Monday, October 31, 2011


Samhain is one of my favorite holidays. I love the macabre, so this holiday is perfect for me.

Samhain is a festival of the dead. It is believed that in this day the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead is at its thinnest, and the deceased can return to visit. It begins on October 31 at sunset, and ends on November 1 at sunset.

Adult Traditions include setting aside a plate of food for the dead, setting up Ancestor Shrines, carving Jack O'Lanterns, Zombie Walks, and cosplaying.

This year I will be carving two Jack O'Lanterns. There is a third and fourth pumpkin that were purchased, but it can't be used as a Jack O'Lantern since they don't have flat bottoms.

A new tradition I recently discovered sounds like fun. It's called All Hallow's Read. The idea is to get a scary book and leave it for someone to find and read. You can buy it new, used, in ebook format, as an audio book, and sometimes even at the library. I don't know if every library does this, but my local library will take donated books that others don't want and put them in a box. People are free to take the books out of the box and keep them at no charge.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins

It's autumn now, and that means that it's getting cool enough to turn on the oven! In my part of the world, we're looking for a reason to turn it on (as opposed to summer, when it's too hot to turn on the oven).

I recently found a new recipe, which I tried and it was an instant hit.

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 bananas, mashed (1 cup)

  • 3/4 cup honey

  • 1 1/2 cup flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup oatmeal (rolled oats)

  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C.

  2. Cream together butter and brown sugar.

  3. Add eggs, bananas, and vanilla.

  4. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and oatmeal together in a separate bowl. Add to batter.

  5. Stir in dried fruit.

  6. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full of mixture.

  7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes for large muffins, 10-12 minutes for mini-muffins. Remove when the top springs back to the touch.

Click here for the place I found this recipe

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ancestor Shrines

A common theme among pagans is to honor your ancestors. This is especially true at Samhain, when the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead is the thinnest.

Your ancestors by bloodline are responsible for you existing. Other ancestors, whether by bloodline or not, helped you become the person you are.

There are several different types of ancestors. The ones who are related to you biologically (those we owe our D.N.A. to) and archetypical (the founders of your family line/clan).

Some also include the ancestors of the land they currently live. Others include spiritual ancestors).

You may also honor anyone you choose, including pets or friends. They fall under the non-bloodline family grouping, and also helped you in your spiritual growth.

A good way to honor them is to build an Ancestor Shrine/Altar. You can set aside an entire table for them, use the top of your dresser, or any other place you feel is appropriate. Just make sure it's in a place where it won't be disturbed. A bonus to this type of shrine is it can be in plain sight, even someone who's in the "broom closet" can display this without concern of being "outed". Everyone has pictures of family in their homes, a shrine will not be out of place. This shrine can also be left up all year long if you choose.

The first thing to do, when setting up this shrine, is to clean it. Dust the furniture or shelf and clear the area of items unrealted to the shrine. If you like, you can consecrate it to make it a sacred space. Finally, add a cloth to help welcome the ancestors. What this cloth is, including color, depends on your path. Different ones have different traditions.

Once this is finished, select pictures of your ancestors. Choose ones with meaning to you. Even Death Photos (pictures people used to take as part of the funeral) are acceptable.

If you don't have a photo or painting (many people had neither taken until recently in history), you can use an item that belonged to him or her.

You may also use an object that represents a group of ancestors. A kilt can be used for those of Scotish descent, for example. If you come from a line of craftsmen, use an object that symbolizes that craft (a hammer to represent carpentry, for example).

You can also add a geneology list. If an ancestor was cremated and you are in possession of the ashes, they may be part of the shrine as well.

The final pieces are candles and symbols of your religion or spirituality. If you practice leaving food for ancestors on Samhain, the plate may be left in the shrine.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pumpkin Seeds (A.K.A Pepitas)

When you're done carving your Jack O'Lantern, there's no need to throw out the seeds. They can be eaten, just like sunflower seeds.

All you need is the seeds and a seasoning of your choice. Or no seasoning, if you prefer them plain. Rinse the pumpkin seeds with your fingers, making sure to remove any pulp from them. Drain the seeds and discard the pulp. Once that's done, you spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry overnight.

If you like extra salt, soak the seeds overnight in a solution of 1/4 cup salt to 2 cups water. Allow to dry an additional day, then proceed with the directions below.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed dry skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds. Shake and stir the seeds constantly to prevent them from burning. When the seeds begin to turn golden, start to pop open, and release their aroma they are done.

