The Book of Hallowe'en
RUTH EDNA KELLEY, A. M.
Lynn Public Library
LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
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Published, August, 1919
COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
All Rights Reserved
The Book of Hallowe'en
Norwood Press BERWICK & SMITH CO. NORWOOD, MASS. U. S. A.
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To my Mother and the memory of my Father who inspired and encouraged me in the writing of this book
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This book is intended to give the reader an account of the origin and history of Hallowe'en, how it absorbed some customs belonging to other days in the year,—such as May Day, Midsummer, and Christmas. The context is illustrated by selections from ancient and modern poetry and prose, related to Hallowe'en ideas.
Those who wish suggestions for readings, recitations, plays, and parties, will find the lists in the appendix useful, in addition to the books on entertainments and games to be found in any public library.
Special acknowledgment is made to Messrs. E. P. Dutton & Company for permission to use the poem entitled "Hallowe'en" from "The Spires of Oxford and Other Poems," by W. M. Letts; to Messrs. Longmans, Green & Company for the poem "Pomona," by William Morris; and to the Editors of The Independent for the use of five poems.
RUTH EDNA KELLEY.
I. SUN-WORSHIP. THE SOURCES OF HALLOWE'EN 1
II. THE CELTS: THEIR RELIGION AND FESTIVALS 5
III. SAMHAIN 16
IV. POMONA 23
V. THE COMING OF CHRISTIANITY. ALL SAINTS'. ALL SOULS' 27
VI. ORIGIN AND CHARACTER OF HALLOWE'EN OMENS 33
VII. HALLOWE'EN BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS IN IRELAND 35
VIII. HALLOWE'EN BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS IN SCOTLAND AND THE HEBRIDES 59
IX. HALLOWE'EN BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS IN ENGLAND AND MAN 82
X. HALLOWE'EN BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS IN WALES 101
XI. HALLOWE'EN BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS IN BRITTANY AND FRANCE 107
XII. THE TEUTONIC RELIGION. WITCHES 119
XIII. WALPURGIS NIGHT 136
XIV. MORE HALLOWTIDE BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS 142
XV. HALLOWE'EN IN AMERICA 149
"FOUR POEMS" 172
MAGAZINE REFERENCES TO HALLOWE'EN ENTERTAINMENTS 179
SUPPLEMENTARY LIST OF READINGS, RECITATIONS, AND PLAYS 182
INDEX TO QUOTATIONS 184
Hallowe'en Festivities Frontispiece FACING PAGE In Hallowe'en Time 34
The Witch of the Walnut-Tree 100
The Witches' Dance (Valpurgisnacht) 138
Hallowe'en Tables, I 156
Hallowe'en Tables, II 158
No Hallowe'en without a Jack-o'-lantern 178
The Book of Hallowe'en
SUN-WORSHIP. THE SOURCES OF HALLOWE'EN
If we could ask one of the old-world pagans whom he revered as his greatest gods, he would be sure to name among them the sun-god; calling him Apollo if he were a Greek; if an Egyptian, Horus or Osiris; if of Norway, Sol; if of Peru, Bochica. As the sun is the center of the physical universe, so all primitive peoples made it the hub about which their religion revolved, nearly always believing it a living person to whom they could say prayers and offer sacrifices, who directed their lives and destinies, and could even snatch men from earthly existence to dwell for a time with him, as it draws the water from lakes and seas.
In believing this they followed an instinct of all early peoples, a desire to make persons of the great powers of nature, such as the world of growing things, mountains and water, the sun, moon, and stars; and a wish for these gods they had made to take an interest in and be part of their daily life. The next step was making stories about them to account for what was seen; so arose myths and legends.
The sun has always marked out work-time and rest, divided the year into winter idleness, seed-time, growth, and harvest; it has always been responsible for all the beauty and goodness of the earth; it is itself splendid to look upon. It goes away and stays longer and longer, leaving the land in cold and gloom; it returns bringing the long fair days and resurrection of spring. A Japanese legend tells how the hidden sun was lured out by an image made of a copper plate with saplings radiating from it like sunbeams, and a fire kindled, dancing, and prayers; and round the earth in North America the Cherokees believed they brought the sun back upon its northward path by the same means of rousing its curiosity, so that it would come out to see its counterpart and find out what was going on.
All the more important church festivals are survivals of old rites to the sun. "How many times the Church has decanted the new wine of Christianity into the old bottles of heathendom." Yule-tide, the pagan Christmas, celebrated the sun's turning north, and the old midsummer holiday is still kept in Ireland and on the Continent as St. John's Day by the lighting of bonfires and a dance about them from east to west as the sun appears to move. The pagan Hallowe'en at the end of summer was a time of grief for the decline of the sun's glory, as well as a harvest festival of thanksgiving to him for having ripened the grain and fruit, as we formerly had husking-bees when the ears had been garnered, and now keep our own Thanksgiving by eating of our winter store in praise of God who gives us our increase.
Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit, lends us the harvest element of Hallowe'en; the Celtic day of "summer's end" was a time when spirits, mostly evil, were abroad; the gods whom Christ dethroned joined the ill-omened throng; the Church festivals of All Saints' and All Souls' coming at the same time of year—the first of November—contributed the idea of the return of the dead; and the Teutonic May Eve assemblage of witches brought its hags and their attendant beasts to help celebrate the night of October 31st.
