The Pagan Book of Halloween by Gerina Dunwich
Gerina Dunwich's favorite night of the year is Halloween, and for good reason—it is the Witches's New Year's Eve. As a high priestess in the Universal Life Church and professional astrologer, she has dedicated her life to dispelling rumors, myths, and negative stereotypes surrounding the Old Religion. Her book on Halloween is filled with information on the origins and development of this ancient holiday as well as recipes, spells, ceremonies and lore.
Dunwich traces the origins from ancient, pre-Christian Ireland to modern horror films. She examines the ways that the holiday shares similarities with days of the dead in other cultures and how it has incorporated the traditions and symbols of many different religions over the centuries. She also explains how pagan Halloween has nothing to do with Satan or devil worship as it has been mis-portrayed by rival religions for centuries.
Here is an excerpt from the chapter on Traditional Halloween Cookery:
In the Middle Ages, bakeries throughout central and southern England were filled each year on All Souls' Day with square buns decorated with currants and know as "soul cakes." These sweetened rolls were eaten to bring mercy on the souls of all Christians who had died within the past year.
Soul cakes were as important on all Souls' Day as hot cross buns were on Good Friday and plum pudding was on Christmas. They are believed to be a custom that derived from an old Pagan tradition of baking bread from the new grain at the Samhain harvest festival. Soulers (people who would walk the streets on All Souls' Day singing and begging for food and money) would be given soul cakes in return saying addition prayers for the deceased loved ones of the donors. It was believed that the passage of the dead soul through purgatory was made faster by each prayer that was offered up.
In Yorkshire, England, the baking of special saumas (soul mass) loaves was a custom related to the soul cake. Bakers were known to give these small round loaves away to their favorite customers to bring them good luck. As a charm against early death, one or two loaves would be kept in each house until the next All Souls' Day.
The Pagan Book of Halloween is fun and interesting to read. You will enjoy all the the bits of ancient lore and superstitions. There are simple spells for bringing good luck, and finding love, and blessing the dearly departed. There are also more involved ceremonies for marking the passing of the year at Samhain, (pronounce SOW-en) the ancient name for Halloween.
Originally published October 2005
by Gael Stirler