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Soul Cakes


(or Soul-Mass Cake, Somass Cake, Souling Cake)

Small un-raised dense cake, or biscuit, of enriched dough with dried fruit and sweet spices. Commonly coloured with saffron and marked with a cross on top. Associated with free distribution at certain religious festivals, especially Halloween.

Soul Cakes
Image: Alex Bray...

Related in tradition, this differs somewhat from the Northern form of Soul-Mass Cake. See also Shropshire Special Cakes

PH Ditchfield's 'Old English Sports' of 1891 has; "All-hallow Even was supposed to be a great night for witches: possibly it was with the intention of guarding against their spells that the farmers used to carry blazing straw around their cornfields and stacks. It was the custom for the farmer to regale his men with seed cake on this night; and there were cakes called "Soul Mass Cakes," or "Soul Cakes," which were given to the poor. These were of triangular shape, and poor people in Staffordshire used to go a-souling, i.e. collecting these soul cakes, or anything else they could get."

Ruth Edna Kelley's 'The Book of Hallowe'en' has; "The poor in Staffordshire and Shropshire went about singing for soul-cakes or money, promising to pray and to spend the alms in masses for the dead. The cakes were called Soul-mass or "somas" cakes"

There a number of versions of this rhyme:
Soul-cake, a soul-cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for him who made us all.

For other seasonal traditions, see: Halloween

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