THE CELTS: THEIR RELIGION AND FESTIVALS
The first reference to Great Britain in European annals of which we know was the statement in the fifth century B. C. of the Greek historian Herodotus, that Ph[oe]nician sailors went to the British Isles for tin. He called them the "Tin Islands." The people with whom these sailors traded must have been Celts, for they were the first inhabitants of Britain who worked in metal instead of stone.
The Druids were priests of the Celts centuries before Christ came. There is a tradition in Ireland that they first arrived there in 270 B. C., seven hundred years before St. Patrick. The account of them written by Julius Caesar half a century before Christ speaks mainly of the Celts of Gaul, dividing them into two ruling classes who kept the people almost in a state of slavery; the knights, who waged war, and the Druids who had charge of worship and sacrifices, and were in addition physicians, historians, teachers, scientists, and judges.
Caesar says that this cult originated in Britain, and was transferred to Gaul. Gaul and Britain had one religion and one language, and might even have one king, so that what Caesar wrote of Gallic Druids must have been true of British.
The Celts worshipped spirits of forest and stream, and feared the powers of evil, as did the Greeks and all other early races. Very much of their primitive belief has been kept, so that to Scotch, Irish, and Welsh peasantry brooks, hills, dales, and rocks abound in tiny supernatural beings, who may work them good or evil, lead them astray by flickering lights, or charm them into seven years' servitude unless they are bribed to show favor.
The name "Druid" is derived from the Celtic word "druidh," meaning "sage," connected with the Greek word for oak, "drus,"
"The rapid oak-tree— Before him heaven and earth quake: Stout door-keeper against the foe. In every land his name is mine."
TALIESIN: Battle of the Trees.
for the oak was held sacred by them as a symbol of the omnipotent god, upon whom they depended for life like the mistletoe growing upon it. Their ceremonies were held in oak-groves.
Later from their name a word meaning "magician" was formed, showing that these priests had gained the reputation of being dealers in magic.
"The Druid followed him and suddenly, as we are told, struck him with a druidic wand, or according to one version, flung at him a tuft of grass over which he had pronounced a druidical incantation."
O'CURRY: Ancient Irish.
They dealt in symbols, common objects to which was given by the interposition of spirits, meaning to signify certain facts, and power to produce certain effects. Since they were tree-worshippers, trees and plants were thought to have peculiar powers.
Caesar provides them with a galaxy of Roman divinities, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva, who of course were worshipped under their native names. Their chief god was Baal, of whom they believed the sun the visible emblem. They represented him by lowlier tokens, such as circles and wheels. The trefoil, changed into a figure composed of three winged feet radiating from a center, represented the swiftness of the sun's journey. The cross too was a symbol of the sun, being the appearance of its light shining upon dew or stream, making to the half-closed eye little bright crosses. One form of the cross was the swastika.
To Baal they made sacrifices of criminals or prisoners of war, often burning them alive in wicker images. These bonfires lighted on the hills were meant to urge the god to protect and bless the crops and herds. From the appearance of the victims sacrificed in them, omens were taken that foretold the future. The gods and other supernatural powers in answer to prayer were thought to signify their will by omens, and also by the following methods: the ordeal, in which the innocence or guilt of a person was shown by the way the god permitted him to endure fire or other torture; exorcism, the driving out of demons by saying mysterious words or names over them. Becoming skilled in interpreting the will of the gods, the Druids came to be known as prophets.
"O Deirdre, terrible child, For thee, red star of our ruin, Great weeping shall be in Eri— Woe, woe, and a breach in Ulla.
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"Thy feet shall trample the mighty Yet stumble on heads thou lovest."
TODHUNTER: Druid song of Cathvah.
They kept their lore for the most part a secret, forbidding it to be written, passing it down by word of mouth. They taught the immortality of the soul, that it passed from one body to another at death.
"If, as those Druids taught, which kept the British rites, And dwelt in darksome groves, there counselling with sprites, When these our souls by death our bodies do forsake They instantly again do other bodies take——"
They believed that on the last night of the old year (October 31st) the lord of death gathered together the souls of all those who had died in the passing year and had been condemned to live in the bodies of animals, to decree what forms they should inhabit for the next twelve months. He could be coaxed to give lighter sentences by gifts and prayers.
The badge of the initiated Druid was a glass ball reported to be made in summer of the spittle of snakes, and caught by the priests as the snakes tossed it into the air.
"And the potent adder-stone Gender'd 'fore the autumnal moon When in undulating twine The foaming snakes prolific join."
It was real glass, blown by the Druids themselves. It was supposed to aid the wearer in winning lawsuits and securing the favor of kings.
An animal sacred to the Druids was the cat.
"A slender black cat reclining on a chain of old silver" guarded treasure in the old days. For a long time cats were dreaded by the people because they thought human beings had been changed to that form by evil means.
The chief festivals of the Druids fell on four days, celebrating phases of the sun's career. Fires of sacrifice were lighted especially at spring and midsummer holidays, by exception on November 1st.
May Day and November Day were the more important, the beginning and end of summer, yet neither equinoxes nor solstices. The time was divided then not according to sowing and reaping, but by the older method of reckoning from when the herds were turned out to pasture in the spring and brought into the fold again at the approach of winter—by a pastoral rather than an agricultural people.
On the night before Beltaine ("Baal-fire"), the first of May, fires were burned to Baal to celebrate the return of the sun bringing summer. Before sunrise the houses were decked with garlands to gladden the sun when he appeared; a rite which has survived in "going maying." The May-Day fires were used for purification. Cattle were singed by being led near the flames, and sometimes bled that their blood might be offered as a sacrifice for a prosperous season.
