Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve Soul Cakes


The Soul Cake is part of traditional Samhain/All Hallows Eve festivities in the British Isles. The cakes are flat and round, scented with saffron, mixed spices and currants.During the 19th and early 20th centuries children would go ‘souling’ on Samhain (All Hallow’s Eve), All Saints’ Day (Nov 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov 2) where they would request alms or soul cakes with the following song:

“A soul, a soul, a soul cake.
Please god missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.
Up with your kettles and down with your pans
Give us an answer and we’ll be gone
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate
Crying for butter to butter his cake
One for St Peter, two for St Paul,
Three for the man who made us all.”

In earlier times the poor would go to prosperous houses, offering to say prayers for departed loved ones. In return, they were given these round cakes and sometimes food and money as well. Soul Cakes are a wonderful example of a Pagan tradition that made it’s way into Christianity virtually unscathed. If you’ve never made them before, they are absolutely delicious. Here is my favorite recipe for Soul Cakes. They freeze well so you can make them ahead!

Soul Cakes
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground fresh if possible
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp of saffron
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup raisins (or currants if you are able to get them)

For the Glaze:
1 egg yolk, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.

Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.

One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won’t need the entire half-cup.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.

Brush the souls cakes liberally with the beaten egg yolk.  Add currants in the shape of a cross and press them firmly into the dough.  Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny.

Makes 12 to 15 cakes

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin,

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Samhaim Divination: The Pentacle Tarot Spread

Since the veil between the worlds is thin this time of year, Samhain is known as a good time to do divination work. My favorite spread as of late is the Pentacle Spread which includes the four elements, a spirit card, and a significator card. There are several variations of this spread so you have to use the one that “works” for you and your particular spiritual path. I’ve been told I read the cards like a witch because I connect Air with the suit of Wands and Fire with the suit of Swords. Many flip these correspondences around but this approach has always made the most sense to me.

As with all things Wicca, there is no “right” way to read the cards. It’s an intuitive process so you have trust your judgement. Experiment and see what happens. I did two amazing readings last night with this spread and think you’ll enjoy working with it as well. Samhain blessings!


Center: Querent’s Significator – What are they asking about? Have the Querent look at all the cards in the deck and choose the one that most resonates with them.Explain the meaning of the card to them and see if it fits the question they want to ask.Place this card face up in the center and shuffle the deck.When it feels ready ask the Querent to cut the cards and deal them clockwise in the order of air, fire, water, earth and spirit.

Top Right: Air – Intuition/creativity. Represents the SPIRITUAL. What is your gut/intuition telling you? Is it positive or negative? Qualities associate with this suit are enthusiasm, adventure, risk-taking and confidence. Wands involve the intellect, learning, teaching, knowledge, enlightenment, divination. The mind working to discern from a spiritual perspective.

Bottom Right – Fire – Will/energy. Represents the MENTAL. Fire can create or destroy. How are you feeling about making decisions at this point? Qualities associated with this suit are will, action, passion and energy. It’s capable of separating good from evil, truth from falsehood. Swords involve acting with power and decisive action.

Bottom Left – Water – Emotion. Represents the EMOTIONAL. Qualities associated with the suit are intuition, desire, feelings and relationship patterns. Cups involve intuition and are “heart centered.”

Top Left – Earth – Stability/security. Represents the PHYSICAL. What is grounding/rooting you? Is it nurturing or keeping you from moving forward? Qualities associated with this suit are money, prosperity of all kinds, and physical health. Pentacles involve practicality, security, prosperity of all kinds, and physical health.

Top – Spirit – The Whole Self. This is what everything is leading up to. This is the goal the elemental spirits are pointing toward.

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin,

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Samhain: Gathering Provisions to Survive the Winter Seasons of Our Lives


“Because the climate of the seasons was one so difficult to predict, Samhain was a celebration of bounty but also a time of fear. No matter how much preparation was done, one could never be sure what was to come or whether provisions for winter would be sufficient.” — The Wiccan Year: Spells, Rituals, Holiday Celebrations by Judy Ann Nock

I came across this quote earlier today and it mirrored my feelings regarding this past year. It has definitely been a long winter season for me since last year’s celebration of Samhain. My spouse resigned from a job whose work environment had become detrimental to his emotional well-being. We also experienced the death of two members of our immediate family. I was also battling a chronic illness which I finally beat after suffering with it for almost two years. I don’t mean to whine. I share my woes with you because I know that some of you who are reading this post are in the same boat.

When the winter seasons of our lives are long and hard, we fear that we will not have sufficient provisions to endure them. Yet, it has been my experience that in the midst of the most unimaginable tragedies and challenges life throws at us, people and resources come into our lives that give us the strength to persevere.

This past year a close family member beat cancer. My spouse got a new job he loves. The work I do is still exciting and rewarding. I was able to arrange extra time off to be with my loved ones as we faced illness and death together. Then there are all the small graces that popped up in unexpected places: visits with treasured friends who showed up with desserts and wine, a blissful week at the beach with perfect weather, countless words of encouragement and prayers from people I know as well as complete and total strangers.

