Dried Autumn seed head. Image 87209216, 123RF stock photo.
NATURE'S BOUNTY ~
HALLOWE’EN / SAMHAIN
YOUR HOMEMADE DECORATIONS
Iseult Catherine O'Brien
Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students |
Online Thesis Specialist and Tutor
ON THE LOOKOUT
No matter where you live, Nature is all around you.
Discover what's in your neighbourhood, maybe on vacant and overgrown spaces, or in your
garden. During your walks with the child(ren) these days, suggest everyone keeps an eye out for seed heads, poppy heads, grass heads, thistles of all shapes and sizes, very tall, punky, teasel
heads (be careful – the stems of thistles and teasels are very prickly).
Scope all pieces of wasteland, big or small. These are the places you could find ten foot-plus
spikes of teasel flowerheads, with their pale mauve blossoms long withered and blown away. Everyone can search for poppy seed heads, thistle heads
of all sizes and shapes, and watch for any branches fallen in the wind, plus dried out twisted branches and twigs, and any interesting looking examples of vegetation.
THINKING OF MAKING DECORATIONS for HALLOWE’EN / SAMHAIN?
It's never too soon to start planning and identifying natural material, close to your home, to use in your Samhain
/ Hallowe'en decorations and celebrations.
Examine everything you come across, bearing in mind what it might look like with paint on it. If you are considering making decorations for your front door, or for the dining table,
or wall or window hangings to celebrate Samhain / Hallowe’en, carry a palette of black, silver, gold, red, orange, and yellow in your head.
SAMHAIN and HALLOWE'EN
Hallowe’en is the Christianised name for the Pagan Festival of Samhain
(pronounced ‘sow-un’), “Summer’s End”.
a time of easy communication and passage between this world and the spirit world, when the deceased can revisit the mortal world and are feasted by their families; when they hear the news of what has happened with their families and neighbours since
their deaths, or last visits. The crops would have been harvested, and the turf saved: this is the end of the season of growth, and entering the period of the Dark.
The Samhain celebrations carried on over three days and nights, and was a period of family
and neighbour reunions, marriage arrangements, and celebrations, and when fires were lit to mark the end of the period of growth and to herald the New Year.
Consider how a 2-4 foot long, twisted branch, if painted black and let dry might look, with a few added very fine lines of highlighting with silver or gold on the very edge of some of the smaller branches, and touches of bright red, orange, and yellow on the tops of the twiglets, to signify the fires of Samhain.
It could be a very dramatic piece, which might be hung up by the stem with painted string, ribbon, raffia, or whatever strikes you as right – hanging in a window or from the ceiling, swaying and twirling in the air.
Have all possibilities to the forefront of your mind as you look at what might seem to be a pretty ordinary branch.
Let your imagination soar as you search the vegetation all around you.
Before a walk, have a good look through your family book of local flora and fauna, examine the photographs and drawings,
to become aware of what could be around you when you get out to investigate. There may be a few seed heads on the verges of paving, or growing against hoarding – poppies and cotoneaster can thrive
in the tiniest of cracks.
Cotoneaster horizontalis proliferates
in walls, between bricks, and in cracks in paving slabs. Birds are very fond of its bright-red berries and spread its seed indiscriminately. As with buddleia,
it has become a garden escapee, happily seeding all over city centres. Boughs of cotoneaster make excellent substitutes for holly boughs,
and are a lovely green and red addition to decorating at home. Equally, the skimmia shrub offers high gloss leaves and large bright red berries which keep very well when cut.
Take a note of all the interesting looking material, and try to get back as soon as possible to gather it up.
If you have a garden, you can take your fair share of Nature's bounty, save seeds for sharing, and make Samhain decorations to give to family and friends.
HALLOWE'EN APPLE LANTERNS
O'Hara of Dodder Park Medical gave me this lovely idea for children to make their own Hallowe'en Apple Lanterns.
