patriarchy for centuries if not millenia and thus those wise women and grandmothers have been reduced to “wicked witches” and hags who consort with hobgoblins and demons. This is a ploy to make us fear the dark,the Ancestors and Mother Earth. We are told to stay in and shut the doors when we should be out dancing under the moonlight! Here in Connemara it is very stormy – you can feel all that elemental energy!! It is so rejuvenating and awakens our wild, natural selves. Will you go out and dance under this Samhain Full Moon?