Four alder wood laser cut cookie stamps for Samhain.
These stamps have been tested through 10 dozen cookies but it is important to remember that wood has grain and being gentle while pushing down at narrow points is important.
Steaming Cauldron – A symbol of transformation, change and rebirth. Over a hearth, cauldrons served as the hub of the house. Cooking, as well as soap making and bath water came from what for many families was their finest object. Until the 18th century, they were a staple in almost every medieval kitchen. Celtic mythology is the source of many cauldron tales. Cerridwen, Bran, Dagda and Manannan, all used cauldrons. As many of the Arthurian legends are sourced from Welsh tales, there is a strong connection between cauldrons and the Holy Grail as both bring health and life to the imbiber.
One of the best examples of a decorated Iron Age cauldron is the Danish Gundestrup cauldron which dates from somewhere around 150 BC. It is the largest and best known example of European silver work and is considered practically priceless.
Cat on Crescent Moon – Looking down from either the waxing or waning moon, she watches. Sacred to Diana, in ancient Rome, the cat was also thought of as a guardian of homes and a symbol of domestic goodness. There is a similar connection in Celtic myths. Cat Sìths are described as fairy like creatures, said to look like large black cats with white markings on their chests. They live in the Scottish highlands (well, haunt actually) and it is thought there might also be some soul stealing going on. At Samhain, a saucer of milk is left out at any home that wishes to receive their blessings, a darn site better than not doing it and being cursed instead with dry cattle, unable to be milked.
Muslim, Norse and Egyptian traditions all have strong connections to cats in their herstories. The Egyptian goddess Bastet was cat headed and she battled victoriously each night with the Serpent of Darkness, creating a solid connection between cats and the night.
As the connection between cats and witches grew with the idea of familiars, stories of shape shifting were told as a reason witches were able to escape when needed and as the image of a witch became more solidly connected to Halloween so did the image of a black cat.
Carved Pumpkins – Turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets were the original containers of light at Samhain. Pumpkins are a North American tradition that began when Irish immigrants arrived here, bringing with them the legend of Stingy Jack. We are blessed with the easier to carve, pumpkin option. The light inside is used to ward off evil spirits (including witches) and keep Stingy Jack away. Think protection in a broader sense. Not everyone wants to keep witches from their homes.
Stag– Samhain happens during hunting season and although here is no fixed date for the Wild Hunt, it is generally thought to happen around this time of the year. The stag is a symbol for, among others, the god Cernunnos, “The Horned One”, a god of wild animals and the forest. He and Herne have both been named as leaders of the hunt at various times in Celtic and British mythology. In Scandinavia, that honour is given to Odin.
This recurring theme of stag as an animal of the hunt and more specifically the chase, was considered a testing of merit for those aspiring to leadership. The stag represents power, strength and virility. He was considered protector of all other creatures by virtue of being king of the European forest. This concept of protecting those that you have dominion over is an ancient tradition practiced before the idea of the divine right of kings came into being.
It is best to use a recipe with little or no large extra bits. Spices, extracts and zest are fine but chopped nuts and dried fruits can be more challenging to work with. The cookies in the picture below have a bit of added lemon zest and rum extract.
Roll out dough of your chosen recipe and cut circles either with a glass or scalloped edge cookie cutter.
Tap stamp in flour and push down into the center of the precut cookie.
Sugar cookies are traditionally taken from the oven before they brown but since these cookie will not be iced, I personally prefer to get them just a little golden around the edges. That will mean a little paying attention so as not to over bake.
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