Halloween was tonight and I had been assigned to bring apples. I noticed her as I was about to enter the local grocery and she, wearing a tall pointed hat, was about to load a very large pumpkin into her car. I was drawn to offer assistance. As I got closer I saw her long black hair moving like liquid around her pale face. When I walked up to her our eyes met and what could only be called a wicked little smile grew on her lips. Suddenly the draw I felt doubled. It was quickly joined by a whisp of mystery and a vague feeling of wonderfully unavoidable danger. Through the introductions and my offer to help, her eyes never left mine and her enchanting smile worked its’ Halloween magic. It surprised me when I reached for the pumpkin and it was already in the trunk which was slowly closing by itself. I could swear I heard her turn and whisper “Thank you” as it snapped shut.
Looking for something to say that would prolong this moment, I mentioned that I had a great old recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds and could probably be persuaded to share. The smile widened as she accepted, on the condition that we’d meet at her home and use the “ancient secret recipe passed down mother to daughter in her family since before time”. It all sounded Very Halloweeny and we laughed easily. But it was the way she said it. Her words carried some distant ancient accent filled with unspoken memories of Halloweens older than I could imagine, and magic I could not resist. I was hooked.
The address she had written on my hand was easy to find. Evening had set and the huge full moon played it’s part well by darting behind clouds scudding quickly by. The anticipation of a “Real” Halloween skyrocketed when I saw her standing in the doorway backlit by the glow of firelight dancing across the room and sparkling in her hair like tiny flames. Celtic music softly filled the scene of her welcoming me standing there wearing a long black form-fitting dress and pointed hat, the perfect Halloween witch.
Conversation came easy as she moved about the room lighting candles and offering goodies. Preparing the seeds went quickly and the rhymes she taught me to say while making them added another layer of seasonal fun.
Sowain seeds are magic things
Love stirs them round and round.
With rhyming words our spell we sing
Our magic to them bound.
Time was suspended as we sat in her kitchen enjoying absolutely the best treat I had ever tasted. The seeds were completely irresistible and soon seemed to bring a sweet wave of desires that she warmly encouraged. As we carved the jack-o-lantern I listened to her tales of bewitched castles, love spells cast, and Halloweens long past. I loved the feeling as the spell she was casting washed over me. My memory gets pretty fuzzy about that time but what is clear was the warmth of her soft touch and her whispering in my ear. Spinning in my head were visions of gossamer clad women floating in circles around a huge fire. I remember feeling the heat from flames that climbed into the sky trying to reignite the dying Sun. Their chants blended with her words…
Call upon the past and celebrate this night
The spirit veil has lifted, the bonfires’ burning bright.
When I awoke I was back tucked safely in my bed feeling amazingly refreshed with fleeting memories of a fantastic evening somehow removed from time. My car was not in its space so I presumed I must have taken a taxi home. Still in a wonderful haze, I set out to retrieve my vehicle. The thought of seeing her again was thrilling.
I was sure I was in the right place because there was my car in the same spot I had left it, but something was very wrong. Nothing was as it had been just hours before. The warm, inviting, quaint home was gone. The chanting, the fire, and the seeds were all gone. She was gone. It had all vanished like it had never really been there at all. Fallen leaves swept across a vacant lot hurried along by the chilled November wind. It cut to my bones as it swirled around me like my confusion. The wind carried whispers of magical otherworldly nights faintly remembered. Voices almost heard with messages nearly understood that somehow brought back the warmth of the glowing fire…and her. Standing where her kitchen should have been, perched on a tuft of grass, sat the jack-o-lantern we had carved. To it was pinned a note. It was the recipe, well actually more of a spell, for the magical seeds we had shared. My knowledge of Irish language is slight but I later found the title translated out to something like Enchanted Halloween Seeds. To this day I make those seeds on Halloween, Sowain, in hopes she returns… yet harboring a slight fear that she might.
1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dark rum ( spiced rum will change the taste. She used Cruzan Black Strap
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
2 teaspoons salt ( plus more to taste )
Preheat oven to 275 degrees
It sounds odd, but for crispy crunchy pumpkin seeds, you need to boil them first. In a medium saucepan add the pumpkin seeds and one teaspoon salt then cover with water and boil until you can see a darker seed inside of the husk. Drain and pat dry on paper towels.
Stir boiled pumpkin seeds, rum, bacon drippings, brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt together in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the seeds and spread them onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Season with salt. Then roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven, stirring frequently until they are crisp and golden.
Rhymes, spells, and incantations are optional
but it is, after all, Halloween!
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