In days of old, people had to rely on their entire village in order to make it thought he winter. They had to share with each whatever bounty they had received. Some had a bumper crop of apples. Others had plenty of meat. Some had medicinal plants and the knowledge of how to use them. Others knew how to fashion warm clothing to keep out the cold. They survived because they were stronger together than they were apart. The same holds true today.

So, if you’re facing a long hard winter season in your life, do not fear that you have enough provisions and resources to endure it. Others will help you if you let them. The Divine will give you the wisdom you need to survive whatever life throws at you. Friends, we are in this together! A blessed Samhain to everyone! I pray this new year is kinder and better to you than the one we are leaving behind.

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin,

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Samhain/All Saints: The Great Cloud of Witnesses

greatcloudTherefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.  [Heb 12:1. NRSV]

As we approach the celebration of Samhain as well as All Saint’s Day, I love the term the writer of Hebrews uses to describe those who have made the transition from our world to the next. The “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews are those who sit in the eternal stadium seats, cheering us on, as we “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” I have always found this image to be rather comforting. It reminds us that the blessed dead still have a role to play in our lives as a source of wisdom and strength.

So who makes up this great cloud? One of my teachers, Byron Ballard, gave three distinctive classifications of the blessed dead in a class I attended. In looking at each, I hope it expands our understanding of who makes up those we label as our ancestors.

ANCESTORS: People in your direct bloodline who are dead.

BELOVED DEAD: People you honor who are not your ancestors who are also dead.

MIGHTY DEAD: Those you claim and honor as your ancestors. Heroes, writers, warriors, people who inspire you who, again are dead.

On my ancestor altar this year there are a few that fall into each category. I have pictures of my Ancestors such as my great-grandfather and his family. I also have pictures of the Beloved Dead such as dear friends who are no longer with me. Finally, this year’s Mighty Dead include Scott Cunningham whose magical work continues to resonate with me and inspire me and David Bowie and Prince, musical legends who passed away this year.

Everyone’s great cloud of witnesses is different, yet each of us has people who continue to inspire, challenge and comfort us even thought they are no longer with us. Who are the Ancestors, Beloved Dead, and Mighty Dead you are honoring this Samhain/All Saint’s Day?

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin,

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Remembering a Man I Never Met…Talking to My Ancestors


Dia de los Muertos 2014

Henry was my great grandfather who emigrated to this country with his wife many years ago. Together they learned English, lived through the Great Depression and found a way to raise 10 healthy, happy children. Although I never met him face to face, I have always felt connected to him ever since the day I saw his picture on my grandmother’s bedroom dresser. She told me he was a wonderful father who loved music and adored his kids. He had a zeal for life that never faded, even when he and his family were going through the toughest of times.

During the month of October I construct an ancestor altar in the style of Day of the Dead. It has pictures of departed loved ones, with Henry front and center. It also includes fresh flowers, candles and calaveras (skeleton figurines engaged in everyday activities). Every time my family sits down for supper, we light the candles and dine with our ancestors. At other times I meditate in front of the altar, burn a little mugwort (which attracts the spirits) and ask Henry to give me the wisdom and strength I need to face the challenges of the coming year. I know some people might think that’s strange, but I find it comforting and uplifting.

Ancestor veneration is practiced throughout the world in some form in every culture. Unfortunately, it has mostly fallen out of favor in the United States. Yet if there was ever a time for us to revive this spiritual practice, it is most certainly now. Our world is a mess with violence surrounding us one every side. Our environment is also in peril and we need all the advice and strength we can get from our ancestors to help us navigate these perilous times.

As we approach the celebration of Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s Day, or Dia de los Muertos (depending upon your spiritual path), many of us believe the veil between us and those on the other side is thinnest. It is the perfect time to commune with our beloved dead and draw strength from them. If you’ve never constructed an ancestor altar before, start small. Use the top of a dresser or a shelf in a book case. Include pictures of those you wish to remember, along with small mementos, a candle, and maybe some fresh flowers or incense. Use this altar as a place to meditate and pray in the coming weeks and see what wisdom the beloved dead have to offer you!
If you’re like me you will discover that you won’t want to dismantle this altar after the month of October comes to an end. Personally, I reluctantly take the big altar down but I also construct a smaller one in my office where it remains for the rest of the year. It is a visual reminder that our ancestors and Ancient Ones are always with us, building us up and cheering us on every step of the way!

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin,

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Ancestor Ritual

Here is the Ancestor Ritual we did at Sunday’s Welcoming Circle. I promised to post it!


CASTING THE CIRCLE (from A Year of Ritual)

Tonight we cast our circle with the apple,
An ancient symbol of the Goddess
With her great knowledge and power of healing.

The apple tree itself is known
As the custodian of her wisdom.
And it is the apple tree that provides
A gateway into other realms.

As I place an apple on our altar,
May we feel the wisdom and love of the Goddess.
As above, so below. We form our circle with her bounty.

Cut two apples in half and raise one half, saying:

This sacred fruit contains the five pointed star,
The symbol of our ancient faith
And connectedness to all life.
Earth, air, fire, water, and spirit
Be with us in the circle tonight.
So mote it be!

