This is a shining example of Recipes Gone Wrong! When I looked over the recipe, I really felt like something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I think there either needs to be a “Put dough in fridge for 30 minutes” step or a “Use half a stick of butter” step.
I mean, they’re still edible.
In the video, I read what the Llewellyn’s Essentials writer says about soul cakes. But, obviously, there’s more information than just that tiny blurb in an overview book! So, to the internets I travelled–and I was not disappointed!
First, there was this site which offers a few other recipes for soul cakes–recipes I wish I had thought to look up before I did the one straight out of the book! NPR had a great little article, as well; and, blessed be, Holidappy put the recipe at the top of the post (they must have the same mindset as me: Recipe first, life story later–in my case, video first, life story after).
Second, it seems that Soulmas is the name that came from the idea of making soul cakes to offer to beggars and poor who came seeking food in exchange for prayers for the dead. According to another site, the soul cakes were originally a form of lottery during Druidic rituals, pre-8th Century Ireland/England. You draw the burnt cake, you have been selected as the human sacrifice to ward off the evil spirits and bring a prosperous new year. Around the 8th Century, Christianity (as it often did) engulfed the holiday and tried to Christianize it, which is when the cakes started being seen as “alms” for helping to buy souls out of Purgatory. The cakes were then set out, along with a glass of wine (or other libation), for the dead. Children would also go “Souling” (ritually begging for cakes door to door) on either Hallow’s Eve (Halloween/October 31), All Saint’s Day (November 1), or All Soul’s Day (November 2).
Like many Pagan-turned-Christian holidays, Samhain has become commercialized and only bears mild resemblances to its original intent and spirit (see what I did there!? Spirit! Samhain! I slay me!). Trick-or-Treat is the modern “souling” for children; the costumes are more fun and light-hearted instead of intentionally grotesque.
Perhaps a way we can start reclaiming the true spirit of Samhain, we can bake batches of soul cakes and take them to local homeless and women’s shelters and offer prayers with those who choose to for remembrance of their loved ones and for prosperous new years.
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