- Holidays and Celebrations
Samhain Feast - Pumpkins
Magical Cooking with Pumpkins at Samhain
Find ideas on how to use pumpkins in a Samhain Feast this October.
For witches, druids and other pagans, Halloween is celebrated as Samhain. For the ancient Celts, Samhain marked the start of the New Year, and is a time of reflection, renewal and counting blessings.
There are numerous foods sacred to Samhain, the pumpkin being one of them. Most people celebrating this festival will cook a Samhain feast, and there are many ways to incorporate pumpkin into it, whether you are theming the whole feast around it or simply wishing to use a little!
This lens looks at how to use pumpkin in a Samhain feast and its meaning to pagans, providing pumpkin recipes for everything from pumpkin bread to pumpkin pudding, washed down with pumpkin wine!
Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, author Chuck Walker
Pumpkin Symbolism at Samhain
Pumpkins are synonymous with Halloween because of the carved Jack O'Lanterns that light up our Halloween décor. But originally these were much more than a mere decoration.
Samhain marks the time when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. Communication with the spirits becomes easier, and consequently it is a time of divination. Spirits, souls of the dead, faerie beings and other apparitions were said to walk with the living on this night, and the jack o'lantern carved with a frightening face was a way to frighten the more malevolent spirits away.
Another use for the jack o'lantern was to light one in the home as a candlelit spirit guide to welcome home dead relatives during their brief ghostly visit.
The ancient peoples such as the Celts, however, actually carved their jack o'lanterns from turnips. Pumpkins were not known to the Europeans until the colonists came to the New World.
Food at Samhain & the Ancestor Feast
Just as certain animals eat and stockpile lots of food before hibernating during the winter, people of times gone by would also eat more in late autumn and early winter, taking advantage of the bountiful harvest and putting on extra weight to see them through in case of food shortages.
In a similar way today, eating plenty of especially warming, nourishing foods is a way of strengthening our bodies and ward off illnesses in the coming winter months. Soups, stews and hearty meals are of primary focus here.
For the Samhain meal itself, there are two main options. Firstly, you can choose foods made from ingredients that are symbolic of the season and festival, such as apples, pumpkins and squashes, parsley, hops, juniper, root vegetables, sloes (the wild fruit of the blackthorn) and berries. Harvest foods and colours and plentiful in the Samhain feast.
The second tradition is to opt for an ancestor feast. Being a time of spirits and the dead, Samhain is when pagans focus on remembering loved ones who have passed, as well as connecting with the family ancestors. An ancestor feast uses foods that were harvested and/or cooked by generations gone by within the family.
This can be as recent as baking things from your grandmother's cookbook or a recipe that you fondly remember her making, or you can research as far back into your family history as you like and find out what kinds of food they would have eaten. For example, my grandfather was Italian, so one year I might base the Samhain feast around Italian foods. I feel strongly connected to the Celts, so another year I might use foods from Celtic times, or opt for a warming Irish meal.
Do you Celebrate Samhain?
Do you celebrate this time of year as Halloween or Samhain? Or not at all?
What does celebrating October 31st mean to you?
Cooking with Pumpkins
Ways to Use Pumpkin in your Samhain Feast
Pumpkin is very versatile, suitable for starters such as soups and broths, as well as main meals, and being sweet, it also works in puddings as well.
- Pumpkin soup - this can be smoky, spicy... the choice is yours. It can also be used as part of a Samhain soup using other ingredients such as onions and root veg.
- Pumpkin bread - bread is always a stalwart of a Sabbat feast, and Samhain is no exception. Making your own bread is a wonderful ritual in itself and you can bless it with whatever wishes you have for those who are going to eat it. My personal favourite is pumpkin damper bread - you'll find the recipe below.
- Pumpkin seeds - baked or roasted, these make a great snack, but can also be incorporated in your feast by sprinkling them over a winter salad or Samhain pudding.
