Samhain Bannock started off as a plain bannock made at Hallowe’en.
It would be left outside the door along with milk for the dead, or it could be included amongst food set on a table inside for your ancestors who had passed to the “Summerlands” and wanted to join others at the table. This was called a “Dumb Supper” as it would be served and eaten in silence.
Later, Samhain Bannock began to have currants in it, and evolved into “soul cakes.” Children would beg for Samhain Bannock from house to house on All Souls Day. This collecting was called “Souling.” The cakes were made in memory of those who had died. In exchange for the bannocks, the collectors were supposed to say prayers for the dead people.
Samhain Bannock could also be called “Dumb Bannock”, and were used to predict who would get married in the upcoming year. In this tradition, you would bake it one hour before midnight on Hallowe’en. The women would then score their initials in it, and wait. A shadow figure was supposed to appear, and say who would be getting married.
In other Gaelic speaking parts of the British Isles, such as the Isle of Man or the Scottish highlands, a “Sautie Bannock” might also be made for Hallowe’en.
Samhain Bannock is also referred to as “Hallowtide Bannock” in English, and “Bonnach Samhthain” or “Bannock Samhain” in Gaelic.