Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween and Perspectives

Happy belated Halloween!

This is the most wonderful time of year for me. I absolutely love everything about it. And with these last few weeks of finding some of my family's gravestones, it has gathered even more importance and momentum. 

I will admit that I have not always celebrated Halloween in regards to the veil and my ancestors as strongly as I am coming to understand, but that is the beautiful thing about Paganism; it is almost always a continuing growth of knowledge, understanding, ritual, and worship. I am opening myself up to the areas that I have previously been hesitant to (because of being overwhelmed by the loss of loved ones), only to find that it is calling me and awakening a strong and powerful feeling of connected-ness to the Wheel of Life and Death as well as to my ancestry and heritage. 

As a Pagan, my particular view of Halloween is with a two-fold mentality. I personally do not directly celebrate the Gaelic/Celtic/Wiccan Samhain because, as I have mentioned before, I do not follow the Celtic path, but a combination of common ideas and traditions. That said, I do celebrate Halloween as both the secular holiday and the spiritual holy-day. In fact, I begin celebrating the autumn, the veil, and the dead towards the beginning of October and continue on through the end of November, while the secular Halloween starts a week or so before hand and ends the evening of Halloween. The energies that surround the weeks before and after Halloween are very powerful to me--like a sugar high for my soul--and I am finding a new outlet for that energy in investing more time into my ancestry. I have begun diving deeper into my lineage and creating a family tree that now spans over 160 people on my father's side.

I still do many secular Halloween holiday traditions. Which are, of course, often based in old Samhain rituals. My husband and I carved pumpkins, passed out candy, and I usually dress up in costume (though these last two years have had a lot going on at the time). 

Our pumpkins this year

We also bake our pumpkin seeds. A very easy way to separate pumpkin seeds from the pulp is to let them soak in water for a day. Once that happens, most of the pulp will pull away and sink, leaving the seeds floating. Any seeds that are still attached to the pulp can easily be squeezed/pinched off their stringy lines.

After I clean the pulp away and out of the water, I strain them and place them in salted water and soak for a few days (between 2 and 4 days, depending on how busy I am) to make them nice and salty inside. While they sit, give them a stir every now and then so the top layer doesn't go dry.

When I am ready to bake them, I strain the seeds, put them into a bowl and add some extra virgin olive oil and salt. I'm not too precise and just eye the mix because pumpkins will yield different amounts of seeds. You want enough olive oil to lightly coat just enough to keep the salt stuck to the shell. The seeds of two pumpkins go onto two foiled baking sheets that also have a light coating of EV olive oil on them. Make sure the seeds are not sitting on top of one another or too crowded or they may not bake fully or evenly.

Place them in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes at 350°F at first, just to steam the seeds and get a lot of that water out, and then turn the heat down to 200°F and let them bake for 2 hours. Rotate pan after the first hour if your oven bakes unevenly to avoid burning the seeds. Salt or season with other flavors to liking.

The finished seeds were gone before I could snag a photo, but here are the seeds soaking.

This is also when I start to break out a lot of my baking tools and recipes. There's nothing like walking into a home from the chilly air outside and inhaling the lovely aromas of chocolate, bread, or cookies.

Spider legs
Pretzels mixed into chocolate that was cooling gives them a spiky, thick look.

Cauldron cake pops
Because there isn't enough candy and chocolate in the house as it is.

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