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Friday, October 18, 2013

Samhain Customs and Irish Recipes

Old Samhain Customs

1. Do not eat blackberries or any other fruit still on the branch or vine after Samhain, that mischievous spirit the Púca and the other fairies were let loose to curse all fruit left on the trees and bushes. Children particularly should not touch the fruit!  But do leave some fruits or nuts outside for the fairies, to ensure their help for a good crop next year.
2. Prepare the bonfire, Samhain is a fire festival. There has to be a bonfire, on a local hill or at the crossroads.
3. Sprinkle the animals in the stable or the byre with holy water for their protection against evil spirits. Or spit on the animals to prevent or remove the Sprite from tormenting them. 
 4. If you do meet the fairies on Samhain, be sure to throw dust under their feet and by this they’ll be obliged to release any humans they have kept captive.
 5. Light candles on All Souls Eve, October 31st, one for each deceased relative from the past year, especially in the window of the room where the death occurred.
 6. Place a lighted candle in a window if it faces the graveyard as a help to those departed.
 7. Place a lighted candle or a lantern on the grave of a loved one and leave it lit all night.
 8. If you are brave, meet those lost during the year at the graveyard gate this night, be careful, you may meet those you have done an injustice to.
 9. Beware of the Fairies in their forts as you cross the winter fields, listen for their revels but take care not to get caught!
10. Games to play at Samhain;  
Apple Magic
“At the heart of the ancient Otherworld, in the land of Manannán, grows an apple tree whose fruit has magical properties. Old sagas tell of heroes crossing the western sea to find this wondrous country, known in Ireland as Emhain Abhlach, (Evan Avlach) and in Britain as Avalon. At Samhain, the apple harvest is in, and old hearthside games, such as apple-bobbing, reflect the journey across water to obtain the magic apple”.

*    Bob for apples in a tub of water. Stir the water with a wooden spoon and each takes a turn.
*    Snap Apple: Suspend a stick on a cord; put an apple at one end and a lighted candle at the other end of the stick. Twirl the stick and try to catch the apple, not the candle, in your mouth. You can substitute something else for the candle, a dirty sock maybe? Or a sprig of bramble?
*    Hang an apple from a piece of string and place a high- backed chair under it. With a stick in one hand and the other on the back of the chair, run as fast as possible sun wise around the chair. Then, when you’ve done seven turns about, try to strike the apple with the stick.
*    Attempt to produce a long unbroken apple peel; this will estimate the number of years you had to live. The longer the peel, the longer your life.
*     Before the stroke of midnight, take an apple and sit in front of a mirror in a room lit only by one candle or perhaps moonlight. Go into the silence inside, meditate and ask a question. Cut the apple into nine pieces. With your back to the mirror, eat eight of the pieces, and then throw the ninth over your left shoulder. Turn your head to look over the same shoulder, and you will see an image or symbol in the mirror that will give you your answer.
(When you look in the mirror, let your focus go "soft," and allow the patterns made by the moon or candlelight shadows to suggest forms, symbols and other dreamlike images that speak to your intuition.)
*    By peeling an apple on Hallowe'en and keeping the peel in one piece, then throwing it over your shoulder you will discover the initials of a future lover.
*    Make toffee apples, just because they’re gorgeous.

 11. Provide a feast for the poor or give alms enough for a feast if you are not able. Give a church offering for All Souls.
 12. Hollow out a great big turnip or pumpkin and carve a face into its side.  Place a candle inside, hang it from a stick as you go out, or perhaps place it on a gate post.

 13. Just as Samhain stands on the boundary between Summer and Winter, all other boundaries were a danger at this time. The boundaries between one family’s land and their neighbours were dangerous places to be on this night. Ghosts are to be found along these and a style between adjacent land is a place of particular dread and best avoided. Bridges and crossroads were also likely places to encounter ghosts.
14. It is the time for tricks and disguises- play knock a dolly, take pots out of gardens and line them up on a wall, throw shoes onto tree branches. Pelt the doors of those who refuse you treats with flour or eggs. Bang drums or light bangers. (Have a care for cats and dogs, as well as other animals, do not harm or frighten them or bad luck will follow you.) All the while be in disguise as a creature of Samhain; werewolves, goblins, ghosts, wild cats or demons. Make sure you are safe on the road.
 15.  Samhain is considered a time to eliminate weaknesses. Use the magic of this time to say farewell to a bad habit, an addiction, an old relationship, or anything else that’s negative in your life, write your own weaknesses onto a piece of paper then burn them. Samhain is the night to leave it all behind and make a new start.
16. Sprinkle a little salt on the hair of those going house to house, for protection, especially children.

