The March 1909 edition of The Druid, the magazine published by the Ancient Order of Druids. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
About 2000 years ago in what is now the green lands of Ireland, the nation of France, and the United Kingdom, the new year was celebrated on November 1st. It was the beginning of the cold, dark weather in those lands. The winter season was synonymous with death. The Celts lived in those lands and they held the belief that on October 31st, the night of Samhain, that the ghosts of all the dead came back to life. n that night, the spirits played pranks and tricks, causing problems by damaging the harvest and reeking havoc in many other ways. Celtic priests believed that these spirits had come back to earth to ease the Druids’ attempts to predict the future.
To solve this, the Druids built large bonfires to burn sacrifices. The populace observed this day of the dead by wearing costumes in the form of animal skins or animal heads. Fortune telling was also done on this night. When the celebration was done the hearths were relit from the bonfires to usher in a mild winter season.
When the Romans conquer most of the territory in the year 43 A.D., they held rule for over 400 years. During this time two holidays were merged into one creating the Celtic celebration called Samhain. One holiday was Feratia, held in late October and the other was name after the goddess Pomona, goddess of trees and fruit. It is believed that apple bobbing originated with this goddess because she was symbolized by the apple. Today, children at Halloween parties held throughout the world bob for apples. The custom more than likely originated in those ancient times.
By the seventeenth century, Christianity had spread to Celt lands. Pope Benedict IV, in the 1600’s, deemed November 1st as All Saints Day, trying to replace the practice of the pagan festival of the dead with a Christian replacement. This day of All Saints was also known as All-hallowmas or, alternately, All-hallows. The night before it, which once was known as Samhein began to be know as All Hallows Eve. and, as the years went by the night became known as Halloween.
To this day bonfire are lit, in some places, on Halloween night. Children and adults alike dress in devilish costumes as ghosts, goblins, favorite characters and all manner of ghoulish, frightening dress. The populace in many nations delight in door to door trick-or-treating and festive, spooky parties. Little know the true meaning of Halloween night, but all delight in the ghastly activities.
Below is my recipe for Druid Stew. No one knows from whence this stew came from, but it could have come from the burning hearths somewhere in the land of the Celts.
2 pounds stewing beef, cut in cubes
5 potatoes, skin on, chopped into one inch cubes
1 1/2 cups cut up celery, slice diagonally
5 Tbsp. quick cooking tapioca
6 carrots, cut diagonally
1/2 cup beans (northern, pea bean, kidney) – canned
1 package onion soup mix
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 cups tomato juice
4 cups water
two bay leafs
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
In layers with beef at bottom, place all ingredients except tapioca , juice and water, one on top of another (in layers) into a deep oven-proof pot with lid. Pour liquid on top of dry ingredients and then sprinkle with tapioca. Put lid on tightly or use tin foil.
Bake at 350 degree for 4 hours. Do not open the oven door or take lid off pot. Do not stir the stew – leave the lid on.
Serve with puff pastry pumpkins, witches and ghosts made from Halloween cookie cutters and frozen puff pastry sheets, or with your favorite ghostly bread. (Puff pastry can be found in your supermarkets’ frozen department).