Halloween/Samhain

Today is Halloween. Obviously.

Halloween and Samhain are two of my favorite holidays of the year. But this year…not so much. This October I haven’t had time to think about Halloween or Samhain (more important, in my perspective) at all. I went from working one weekend this month to four, both days (that’s 14-20 hours added to each week, no break), add-on to that your usual life stuff, plus renovating the dining room, planning a party, and making Claire a costume…I mean, right now, as I’m writing this, I’m exhausted. I’m pissed/hurt because C didn’t want to wear the costume I spent precious time and money making. I’m on a bit of a sugar crash….and…well, the thought of a ritual, anything beyond…I don’t know, sitting outside in the dark, seems overwhelming. These aren’t ‘excuses’, yes, this stuff is in my control, but what I’m saying is…I let this month get completely out of control. Seriously. I’m sitting here kind of wondering what the fuck happened.

So I was trying to get in the right headspace to do something when I came across the first few lines in *this* blogpost: I would like to start off by saying that Halloween is NOT the “Witches Holiday”. Halloween is a holiday for little children to get candy, and for Adults to decorate their houses with scary witch and ghost figures. —Steven Day

And then I thought, Duh, Meagan. Just…just, duh. Calm your silly, stressed out, tired ass down. Tomorrow is Samhain. Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead. Tomorrow, not tonight, not when I have to crowbar justonemorething in. It’s not that profound a sentiment, it’s one that I’ve always operated on. Halloween is for kids, Samhain is for spiritual/religious purposes. It’s not either or. It’s not black and white. And your practice, which you love, shouldn’t feel like another weight on your shoulders. Another have-to, another gotta-get-it-done, another check on the to-do list. Blech! Yuck! I’d rather not practice anything than for it to become so rote, so tedious. And really, it’s not. One of my greatest joys, deepest pleasures, is my spiritual practice. To say that one reason October became so out of control is because I largely abandoned it, abandoned the bigger picture, probably isn’t far off the mark.

Tomorrow will be my ritual, tomorrow will be the day that I honor the ancestors and say goodbye to summer (though you wouldn’t know it here…it went from chilly to hot). Tomorrow night will be the night that I sit in stillness and contemplate the Great Silence that is death.

Tonight? Tonight is for looking at the moon in the after trick-or-treat stillness. Tonight is for catching up on Supernatural, washing the hairspray out of my hair, thanking the household spirits for their good work this past month, reading a book…

And drinking a big, Tami Taylor-sized glass of wine.

Blessings on your Halloween night. Dark blessings as your honor your dead tonight and throughout this week.

 

Recipe: Smothered Braised Pork Ribs

I made this recipe on Saturday night during one of the many rain showers that rolled through. I wish I could add a picture–I have several–but they all look terrible! The lighting in our house is not conducive to taking nighttime photos of food. Still, trust me, if you l like pork and you like sauerkraut, this is a super easy autumn meal. It would also be great for a Mabon or Samhain potluck, as it feeds six, easy.

Smothered Braised Pork Ribs

Adapted from this recipe.

Time: 30 minutes active, 2-3 hours inactive

Ingredients

2-3 pounds country style pork ribs

1-2 tbsp ghee or cooking oil of choice

2 leeks, white and light green area, sliced thin

1 lb. sauerkraut, preferably from the cold case

1 – 2 c. liquid, choose between chicken or beef broth, dry white wine, beer

Seasonings: salt, black pepper, nutmeg

Hardware

1 dutch oven

Tongs/metal spatula

Spare plate

——–

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

1.  Generously season the ribs with salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle nutmeg.

2.  Heat oil in the dutch oven. When hot, sear the ribs on one side.

3.  Once the ribs are seared a nice golden brown, remove them from the dutch oven onto a plate. Add more oil if the pan is dry, then add the leeks. Sauté until soft. If the pan dries, or a thicker crust is forming, deglaze the pan with a small amount (less than a 1/4 cup) of liquid.

4.  After the leeks are soft, place the ribs back in the dutch oven, uncooked side down.

5. Cover with sauerkraut. Add 1 c. of liquid of choice. Cover with lid, and put in the oven for 2-3 hours, checking every hour. If the pot dries out, simply add another 1/2 c. to 1 c. liquid.

6. Ribs are done when they fall apart due to gentle prodding with a fork, about 2 hours.

——–

Serve with:

German potato salad, sautéed red cabbage, sauerkraut, buttered carrots

Dry Riesling

Transitions and Lughnasadh

Believe it or not, Lughnasadh is almost here.

(I can’t believe it.)

August 1st is less than a week away. First harvest, harvest of the corn (grain). Which, appropriately enough, our only two ears of corn might be ready by then!

Of course, for those less agriculturally inclined, the reflections of the season usually center around what’s metaphorically/spiritually ready to harvest and what needs a bit longer, separating the what from the chaff and the transition from summer into autumn. It can seem a bit crazy, especially in Central Texas, that August 1st can celebrate the descent into autumn. But every year I think it’s crazy, and every year August 1st rolls around, and it feels right. The shadows begin stretching over the lawn just a little bit earlier; we take out the summer tomatoes and plant the fall crop; I can berry jam and apple butter.

