By the time you read this Samhain (Halloween) will have largely come and gone for most. But the date of October 31 is a vestige of the Christian Gregorian calendar. In older times the festival was celebrated the eve of November 11. Further back I am fairly certain folks would have taken advantage of the nearest Full Moon, because the light of the Moon makes it easier to travel.
This year the Full Moon fell on October 29, in the teeth of a giant hurricane (named Sandy). I found myself outside in the woods, invoking the Gods (I was pretty surprised when Odin showed up, not one of my regulars) and I realized that the Wild Hunt was upon us. I knew that death and destruction would follow, happily I was spared here on the mountain with just a downed tree and a few fallen branches.
My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes, their neighborhoods, their businesses, and their loved ones. As of today at least seventy have perished in the storm, here in the USA, and another sixty or so in the Caribbean. Many suspect that global warming is a root cause, the waters of the Atlantic are much warmer now, feeding larger storms.
New York City is still half underwater and a sea wall will likely have to be built, or they will face this again. The Appalachian mountains are getting snow as I write, though the media has mostly ignored their plight, concentrating instead on the disaster in their own backyard.
If you missed the celebration of the ancestors on October 31 due to the storm, you can still observe the festival on the ancient date (from my book Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore – Pendraig Publishing):
Martinmas, Hallowmass Foy (also called Old Samhuinn) 11-12 November
This is the last legal “Quarter Day” when rents and contracts were once due. Since cattle and sheep were often killed at this date, it was the traditional time to make Haggis out of minced livers, hearts and lungs. The offal was mixed with oatmeal and suet and seasoned with salt and pepper. It was then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. Black Pudding was also made with sheep’s blood.
To Make a Haggis: Lady Login’s Receipt, 1856
1 cleaned sheep or lamb’s stomach bag
2 lb. dry oatmeal
1 lb chopped mutton suet
1 lb lamb’s or deer’s liver, boiled and minced
1 pint (2 cups) stock
The heart and lungs of the sheep, boiled and minced
1 large chopped onion
½ tsp. each: cayenne pepper,
Salt and black pepper
Toast the oatmeal slowly until it is crisp, then mix all the ingredients (except the stomach bag) together, and add the stock. Fill the bag just over half full, press out the air and sew up securely. Have ready a large pot of boiling water, prick the haggis all over with a large needle so it does not burst and boil slowly for 4 to 5 hours. Serves 12.
Black Pudding (Marag Dubh)
1 lb suet
1 lb oatmeal
Fresh sheep’s blood
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop the suet and the onions finely. Mix the dry ingredients then add the blood. Stuff into a casing and tie. Put into a large pan and boil in water gently for three hours. Remove and cool. Cut into slices and fry in hot fat. A classic side dish with fried bacon and eggs. Serves 4.
If you slaughter your own animals, use fresh blood, or get fresh blood from an abattoir (ask your local butcher shop where you can purchase sausage casings).
A banquet is held after a day of fasting. A wether (a male castrated ram) is sacrificed. Guizers enter from the kitchen, hobbling and dancing in pairs. They are dressed in white with petticoats beneath their robes and tall, woven straw caps, making noises like human grunts and bird calls and rapping on the floor with a staff. One of them plays a fiddle and another has a straw basket on his back. They beg for money and food and are given coins, butter, mutton, and cakes.
Cattle are given their feast of an entire sheaf of grain each. Turnip lanterns (the original Jack O’Lanterns) are lit.
All blessings of the Celtic New Year, whenever you celebrate it!
I have been very concerned about the fact that millions in the North East still don’t have power, and the chaos that will result on election day. I called the DNC and was referred to this number 1-800-311-8683 which they tell me folks can call to find out where their polling place will be, if the old one is underwater, without power, snowed in, etc. Please spread this around! Thanks.
UPCOMING EVENTS AND BOOK NEWS
- The first review came in on Amazon for the new book The Secret Medicines of Your Kitchen:
“A colorful, attractive book that explores the world of popular herbs,fruits and vegetables by a professional herbalist. Includes cooking hints, historical notes, and suggestions for using herbs to help in healing. A cheerful welcome gift for cooks, for anyone curious about herbs and especially a suitable introduction to herbs for young people”. – Lucy Vecera
- Changing Times, Changing Worlds
November 9 – 11
Conference at U. of MA, Amherst, MA (I will be doing three workshops at this conference)
- Crystal Falls Wellness Center
Saturday, November 17 Southampton, MA
1- 3:30 pm
author fair, I will sell and sign books
285 College Hwy (Rt 10/202)
For more info: Lori (413) 536-7192 X 1117
*Reminder – you can purchase all my books via this website. You will get a signed copy and a personal note.
- Scottish man dies, takes his dialect with him (link removed by source)
May the dark season bring you peace, introspection and renewal!