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Soul Cake and Our November Rituals


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GUEST,Joseph Proskauer 11 Nov 04 - 11:17 PM
Blackcatter 12 Nov 04 - 12:09 AM
Malcolm Douglas 12 Nov 04 - 03:34 AM
PoppaGator 12 Nov 04 - 10:09 AM
GUEST 12 Nov 04 - 11:13 AM
Tig 12 Nov 04 - 06:00 PM
*#1 PEASANT* 12 Nov 04 - 07:01 PM
Les in Chorlton 13 Nov 04 - 06:33 PM
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Subject: Soul Cake and Our November Rituals
From: GUEST,Joseph Proskauer
Date: 11 Nov 04 - 11:17 PM

A couple of Sundays ago (which was Halloween), folks gathered to sing before Friends Meeting, and my wife taught some of us a round. Its tune feels familiar, similar to "Hey, Ho, Nobody Home," or "Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose / Shall I ever see thee red?" (Indeed, you can sing these three together, along with "Ah, poor bird / Take thy flight.").   

                        Soul, soul, soul cake,
                        Please good Missus a soul cake.
                        Apple, plum, peach, or cherry,
                        Something quite good to make us all merry.
                        One for Peter, two for Paul,
                        Three for Him who made us all. *

That morning, looking into the history of Halloween on the internet, we had come across a likely origin of the song. Though the beginnings of Halloween and All Souls are misty, one element seems to be the feeling that the veil between this world and the world of soul and spirit is more permeable at this time of year. Some sources recount a tradition of setting aside a portion of the harvest feast for those in the spiritual world. Another tradition associated with this time
was 'souling': people (some say children, fools, or the poor) would go from house to house asking for food, perhaps as representatives of the departed souls, perhaps offering to pray for them in return for some "soul cake."

Contemplating this song during Meeting, another meaning of "soul cake" occurred to me: simply, that which nourishes the soul.

It also occurred to me that in our nation (the US), we have one truly national ritual activity: elections. Would it be inappropriate to consider our need for soul nourishment at this time? Perhaps,
in the midst of a polarized polity, I could turn my attention to souls: first, of the one I vote for; perhaps also, of the one I don't. This might extend to those with whom I agree, and those I don't, and to all the varieties of souls in the nation and the world – incarnate, departed, and on the way. And would we be misguided, as we participate in forming the nation's future, to turn our thoughts to the Source of all forming – however we may try to conceive this?   

I also wondered who we might be invoking if we followed the song in addressing our request to the 'good Missus' (or Mistress): Lady Liberty, perhaps? Or Mary? Or Goethe's 'Eternal Feminine -- leading us onward' at the close of Faust? Or a more ancient figure, Sophia – Divine Wisdom, "revered as the Wise Bride of Solomon by Jews, as the Queen of Wisdom and War (Athena) by Greeks, and as the Holy Spirit of Wisdom by Christians"? **   

Wherever we might turn with our request, we might seek the deepest and widest nourishment possible for the soul of our nation and for all souls. Please.

                                Joseph Proskauer

* Various versions of the words, music, and story to this song are available on line, for example at . Various recipes are on line as well, for example at .

** From "Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom & God's Bride" by Mark Raines (

One might consider divinities from other traditions, such as the Babylonian Ishtar and Egyptian Isis, in their relation to Sophia. Are Liberty or Mary related to her as well? Some say it is she pictured in the Book of Revelations Chapter 12: "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."

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Subject: RE: Soul Cake and Our November Rituals
From: Blackcatter
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 12:09 AM

Interesting, I suppose. To me it is a song tied to my religion: Irish Celtic oriented Paganism.

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Subject: RE: Soul Cake and Our November Rituals
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 03:34 AM

An English custom (and song) discussed quite extensively here in the past. A "soul cake" was a cake prepared on All Souls' night. Luck-visitors would go round the district knocking on doors, singing a little song, and asking for gifts of food or money. The missus/mistress was simply the woman of the house. The custom persists a little, I think, in Cheshire; formerly it was more widespread in the Midlands and up as far as Yorkshire. Around Sheffield, where I live, it is now extinct, though only quite recently.

The rather odd "soalin" or "soulin" spelling appears to be an invention of Peter Paul and Mary, who were so far as I know also responsible for the modern collation of the song with Hey Ho and part of a Carol (both quite unrelated, though structurally not too dissimilar). It is unlikely that traditional participants in the custom saw it as anything more than a bit of "lucky fun" involving food and drink, but there is no harm in re-interpreting such things in modern and/or spiritual terms; so long as we don't fool ourselves, or others, into thinking that that's what they "originally" meant: we just don't know.

I certainly wouldn't trust anything said about this song or others like it at most neo-Pagan websites, which, I fear, tend to be full of fanciful invention mis-represented as "fact". Nevertheless, I do applaud your general sentiments. We could do with a lot more genuine nourishment of the soul the way things are.

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Subject: RE: Soul Cake and Our November Rituals
From: PoppaGator
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 10:09 AM

Very interesting contribution. I hope Joseph joins up and continues to let us in on his thoughts.

As an American, my only prior knowledge of this song is the PPM version, which always *seemed* to come from fairly ancient origins (at least in part).

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Subject: RE: Soul Cake and Our November Rituals
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 11:13 AM

You can read all kinds of folk literature from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, the Shetlands, Orkneys...all have this "veil between the worlds" sort of "Celtic myst" sounding language of the professional and amateur antiquarian.

The bottom line is that the holiday itself marks time, as all holidays do, involves a lot of revelry, as all holidays should, and this, like nearly all of the ancient holidays, are rooted in the traditions of ancestor worship.

Of course, the European antiquarians and folklorists rarely referred to "ancestor worship" as at the time, that was a term reserved for describing the very same sorts of traditions by the heathen barbarian "other" ie the places that the European empires went conquering.

Hence, in Europe we have a description of ancient holiday traditions that sounds enlightened, and out there among the colonized, ancient holidays that aren't holidays really, as much as barbarian ancestor worship akin to devil worship of the Inquisition sort.

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Subject: RE: Soul Cake and Our November Rituals
From: Tig
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 06:00 PM

The second half of the song as I know it is

Go down into your cellars
And see what you can find.
If your barrels are not empty
We hope you will prove kind.
We hope you will prove kind
With your apples and strong beer,
For we'll come no more a souling
Till this time next year.

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Subject: RE: Soul Cake and Our November Rituals
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 07:01 PM

Soul cake is part of the October November cake tradition
It runs through Thor cake, tharf cake and yorkshire parkin traditional on November 5.

Generally these are treacle based oat cakes very sweet.
Parkin has a long long tradition and many varieties.
Even ....parkin pigs....
you can learn about parkin on my Guy Fawkes bonfire page with a recipe in my booklet of prayers for guy fawkes day.....

Try this page here-
or this here page
november cakes

for the available through pay pal clickit here
Bonfire Prayers and customs book...



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Subject: RE: Soul Cake and Our November Rituals
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 13 Nov 04 - 06:33 PM

So, where are the Antrobus Soulcakers tonight then?

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