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Soul Cakes for Samhain

Soul Cakes for Samhain

In medieval Catholic and Orthodox Europe, the attempt to divorce respect for the dead from the traditions of the Old Ways failed completely. The departed souls so people believed, were allowed home, albeit from a christian purgatory rather than eternal Summerlands, for two days. Candles were lit on their graves and in the windows of houses to light them home. Fires were kept burning to warm their cold bones. Food and drink were left ready and they were invited to attend the feasts held in their honour.

In Britain, the christianised version of this tradition entailed almsgiving to others as an act of virtue on behalf of the deceased – to alleviate their suffering in purgatory. These alms took the form not of cash for candles as in many Church sanctioned transferals of custom from the earlier pagan to later christian, but of cake. Bands of ‘soulers’ went from house to house singing ancient ‘souling’ rhymes; and small loaves, quickbreads or cakes were handed out to them to be eaten hot while saying a prayer for the departed. Even after the Reformation, when prayers were officially no longer thought necessary to ease the passage of souls to Heaven, the idea that the giving and receiving of food by the living somehow benefited or pleased the dead persisted, for ‘souling’ continued, although the souling rhymes became straight begging-songs.

The tradition of giving Soul Cakes at Halloween then, which is one of the origins of today’s Halloween trick-or-treating, has been celebrated in Britain since at least as early as the Middle Ages when it took over from earlier pagan Samhain feasts. The cakes were usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger or other sweet spices, raisins or currants, and before baking were topped with the mark of a cross to signify that these were alms. They were traditionally set out with glasses of wine on All Hallows’ Eve. On All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day children would go “souling”, or ritually begging with song, for cakes, from door to door.

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

How To Make a Soul Cake for Samhain;

Quickie Shortbread Soul Cakes –

1 stick of butter, softened
4 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 C flour

Cream together the butter and sugar. Use a flour sifter to add the flour to the bowl, and mix until it’s smooth. Divide the dough into two parts, and shape each half into a flat circle about half an inch thick. Put them on an ungreased baking sheet (baking stones are really nice for this) and poke lines with the tines of a fork, making eight separate wedges in each cake. Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown at 350 degrees.

Buttery Soul Cakes –

Two sticks butter, softened
3 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg & saffron
1 tsp each cinnamon & allspice
2 eggs
2 tsp malt vinegar
Powdered sugar

Cut the butter into the flour with a large fork. Mix in the sugar, nutmeg, saffron, cinammon and allspice. Lightly beat eggs, and add to flour mixture. Add malt vinegar. Mix until you have a stiff dough. Knead for a while, then roll out until 1/4″ thick. Use a floured glass to cut out 3″ circles. Place on greased baking sheet and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while the cakes are still warm.

Thanks to ‘recepies for a pagan soul’ for the recepies, more here .
Wishing you a Sacred Samhain ~
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