I love Halloween—more than Christmas, Easter, and Fourth of July combined! Halloween or Samhain (Sahv’-un or Sow-un, but NEVER Sam-hane) is one of the two hinges of the year with Beltane on May 1st being the other. On a witchy calendar, Samhain is Witches’ New Year, the border between the warm, easy days of summer and the bleak, dead winter to come.
And so, of course, I have big plans for this one. It should be noted that often I have more fun making plans than actually carrying them out, but . . . .anyway, here is the plan.
Food is a big deal. Red meat served on this day symbolizes the last slaughter of animals before winter. If you lived in a long-ago Celtic village, far in the north of Scotland, you would kill off the animals who might not make it through the winter and preserve all the meat you could. Usually, the Samhain feast would include the meat bits that didn’t keep well—like organs (unless you mix it with salt and herbs and make haggis with it) and fatty bits which might go rancid before winter is over.
I like a nice, tasty bit of beef and intend to make a quick and easy version of Beef Bourguignon. I only eat a little red meat as a rule. I could happily be a vegetarian—or a pesceterian because I love fish. But on Samhain, every Celtic corpuscle cries out for sustenance. I try to get local meat from happy cows.
The thing about making Beef Bourguignon is that it takes a lot of red wine. At least two bottles. One for the dish and one for the cook. I usually use some kind of pinot or port. This year, I think I will get a local blackberry wine and see what happens.
On Saturday morning, I’ll make fresh, homemade wholegrain egg noodles. The grain in the noodles is supposed to summon luck. In fact, every ingredient in Beef Bourguignon has magical qualities and fits neatly into the whole Witches’ New Year feel. Carrots, celery, bacon, mushrooms, onion, oh my.
I’m tempted to make it on Thursday or Friday since this stuff gets better if you let it sit in the fridge for a day or two, but I think the really important part of cooking is the process. If you have a bunch of people hanging around, dipping fingers in the pot, grabbing bits of chopped vegies, and generally being nuisances, the whole thing is more fun and the magic is stronger. So I will make it early in the afternoon. We’ll have the fun of preparing the meal and drinking the wine.
After we have a bowl of Beef Bourguignon and a helping of blackberry cobbler, it will be time for the bonfire. Usually, the bonfire is just outside the house in a fire pit. This year, we have a slightly different plan. In the woods near our house, is what we think is an old cemetery. Not ancient, but possibly going back as far as the Civil War. I live in Missouri, and quite a few skirmishes were fought in the area.
Regularly placed flat stones seem to mark graves with small but vertical stones at the head and foot. These are arranged in a rough circle on a promontory near a dry creek. Also nearby is an old groundhog still and an abandoned house sight. In the dry creek, a cement shaft leads downward to a cave where water still runs not too far beneath the surface. It is a mysterious little place and we have been curious about it for years.
A few years ago, we put a gamecam in the area. On a cold November night, we got two pictures, one seemingly normal and one not so much. Then the batteries went dead. The next time we put it out there, the whole thing just quit working. Batteries dead and electrical workings fried. We put another gamecam out and the same thing happened.
First we got this–
And then we got this–
Now, I’ve been down there quite a few times alone at various times of the day and have never felt concerned or uncomfortable. I’ve meditated there and nothing seems amiss. So this is where we want to have a bonfire this year. The plan is to take a bit of after-dinner refreshment, build a little blaze in a cleared area, and see what happens. I’ll take pictures and we will tell stories.
This is the part of Samhain that honors the dead and celebrates their lives. I’ll leave a bit of cobbler for the fairies after we put out the fire and that will be that. We have had a bit of rain in the area and the woods are juicy and mostly non-flammable. The fire will be in a rock pit. We take care to put it out thoroughly and will take enough water to drown it.
At least, it should be a fun way to spend the evening, but, of course, I am hoping to get some interesting pictures of the fire.
That is the plan. See you on the other side.
Be sure to visit #SpookChow on FaceBook or Twitter or go to my SpookChow Pinterest board to see my recipe for Beef Bourguignon. I would love to hear what everyone else is having for this Halloween. Share your own recipes/plans and learn the history of candy corn and more.