"When lo! a flame, A wavy flame of ruddy light Leaped up, the farmyard fence above. And while his children's shout rang high, His cows the farmer slowly drove Across the blaze,—he knew not why."
KICKHAM: St. John's Eve.
A cake was baked in the fire with one piece blacked with charcoal. Whoever got the black piece was thereby marked for sacrifice to Baal, so that, as the ship proceeded in safety after Jonah was cast overboard, the affairs of the group about the May-Eve fire might prosper when it was purged of the one whom Baal designated by lot. Later only the symbol of offering was used, the victim being forced to leap thrice over the flames.
In history it was the day of the coming of good. Partholon, the discoverer and promoter of Ireland, came thither from the other world to stay three hundred years. The gods themselves, the deliverers of Ireland, first arrived there "through the air" on May Day.
June 21st, the day of the summer solstice, the height of the sun's power, was marked by midnight fires of joy and by dances. These were believed to strengthen the sun's heat. A blazing wheel to represent the sun was rolled down hill.
"A happy thought. Give me this cart-wheel. I'll have it tied with ropes and smeared with pitch, And when it's lighted, I will roll it down The steepest hillside."
HAUPTMANN: Sunken Bell. (Lewisohn trans.)
Spirits were believed to be abroad, and torches were carried about the fields to protect them from invasion. Charms were tried on that night with seeds of fern and hemp, and dreams were believed to be prophetic.
Lugh, in old Highland speech "the summer sun"
"The hour may hither drift When at the last, amid the o'erwearied Shee— Weary of long delight and deathless joys— One you shall love may fade before your eyes, Before your eyes may fade, and be as mist Caught in the sunny hollow of Lu's hand, Lord of the Day."
SHARP: Immortal Hour.
had for father one of the gods and for mother the daughter of a chief of the enemy. Hence he possessed some good and some evil tendencies. He may be the Celtic Mercury, for they were alike skilled in magic and alchemy, in deception, successful in combats with demons, the bringers of new strength and cleansing to the nation. He said farewell to power on the first of August, and his foster-mother had died on that day, so then it was he set his feast-day. The occasion was called "Lugnasad," "the bridal of Lugh" and the earth, whence the harvest should spring. It was celebrated by the offering of the first fruits of harvest, and by races and athletic sports. In Meath, Ireland, this continued down into the nineteenth century, with dancing and horse-racing the first week of August.
On November first was Samhain ("summer's end").
"Take my tidings: Stags contend; Snows descend— Summer's end!
"A chill wind raging, The sun low keeping, Swift to set O'er seas high sweeping.
"Dull red the fern; Shapes are shadows; Wild geese mourn O'er misty meadows.
"Keen cold limes each weaker wing, Icy times— Such I sing! Take my tidings."
GRAVES: First Winter Song.
Then the flocks were driven in, and men first had leisure after harvest toil. Fires were built as a thanksgiving to Baal for harvest. The old fire on the altar was quenched before the night of October 31st, and the new one made, as were all sacred fires, by friction. It was called "forced-fire." A wheel and a spindle were used: the wheel, the sun symbol, was turned from east to west, sunwise. The sparks were caught in tow, blazed upon the altar, and were passed on to light the hilltop fires. The new fire was given next morning, New Year's Day, by the priests to the people to light their hearths, where all fires had been extinguished. The blessed fire was thought to protect the year through the home it warmed. In Ireland the altar was Tlactga, on the hill of Ward in Meath, where sacrifices, especially black sheep, were burnt in the new fire. From the death struggles and look of the creatures omens for the future year were taken.
The year was over, and the sun's life of a year was done. The Celts thought that at this time the sun fell a victim for six months to the powers of winter darkness. In Egyptian mythology one of the sun-gods, Osiris, was slain at a banquet by his brother Sitou, the god of darkness. On the anniversary of the murder, the first day of winter, no Egyptian would begin any new business for fear of bad luck, since the spirit of evil was then in power.
From the idea that the sun suffered from his enemies on this day grew the association of Samhain with death.
"The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year, Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere. Heaped in the hollows of the grove, the wither'd leaves lie dead; They rustle to the eddying gust, and to the rabbit's tread. The robin and the wren are flown, and from the shrub the jay And from the wood-top calls the crow, through all the gloomy day.
"The wind-flower and the violet, they perished long ago, And the wild rose and the orchis died amid the summer glow: But on the hill the golden-rod, and the aster in the wood, And the yellow sun-flower by the brook in autumn beauty stood, Till fell the frost from the cold clear heaven, as falls the plague on men, And the brightness of their smile was gone from upland, glade, and glen."
BRYANT: Death of the Flowers.
In the same state as those who are dead, are those who have never lived, dwelling right in the world, but invisible to most mortals at most times. Seers could see them at any time, and if very many were abroad at once others might get a chance to watch them too.
"There is a world in which we dwell, And yet a world invisible. And do not think that naught can be Save only what with eyes ye see: I tell ye that, this very hour, Had but your sight a spirit's power, Ye would be looking, eye to eye, At a terrific company."
These supernatural spirits ruled the dead. There were two classes: the Tuatha De Danann, "the people of the goddess Danu," gods of light and life; and spirits of darkness and evil. The Tuatha had their chief seat on the Isle of Man, in the middle of the Irish Sea, and brought under their power the islands about them. On a Midsummer Day they vanquished the Fir Bolgs and gained most of Ireland, by the battle of Moytura.
