Thursday, 5 November 2015

Samhein, Saints and Soul Cakes

Samhein in the Celtic tradition celebrated the turning of the year.  The harvest had been gathered in and the earth rests for the duration of winter until the rebirth of spring.  The shortening of the days and the almost disappearance of the sun, led to an air of mystery.  The camp fire became the focus, tales were told and in the thin veil between dusk and darkness it was believed that the souls of those past would once more walk the earth.

The Christian church when preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ used the old religious festivals which had been an anchor point for many hundreds of years and re-established them according to the faith.  I know this is a moot point for many but I believe we can all learn from each other and nothing ever remains static.  Samhein became All Hallows' Eve where we honour the Saints in heaven and in the following day, the feast of All Souls we remember those gone before us.  In the catholic tradition November is a month designated to prayer for the Holy Souls.

The book of Revelation tells us we are fighting principalities from the spirit world and so it is hardly surprising that the real intention of the feast has been perpetrated by ghouls, demons and all manner of monsters!  All is not lost however and we know the ending turns out right as John's revelation tells us so!  On a practical level many churches in recent years have reclaimed the feast and named it "The night of light."  We as a family after having spent many years sitting in darkness and not opening our doors to kids with menace, decided to adopt our own spin and so we carve a cross on the pumpkin and hand out "soul cakes" to the unsuspecting few:

" A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake,
One for Peter, two for Paul and three for Him who made us all,
If you haven't got a penny a halfpenny will do,
If you haven't got a halfpenny then God Bless you!"

The saints were ordinary folk like you and me, persevering in their faith and trying to do all for love of God and others.  They went the extra mile however and some were martyred for their faith.  The Church acknowledges and sanctifies these holy men and women but for everyone recognised many more will walk the earth unnoticed.  Each and everyone of us is called to be a saint right where we are in the midst of our daily living.  When I find myself discouraged or overwhelmed I am reminded of that phrase, "Bloom where you are planted."

At the end of our days it is not the successes or acquisitions that count but our walk with Jesus.  Have we loved Him as much as we could?  Did we recognise His presence in others?  And did we speak out when others spoke out against Him and His teachings?  It is easy to casually share Jesus with others in conversation, much harder to put our heads above the parapet and challenge the perceived wisdom of the day.  When we do this we lay ourselves open to ridicule and we might even wonder was it really worth it?  However Jesus in Luke's gospel reminds us:

" I tell you if anyone openly declares himself for Me in the presence of human beings, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of Angels."  (Luke 12 v 8)

So if you are struggling with speaking out and sharing what God has laid on your heart; take comfort in these words and continue to respond to those heavenly nudges.

It is not for nothing that the theme of light is prevalent during these days of darkness.  One little known feast celebrated in some European countries and in many Waldorf Steiner schools throughout the world is the feast of Martinmas on the 11th November.  St Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier who as the story goes shared his cloak with a beggar and in his dreams that night, the beggar was revealed as Christ himself.  The feast reminds us to not only share with others in need but to be The Christ Light in the darkness of this world,

"I go out with my lantern,
My lantern goes out with me,
Above the stars are shining bright,
Down here on earth shine we."

It can be difficult however to let the light of Christ shine in us if we are hanging on to burdens, negative thought patterns and a critical and judgmental attitude.  Let Jesus take your burden from your shoulders; write down one thing that is troubling your spirit and hand it over to Him who understands you through and through.

Soul Cake Recipe

175 grams butter
80 grams caster sugar
3 eggs
450 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
100 grams currants
2 teaspoons baking powder
milk to mix
Mix all the ingredients together to form a thick cake batter.
Place in muffin cases and bake at 160c for 10-15 minutes.
Soul cakes are traditionally left plain but we decorated ours with icing sugar and sprinkles.  You can also make them gluten free by substituting regular flour for gluten free flour.
If you want to know how to make a simple Martinmas  lantern then check out this blog post from last year.  We used a combination of white and coloured tissue paper, PVA glue, black sugar paper and sticky stars.  The glass lantern has remained on our kitchen window sill throughout the year and is once being pressed into action as the days continue to shorten.



  1. I feel the same way about All Hallow's Eve. We carve a cross into our pumpkin light, and try to offer a joyful and generous welcome to the children who call at our house. I can't see why Christian souls don't shift the focus away from the ghouls and ghosties, and onto the hospitality and generosity. Evangelism begins with grasping an opportunity. xx

    1. Thanks Pen for popping by and leaving a word of encouragement it is appreciated x I

  2. I agree that nothing remains static, I am in the middle of writing a post just about that too! I think that it is important to find what matters to you in each of these traditions and to make that it into something meaningful to you. It sounds like that is exactly what you are doing!

    1. Looking forward to reading your post :-)

  3. This is beautiful, San. Thank you for shing the light of Jesus for us. xxx

  4. This explains so much and is very well put, San :) I think your holiday sounds wonderful and I remember the post you mention from last year. The glass lanterns have always been a favorite especially since the wind has a much harder time blowing out the flame (though it does happen!).

    I've had a dfficult time understanding why there are so many ghouls and grotesques creatures each year. I had read that for the celebration of Samhain it was important to dress up how you would like to see yourself . . kind of thinking what can you make better . . improve upon . . to be stronger or more understanding, softer, smarter or more kind . . thus, a knight or a fairy, Hermione from Harry Potter or Glinda the Witch from the Wizard of Oz. But maybe many now just want to be part of Revelations! Ah well . . :) I'm looking forward to Martinmas and have to get out our lanterns. Your soul cakes look delicious. What a wonderful treat to offer :) xoxo

    1. Being the best version of yourself... I like that! It is a very positive and uplifting spin on the feast.

      San xx


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