Sprinkle the hot seeds with the seasoning of your choice and toss to coat. Cool the seeds before eating or storing them.

When stored in an airtight container, they can be kept for up to 3 months at room temperature or in the fridge for up to a year.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meatless Mondays

I have never considered going vegan or vegetarian. I need protein in my diet. However, becoming a part-time vegetarian is something I can do.

Being a vegetarian, even part time, is healthy. Not only for yourself, but for the environment. Industrial meat is responsible for a large amount of greenhouse emissions. The processing of the meat is not the only part of this. There's the farm equipment that harvests the food that feeds the cows. The cows themselves create greenhouse emissions while alive.

There is also an economical factor in Meatless Monday. Meat is expensive, whether you buy it in a store or raise it yourself. Fruits and vegetables, not so much (depending on the season and the produce itself). You could save money by skipping meat for a day.

Feel free to join me, and others, in Meatless Monday.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Tantalus was first known for being a mortal guest on Olympus. It is said that he stole ambrosia and nectar, with the idea to bring it back to his people. He also revealed secrest of the Gods to his people. What he's most famous for, however, is a sacrifice he performed.

Tantalus sacrificed his own son, Pelops. He cut up the boy, boiled him, and served him up in a banquet for the Gods. Most of the Gods weren't fooled however, and did not touch the offering. Only Demeter ate the "food", not paying attention to what was going on around her because of the loss of Persephone.

Zeus ordered Clotho, one of the three Fates, to bring the boy back to life. Clotho collected all the parts of the body and boiled them in a sacred cauldron. The missing shoulder was built out of ivory by Hephaestus, and given to Clotho by Demeter. Rhea gave Pelops the breath of life while Pan danced in joy. Pelops emerged with beauty that rivaled the Gods. Poseidon instantly fell in love with the boy, and took him to Olympus in a chariot drawn by golden horses. Pelops became Poseidon's cup-bearer and attendant whenever the sea God visited the palace on Olympus. Later Pelops returned to the world of mortals, and had misadventures of his own.

Tantalus had also committed a third crime, perjury. A golden dog given to Rhea so she had help watching over the infant Zeus (it was said that Hephaestus made the dog, but that doesn't make sense being that Hephaestus is supposed to be the son of Hera). Once it was no longer needed to guard Zeus, the dog was placed in Zeus' temple at Dicte. It was here that the dog was stolen. Eventually Tantalus came into possession of it. When Hermes asked Tantalus about the dog, Tantalus swore an oath by Zeus that he knew nothing about it. Hermes exposed the lie, and discovered the thief.

The Greeks were horrified by what Tantalus had done. Cannibalism, human sacrifice and infanticide were atrocities and as taboo as they are in our society today. Hades' punishment for Tantalus' crimes was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for food, the branches moved out of his reach. When he tried to drink, the water receded before he could get a drop. There was also a threatening boulder placed over his head, in punishment for the act of perjury. He was one of the few that received eternal punishment, with no chance to go to the Asphodel Meadows.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jack O'Lanterns

The term "Jack O'Lantern" originally meant one of two things. A night watchman (who held a lantern to see by) or "will o' the wisp", which are mysterious flickering lights sometimes seen at night over wetlands.

Another meaning comes in the form of a myth. An Irish man named "Stingy Jack" invited the Devil to a drink. Stingy Jack didn't want to pay, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so they could pay. Once the Devil had complied, Jack decided to keep the money and put it next to a silver cross, preventing the Devil from changing back. Jack eventually freed the Devil, with the condition that the Devil would not bother him for a year and that the Devil could not claim his soul if Jack died before then.

The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil. This time the Devil climbed a tree to pick a fruit. While the Devil was climbing, Jack carved a sign of the Cross into the bark. The Devil was forced to make another deal. This time, he promised not to bother Jack for ten more years.

Jack died soon after that. According to legend, God would not allow him into Heaven. The Devil, upset by the tricks, kept his word and would not allow Jack into Hell. He sent Jack off into the night with only a burning coal for light. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip, and began roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began referring to him as "Jack of the Lantern", and later shortened it to "Jack O'Lantern."

In Ireland and Scotland, people began making their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other malicious spirits. The English used beets instead of turnips and potatoes. Immigrants from these countries brought the Jack O'Lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States and quickly discovered pumpkins made perfect Jack O'Lanterns.

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