A long time afterwards—perhaps 1000 B. C.—the Fomor, sea-demons, after destroying nearly all their enemies by plagues, exacted from those remaining, as tribute, "a third part of their corn, a third part of their milk, and a third part of their children." This tax was paid on Samhain. It was on the week before Samhain that the Fomor landed upon Ireland. On the eve of Samhain the gods met them in the second battle of Moytura, and they were driven back into the ocean.
As Tigernmas, a mythical king of Ireland, was sacrificing "the firstlings of every issue, and the scions of every clan" to Crom Croich, the king idol, and lay prostrate before the image, he and three-fourths of his men mysteriously disappeared.
"Then came Tigernmas, the prince of Tara yonder On Hallowe'en with many hosts. A cause of grief to them was the deed. Dead were the men Of Bamba's host, without happy strength Around Tigernmas, the destructive man of the north, From the worship of Crom Cruaich. 'T was no luck for them. For I have learnt, Except one-fourth of the keen Gaels, Not a man alive—lasting the snare! Escaped without death in his mouth."
Dinnsenchus of Mag Slecht (Meyer trans.).
This was direct invocation, but the fire rites which were continued so long afterwards were really only worshipping the sun by proxy, in his nearest likeness, fire.
Samhain was then a day sacred to the death of the sun, on which had been paid a sacrifice of death to evil powers. Though overcome at Moytura evil was ascendant at Samhain. Methods of finding out the will of spirits and the future naturally worked better then, charms and invocations had more power, for the spirits were near to help, if care was taken not to anger them, and due honors paid.
Ops was the Latin goddess of plenty. Single parts of her province were taken over by various other divinities, among whom was Pomona (pomorum patrona, "she who cares for fruits"). She is represented as a maiden with fruit in her arms and a pruning-knife in her hand.
"I am the ancient apple-queen. As once I was so am I now— For evermore a hope unseen Betwixt the blossom and the bough.
"Ah, where's the river's hidden gold! And where's the windy grave of Troy? Yet come I as I came of old, From out the heart of summer's joy."
Many Roman poets told stories about her, the best known being by Ovid, who says that she was wooed by many orchard-gods, but preferred to remain unmarried. Among her suitors was Vertumnus ("the changer"), the god of the turning year, who had charge of the exchange of trade, the turning of river channels, and chiefly of the change in nature from flower to ripe fruit. True to his character he took many forms to gain Pomona's love. Now he was a ploughman (spring), now a fisherman (summer), now a reaper (autumn).
At last he took the likeness of an old woman (winter), and went to gossip with Pomona. After sounding her mind and finding her averse to marriage, the woman pleaded for Vertumnus's success.
"Is not he the first to have the fruits which are thy delight? And does he not hold thy gifts in his joyous right hand?"
OVID: Vertumnus and Pomona.
Then the crone told her the story of Anaxarete who was so cold to her lover Iphis that he hanged himself, and she at the window watching his funeral train pass by was changed to a marble statue. Advising Pomona to avoid such a fate, Vertumnus donned his proper form, that of a handsome young man, and Pomona, moved by the story and his beauty, yielded and became his wife.
Vertumnus had a statue in the Tuscan Way in Rome, and a temple. His festival, the Vortumnalia, was held on the 23d of August, when the summer began to wane. Garlands and garden produce were offered to him.
Pomona had been assigned one of the fifteen flamina, priests whose duty it was to kindle the fire for special sacrifices. She had a grove near Ostia where a harvest festival was held about November first. Not much is known of the ceremonies, but from the similar August holiday much may be deduced. Then the deities of fire and water were propitiated that their disfavor might not ruin the crops. On Pomona's day doubtless thanks was rendered them for their aid to the harvest. An offering of first-fruits was made in August; in November the winter store of nuts and apples was opened. The horses released from toil contended in races.
From Pomona's festival nuts and apples, from the Druidic Samhain the supernatural element, combined to give later generations the charms and omens from nuts and apples which are made trial of at Hallowe'en.
THE COMING OF CHRISTIANITY. ALL SAINTS'. ALL SOULS'
The great power which the Druids exercised over their people interfered with the Roman rule of Britain. Converts were being made at Rome. Augustus forbade Romans to became initiated, Tiberius banished the priestly clan and their adherents from Gaul, and Claudius utterly stamped out the belief there, and put to death a Roman knight for wearing the serpent's-egg badge to win a lawsuit. Forbidden to practise their rites in Britain, the Druids fled to the isle of Mona, near the coast of Wales. The Romans pursued them, and in 61 A. D. they were slaughtered and their oak groves cut down. During the next three centuries the cult was stifled to death, and the Christian religion substituted.
It was believed that at Christ's advent the pagan gods either died or were banished.
"The lonely mountains o'er And the resounding shore A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament. From haunted spring and dale, Edged with poplar pale, The parting genius is with sighing sent. With flower-inwoven tresses torn The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn."
MILTON: On the Morning of Christ's Nativity.
The Christian Fathers explained all oracles and omens by saying that there was something in them, but that they were the work of the evil one. The miraculous power they seemed to possess worked "black magic."
