Samhain (Sow-wen) is the Grand Sabbat that many witches celebrate when the sun reaches 15 degrees in the zodiac sign of Scorpio (1). This is the the peak of the autumn season that typically falls within the first week of November, and so is a separate consideration from Halloween. It is Samhain when Witches honor that all things here in the middle world come to the end of their cycle, die, rest in the underworld for a while, and will eventually be born anew. This is also when we honor our beloved dead – those who’ve passed back into Spirit for the time being – but are still remembered and loved. Samhain celebrations often include a shared feast called a Dumb Supper.
Dumb Supper: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
For the Samhain feast this weekend, our coven is holding a traditional Dumb Supper, or “mute” supper held in ritual silence. We typically set a lavish table, and prepare ancestral foods. By this, I mean the foods that our beloved dead would have enjoyed when they were alive. This is the perfect time to make Granny’s famous biscuits, or Dad’s special-occasion chocolate pie. My mother’s side of the family is of German descent, and I always have an open a jar of Kosher Dill pickles just for them.
We set a place at the table for the Spirits of our loved ones, and fix them a plate of delicious food in offering. Then we eat together in total, reverent silence – well, we do have some soft back-ground music on to set the tone. There is such power in a room full of people eating together, but focused inwardly. There is no casual banter around this table. Every bite is a meditation. We chew slowly and savor each bite deliberately, fully present in the delicious enjoyment of mere existence. We invite our beloved dead to join us at table – to enjoy the meal through our own living bodies – and live once more in our memories.
On Samhain night, witches eat, drink, and are merry, for tomorrow we may die. (2) This season, that threat has never felt more real.
Mama’s Chicken Divine Casserole
In thinking about what to bring this year for our dumb supper, there was only one choice of recipe: my Mama’s Chicken Divan Casserole. However, I choose to call it “Divine” because, it is heavenly – and I surely hope my Mama found her way to her choice of Heaven. This dish is not easy to make. Nope. It requires the sort of toil and investment that the uber-mom’s of the 70’s perfected. You will dirty half the cookware, and more than one appliance. I don’t make it often, but when I do, it tastes like the physical embodiment of my mother’s nurturing love for her family.
Like many of my family’s old recipes it is full-fat and high-calorie. That is the only way to go, y’all. I would desecrate the food-memory by “health-i-fying” it. So, for better or for worse, I offer you Sondra Rouse’s recipe for the most famously-fattening, and happiness-inducing casserole that she lovingly created for hundreds of church pot-lucks, and delivered to countless new mothers, grieving families, and recovering friends throughout her lifetime.
- 2 boxes of Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice Original Recipe with seasonings, made by package instructions. (Which equals about 3 cups of cooked rice.)
- 3 cups bite-sized fresh broccoli florets.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
- a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- a squirt of Tamari Soy Sauce, or Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids
- 2 can’s cream of chicken soup
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream: I would caution you against the “low-fat” varieties of the mayo and sour cream. What they do to these products to lower their fat content isn’t worth it, as that only introduces new problems, that are arguably worse for you. This will never be a low-calorie meal, so just go for it, or don’t make it at all.
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
- 3-4 cups shredded Extra sharp cheddar cheese – my mom swore that the Cracker Barrel brand was the best…sharper the better.
- 2 tubes of whole wheat Ritz crackers, crushed
- 3 Tablespoons melted, real butter. Never compromise with “margarine” as this is unholy, partially hydrogenated plastic, and evil. Don’t do it. In for a penny, in for a pound.
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. This casserole will be assembled in layers in a large, 3-4″ deep baking dish. I like pyrex the best.
First layer: Rice
Prepare Uncle Ben’s brand wild rice according to package instructions, including the spice packet. Spread evenly in the bottom of the dish.
Second Layer: Chicken and Broccoli
I have the greatest success with tender chicken by starting from frozen. I know; counter-intuitive. To prepare them, I add the frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts to a large skillet on the stove-top, on medium heat. I add a cup of water, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and a squirt of Tamari Soy Sauce. Cover, and allow to simmer 15-2o minutes, or until done. Flip the chicken at least once midway, adding more water as necessary.
Add the broccoli florets to the pan mid-way through cooking the chicken so they’ll steam until fork tender, but still be bright green. It doesn’t take long: 5 minutes or so.
Occasionally check the chicken by cutting into the center of the thickest piece. They are done when the meat is warm and no longer pink all the way through. Remember that everything will cook more in the casserole later, so best not to over-cook things now.
Remove from heat, drain and discard all the liquid from the pan. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Spread the chicken and broccoli evenly over the rice.
Fourth layer: Sauce
In a separate mixing bowl, blend the chicken soup, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, pepper, and 1 cup of the cheese and mix thoroughly. Spread evenly over the broccoli and chicken.
Fifth Layer: Cheese
Spread remaining shredded cheese over everything. Mmmmm….cheeeeese is gooooood.
Sixth Layer: Cracker Crust
Crush the Ritz crackers – I leave them in the wax paper tube, then over the bowl I just use my hands to crunch the bag until they are in small pieces, then dump from the wrapper. Pour in the melted butter and paprika. With a fork, sort of fluff and toss the cracker crumbles around until they are evenly dampened by the butter. Spread evenly over the top of the casserole.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. It will be bubbling at the edges. Remove foil and let brown for another 10 minutes more. This is my best guess at a cooking time, because when I’d ask my mother for the exact cooking length, she’d answer: “It is done when it smells really good.”
Let it stand a few minutes before serving.
Peace in the Interim, Mama. Thanks for teaching me how to cook. This Samhain night, the dumb supper is served at 5:30. I’ll set a place for you.
Until we meet again, all my love,
- For more information, check out my article here: A Case for Astrological Timing of the Sabbats
- “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” is a conflation of two biblical sayings, Ecclesiastes 8:15, ‘Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry’, and Isaiah 22:13, ‘Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.’ There are a number of humorous variants. Source