As the nights draw and autumn leaves begin to fall it is time once again to look at some of the folklore surrounding this time of year.
In our previous folklore post we referred to Punkie night in late October and this time of year is rich in custom and tradition.
The most well know date in the calendar is of course the 31 October. This has a variety of names including Samhain, All Hallows Eve, Apple and Candle Night, Nut Crack Night, Nos Calan Gaeaf (if you are a welsh speaker) more commonly known as Halloween.
In pagan tradition the date marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter, the time of the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. A time of celebrating the harvest, looking forward to the New Year, but also a time when the dead were honoured. Supernatural forces are thought to be stronger than normal and barriers between the living and the dead begin to dissolve and spirits walked abroad.
The date also became important in the Christian calendar as All Hallow’s Eve with celebrations continuing into the festival of All Saints Day (1 November).
Here are a few ideas for Halloween celebrations taken from books in our special collection.
One of the more well known games is to try to bite and get-a-hold of an apple floating in a tub of water or swung on cord in front of the player, usingnothing but your teeth. Good fortune will follow in the coming year if one is caught.
Why not try the Scottish and north country variant by swinging a treacle smeared scone in front of the player instead?
Who will be your partner?
Some older games for Halloween involve nuts and fruit. These often involved girls trying to find out who their future husband would be (although I expect it works for both sexes these days!!). Why not try roasting two chestnuts in the fire and give them the names of your potential parners, if they cook well all will be well in your relationship, but if they burst apart the signs are bad.
If you grow your own, pull up a cabbage to see how suitable you partner is – taste the root to see if it indicates a sweet or bitter temperament, and lots of dirt implies they are wealthy.
Trick or Treat?
Nowadays this seems more like an American import but the tradition originates from England. In the nineteenth century in both Yorkshire and Scotland the 31 October was known as mischief night. It was customary for young men in the villages to disguise themselves in fantastic costumes, wearing masks or darkening their faces and going from house to house collecting money or gifts of food.
All things spooky
On this night all things supernatural are supposed to occur and the night is chiefly associated with witches and the returning dead
Books and stories
Of course there are a number of books, poems and films which have Halloween as a theme, some of which can be found in our libraries. Search our library catalogue for all things Halloween.
by Karen Ullersperger