Dear Ms. Q,
In another post (check Halloween, All Hallow's, Samhain tags) I posted how my Granny would do the ritual to welcome and celebrate those who have passed on and remember them, in many ways it was a ritual that the whole family could do. And it was done after all the trick or treaters had gone to bed, usually around 10 p.m.
Now you ask me how can you a 21st century person do this celebration and not be obvious about it espeically as a solitary.
Well in my Granny's day it wasn't so difficult but then things began to change, people would move in who weren't familar with the old country ways and in their ignorance on two occasions reported Granny to a Social Services agency. Granny and Mom would very calmly explain the meaning behind what they did and that it was a tradition, but come the 1970's it was "Oh no you can't do that it offends people, its one thing to hand out candy to children and have carved pumpkins and scary skeletons but you can not do what you're doing."
This pissed Granny off, but she was clever, she and Mom talked it over and it seems that it was the outward or outside ritual that seem to perturbe those two neighbors. So Granny disguised it; it meant a lot of hard work for us and a lot of pumpkin pie puree but it worked.
Granny counted the number of steps on her house and divided the number by half, so she bought pumpkins and we kids would carve smiling faces on the pumpkins, the seeds were washed, dried, salted and roasted in the oven for snacking later on and it made the kitchen nice and warm, we kids drew on the face we wanted with square teeth, pointed teeth, round eyes, square eyes, triangle eyes, etc. so Mom would cut the tops off of the pumpkins and we kids would scoop the insides out, putting the sends and strands into a big bowl and while we scooped Mom or Granny would wash them, pat dry, salt and then pop them into the oven.
Then when the pumpkins were emptied out we'd draw our faces and Mom and Granny or an Uncle or Dad would cut the faces out. As we got older and could handle a knife safely then we'd do it. We made sure the bottom inside of the pumpkin was level to hold a candle, Granny would use old sewing needels to hold the candles in place.
Then on Halloween the pumpkins would be placed on the steps but in safe corners so that children's costumes would not catch fire with the faces facing out ward and the hard shell shielding the candle flame away and Granny would lite them with white candles from the bottom of the steps to the front door, and then inside we'd do what we traditionally do, after the trick or treaters were all done coming for candy.
Then on All Souls day evening we'd light the same pumpkins that would now have black candles in them from the top to the bottom just before midnight and do the same prayers. And then after the clock chimed 12 we'd snuff them out from top to bottom thanking them for visiting.
Granny never had any problems with those neighbors when she did that, because all a Social Case worker would see was pumpkins and would say that kids still like to see them lit. This frustrated those neighbors but then Granny got fed up with them and decided to do a ritual to have them leave, they did.
But Granny liked the pumpkin idea so much that she kept it up. Even I still do it that way as well
Now about the pumpkin puree, the day after All Soul's day we'd take the pumpkins into the house and break them apart, the tops were not useable so they'd go and be put into compost, my Uncle would chop it up with a hatchet. But the rest of the pumpkins, after they were broken into manageable pieces the inside side would have the burnt and dried part peeled off and then it would be placed inside down on a flat cookie tray on aluminum foil and baked at 400 degrees until soft or fork tender, about 30 minutes---now some places say 350 degrees for 45 minutes what ever works I say.
When that was done the outer shell could be easily peeled off and then the soft part could be cut up into small pieces and mashed up with a potato masher, or a potato ricer or blender with a little water, or food processor. If it was a little watery, put the puree into a strainer until the liquid drains off or squeeze through cheese cloth.
Then you could freeze it in one cup amounts, by making it into 1 cup amounts you could defrost exactly want you'd need and not waste it. Freeze bags make it much easier to store, look for the smallest ones that can hold one cup of puree.
And then with spices and such added into pumpkin puree perfect for pumpkin pies, cookies, muffins and bread. If you can do zuchinni bread you can do pumpkin bread, sometimes Granny would add chopped walnuts and dried cranberries to the mix for the bread, perfect for the Thanksgiving holidays.
There are receipes on how to make your own pumpkin spices and how to bake the different goodies on the internet, look for them and add it to your personal receipe book.
So what is this post all about, well its how you can easily disguise a ritual into something mundane and the "muggles" not be aware of it. Of no one wants to hide their beliefs that's fine, but considering how quick people are to call the police, how quick the "Jesus Freaks", and I'm sorry if I offend anyone with that refererence, but how the extremely religious can make a persons life a miserable hell, it is always best to disguise one's beliefs from prying eyes. Only those that are truely aware will be able to sense and spot things that tell those in the craft what is what.
Things like planting the plant known as "hen and chicks" at the beginning of your walk way or near your front door, would look mundane, planting rosemary and other herbal plants that are plant guardians of protection no "muggle" would be aware of except to note that it looks nice. My Great-Aunt had two planters at the bottom of her steps that were made of cement and faced with abolone shell with the pearl side facing outwards, it looked pretty but it was a variation of the mirror protection ritual, and those planters had "hen and chicks planted in them.
Then her back yard would be given over to planting vegetebles like my Grannys and raising chickens espeically her flock of black chickens.
Her front yard was given over to planting herbs and certain flowering plants. No one questioned why, because many people were still into canning their own food. Now a days its a little harder, but it can still be done, wheter you live in an apartment, own a house or condo. With the condo or apartment you have to check to see what you can or cannot do, that is the problem with living in a gated community, so where ever you chose to live, chose wisely.
This post is to give you an idea of what to do to get you started since it is going to be the beginning of the "Witches Year" What better time than now to start.
Blessings, Ms. Q