"Perhaps the most famous icon of the holiday is the jack-o-lantern.
Various authorities attribute it to either Scottish or Irish origin.
However, it seems clear that it was used as a lantern by people who
traveled the road this night, the scary face to frighten away spirits or
faeries who might otherwise lead one astray. Set on porches and in
windows, they cast the same spell of protection over the household. -
Mike Nichols, All Hallow's Eve
|A portal for dimensional living
Pumpkins have become a symbol of the season. Carved into jack-o-lanterns,
they decorate our homes. When the seed are scooped out and the pumpkin is
baked, the flesh is used to make savory dishes and sweet desserts. Even the
seeds are a tasty treat packed with nutrients.
How to bake a Pumpkin
Baking a pumpkin is the same as baking any of
the large squashes and you begin by cutting
the pumpkin in half and scooping out the seeds.
Next set pumpkin halves facedown in a large
baking dish and add 1/4 inch of water and bake
at 400 until tender, about one hour. When cool
enough to handle pull off the skin. Let cool and
drain off the liquid. Use the tender flesh in your
favorite pumpkin recipes.
You will need:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, clean and dry
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
a pinch cayenne
|How to make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
You will need:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup baked pumpkin
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Combine sugar, eggs, and oil in a large bowl and beat at medium.
Add baked pumpkin and mix until combined.
Combine flour and spices in separate bowl then gradually add to pumpkin mixture.
Beating until well blended.
Stir in nuts.
Spoon mixture into a muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops liberally with crystals of raw sugar.
Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean.
October is surely one of the most enchanting months of the year. The air grows
crisp and sweetens with the scent of newly fallen leaves. Magic and mystery abound
as this month is marked by Halloween on October 31st. This is the time for
celebration, a time of gratitude for life's abundance as we go into a season of want.
It is a time of reflection, a time to remember those who have passed on. Unlike
today where death is more of an inconvenience, the ancients recognized death as a
part of life. When the year cooled, wills were drawn up and debts were settled as
one never knew whose help they might need to make it through the winter or if
they would even live to see another spring. As the nights lengthened and the earth
shifted from fertile to dormant, ancient societies around the world turned their
thoughts to those who had died and festivals were held commemorating the death
of the year.
The ancient people who inhabited France and the British Isles observed a calendar
that began on November first marking the death of the old year and the beginning
of the new. At sundown on the last day of the year, October 31st, it was believed
that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead grew thin allowing for
those who had died to pass through and those who were lonely to visit the families
they had left behind.
Indeed honoring the dead with the last harvest of the year has been celebrated
around the world under many different names. In Japan, during the festival of Obon,
the souls of the departed return to the world of the living to visit their relatives. As
the sun goes down families light paper lanterns and leave offerings of food for the
spirits. South Koreans give thanks to their ancestors during a three-day celebration
known as Chuseok. While in Nepal we find a festival of cows, or Gaijatra,
commemorating those who had died during the year. In Belgium, Halloween was the
night to light candles in memory of family members who had died. In
Czechoslovakia, chairs were placed by the fireside on Halloween night for the dead
to warm themselves.
Ceremonial breads were baked. In Scotland, cakes made of oat flour and known as
soul cakes or Dirge Loaves where given to children who went door to door signing
souling songs. In Italy, a cookie called bones of the dead or ‘Ossi di Morto’ is eaten
to celebrate the dead. In the Americas a belief originating with the Aztecs that the
souls of the dead returned to Mexico with the migration of the monarch butterfly
each fall, spawned today’s popular Día de los Muertos during which sugar skulls and
Pan de Muerto or ‘bread of the dead’ an anise flavored brioche is baked to honor the
dead at graveside feasts. Taque Santun Arupa is held in Bolivia, a celebration that
dates back to pre-Hispanic times in which families prepare loafs shaped like men,
ladders and lamas made from quinoa flour to coax the dead into visiting the living.
These days of the dead were festive and bright. They were filled with lots of good
food and loving memories. For most of modern society the role of ancestor has
shifted from loving guardian, to troubled ghost representing past and buried
troubles that must be overcome. Instead of offerings, blame is laid at their feet in
closed-door sessions treating current abusive behaviors, family pain and even
alcoholism. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the way we feel and
how we treat our dead and move them back into a venerated position. We can
honor our dead by visiting their graves and leaving flowers. We can light a candle
as we consciously remember them in life. It is important to honor those who have
gone on before as it brings death into the context of our daily experience and
reminds us that dying is not the end but part of the cycle of life. Practicing such
observances, not only helps to keep us connected to the natural world, but also
reconnects family bonds through feasts and celebrations, an interaction that creates
holiday memories. When we take part in family rituals the individual is protected
against a sense of loneliness as it transmits shared beliefs of the family group
across generations. Through ritual we connect to generations, past and future.