CALLING THE QUARTERS (Llewellyn Sabbat Essentials) 1/2 of an apple is placed in each of the four directions as it is called. Have volunteers in the group do this.)

Hail to the element of Air,
To the elementals that make the wind blow
And the weather flow.

Hail to the Guardian of the watchtower of the East, Raphael.
Watch over this circle that we may have cause for joy in learning,
And protection from injury.
Hail and welcome!


Hail to the element of Fire,
To the elementals that make fire dance
And the heat warm.

Hail to the Guardian of the watchtower of the South, Michael.
Watch over this circle and protect us from all harm!
Hail and welcome!

Hail to the element of Water,
To the elementals that stir from within.

Hail to the Guardian of the watchtower of the west, Gabriel.
Watch over this circle, and guide our awareness
To what will benefit our consciousness!
Hail and welcome!

Hail to the element of Earth,
To the elementals that give us our quiet.

Hail to the Guardian of the watchtower of the North, Uriel.
Watch over this circle, and guide us safely through this journey!
Hail and welcome!

Everyone face toward the center of the circle. (David Taliesin)

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer,
We learn to see in the dark.
We search for the deep, hidden mysteries of the Divine,
And dine at Wisdom’s table of intuition and creativity.
Great Spirit, who is known to us by many names,
Be with us tonight. We are blessed by your presence.
Hail and welcome!

A PRAYER TO THE BLESSED DEAD (Llewellyn Sabbat Essentials)

Hail matriarchs! Hail patriarchs!
Come here, remember with us,
remember yourselves,
as grandmothers, grandfathers,
as mothers, fathers,
as uncles, aunts,
as sisters, brothers,
as daughters, sons.

We remember you with stories
of warriors, of peacemakers,
of healers, of teachers,
of farmers, of city builders,
of poets, of philosophers,
of people we loved.

In memories of you dwell living feeling.
This is your spark, eternal—an ember cherished,
a light passed from one generation to the next.

A PRAYER OF REMEMBRANCE (from the Jewish Yom Kippur Liturgy)

In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.

In the opening buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.

In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

So long as we live, they are now a part of us, as we remember them.


CLOSING (Llewellyn Sabbat Essentials)

Hail Uriel, Guardian of the watchtower of the North,
To its midnight elementals and the forces of calm and quiet!
We thank you for your protection, and release you on your way!
We bid you farewell.

Hail Gabriel, Guardian of the watchtower of the West,
To its twilight elementals and to the forces of depth and feeling!
We thank you for your stirrings, and release you on your way!
We bid you farewell.

Hail Michael, Guardian of the watchtower of the South,
To its zenith elementals and to the forces of heat and change!
We thank you for your protection, and release you on your way!
We bid you farewell.

Hail Raphael, Guardian of the watchtower of the East,
To dawntide elementals and to that which stirs and whispers!
We thank you for your protection, and release you on your way!
We bid you farewell.


Great Spirit whose hidden wisdom
Has been revealed to us tonight,
We give you thanks.
Give us strength to act upon what we have learned,
And illumine the dark days of autumn
With your insight and creativity.
Stay if you will. Go if you must,
We bid you farewell!

Blessed Ancestors who watch over us
In ways both hidden and revealed;
Whose love surrounds us,
And whose encouragement warms our hearts;
Thank you for your presence in our circle tonight!
Stay if you will, Go if you must!
We bid you farewell!


In this season of honor and love,
Of forgiveness and hauntings,
Give a thought to those who are still traveling
The shadowed road of grief.
Tend them as you can
And tend your own grief as you travel with them.

May the road be traveled with some little light.
Hail, the Traveler!
What is remembered, and honored, lives.

And now the circle is open but never unbroken
Because it is a circle woven in love.
Whatever energy is left in this space
We return to the earth with a spirit of gratitude.
Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again.

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Listening to the Gabble Ratchets

Flying_geeseI was out in the yard catching up with my next door neighbor. What we heard next brought our conversation to a screeching, or shall I say honking, halt. It was the sound of a flock of geese flying overhead in a V formation. The volume of their conversation was almost deafening, and the two of us just stood there awed by the sight and sound. A week later, I would learn a term to describe this cacophony of sound…gabble ratchets.

What in the world is a gabble ratchet, you might ask? The phrase sounds a bit ominous but it can also be seen in a positive light. In days of old, gabble ratchets were the spectral hounds who roamed the night sky, searching for the souls of the newly dead. Some also thought that if one heard their bark or whelp, it was an omen of impending death. Gabble ratchets are known by many other names and appear in a number of European folk traditions. The most common alternative names are the Gabriel Hounds, the Hounds of Hell (Welsh) or the Wild Hunt (Germanic).

In our day and age, we know that gabble ratchets are only geese doing what they do this time of year. However, because the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest I would like to think that their other-worldly song is leading all lost souls to the place where they belong. I see it as a sign of blessing and comfort. It’s a reminder that the Divine Presence surrounds us always, even in death, and hold us for all eternity.

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin,

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