Now that I work in a winery I know that August 1st is right in the middle of the grape harvest [for Central Texas, not so in other places]. The whites have already come in, and in quick succession the Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat will be hand-picked, dumped into tubs, shoveled into the destemmer-crusher, piped into then the press, then pumped into tanks to begin fermentation.

No matter how hot it still is, how far away the cooler weather may be–it is harvest.

In my own life, it’s a time of transition. I’ve gone back to work. C had her first day of daycare today (yes, I cried, a lot.) Like I mentioned, the garden is in part dying off and in part being replanted.

And I’ve decided that, by Samhain, my house is going to be a home.

See, we’ve lived in our house for 2.5 years and it’s still..blank. The walls are empty. The front yard is a mess because of previous poor landscape design. Everything looks temporary, transitional. I suppose it’s because once we moved in we had a baby, and then we thought J was going to lose his job and we’d have to move, and then, and then, and then.

But I’m done with and then. Could life change on a dime and we find ourselves packing boxes to move to Place X? Sure. But I’m sick of walking into my house and feeling like it’s just a pit stop. I want the beige walls to be another color, there to be family pictures and artwork, grown-up furniture instead of college/newlywed furniture, and for the front yard to look decent. For people to walk in and feel the energy of a blessed home. You just can’t have that if there’s a little bit of chaos or emptiness wherever you look.

So I’ve given myself (and by extension J, haha!) the deadline of Samhain. The entire season of harvest to tuck into working on the lawn and the house. By October 31st I want our (largely non-existent) trick-or-treaters to walk up a clean path, surrounded by a seasonal front-yard and peer into a homey foyer. Where the energy of the house clearly says, we’re a family that loves each other, and we welcome you to our home.

Appropriate, I think, for a season I’ve always thought of as ‘Harvest Home’.

What are your thoughts about Lughnasadh? If it’s in your tradition, do you connect to it?

Halloween/Samhain 2011

Halloween and Samhain 2011:

-Baby C as a cow (running around mooing) and Mama M as a thrown together gypsy to great our…one group of trick or treaters. How does that happen? Last year there were 75. This year our whole street decked out for the occasion and we had one group! I blame the church ‘fall festivals’ and ‘trunk or treats’. Spoil sports.

-We had Colcannon, as always. Simple, adjustable recipe as follows: melt butter in a skillet. Add chopped ham. Let the fat render a bit. Add leeks, sauté till soft. Add cabbage. Turn off heat. Make mashed potatoes. Add cabbage/ham/leeks to your mashed potatoes and stir together. Top with cheese, if you wish, and bake until bubbly. Delicious.

-I set a dumb supper for the first time. Very calm and reflective.

-Divination with Tarot cards, the Wildwood Tarot Deck. I want to jive with that deck so badly, but I just…don’t. I can’t seem to get a clear reading, and I feel like the card meanings are too positive. Sometimes that can be encouraging, sometimes it just makes the message hard to decipher. It’s so silly though, because I feel like if I go back to reading with the Shadowscapes deck then I’ll be ‘abandoning’ the Wildwood. So silly.

-Performed some magic/ritual/whatever. It was a nice ceremony, a general banishing-bad-habits type of thing. I always seem to forget that when one does that, one should expect those bad habits to rear their ugly head in full force. And they definitely, definitely have. The past three days have been…kind of ugly…in many ways. Today I feel more grace though, and I thank the Great Whoever for it.

-I love the Samhain season. For the past few years I always hated waking up on November 1st. Kind of like the let down of December 26. But when I read the term “Samhain season” on an email I received this week I thought: “Yeah! A season of Samhain!” and…its true. It’s a season, a period of time, the process of drawing inward and dying. It takes time for the earth to do that just like it takes time to truly banish bad habits. To mark that continued remembrance I plan to get a professional Tarot reading done on Saturday. I’m excited. I haven’t had one since Imbolc 2010.

And that was our Samhain! Because our camera died there are sadly no pictures, but hopefully once it gets juiced up again I’ll be back with photos of our winter vegetable garden.

Samhain is Coming.

It’s two weeks, precisely, until Samhain.

I just got chills writing that.

I’m not sure what my plans are, yet. Part of me desires to have companionship this year, but, I’m about as solitary in practice as they come. The longing for companionship on this path has become more and more ardent in the past few months. I think that desire might start to shake some things up around here.

But anyway. This post is to scare up (hah. hah. hah.) some ideas about what to do and see what general direction I’m headed into this year.

Samhain. All Hallows’ Eve. All Souls’. Halloween. Summer’s end, summer’s sunset. End of harvest. End of the “lighter” half of the  year. Beginning of the dark half. The ‘veil’ is thin, as they say. Direct counter part to Beltane.

The ideas I had for this year, as follows:

-Colcannon. I make it every year at Samhain/Halloween.

-Setting a dumb supper/dumb plate. Setting the table with pictures of our beloved dead and telling stories about them.

-Making kornigou cakes

-Divination.

I’d like to do a proper ritual of some sort, but I’m not sure what. I have a few ideas of things that I want to “die” from this past year, so possibly something with that. Maybe a burning ritual, since fire is inherent in celebration of the cross-quarter holidays.

So, lovely readers–what do you do for Halloween/Samhain or the festival in which you celebrate your dead?