Halloween comes to us from Samhain, the Celtic Festival celebrating the division between the old year and the new. It is a time "between time" when magic is particularly strong and people would be anxious regarding what would befall them in the year ahead. Therefore, it is a night especially associated with spells and divinations.
Many of these were so common that they were even depicted on greeting cards.
In England, it was often called Snap Apple Night and several forms of divination revolved around this fruit.
In one (taught to me as a teen by a marvelous old Mormon woman), young ladies would try to peel an apple in one long continuous strip. They would then stand and, with the right hand, toss the apple over her left shoulder. The act was sometimes accompanied by this charm:
I pare this apple round and again
The initial the peel formed as it landed on the ground would be the initial of her future lover/husband.
The custom of
bobbing for apples was originally another form of divination. Called
"aipple dooking" in Scotland, a tub is filled with water and
apples are floated on the surface. The first person to grab an apple
with their teeth (no hands allowed!) would be the first to marry.
They might then peel the apple and toss it over their shoulder to see who
the person would be.
Hazelnuts also were used to help these popular girls make up their minds. (see the illustration at the top of the page) She would take several nuts and name one for each suitor. The nuts would then be place in the hearth close to the fire and these words spoken:
If you love me, pop and fly; If you hate me, burn and die.
Another custom seems to contradict this: A lady who was engaged, and wanted to know how her married life would be, would place two nuts side by side in the fire. If they popped and jumped, her marriage would be filled with quarrels and strife. However, if the nuts burned peacefully side by side, that was the best omen.
It seems that most divinations revolved around young people wanting to know the identity of a future lover. Some things never change!
Another common method instructed a girl to light two candles at midnight, then sit in front of a mirror and eat an apple. (Apples, by the way, are sacred to the goddess of love) She was then instructed to brush her hair. An image of her future lover/husband would appear in the mirror behind her shoulder.
"...he would gaze into her
Mirrors have always been considered as portals to the shadow world. In a house where someone has recently died, all mirrors must be covered - lest the person's soul becomes trapped inside.
And, of course, everyone knows that to break a mirror creates 7 years of bad luck. But do you know how to avert this disaster? Gather all the pieces and wash them in a river that runs south.
If you sweep around the base of a haystack three times with a broom, on the 3rd time around, your future lover will either appear or you will hear their name spoken.
In Ireland, Scotland, parts of Britain and
even recently in Nova Scotia, a dish that in the olden days was considered
a great treat would be prepared from oatmeal and thick cream that had been
churned till frothy. It was called Fuarag (Gaelic, pronounced Foo-uh-rack).
This would be served in a single large bowl and children or young people
would sit around it and dive in with their spoons.
October 31rst was a scary time to our ancestors. It was the beginning of the dark, cold time of the year. The winds would howl and, depending upon how good the harvest had been and how long until the last frost, food could become scarce. People would often die during the winter. Divinations were performed to learn who would survive the following year and who would not.
Many charms and spells were done to avert bad luck and disaster.
Oatmeal and salt were placed on children's' heads to protect them from evil.
Walking around your home backwards and counter clockwise three times before sunset on Halloween warded off evil spirits and protected those who lived there.
People were warned not to sit under the Hawthorn tree on
Halloween lest they be kidnapped and carried off by the little people. And
anyone tossing a bucket of water out the window must be sure to yell "Seachain"
as a warning to fairies and ghosts to move away lest they get drenched.
You didn't want to make them mad! One way to protect yourself from them
(and the other frightening creatures that roamed this night) was to turn your
pockets inside out - something that was certainly done by anyone brave enough to
go to the crossroads this night. Crossroads are special places to
However, if one did linger there on Halloween long enough to listen to the wind, it was said that he would hear all the important events of the coming year whispered
Looking into a well on Halloween night was another way to see the future for the next 12 months.
If a candle flame suddenly turns blue, there is a ghost nearby. My own mentor taught me that if the candle then begins to smoke, the ghost is trying to communicate with you. Grab a piece of paper and hold it over the smoke (be careful not to set the paper on fire) Randomly move the paper around in the smoke while opening your mind to what the spirit is trying to say. A picture will form in soot on the paper from which you can divine the spirit's message.
A person born on Halloween can see and talk to spirits.
And if you eat a crust of bread before going to bed and make a wish,
your wish will come true.
One old spell promises that if you:
"At the witching hour
Now that would be magick!
Halloween at Gruenwold Cottage
Stop by the Dining Room
Grab some recipes for your monster bash
Grab some Rhyming Fortunes for your party
A few pictures of last year's party