Silver Ravenwolf,
Halloween Customs,
Spells & Recipes

(Llewellyn, 2000)

Silver Ravenwolf has collected in one spot a host of information about Halloween. From its roots deep in the mythology of Europe to ideas that anyone can use today, Halloween is a fun and unique look at a holiday that celebrates both the solemn and the silly.

The first chapter, "The Search for Halloween," explores the historical roots of the holiday, from prehistoric times through Rome, the medieval era and Victorian times to the present day. Though occasionally sketchy, the author cites sources with notes at the end of the chapter for further research. Still, it is entertaining reading, especially the Victorian and turn-of-the-century descriptions of games and Mischief Night.

Halloween customs and traditions are explained in the next chapter. This includes explanations of where trick-or-treat came from, jack-o-lanterns, and dressing up in costumes. Tales are included for Halloween storytelling, and short poems and quotes are also reported to add to the fun. The next chapter discusses Halloween symbols and superstitions, such as black cats, scarecrows, skeletons and vampires. All the scary motifs of Halloween are illustrated and the reader leans about the origins and history of each symbol. Various methods of fortune-telling, one fun Halloween activity, are shown in the chapter on Halloween divinations, and include procedures that use apples and pumpkin seeds.

"Halloween in the Kitchen" explores a wide variety of recipes both frightening and fantastic, ranging from pumpkin bread to magical mice (actually dressed up deviled eggs). The next section in some ways continues the cooking theme with "Halloween Magick." This chapter contains spells of historical interest, such as "porch protection turnips" and "corn husk dollies," as well as recipes for incense and potions, and craft instructions for pleasant dream sachets. All are interesting, especially from the context of history.

The final chapter discusses the most important and often forgotten aspect of Halloween: a day to respect and honor the dead. The author brings up a number of ways to remember those who have passed on, and how to include these remembrances in a Samhain ceremony or celebration. Samhain is the name for the pagan and Wiccan new year, and is especially sacred because it is the time to honor ancestors and those loved ones that have died.

Halloween is an interesting addition to the shelf of anyone interested in the history of holidays. This idea book also gives new ways of celebrating and explanations of traditions for anyone who might be bored with the same trick-or-treat and party of the day. I enjoyed reading it and will definitely use the recipes again!

[ by Beth Derochea ]



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