Host a Dinner and Tell a Story
This year, give new life to the old ways by remembering those who have passed
on. Create a ritual. Get your friends and family to participate. When we pay
homage to the dead, we teach and understand that we are a part of something
much larger than the here and now. Holding a dinner in honor of a loved is a
wonderful way to assemble friends and family members and renew our bonds with
the person who is gone. Simply draw up a guest list comprised of those who would
benefit from remembering. Set a plate at the table for your loved one as the guest
of honor and prepare the food with their favorite dishes in mind. When everyone is
present, encourage them to tell their favorite story…and remember.
Plant a tree
Planting a tree is also another wonderful way to honor a loved one in a gesture that
heals as it provides solace and beautifies space. By planting a tree you are tapping
into the ancient customs of honoring nature and the earth. To do this, choose a
tree keeping in mind the maintenance your tree will require and where it will grow
best. Next dig a hole three times wider than the tree's root ball. Invite those who
would benefit and ask each person present to bless the tree or offer up a prayer as
you cover the roots with dirt. Remember you want to plant the tree the same depth
as it was planted in the pot. If you bury the trunk deeper, the tree will rot. You can
form a berm around the hole with the excess soil. This will help hold water and
direct it toward the roots.
Visit a Grave
Take an afternoon to make a pilgrimage. Enlist a close family member to visit a
loved one’s burial place. Take flowers and spruce up the grave. Let your thoughts
return to the past and share the stories that come to mind. If you have never
visited the site before, a stop at the office will help you find the plot. Active
cemeteries keep Sexton’s records and can often furnish you with a map.
Make a Record
Another way to connect with your ancestors is by learning their stories and keeping
family records. Get your entire family involved as you track down your great-great
grandfather and uncover the story of his life. Genealogy websites have made it
easier to track your family’s past. Obituaries, funeral cards and other death record
will list the cemetery where your relative was buried. When you discover the
location of the family member’s grave, a research visit to the cemetery might
provide other valuable information. Photograph the headstone or do an etching to
record the information. Besides birth and death dates you may find other valuable
facts such as a maiden name, family relationships, town of origin, and possibly a
religious affiliation. Keep a printed record of your findings and share it with your
family. Not only will you uncover family stories, you will strengthen the bonds of
your extended family group.
If you are not into research behind a computer, you can tap into your family’s stored
knowledge by asking each household to bring a photograph of a family member who
has passed on to your next holiday gathering. Pass around the photos one by one
as you encourage everyone to voice a memory. You will be surprised by the stories
that come forward. The telling of family stories provides a link to the past as it
breathes new life into someone who has been forgotten by the others creating a
feeling of connectedness that goes beyond the grave.
As cultures across the world take time this month to remember their ancestors, let
us also honor our dead. Give new life to an old tradition and let the magic swell
within your heart as you bake some bread or sweets for the ancestors who have
gone before you. Create a new family ritual to connect the generations past and
present. Host a dinner in honor of a loved one. Set a place at the table for them
and prepare the food with their favorite dishes in mind. Invite those who would
benefit most and encourage them to tell their favorite stories…and remember.
When we pay homage to the dead we teach and understand that we are a part of
something much larger than the here and now. Let us pay homage to endings and
transformations as the seasons shift. Our ancestors are waiting. Recognizing their
presence and speaking with them allows them to live on. Through this simple
acknowledgment, we give life back to those who gave life to us, allowing for a
relationship that continues on through death. It allows us to understand that we
are a part of the natural world and that death and rebirth are all part of one
Cut into the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Rinse under cold water,
picking out the pulp and fleshy strings. Let seeds drain. When seeds are dry,
place the pumpkin seeds in a bowl and coat with oil. Add spices and stir until
coated. Arrange seeds on an oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with
salt and bake at 325 degrees until toasted, about 25 minutes, stirring after 15
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
2 cup of roasted pumpkin flesh
1 onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of butter
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Coarse salt and pepper
3 cups organic chicken broth
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup maple syrup
In a dutch oven, heat the oil and butter. Add onion and sauté until clear.
Transfer to blender and add pumpkin and the broth and puree until smooth.
Transfer back to dutch oven, add the syrup and cream. Bring soup to a
simmer. Add spices. Remove from heat and serve.
Love your Life, Love Your World, Love Yourself