Saturday 31 October 2015

Commune, commemorate, communicate - Tarot Blog Hop Samhuinn 2015

Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Karen’s Waxing Oracle or Joy Vernon's blog.  Or you may have found this through TABI’s Facebook page, or though one of the many wonderful tarot bloggers in the ether... It doesn’t matter – what does matter is that you’re here!

It’s the time of Samhain (“summer’s end”), a liminal time when the veil that separates us from those who are no longer walking in this world is thinnest. The Day of the Dead, a time to honour the ancestors - and, in the old Celtic tradition, the end of the year.

There are many traditions that have been passed down through the years surrounding Samhain. One of these involves the souls of the dead re-visiting their old homes. To this end, rituals are performed, inviting them in, and places are set at tables for them.  Food and drink would be left out for them.  It’s the likely origin of the tradition of dressing up at Hallowe’en - based on the mumming and guising of older times, with people going around their neighbourhoods in disguise, reciting verses or performing in exchange for food.  I have fond memories of All Hallows Eve as a child, dressed up as a witch or ‘gypsy’ (complete with crystal ball, of course!), having to recite something in order to receive my ‘soul cake’, my favourite treat, baked by a family friend.

Our wrangler for this particular Blog Hop, Arwen, has asked us to write about a loved one, or someone we admire/dislike, that ties in somehow with tarot, Lenormand or oracle decks.

I struggled quite a bit with this, and nearly pulled out of the blog hop in frustration. But then I started rifling through tarot decks for inspiration. It usually works – and sure enough, I was stopped in my tracks by Margarete Petersen’s stunning version of the Magician.

(detail) Margarete Petersen Tarot
Copyright ©2014 Königsfort-Urania Verlag
It was the mask that drew me in. Masks worn at Hallowe’en, All Hallows Eve – but also the mask that represents drama, the theatre.  For those of you who don’t know me well, the theatre is one of my great passions - most evenings find me at rehearsals, on stage, or behind the scenes! This started in childhood when my parents joined the local drama group at the suggestion of the woman who essentially ran it – who just so happens to be the same woman who baked the soul-cakes for All Hallows Eve!

So for me, Samhuinn and the theatre are strongly linked by Paddy, who died a number of years ago. At Samhuinn we honour the ancestors but also the warriors, protectors, healers, teachers, mentors who have guided us through life. Well, she was so many of those things to me and my family. When my father made the decision to emigrate when I was a child, she and her family met us off the train to welcome us to our new home. She took us under her wing, and absorbed us into her family. She was also the person who encouraged me to dance and to join the local theatre group, and instilled a love of both in me that has never died.

She represents the Magician for me because she showed me not only all the ‘tools’ I had at my disposal, but also acted (yes, the pun is intentional) as a mentor as I learned how to use them. Her house was like a second home to me – not only at this time of year when I went to claim my soul cake!

I’ve always regretted not asking her for the recipe, but I found one recently that produces cakes not unlike the ones she handed out. I honour her today by sharing this recipe with you.

Sift 340g/12oz sifted plain flour with ½ teaspoon each cinnamon, mixed  spice, and nutmeg
Rub in 170g/6oz cold unsalted butter.
Mix in 170g/6oz caster sugar.
Add 2 lightly beaten eggs and 2 teaspoons white vinegar.
Mix until it forms a firm dough. Wrap this in Saran Wrap/cling film (depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on!) and chill for 30 min.

This is where the recipe diverges from my memory. It says to roll out into rounds 5mm/2” thick, 7mm/2 ¾” diameter and put them on cookie sheets (baking trays) – but Paddy used to make them as cupcakes. I think either would work here.

The tradition, apparently, is to make the initial of an ancestor on the top with dried fruit or crystallized ginger, but she used to mix both into the dough, as I recall. Your choice.

Glaze the top with a beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes at 200°C/390°F/GM6. 


Thank you for stopping off here on your travels through this Samhain Tarot Blog Hop!  Please do come back and read some of my other posts, looking at astrology in the tarot.

The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backwards or forwards through the list - Karen’s Waxing Oracle or Joy Vernon's blogs. The Master List can be found here.


  1. I never knew you were a drama freak :) So's Sara Donaldson, I believe :) Where did you emigrate from/to ? x

  2. Nice! I am definitely making these with the kids today :)

    1. We made them last night, and ate them for breakfast this morning- they are wonderful!

    2. Great! I'm happy to have passed on a tradition :-)

  3. Another great recipe, thank you!

  4. Finally! A post with a recipe! Love your story Alison:) xxJo

  5. I love this deck and I like your reference to masks, theatre, and ancestors. When I think of lineage, I think of it this way, in terms of inherited masks that we may take on or set aside at will. Even though I'm pretty terrified of acting. In this way the theatrical Magician becomes, for me, one of the creepiest cards!

    1. Thanks, Siobhan. I like that idea of inherited masks that we can choose to wear at will - nice resonance with the theatrical ones.

  6. What a great story! I wonder how many more kids had a lifelong passion ignited by her...

  7. Recipe looks yummy! I used to be in theatre too, although I got out of it as tarot began to take over more of my life. :-)

  8. Mmmm. I think I like this recipe thread running through these posts. Soul cake should be good for body and soul. How wondrous to be so welcomed in a new place, as well.

  9. I had no idea souls cakes were a thing outside Terry Pratchett's books LOL They sound lovely - I'll put DD on the case (or perhaps I should say "on the cake") :D

  10. Lovely. Third recipe of the blog hop and I'm delighted. Paddy sounds like a treasure.