Apples for Samhain

Samhain is probably one of those holidays that most people don’t even realize is vastly Pagan in tradition. The evolution of Halloween is one of the clearest routes of insight into the merging of Pagan traditions with other traditions throughout the world, especially Christianity. As I have been helping people see what a Samhain feast could be like, I find myself getting tangled in more modern Halloween party websites. The lines between Samhain and Halloween are very blurred.

For more information about Samhain, please refer to my blog called, “Samhain, the witches’ new year” posted on October 17, 2011.

When the Romans came to Britain, they brought with them their November 1st festival honoring Pomona, goddess of fruit trees. The Celts considered the apple tree to be particularly worthy. In fact, the growth cycle of the apple was considered such a miraculous thing that Avalon, (the land where spirits of the dead dwelled) was thought to have an abundance of apple trees bearing fruit year round. Apples also played a major role in divinations on Samhain. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be.

Apples and hazel nuts that played an especially important part to the early Celts: they were foods of the Otherworld, were notably used. Hazel nuts were known as a source and symbol of wisdom, and were eaten before divination. The apple symbolized life and immorality, was the talisman that admitted one to the Otherworld, and gave one the power to tell the future. At the heart of the Celtic Otherworld grows an apple tree whose fruit has magical properties. Old sagas tell of heroes crossing the western sea to find this wondrous country, known in Ireland as Emhain Abhlach, (Evan Avlach) and in Britain, Avalon. At Samhain, the apple harvest is in, and old hearthside games, such as apple-bobbing, called apple-dookin’ in Scotland, reflect the journey across the water to obtain the magic apple.

There are two main apple rites that survive, one involves ordeal by water and the other ordeal by fire. The act of going through water to obtain apples could be the remnants of the Druidic rite symbolizing the passing through water to Emain Abhlach or Apple-Isle. Apple-Isle is where Manannan Mac Lir prepared the Otherworld feast for the eternal enjoyment of those who have passed on.

The Ordeal by Water survives in Scotland in such Samhain traditions as “Dookin’ for Aipples.” A large wooden tub is filled with water and set in the middle of the floor into which apples are placed. The master of ceremonies has a porridge stick or some other equivalent of the Druidic wand, and with this he keeps the apples in motion. Each participant get three tries, and if unsuccessful, must wait until the others have had their turn. If a participant captures an apple, it is either eaten or kept for use in another of the divination rites.

The modern form of the Ordeal by Fire is known as “The Aipple and the Can’le.” A small rod of wood is taken and suspended horizontally from the ceiling by a cord. After it is fairly balanced, a lit candle is set on one end and an apple at the other. The rod is then set whirling around. Each of the company takes turns leaping up trying to bite the apple without singing his or her hair.  Touching either the rod or apple with the hands is not permitted.

The divinations practiced at Samhain were chiefly used to discover who would marry, who one’s partner was going to be, and who was going to die over the course of the next year. Eating the Apple at the Glass is an example of such a divination. At the hour of midnight the person goes into a room with a mirror. The room is lit with but one candle. The apple is cut into nine pieces. The person stands with his or her back to the mirror, eats the eight pieces, and throws the ninth piece over the left shoulder. Turning towards the mirror, he or she will see the future partner.

Paring the Apple is another Samhain divination rite performed at the stroke of twelve. The person pares the apple carefully so that the skin comes off in one unbroken ribbon. As the clock strikes twelve the person swings the paring around his or her head three times with out breaking it, and tossing it over the left shoulder. The shape that the paring assumes is the initial of the querant’s future spouse. If the paring breaks matrimony will not happen in the coming year.

Candied Apples

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves 15

    15 apples
2 cups white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups water
8 drops red food coloring

Lightly grease cookie sheets. Insert craft sticks into whole, stemmed apples. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Heat to 300 to 310 degrees F (149 to 154 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms hard, brittle threads. Remove from heat and stir in food coloring. Holding apple by its stick, dip in syrup and remove and turn to coat evenly. Place on prepared sheets to harden.

Caramel Apples

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves 5

    5 large Granny Smith apples
wooden craft sticks
1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons water
7 ounces chocolate candy bar, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons shortening, divided
1 cup colored candy coating melts

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Dip apples into boiling water briefly, using a slotted spoon, to remove any wax that may be present. Wipe dry, and set aside to cool. Insert sticks into the apples through the cores. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and coat with cooking spray. Place the unwrapped caramels into a microwave-safe medium bowl along with 2 tablespoons of water. Cook on high for 2 minutes, then stir and continue cooking and stirring at 1 minute intervals until caramel is melted and smooth. Hold apples by the stick, and dip into the caramel to coat. Set on waxed paper; refrigerate for about 15 minutes to set. Heat the chocolate with 1 tablespoon of shortening in a microwave-safe bowl until melted and smooth. Dip apples into the chocolate to cover the layer of caramel. Return to the waxed paper to set. Melt the candy melts in the microwave with the remaining shortening, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Use a fork or wooden stick to flick colored designs onto your apples for a finishing touch. Refrigerate until set, overnight is even better.

Chocolate Dipped Apples

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Serves 10

    10 small Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1/2 cup candy-coated milk chocolate candies
2 pounds semisweet chocolate, chopped

Insert wooden craft sticks or lollipop sticks into the cores of the apples at the stem. Place the roasted peanuts and candies on separate plates. Set aside. Place the chocolate into a metal or glass bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until melted. Remove from the heat. Dip apples into the melted chocolate, turning to coat completely. Dip or roll in candy or nuts, then place on a sheet of waxed paper. Repeat with remaining apples. Allow apples to set at room temperature until the chocolate is firm, about 20 minutes, before serving.

One response to “Apples for Samhain”

  1. Emily says:

    The chocolate ones look really good!

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