It was a long, hard effort to make men see that their gods had all the time been wrong, and harder still to root out the age-long growth of rite and symbol. But on the old religion might be grafted new names; Midsummer was dedicated to the birth of Saint John; Lugnasad became Lammas. The fires belonging to these times of year were retained, their old significance forgotten or reconsecrated. The rowan, or mountain ash, whose berries had been the food of the Tuatha, now exorcised those very beings. The trefoil signified the Trinity, and the cross no longer the rays of the sun on water, but the cross of Calvary. The fires which had been built to propitiate the god and consume his sacrifices to induce him to protect them were now lighted to protect the people from the same god, declared to be an evil mischief-maker. In time the autumn festival of the Druids became the vigil of All Hallows or All Saints' Day.
All Saints' was first suggested in the fourth century, when the Christians were no longer persecuted, in memory of all the saints, since there were too many for each to have a special day on the church calendar. A day in May was chosen by Pope Boniface IV in 610 for consecrating the Pantheon, the old Roman temple of all the gods, to the Virgin and all the saints and martyrs. Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel in St. Peter's to the same, and that day was made compulsory in 835 by Pope Gregory IV, as All Saints'. The day was changed from May to November so that the crowds that thronged to Rome for the services might be fed from the harvest bounty. It is celebrated with a special service in the Greek and Roman churches and by Episcopalians.
In the tenth century St. Odilo, Bishop of Cluny, instituted a day of prayer and special masses for the souls of the dead. He had been told that a hermit dwelling near a cave
"heard the voices and howlings of devils, which complained strongly because that the souls of them that were dead were taken away from their hands by alms and by prayers."
DE VORAGINE: Golden Legend.
This day became All Souls', and was set for November 2d.
It is very appropriate that the Celtic festival when the spirits of the dead and the supernatural powers held a carnival of triumph over the god of light, should be followed by All Saints' and All Souls'. The church holy-days were celebrated by bonfires to light souls through Purgatory to Paradise, as they had lighted the sun to his death on Samhain. On both occasions there were prayers: the pagan petitions to the lord of death for a pleasant dwelling-place for the souls of departed friends; and the Christian for their speedy deliverance from torture. They have in common the celebrating of death: the one, of the sun; the other, of mortals: of harvest: the one, of crops; the other, of sacred memories. They are kept by revelry and joy: first, to cheer men and make them forget the malign influences abroad; second, because as the saints in heaven rejoice over one repentant sinner, we should rejoice over those who, after struggles and sufferings past, have entered into everlasting glory.
"Mother, my Mother, Mother-Country, Yet were the fields in bud. And the harvest,—when shall it rise again Up through the fire and flood?
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"Mother, my Mother, Mother-Country, Was it not all to save Harvest of bread?—Harvest of men? And the bright years, wave on wave?
"Search not, search not, my way-worn; Search neither weald nor wave. One is their heavy reaping-time To the earth, that is one wide grave."
MARKS: All Souls' Eve.
ORIGIN AND CHARACTER OF HALLOWE'EN OMENS
The custom of making tests to learn the future comes from the old system of augury from sacrifice. Who sees in the nuts thrown into the fire, turning in the heat, blazing and growing black, the writhing victim of an old-time sacrifice to an idol?
Many superstitions and charms were believed to be active at any time, but all those and numerous special ones worked best on November Eve. All the tests of all the Celtic festivals have been allotted to Hallowe'en. Cakes from the May Eve fire, hemp-seed and prophetic dreams from Midsummer, games and sports from Lugnasad have survived in varied forms.
Tests are very often tried blindfold, so that the seeker may be guided by fate. Many are mystic—to evoke apparitions from the past or future. Others are tried with harvest grains and fruits. Because skill and undivided attention is needed to carry them through successfully, many have degenerated into mere contests of skill, have lost their meaning, and become rough games.
Answers are sought to questions about one's future career; chiefly to: when and whom shall I marry? what will be my profession and degree of wealth, and when shall I die?
HALLOWE'EN BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS IN IRELAND
Ireland has a literature of Hallowe'en, or "Samhain," as it used to be called. Most of it was written between the seventh and the twelfth centuries, but the events were thought to have happened while paganism still ruled in Ireland.
The evil powers that came out at Samhain lived the rest of the time in the cave of Cruachan in Connaught, the province which was given to the wicked Fomor after the battle of Moytura. This cave was called the "hell-gate of Ireland," and was unlocked on November Eve to let out spirits and copper-colored birds which killed the farm animals. They also stole babies, leaving in their place changelings, goblins who were old in wickedness while still in the cradle, possessing superhuman cunning and skill in music. One way of getting rid of these demon children was to ill-treat them so that their people would come for them, bringing the right ones back; or one might boil egg-shells in the sight of the changeling, who would declare his demon nature by saying that in his centuries of life he had never seen such a thing before.
Brides too were stolen.
"You shall go with me, newly married bride, And gaze upon a merrier multitude; White-armed Nuala and AEngus of the birds, And Feacra of the hurtling foam, and him Who is the ruler of the western host, Finvarra, and the Land of Heart's Desire, Where beauty has no ebb, decay no flood, But joy is wisdom, time an endless song."
YEATS: Land of Heart's Desire.
In the first century B. C. lived Ailill and his queen Medb. As they were celebrating their Samhain feast in the palace,
"Three days before Samhain at all times, And three days after, by ancient custom Did the hosts of high aspiration Continue to feast for the whole week."
O'CIARAIN: Loch Garman.
they offered a reward to the man who should tie a bundle of twigs about the feet of a criminal who had been hanged by the gate. It was dangerous to go near dead bodies on November Eve, but a bold young man named Nera dared it, and tied the twigs successfully. As he turned to go he saw
"the whole of the palace as if on fire before him, and the heads of the people of it lying on the ground, and then he thought he saw an army going into the hill of Cruachan, and he followed after the army."
