Sunday, 1 November 2015

Samhain, All Soul's Day Biscuits

The morning after Samhain the valley is swathed in a heavy mist and the ghostly hedges interspersed with spectral trees loomed out of the mist as I trudged across the fields with the dogs who dashed in and out of sight throught the mistiness. Visibility was only a few yards and the fields seemed very empty and isolated.
The autumn colours are superb and now they are just emerging from their thick blanket of mist with a pale sun lighting up the golden leaves.
This is one of the most beautiful times of the year on the farm as we are surrounded by trees and have views across a heavily wooded valley and so we have a gilded landscape as a background to the daily chores.

The pagan festival of Samhain took place last night but today and tomorrow, the 1st & 2nd of November are All Saint's Day & All Soul's Day, two Christian festivals that tried to blot out the ancient pagan beliefs. The yew tree as symbol of everlasting life grows in many churchyards and through recent research it has been found that some of them may be anything up to four thousand years old, pre-dating Christianity and so strengthening the belief that many churches were built on ancient pagan sacred sites. There is a marvellous old yew tree at the ruined Strata Florida abbey near Tregaron in mid-Wales and also at Nevern church in Pembrokeshire.

There was tradition in Wales & elsewhere of making Soul Cakes on 2nd November, All Soul's Day and I found this recipe in a fascinating book 'Kindling the Celtic Spirit' by Mara Freeman;

1/2 tspn mace
1/2 tspn cloves
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1 ounce brandy
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
21/2 cups flour
11/2 tspn ginger
1 tspn nutmeg

Cream together the butter and sugar, add the eaggs, beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients. Blend in the brandy. Pour the thick batter into 2 greased 13"x9" baking tins and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a foil-lined falt surface and using gingerbread man cutters cut out biscuits.

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