In an old village, a broken pathway leads to a crumbling cottage. Doors creak, bats shriek, ghouls moan unseen, ghosts weep in the shadows, and vampires spy on lost travelers, waiting for a bloody bite. A wolf howls in the woods nearby, and the moon hides behind the dark clouds in the sky. The witch flies past, perched on her broom, cackling and casting a spell over the woods and the village. The setting in perfect for the All Hallow Eve, better known as Halloween – the horrors of the dead stepping into the living world are almost complete.
Halloween – The Stories That Were Told
It’s Halloween night. A young cook in Ireland has just buried a ring in her mashed potatoes, hoping to find love and a happily ever after with the diner who finds it.
A couple of sisters in Scotland have just tossed a handful of hazelnuts into a fireplace. Each hazelnut is named after one of their suitors. The nuts that don’t pop or explode, and burn to ashes represent their prospective future husbands. Though in some versions of this story, the opposite was true. Again, it’s Halloween night.
Human imagination and our propensity for creating myths and legends is probably our most fascinating attribute. As the summer frays, and the cold nights become real, we trick-or-treat our way into an ancient festival. Two thousand years ago, on the night before the Celtic New Year, the old festival of Samhain saw the lines between the world of the living and the dead blurred, and the Celtic priests finding their window into the future. It must have been of some comfort, to the people who lived at Nature’s mercy, to know what the coming days held for them. They got together, ate and drank in the name of the dead, wore costumes made from animal skins, and lit bonfires to ward off ghosts.
Ancient Origins, Changing Traditions
Times change. Religions change. Traditions change. But we hold on to the old, giving it a new name, a new face, a new meaning. So Samhain becomes Halloween, and for this one night, Americans buy a quarter of all candy sold annually in the U.S.
Young women no longer do tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors to divine the name or appearance of their future husband. Halloween has now become a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers. It’s a commodity, a bag of candy, themed parties, and people dressing up as the latest Hollywood rage. I did say that times change.
Getting Back To The Basics
So I have set up another table. To bring in a small shade of darkened woods, and screeching bats, a few mystery brews, freshly whipped up by the neighborhood witch, and a bewitching cocktail, the recipe for which you will find out soon!
After the colours and dazzle of Table #1, set up for the festival of light, it is almost poetic to strip down to its opposite, with a stark black and white. Jars of potions and poisons, a darkened room, wisps of light, the allure of the darkness unfolds in this table. I have kept it devoid of all of Halloween’s modern day frills and fancies. It returns to the world of ancient lands, rich with myths and stories. It conjures a bit of cheeky magic too.
A simple white spread sits beneath a textured place-mat. Atop it, a white dinner plate and quarter plate, separated by a DIY paper Bat, and a crisp white, linen napkin. A black goblet stands quietly in a corner, and a centerpiece, made from dried twigs and branches, painted black, and clustered together in a glass jar. A bunch of magical potions, with Apothecary Labels spelling out the contents. Also, a dark cocktail to match the mood.
You can find the free apothecary labels here. Print them out to mark your own wizarding potions, and add a touch of magical whimsy to your own Halloween Table.
The cauldron is brimming with magic and mystery. There are stories waiting to jump out from dark corners. What better setting, devoid of frills and fancies to recall the horrors and mirth of life? What better setting to revere the dead, and celebrate the living? It’s Halloween. Bring your stories to the Table For Two. Or Four. Or More. But don’t ever let the stories die.