GREGORY: Cuchulain of Muirthemne.
The door was shut. Nera was married to a fairy woman, who betrayed her kindred by sending Nera to warn King Ailill of the intended attack upon his palace the next November Eve. Nera bore summer fruits with him to prove that he had been in the fairy sid. The next November Eve, when the doors were opened Ailill entered and discovered the crown, emblem of power, took it away, and plundered the treasury. Nera never returned again to the homes of men.
Another story of about the same time was that of Angus, the son of a Tuatha god, to whom in a dream a beautiful maiden appeared. He wasted away with love for her, and searched the country for a girl who should look like her. At last he saw in a meadow among a hundred and fifty maidens, each with a chain of silver about her neck, one who was like the beauty of his dream. She wore a golden chain about her throat, and was the daughter of King Ethal Anbual. King Ethal's palace was stormed by Ailill, and he was forced to give up his daughter. He gave as a reason for withholding his consent so long, that on Samhain Princess Caer changed from a maiden to a swan, and back again the next year.
"And when the time came Angus went to the loch, and he saw the three times fifty white birds there with their silver chains about their necks, and Angus stood in a man's shape at the edge of the loch, and he called to the girl: 'Come and speak with me, O Caer!'
"'Who is calling me?' said Caer.
"'Angus calls you,' he said, 'and if you do come, I swear by my word I will not hinder you from going into the loch again.'"
GREGORY: Cuchulain of Muirthemne.
She came, and he changed to a swan likewise, and they flew away to King Dagda's palace, where every one who heard their sweet singing was charmed into a sleep of three days and three nights.
Princess Etain, of the race of the Tuatha, and wife of Midir, was born again as the daughter of Queen Medb, the wife of Ailill. She remembers a little of the land from which she came, is never quite happy,
"But sometimes—sometimes—tell me: have you heard, By dusk or moonset have you never heard Sweet voices, delicate music? Never seen The passage of the lordly beautiful ones Men call the Shee?"
SHARP: Immortal Hour.
even when she wins the love of King Eochaidh. When they have been married a year, there comes Midir from the Land of Youth. By winning a game of chess from the King, he gets anything he may ask, and prays to see the Queen. When he sees her he sings a song of longing to her, and Eochaidh is troubled because it is Samhain, and he knows the great power the hosts of the air "have then over those who wish for happiness."
"Etain, speak! What is the song the harper sings, what tongue Is this he speaks? for in no Gaelic lands Is speech like this upon the lips of men. No word of all these honey-dripping words Is known to me. Beware, beware the words Brewed in the moonshine under ancient oaks White with pale banners of the mistletoe Twined round them in their slow and stately death. It is the feast of Saveen" (Samhain).
SHARP: Immortal Hour.
In vain Eochaidh pleads with her to stay with him. She has already forgotten all but Midir and the life so long ago in the Land of Youth.
"In the Land of Youth There are pleasant places; Green meadows, woods, Swift grey-blue waters.
"There is no age there, Nor any sorrow. As the stars in heaven Are the cattle in the valleys.
"Great rivers wander Through flowery plains. Streams of milk, of mead, Streams of strong ale.
"There is no hunger And no thirst In the Hollow Land, In the Land of Youth."
SHARP: Immortal Hour.
She and Midir fly away in the form of two swans, linked by a chain of gold.
Cuchulain, hopelessly sick of a strange illness brought on by Fand and Liban, fairy sisters, was visited the day before Samhain by a messenger, who promised to cure him if he would go to the Otherworld. Cuchulain could not make up his mind to go, but sent Laeg, his charioteer. Such glorious reports did Laeg bring back from the Otherworld,
"If all Erin were mine, And the kingship of yellow Bregia, I would give it, no trifling deed, To dwell for aye in the place I reached."
Cuchulain's Sick-bed. (Meyer trans.)
that Cuchulain went thither, and championed the people there against their enemies. He stayed a month with the fairy Fand. Emer, his wife at home, was beset with jealousy, and plotted against Fand, who had followed her hero home. Fand in fear returned to her deserted husband, Emer was given a Druidic drink to drown her jealousy, and Cuchulain another to forget his infatuation, and they lived happily afterward.
Even after Christianity was made the vital religion in Ireland, it was believed that places not exorcised by prayers and by the sign of the cross, were still haunted by Druids. As late as the fifth century the Druids kept their skill in fortune-telling. King Dathi got a Druid to foretell what would happen to him from one Hallowe'en to the next, and the prophecy came true. Their religion was now declared evil, and all evil or at any rate suspicious beings were assigned to them or to the devil as followers.
"Maire Bruin: Are not they, likewise, the children of God?
Father Hart: Colleen, they are the children of the fiend, And they have power until the end of Time, When God shall fight with them a great pitched battle And hack them into pieces."
YEATS: Land of Heart's Desire.
The power of fairy music was so great that St. Patrick himself was put to sleep by a minstrel who appeared to him on the day before Samhain. The Tuatha De Danann, angered at the renegade people who no longer did them honor, sent another minstrel, who after laying the ancient religious seat Tara under a twenty-three years' charm, burned up the city with his fiery breath.