Parshall or Samhain Cross

 17. Put up a wood cross or Parshell cross in the thatch or under the eaves as protection for the winter. Sprinkle holy water on the door for the same reason.
 18. Go to the church at midnight on Hallowe’en and stand in the porch. The courageous observer will see the spirits of those who will die in the coming year if he watches closely, but runs the risk of meeting himself.
 19. Alternatively, at Samhain, if you want the help of evil spirits, crawl through a bramble rooted at both ends while making your request.  
20. In the Ancient tradition, gifts of food and drink were left on the doorstep to feed the wandering spirits and prevent their coming into the house looking for food; those who didn’t leave food were subject to harm, trick or treat.

21. Settle everything down for the winter, get out winter clothes and repair boots. Store crops and settle livestock inside for the cold season. Get turf and wood for winter fires ready.
 22. Everyone has debts at Halloween - pay workers, pay rents, settle what you owe.  
 23. Burn nutshells and foretell the future of a couple - place a nut for the boy next to the nut for the girl into the hearth. If they spark it will be a fiery relationship, if they burn quietly together it will be a happy one, if one jumps from the other as they burn so will it be in life.
 24. Everyone in the house places a perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and then leaves it undisturbed overnight. In the morning if a leaf is still perfect and has not developed any marks or spots, this predicts that the person who placed the leaf in the cup will enjoy 12 months good health until the following Samhain.
 25. Place your shift or shirt in front of the fire to see who turns it over; they will be your future spouse.
 26. Forecast the winter weather; look at the moon on the 31st to determine it; a clear moon means fine weather, clouds will denote a wet winter and the wind at midnight will determine the strength of the winter storms to come. Place a stake upright at the junction of two streams. Look at it on November1st, is it still standing? Is it leaning to the North or South? East or West? Where will the worse weather come from?
 27. Light a bonfire, preferably at a crossroads (check for sleeping hedgehogs before you light it!)
28. Drop a lock of your hair in the dying embers of the bonfire to dream of your future love.
29. In case of meeting fairies you can turn your coat inside out and so escape disguised. Better again, if you are dressed as a one, you can mingle with them.
 30. When throwing out water in the night, call out Seachain! (‘Beware’ pronounced shaw-kin) or Chughaibh an t- uisce! (‘Water towards you’ who-iv on tishke) to warn the ghosts and fairies to step aside. You don’t want to make them angry.
 31. Go door to door masked (a guiser) and ask for funds for the Samhain party. You may take clubs and sticks and invoke the saying: "lay aside the fatted calf and bring forth the black sheep". Blow horns to announce that you are coming.  Disguise your voice and chant your requests.
 32. Householders, give the guisers sweets or nuts, apples or money.
 33. Have a noisy procession led by a person in a white sheet with wooden horses’ head- the Lair Bán ("the white mare") -the messengers of the Samhain moon...   
34. Make a Barm Brack with hidden charms in it with the resultant luck being given to the finder. Find a ring in your cake and you will be next married. Other things to put into the cake: a pea, a coin, a matchstick, a thimble, a religious medal, a button and a little boat.  Wrap them in greaseproof paper and put them into the barm brack. The thimble signifies spinsterhood, the button is for bachelorhood, the matchstick means your spouse will beat you; the bean is for poverty, the pea is for wealth, the medal indicates religious orders, and find a little boat and you will be blessed with a journey.

Easy Barm Brack :
½ lb. brown sugar, 1 lb. sultanas, 1 teaspoon. mixed spice, 1 tsp. ground cloves,
1.Soak the above ingredients overnight in a cupful of strong tea and a little whiskey.
2. Add to the mixture: 1 well-beaten egg and 1/2 lb. self-rising flour, mix well, 3. Add the charms and put into a well greased loaf tin. 4. bake at 350 Deg. F. for one hour and 10 minutes, 5. Serve in buttered slices.

35. Make Colcannon - (mashed potatoes and cabbage and onion) or Callie (mashed potatoes and scallions).   Recipe for Colcannon: (for 6) ¼lbs. Kale or green Cabbage, 2 cups water, 1 ¼pounds peeled and quartered potatoes, 1 cup  of fine chopped onion, ½cup milk, ½cup butter, salt and pepper to taste,1.Simmer kale or cabbage in salted boiling water for 10 minutes, drain and chop. 2. Boil potatoes in salted water, simmer till tender. 3.  Drain and mash the potatoes with a drop of milk and some of the butter. 4. Add the onion and the cooked kale. Mix, add salt and pepper. 6 Wrap coins in clean muslin or grease proof paper and hide in the mash. 7. Mound on a plate and make a hole and put in some more butter. 

