As part of the festival of All Hallows, people, mainly children, in England went out ‘souling’ going from door to door or travelling around the local farms, singing songs in return for apples, soul cakes or ale. The practice started in the Middle Ages when the cakes were offered in return for prayers for those souls suffering in purgatory, but after the Protestant Reformation, which did away with the notion of purgatory, the custom became one of just giving out the cakes as gifts. [1] Sometimes, people would keep the cakes for good luck. The recipes for the cakes varied, sometimes they were made of oats, some contained currants and spices, and in some areas it was traditional to consume seed cakes during All Hallows which coincided with the end of winter wheat-seed sowing. [2] Parkin, a ginger cake, was popular in the north of England, while in Lancashire Harcake was offered to visitors on the day.[3]


500 g fine oatmeal

60 g butter, softened

350 ml golden syrup (corn syrup)

15 g ground ginger

1 egg, beaten

200 ml Guinness

Pre-heat the oven to 190 C. Prepare a 10 x 8-inch baking tin by lining it with baking parchment. In a mixing bowl, rub the butter into the oatmeal. Add the ground ginger and syrup. Stir together, gradually add the beaten egg and then the brown ale. Pour into the tin and bake at 190 C for around 90 minutes, though this will depend on your oven, so keep checking. Keep checking and cover the top with foil if it is browning too much. Leave to cool and turn out before cutting into squares.

[1] Brian Day, A Chronicle of Folk Customs, Hamlyn, London, 1998

[2] J. Brand, Popular Antiquities Volume 1, F.C. And J. Rivington and Others, London, 1813

[3] Brian Day, A Chronicle of Folk Customs, Hamlyn, London, 1998


Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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