- Sandwich filling - spread cooked pumpkin over an open sandwich slice, combining with such ingredients as honey, spices or cream cheese
- Pumpkin broth - especially good with spices like nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon, and served with crusty garlic bread
- Add cooked pumpkin to a pasta sauce
- Pumpkin pie - a tradition of Thanksgiving and equally delicious at Samhain
- Pumpkin pudding - there are numerous ways to make this sweet pudding, and most recipes can also be baked into a pie if desired - just add pastry crust!
- Pumpkin muffins - add nuts and raisins to the middle
- Pumpkin cookies - great for kids, especially if you decorate with raisins to make scary faces!
- Combine cooked pumpkin with cream cheese to make icing for a Samhain cake
- Pumpkin juice
- Pumpkin wine
Pumpkin Damper Bread
Damper bread is Australian in origin and one of the easiest breads to make! It is made without yeast and can be adapted with a multitude of ingredients to flavour it. In this instance, we are going to add cooked pumpkin to give it a special Samhain flavour!
This recipe is based on the Homemade Damper Bread recipe by Titania Hardie in her book "Hubble Bubble: Titania's Book of Magical Feasts". This is a lovely book full of recipes for the pagan festivals throughout the year and is highly recommended.
* 60g butter
* 350g self-raising flour
* 1.5 teaspoons salt
* 65ml milk
* 65ml water
* 675g cooked pumpkin (mashed)
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas mark 6
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (not unlike making a crumble!)
Add the mashed pumpkin and mix to combine.
Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add your milk and water, enough to make a sticky dough. I find that 65ml of each usually works for me but it can take less, so add about 50ml of each to begin with and add more if needed. Stir it lightly with a knife, and when the mixture leaves the edges of the bowl, put the dough onto a floured board and knead.
At this point, you may like to bless the bread and focus on thoughts of prosperity, health, nourishment and other affirmations as you knead.
Shape the bread into a cake shape, or for smaller, individual portions, divide into four and shape.
Bake in a hot oven for approx 15 minutes and serve while warm.
This is ideal with stew or pumpkin soup, and as everyone breaks the bread around the table, get them to make a wish and then give a toast to a prosperous new year.
Hubble Bubble: Titania's Book of Magical Feasts
I love Titania Hardie's books, not least because each one comes in a sumptuous velvety hardcover! In this one, white witch Titania focuses on food for the festivals and celebrations of the year, and includes meals, edible gifts and magical brews, as well as a plethora of witchy lore.
Introducing the art of culinary magic. This book includes recipes for every occasion, and not only teaches how to make the food, but also how to cook with magical intent, incorporate ritual and magic, and create a magical setting for your meal.
Contains nine menu sections based on the wheel of the year, as well as a witch's herbal.
Cook your Pumpkin in Style!
There are lots of recipes available for pumpkin soup - here are some of my favourites. Play with the recipes and find your own perfect textures and tastes!
- Pumpkin Soup with Crunchy Croutons and Seeds
A silky, creamy soup from BBC Good Food
- Best Spicy Pumpkin Soup Ever
Onions, garlic, curry powder, cayenne pepper... add some serious spice to your pumpkin!
- Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Sweetcorn
Delia Smith recipe for pumpkin soup with corn
- Cream of Pumpkin Soup
Delicious creamy soup from the Cottage Smallholder
- Pumpkin Soup with Coconut, Chilli and Curry Spices
Anyone who has read my other recipe lenses will know I'm a sucker for a Jamie Oliver recipe, and this is no exception!
Serve Pumpkin Soup in a Pumpkin Bowl!
Feasting at Samhain and other Sabbats
Find inspiration for Sabbat feasts and other pagan celebrations with this guide to Sabbat entertaining.
Share Wiccan traditions with friends and family!
- Finding and Lighting the Yule Log
- Imbolc Ice Candles
- Ostara Painted Eggs
- Dancing around the Beltane Maypole
- A Festive Light Midsummer Barbecue
- Lammas Harvest-Time Pillow Packet Sachets
- Mabon Acorn Cookies
- Skull Pinatas for Samhain
- And much more
Gorgeous Color Photos and Illustrations Throughout
Thank you for taking the time to read this page. Do you eat pumpkin for Samhain or Halloween? What do you think of Samhain rituals and feasts? Please leave your thoughts and comments here!