36. Make Boxty,
       Makes 12 Boxty Cakes:
½lb hot cooked potatoes, ½lb grated raw potatoes, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 ½cups buttermilk, butter for frying, salt and pepper.
1. Drain, peel and mash the hot potatoes. 2. Stir in the raw potatoes, flour and baking soda. 3. Add salt and pepper to taste. 4. Mix well with enough buttermilk to make a stiff batter. 5. Shape into 3 inch cake about 1/4 inch thick. 6. Fry on hot greased griddle until crispy and golden on both sides. Serve with butter and salt.

37. Make Stampy
8oz grated raw potatoes, 8oz cooked potatoes, 1oz of butter, 2fl oz double cream, 2 tsp caraway seeds, 4oz caster sugar, 8oz self-raising flour.
1. Mash the cooked potatoes with the butter and cream. 2. Place the raw potatoes into the centre of a clean tea towel, and while holding the cloth over a bowl, wring hard to extract the starchy liquid. 3. Leave this to settle until the starch separates and rests at the bottom of the bowl. This will take at least 2 hours. 4. While waiting for the starch to settle, Transfer the grated potatoes to another bowl.   sit the mashed potatoes on top of the grated ones to prevent them from browning.  5. When the starch has settled, pour off and discard the surface liquid and add the remaining starch to the mashed and grated potatoes, mixing well. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  6. Preheat the oven 400F.  7. Mix the caraway seeds through the sugar and add these to the potatoes. 8. Sift the flour and mix this in to make a soft pliable dough. 9. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly. 10. Place on a preheated baking sheet and cut into 8-16 slices. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

38. Make Apple Cake
8oz white flour, ¼ tsp baking powder, 4oz butter, ½ caster sugar, 1 beaten egg, ½ cup of milk, 2-3 cooking apples, 2-3 cloves, 1 beaten egg with pinch of salt for glazing.
1.                    Sieve flour and baking powder into bowl and rub in butter, 2. Add ¾ of sugar and the egg with enough milk to make a soft dough. 3. Divide and put one half onto greased oven proof plate and flatten with floured fingers. 4. Arrange slices of apple and cloves on top and sprinkle with sugar. 5.  Roll out remainder of dough and place on top. 6. Pinch sides together and put slit in top. 7. Brush with egg and bake for 40 mins in 350 F° oven.

39. Blindfolded a person and sit them at a table on which are placed several saucers. They choose one by touch, after they have been shuffled about the table. The contents of the saucer foretell the person's fate for the following year; water means the person will travel, a coin or salt indicates future wealth, earth/clay means someone known to the player will die next year, a bean predicts poverty and a ring meant marriage.
40. It was customary at Samhain to leave an empty chair and a plate of food for any dead guests, so that they would not be offended when they visit. At the stroke of midnight - believed to be the hour the dead visited - all remained silent in respect. Also keep the fire lit to warm them. Perhaps going to bed early is a good idea.
41. Those born on All Hallows Eve are believed to have the gift of second sight.
42. If you catch a falling leaf on Samhain before it touches the ground it will bring you good luck and health for the coming winter.
On the morning of November 1st throw a silver coin through the front door of the house. The coin had to remain where it had fallen in order to bring financial luck.

Compiled by Bernadette D'Alton @ Cruachan Ai

 Samhain 2013 Events at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon

Tues 29th & Wed 30th October, from 2pm  - Trick or Treat Gravediggers & Stories
Digging in the Gravedirt - will you find a gruesome trick or a lovely treat to take home? Spooky Storytelling to follow. Event Cost is just €3 per child, or €5 per family.

Wed 30th October, from 7.30pm - Samhain Traditions: How the Irish Brought Halloween to the World
Halloween is one of the most popular festivals in the world, and it started here. Presentation and Talk by Author Lora O'Brien on Irish Samhain Traditions, 7.30pm at Rathcroghan Centre, Tulsk. Cost €4 p.p., includes free Tea/Coffee!

Thurs 31st October, meet 11am at Visitor Centre, Tulsk - Guided Tour to Cave of the Cats
The Ancient Cave of Cruachan, Royal Capital of the West of Ireland, spiritual heartland of Connacht, in Co Roscommon. Take a guided tour at Samhain to the Cave of the Cats, 'Entrance to the Otherworld', the Battle Goddess Morrigan's 'fit abode', a place the Christian scribes called the Gates of Hell... if you dare. Tour Cost is €6 per person. Please bring your torches, waterproofs/change of clothing.

All event attendees get €2 off a Main Course Lunch at the Rathcroghan Cafe that day!
Book Your Place on 071 9639268, or email

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