Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bread and Baking Lore

So, should you bake bread (or cookies) on Halloween or not? One old wives' tale says you should never bake bread on this sabbat, for if you do you will have nothing but bad luck and misery for the next twelve months. This one lonely bit of lore doesn't seem to be as popular as the belief that baking bread and other treats in honor of Samhain is not only favorable for the living, but also for all those loved ones who have passed before us.

In the Middle Ages on All Soul's Day, “Soul Cakes” were baked, which traditionally were little buns with currants and spices in them. They were eaten by Christians to honor those who had died within the last twelve months and were considered as important as hot cross buns were on Good Friday. They are believed to be directly derived from the ancient pagan custom of baking bread from the grain of the last harvest specifically to be eaten on Samhain, making this another pagan ritual adapted for the new Christian church.

Also, in early England was begun the custom of baking "saumas," or soul mass breads, which were then given away to bring good luck. It was important that a few loaves be kept uneaten in each household until the next All Soul’s Day as a charm against an early death befalling anyone who lived under that roof.

In Belgium, it was a custom on Halloween for children to stand beside little shrines they built in front of their homes and sell “cakes for the dead” which were always small white cakes or cookies. The buyer of the baked goods would eat one for each spirit of a loved one that had passed. It was believed that the more cakes you ate, the greater the blessings that would be received by your loved ones who in turn would bestow those blessings back onto the living.

Personally, I love to bake on Samhain: bread, cakes and especially whimsical cookies in the shape of everything Halloween and spooky. And for the record, it's never brought me any noticeable bad luck yet!

Many thanks to Gerina Dunwich and The Pagan Book of Halloween.
Photo courtesy of chelseyanne55 on flickr.

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