These infamous spirits dwelt in grassy mounds, called "forts," which were the entrances to underground palaces full of treasure, where was always music and dancing. These treasure-houses were open only on November Eve
"For the fairy mounds of Erinn are always opened about Hallowe'en."
Expedition of Nera. (Meyer trans.)
when the throngs of spirits, fairies, and goblins trooped out for revels about the country. The old Druid idea of obsession, the besieging of a person by an evil spirit, was practised by them at that time.
"This is the first day of the winter, and to-day the Hosts of the Air are in their greatest power."
WARREN: Twig of Thorn.
If the fairies wished to seize a mortal—which power they had as the sun-god could take men to himself—they caused him to give them certain tokens by which he delivered himself into their hands. They might be milk and fire—
"Maire Bruin: A little queer old woman cloaked in green, Who came to beg a porringer of milk.
Bridget Bruin: The good people go asking milk and fire Upon May Eve—woe to the house that gives, For they have power over it for a year."
YEATS: Land of Heart's Desire.
or one might receive a fairy thorn such as Oonah brings home, which shrivels up at the touch of St. Bridget's image;
"Oh, ever since I kept the twig of thorn and hid it, I have seen strange things, and heard strange laughter and far voices calling."
WARREN: Twig of Thorn.
or one might be lured by music as he stopped near the fort to watch the dancing, for the revels were held in secret, as those of the Druids had been, and no one could look on them unaffected.
A story is told of Paddy More, a great stout uncivil churl, and Paddy Beg, a cheerful little hunchback. The latter, seeing lights and hearing music, paused by a mound, and was invited in. Urged to tell stories, he complied; he danced as spryly as he could for his deformity; he sang, and made himself so agreeable that the fairies decided to take the hump off his back, and send him home a straight manly fellow. The next Hallowe'en who should come by the same place but Paddy More, and he stopped likewise to spy at the merrymaking. He too was called in, but would not dance politely, added no stories nor songs. The fairies clapped Paddy Beg's hump on his back, and dismissed him under a double burden of discomfort.
A lad called Guleesh, listening outside a fort on Hallowe'en heard the spirits speaking of the fatal illness of his betrothed, the daughter of the King of France. They said that if Guleesh but knew it, he might boil an herb that grew by his door and give it to the princess and make her well. Joyfully Guleesh hastened home, prepared the herb, and cured the royal girl.
Sometimes people did not have the luck to return, but were led away to a realm of perpetual youth and music.
"Father Hart. What are you reading?
Maire Bruin. How a Princess Edane, A daughter of a King of Ireland, heard A voice singing on a May Eve like this, And followed, half awake and half asleep, Until she came into the land of faery, Where nobody gets old and godly and grave, Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise, Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue; And she is still there, busied with a dance, Deep in the dewy shadow of a wood, Or where stars walk upon a mountain-top."
YEATS: Land of Heart's Desire.
If one returned, he found that the space which seemed to him but one night, had been many years, and with the touch of earthly sod the age he had postponed suddenly weighed him down. Ossian, released from fairyland after three hundred years dalliance there, rode back to his own country on horseback. He saw men imprisoned under a block of marble and others trying to lift the stone. As he leaned over to aid them the girth broke. With the touch of earth "straightway the white horse fled away on his way home, and Ossian became aged, decrepit, and blind."
No place as much as Ireland has kept the belief in all sorts of supernatural spirits abroad among its people. From the time when on the hill of Ward, near Tara, in pre-Christian days, the sacrifices were burned and the Tuatha were thought to appear on Samhain, to as late as 1910, testimony to actual appearances of the "little people" is to be found.
"'Among the usually invisible races which I have seen in Ireland, I distinguish five classes. There are the Gnomes, who are earth-spirits, and who seem to be a sorrowful race. I once saw some of them distinctly on the side of Ben Bulbin. They had rather round heads and dark thick-set bodies, and in stature were about two and one-half feet. The Leprechauns are different, being full of mischief, though they, too, are small. I followed a Leprechaun from the town of Wicklow out to the Carraig Sidhe, "Rock of the Fairies," a distance of half a mile or more, where he disappeared. He had a very merry face, and beckoned to me with his finger. A third class are the Little People, who, unlike the Gnomes and Leprechauns, are quite good-looking; and they are very small. The Good People are tall, beautiful beings, as tall as ourselves.... They direct the magnetic currents of the earth. The Gods are really the Tuatha De Danann, and they are much taller than our race.'"
WENTZ: Fairy-faith in Celtic Countries.
The sight of apparitions on Hallowe'en is believed to be fatal to the beholder.
"One night my lady's soul walked along the wall like a cat. Long Tom Bowman beheld her and that day week fell he into the well and was drowned."
PYLE: Priest and the Piper.
One version of the Jack-o'-lantern story comes from Ireland. A stingy man named Jack was for his inhospitality barred from all hope of heaven, and because of practical jokes on the Devil was locked out of hell. Until the Judgment Day he is condemned to walk the earth with a lantern to light his way.
The place of the old lord of the dead, the Tuatha god Saman, to whom vigil was kept and prayers said on November Eve for the good of departed souls, was taken in Christian times by St. Colomba or Columb Kill, the founder of a monastery in Iona in the fifth century. In the seventeenth century the Irish peasants went about begging money and goodies for a feast, and demanding in the name of Columb Kill that fatted calves and black sheep be prepared. In place of the Druid fires, candles were collected and lighted on Hallowe'en, and prayers for the souls of the givers said before them. The name of Saman is kept in the title "Oidhche Shamhna," "vigil of Saman," by which the night of October 31st was until recently called in Ireland.
