31 October 2010

31 October - All Hallows Eve

Weather: The last Sunday of the month indicates the weather for next month.
Halloween, possibly the second favorite holiday for children after Christmas.  Now to the superstitions of the day, which might make the evening merry:

[Of course, says that enlightened intellectual, Robert Burns, these things are only done by the peasantry, and "may be some entertainment to a philosophic mind".]

First of all, ring the church bells to drive away evil spirits.

If you have served Colcannon or Champ tonight, see who finds the charms -  a ring, a thimble, a button, a china pig, a doll, and a coin - in their portion.  The one who finds the ring will be married within the year; the finder of the doll will have children; those who find the thimble and the button will still be a spinster and a bachelor, respectively, in the coming year; the one who finds the pig will have good luck; and the one who finds the coin will have wealth.

If you have baked a ring and a nut in a cake, remember that the one who finds the ring will marry; so too, will the finder of the nut, but his or her future spouse will be a widow or widower.

When a girl walks out, she will meet her future husband walking towards her [wearing a Casper the Friendly Ghost mask?]

Burning nuts is a time-honored tradition. Take three nuts, name one after yourself and the other two after men in whom you are interested, and lay all three in fireplace coals.  If one of the nuts burns quietly beside the nut named for you, it means that person is true to you. If the nuts bounce and fly asunder, there will be no happy relations between you and either of the men. [Move on to B list and name some more nuts]  Equally, take two nuts, name one after yourself and one after the favored suitor, or one after a friend and her favorite suitor, and toss them into the fire.  The same obtains here: if they burn together, the suitor is true; if they pop and bounce away from each other, the couple is ill-matched, and, should they marry, will just as noisily try to get away from each other.

Take a handful of hempseed and go out into a field and sow it, repeating during the process: "Hempseed, I saw thee; hempseed, I saw thee; and he [or she] that is to be my true love, come after me and draw thee."  Now, summon up all your courage and look over your left shoulder.  You may see the apparition of your true love following you and reaping the hemp.

Reaping.  You know.  With a sickle.  Or maybe a combine.  After all, this is a modern apparition.  Then explain to your father why you are scattering seeds in his newly-laid and meticulously maintained turf.

Take a ball of blue yarn and throw it out of the window after dark, holding on to one end of the yarn.  Then wind it over your hand from left to right, or widdershins, and repeat the Creed backward [uh-huh.  For those of you who even know the Creed, try saying it backwards, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE PRINTED WORD. Not so easy, is it?]  If the charm works, the end of the yarn still outside the window will be held by someone so that you can wind no more around your hand.  If you then ask, "Who holds?" the name of your sweetheart should be wafted through the window.

If a young man puts nine grains of oats in his mouth and takes a walk, and continues walking until he hears the name of a girl mentioned, he will know that his future wife will have that same name (and have a mouthful of oatmeal, to boot.)

You can find out the shape and size of your future spouse by harvesting a cabbage blindfolded.  Or to be more precise, as described by John Brand in his "Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain": "The first ceremony of Hallowe'en is each pulling a stock or plant of kail.  They must go out, hand in hand, eyes shut, and pull the first they meet with; its being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells - the husband or wife.  If any yird or earth stick to the root, that is tocher, or fortune; and the taste of the custoc, that is, the heart of the stem is indicative of the natural temper and disposition."

More from the same source:

Take a candle and go alone to a looking glass; eat and apple before it, and, some traditions say, you should comb your hair all the time [yeah, right.  Have you ever tried eating an apple and combing your hair at the same time? Might want to practice first.]  The face of your conjugal companion-to-be will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.

You can try again with an unbroken apple paring (as you did on Saints Simon and Jude) to find the first initial of your future spouse.  And this time, take the apple seeds, name two of them for persons in whom you are interested and place one on each cheek.  The last to stay on will be true to you.

To know if you will have the man of your dreams: take two lemon peels and carry them around all day in your pockets (under your armpits, says another. That should be interesting); at night, rub the four posts of the bedstead with them.  If you are to succeed, the person will appear in your dreams and give you a couple of lemons.  If he does not, then there is no hope.

You can find out the name of your future spouse by finding a peascod [yes, that is the original packaging of peas; they don't grow in frozen food boxes] with exactly nine peas.  Write the following on a slip of paper: "Come in my dear, and do not fear", place the paper inside the peascod, and place the peascod under the door.  Mind the next person to come in through that door, for you will certainly marry someone with the same name.  [I think this one was invented by a mother who was trying to convince her daughter to shell enough peas for dinner.  Exactly nine peas.  Must have taken a tidy few peascods to find that!]

There are other superstitions about bonfires and throwing stones into them to see who will die within the coming year, but that is not something The Widow cares to investigate, and so she will leave that topic.

More Hallowe'en superstitions here and here.