All Hallows Eve
One of the ancient four great Fire festivals in Britain, supposed
to have taken place on November 1, when all fires, save
those of the Druids, were extinguished, from whose altars the
holy fire had to be purchased by the householders for a certain
price. The festival is still known in Ireland as Samhein, or La
Samon, i.e., the Feast of the Sun, while in Scotland, it has been
given the name of Halloween.
All Hallows Eve, as observed in the Church of Rome, corresponds
with the Feralia of the ancient Romans, when they sacrificed
in honor of the dead, offered up prayers for them, and
made oblations to them. In ancient times, this festival was celebrated
on February 21, but the Roman church transferred it to
November 1. It was originally designed to give rest and peace
to the souls of the departed.
In some parts of Scotland, it is still customary for young people
to kindle a fire, called a Halloween bleeze, on the tops
of hills. It was customary to surround these bonfires with a circular
trench symbolic of the sun.
In Perthshire, the Halloween bleeze is made in the following
fashion. Heath, broom, and dressings of flax are tied upon
a pole. The torch is lit; a youth takes it and carries it upon his
shoulders. When the torch is burned out, a second is tied to the
pole and kindled. Several of these blazing torches are often carried
through the villages at the same time.
Halloween is believed by the superstitious to be a night on
which the invisible world has peculiar power. Further, it is
thought that there is no such night in all the year for obtaining
insight into the future. His Satanic Majesty is supposed to have
great latitude allowed him on this anniversary, in common with
witches, who are believed to fly on broomsticks. Others less aerially
disposed ride over by-road and heath, seated on the back
of cats that have been transformed into coal-black steeds for the
journey. The green-robed fairies are also said to hold special
festive meetings at their favorite haunts.
There are many folk customs relating to this eve of mystic
The youths, who engage in the ceremony of Pulling the
Green Kail, go hand-in-hand, with closed eyes, into a bachelors
or spinsters garden, and pull up the first kail stalks that
come in their way. Should the stalks prove to be straight in
stem, and with a good supply of earth at their roots, the future
husbands (or wives) will be young, good looking, and rich in
proportion. If the stalks are stunted, crooked, and have little
or no earth at their roots, the future spouses will be found lacking
in good looks and fortune. The stems taste (sweet or sour)
indicates the temper of the future partner. The stalks are afterward
placed above the doors of the respective houses, and the
Christian names of those persons who first pass underneath will
correspond with those of the future husbands or wives.
Eating the Apple at the Glass Provide yourself with an
apple, and, as the clock strikes twelve, go alone into a room
where there is a looking glass. Cut the apple into small pieces,
throw one piece over your left shoulder, and advancing to the
mirror without looking back, eat the remainder, combing your
hair carefully all the time before the glass. It is said that the face
of the person you are to marry will be seen peeping over your
left shoulder. This Halloween game is supposed to be a relic
of that form of divination with mirrors that popes condemned
The Burning Nuts Take two nuts and place them in the fire,
giving one of them your own name; the other that of the object
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. All Hallows Eve
of your affections. Should they burn quietly away, side by side,
then the issue of your love affair will be prosperous; but if one
starts away from the other, the result will be unfavorable.
Sowing Hemp Seed Steal forth alone toward midnight and
sow a handful of hemp seed, repeating the following rhyme
Hemp seed, I sow thee, hemp seed, I sow thee;
And he that is my true love, come behind and harrow me.
Then look over your left shoulder and you will see the person.
Winnowing Corn This ceremony must also be performed
alone. Go to a barn and open both doors, taking them off the
hinges if possible. Then take the instrument used in winnowing
corn, and go through the motions of letting it down against the
wind. Repeat the operation three times, and the figure of your
future partner will appear passing in at one door and out at the
other. Should those engaging in this ceremony be fated to die
young, it is believed that a coffin, followed by mourners, will
enter and pursue the too adventurous youth around the barn.
Eating the Bean Stack Go three times round a bean stack
with outstretched arms, as if measuring it, and the third time
you will clasp in your arms the shade of your future partner.
Eating the Herring Just before retiring to rest, eat a raw or
roasted salt herring, and in your dreams your future husband
(or wife) will come and offer you a drink of water to quench
Dipping the Shirt Sleeve Go alone, or in company with others,
to a stream where three lairds lands meet, and dip in the
left sleeve of a shirt; after this is done not one word must be
spoken, otherwise the spell is broken. Then put your sleeve to
dry before your bedroom fire. Go to bed, but be careful to remain
awake, and you will see the form of your future helpmate
enter and turn the sleeve in order that the other side may get
The Three Plates Place three plates in a row on a table. In
one of these put clean water, in another dirty water, and leave
the third empty. Blindfold the person wishing to try his or her
fortune, and lead him or her up to the table, left hand forward.
Should it come in contact with the clean water, then the future
spouse will be young, handsome, and a bachelor or maid. The
dirty water signifies a widower or a widow, and the empty dish,
no spouses. This ceremony is repeated three times, and the
plates must be differently arranged after each attempt.
Throwing the Clue Go alone at night to the nearest limekiln
and throw in a ball of blue yarn, winding it off on to a fresh
ball. As you come near the end, someone will grasp hold of the
thread lying in the kiln. You then ask, Who holds and the
name of your future partner will be uttered from beneath.
In modern Britain, Halloween customs have merged with
the bonfire ceremonies of Guy Fawkes day, on November 5th,
when effigies of the conspirator who tried to blow up the Houses
of Parliament are burnt all over the country and fireworks
In the United States, Halloween has become one of the most
celebrated holidays of the year. It combines a harvest festival
with the ancient associations of Halloween with demons and
the souls of the dead. Today almost totally secularized, it has
become a society-wide costume party. The practice of Trick or
Treat has lost all conscious associations with the older practice,
when fruit or candies were gained from neighbors, a relic
of the custom of food offerings for the dead.
Modern Wiccans and Neo-Pagans have revived the eve of
November 1 as the pagan New Year, which they term Samhein
(pronounced Sav-en). It is the beginning of winter, and during
the evening hours, the spirits of the departed seek the
warmth of the Samhein fire. The day is a time of communing
with the dead, but also a time of feasting and drinking in defiance
of the approaching days of increasing darkness and cold.
Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. Eight Sabbats for Witches.
London Robert Hale, 1981.
Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville
University of Tennessee Press, 1994.
All Hallows Eve