Using the biggest soft flesh or cooking apples available, the parent removes most of the core and opens the top of the apple, and each child scoops out the fruit from his or her own apple with a teaspoon, leaving sufficient to keep the rigid
Depending on dexterity / fine motor skills, the child or parent cuts out the two eyes and a mouth, and a little tealight goes inside.
It would be a great experience
for youngsters to make their own, personal, Samhain Lantern, and a tea light could be put in it and lit, once the best
place for it in the kitchen, living room or hall, has been decided by its maker.
Remember to count how many Samhain Laterns are made and where they are placed
so that you blow them all out before bed.
When we were children, we made lanterns
out of turnips which was hard work. This was before pumpkins became widely available in Ireland.
In ancient times the light was carried in turnips to be shared as part of the New Year Light ritual.
BRINGING IT HOME
Having discovered your bounty
sites, prepare yourselves for the gathering, at the appropriate time of year. Adults and children should go on the hunt, adults armed with a sharp kitchen scissors, and
/ or secateurs, with at least one adult wearing heavy duty gardening-type gloves.
One of the advantages of a mix of adults, youngsters, and children, is that they will all be searching at different height levels!
Everyone searches for poppy seed heads, which can be quite small or as big as a pullet's egg.
Teasel, which grows as tall as ten foot, and
more, and has very, very, prickly stems, should only be handled with the heavy duty gloves. If you have a wheelie-type shopping bag, you would be able to put the long teasel heads and stems head down into refuse sacks and put them in your
The poppy seed heads you find should be cut with
as long a stem as possible, and put head down in separate paper sacks or bags. These could go in a backpack. You may find when you get home the poppy bags have many tiny seeds in the bottom.
Tie the stems with kitchen twine enclosed in the paper bags, leaving a loop of twine for hanging them someplace airy and dry and many more seeds will fall out. Paper bags are best as they
breathe, and the contents won't go mouldy, as might happen in a plastic bag.
These poppy seeds can be collected and scattered on waste ground in your neighbourhood or amongst your garden
borders. Just scratch the soil with a stick, scatter the seeds, scuff the soil again, and hope for rain that night to settle the seeds into the earth.
Poppy seeds stay viable in the soil for over forty years!
You might also like to add the seeds to the top of any bread or scones you are baking.
You may wish to make a mix of various poppy seeds you have collected, gather them
up in colourful paper tied tight with ribbon, and given as a present to any gardening friends or family.
You may see chestnuts still
attached to small branches fallen on the ground, or some grasses with long fronds. Take the free bounty of Nature that has fallen from a tree, or that which is seen as unwanted weeds.
When you have brought everything home, spread newspaper on the floor or
on the kitchen table, and wipe the stems and heads gently (except for the teasel) with dry kitchen scrubbies / sponges to remove dust and loose matter, and shake the grasses over the newspaper to dislodge debris and to spread the fronds.
All your material should be allowed to dry as with the poppy heads above.
To make the teasel
easy to manage, you have to decide first if you want to keep them as long as possible to make a very dramatic arrangement. If you decide 'yes', you need to bring each stem to where the newspaper's spread out, and wearing heavy duty gloves,
run a sharp vegetable knife downwards from the flower head, scraping off all the prickles or spurs.
You'll need to go around the stem, and from top to bottom, so make sure you have some good music playing for this job!
The actual stem under all the prickles or spurs is not very sturdy, so please be careful not to break it. Having said that, if you do have some breakages, when the
stems are painted, you could fix a broken one by wrapping it in matching or contrasting coloured string, ribbon, or twine.
Please wrap up the newspaper
immediately you have finished with all the stems you plan to strip to avoid accidental cuts or scratches, and put it in the compost bin directly, depending on the rules in force in your neighbourhood or those of your waste disposal company.
You have been collecting natural
materials for your Samhain / Hallowe'en decorations, and perhaps for your Christmas Wreath and festoons as well.