There are no Hallowe'en bonfires in Ireland now, but charms and tests are tried. Apples and nuts, the treasure of Pomona, figure largely in these. They are representative winter fruits, the commonest. They can be gathered late and kept all winter.
A popular drink at the Hallowe'en gathering in the eighteenth century was milk in which crushed roasted apples had been mixed. It was called lambs'-wool (perhaps from "La Mas Ubhal," "the day of the apple fruit"). At the Hallowe'en supper "callcannon," mashed potatoes, parsnips, and chopped onions, is indispensable. A ring is buried in it, and the one who finds it in his portion will be married in a year, or if he is already married, will be lucky.
"They had colcannon, and the funniest things were found in it—tiny dolls, mice, a pig made of china, silver sixpences, a thimble, a ring, and lots of other things. After supper was over all went into the big play-room, and dived for apples in a tub of water, fished for prizes in a basin of flour; then there were games——"
TRANT: Hallowe'en in Ireland.
A coin betokened to the finder wealth; the thimble, that he would never marry.
A ring and a nut are baked in a cake. The ring of course means early marriage, the nut signifies that its finder will marry a widow or a widower. If the kernel is withered, no marriage at all is prophesied. In Roscommon, in central Ireland, a coin, a sloe, and a bit of wood were baked in a cake. The one getting the sloe would live longest, the one getting the wood was destined to die within the year.
A mould of flour turned out on the table held similar tokens. Each person cut off a slice with a knife, and drew out his prize with his teeth.
After supper the tests were tried. In the last century nut-shells were burned. The best-known nut test is made as follows: three nuts are named for a girl and two sweethearts. If one burns steadily with the girl's nut, that lover is faithful to her, but if either hers or one of the other nuts starts away, there will be no happy friendship between them.
Apples are snapped from the end of a stick hung parallel to the floor by a twisted cord which whirls the stick rapidly when it is let go. Care has to be taken not to bite the candle burning on the other end. Sometimes this test is made easier by dropping the apples into a tub of water and diving for them, or piercing them with a fork dropped straight down.
Green herbs called "livelong" were plucked by the children and hung up on Midsummer Eve. If a plant was found to be still green on Hallowe'en, the one who had hung it up would prosper for the year, but if it had turned yellow or had died, the child would also die.
Hemp-seed is sown across three furrows, the sower repeating: "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and her that is to be my true love, come after me and draw thee." On looking back over his shoulder he will see the apparition of his future wife in the act of gathering hemp.
Seven cabbage stalks were named for any seven of the company, then pulled up, and the guests asked to come out, and "see their sowls."
"One, two, three, and up to seven; If all are white, all go to heaven; If one is black as Murtagh's evil, He'll soon be screechin' wi' the devil."
Red Mike "was a queer one from his birth, an' no wonder, for he first saw the light atween dusk an' dark o' a Hallowe'en Eve." When the cabbage test was tried at a party where Mike was present, six stalks were found to be white, but Mike's was "all black an' fowl wi' worms an' slugs, an' wi' a real bad smell ahint it." Angered at the ridicule he received, he cried: "I've the gift o' the night, I have, an' on this day my curse can blast whatever I choose." At that the priest showed Mike a crucifix, and he ran away howling, and disappeared through a bog into the ground.
SHARP: Threefold Chronicle.
Twelve of the party may learn their future, if one gets a clod of earth from the churchyard sets up twelve candles in it, lights and names them. The fortune of each will be like that of the candle-light named for him,—steady, wavering, or soon in darkness.
A ball of blue yarn was thrown out of the window by a girl who held fast to the end. She wound it over on her hand from left to right, saying the Creed backwards. When she had nearly finished, she expected the yarn would be held. She must ask "Who holds?" and the wind would sigh her sweetheart's name in at the window.
In some charms the devil was invoked directly. If one walked about a rick nine times with a rake, saying, "I rake this rick in the devil's name," a vision would come and take away the rake.
If one went out with nine grains of oats in his mouth, and walked about until he heard a girl's name called or mentioned, he would know the name of his future wife, for they would be the same.
Lead is melted, and poured through a key or a ring into cold water. The form each spoonful takes in cooling indicates the occupation of the future husband of the girl who poured it.
"Now something like a horse would cause the jubilant maiden to call out, 'A dragoon!' Now some dim resemblance to a helmet would suggest a handsome member of the mounted police; or a round object with a spike would seem a ship, and this of course meant a sailor; or a cow would suggest a cattle-dealer, or a plough a farmer."
SHARP: Threefold Chronicle.
After the future had been searched, a piper played a jig, to which all danced merrily with a loud noise to scare away the evil spirits.
Just before midnight was the time to go out "alone and unperceived" to a south-running brook, dip a shirt-sleeve in it, bring it home and hang it by the fire to dry. One must go to bed, but watch till midnight for a sight of the destined mate who would come to turn the shirt to dry the other side.
Ashes were raked smooth on the hearth at bedtime on Hallowe'en, and the next morning examined for footprints. If one was turned from the door, guests or a marriage was prophesied; if toward the door, a death.
To have prophetic dreams a girl should search for a briar grown into a hoop, creep through thrice in the name of the devil, cut it in silence, and go to bed with it under her pillow. A boy should cut ten ivy leaves, throw away one and put the rest under his head before he slept.
If a girl leave beside her bed a glass of water with a sliver of wood in it, and say before she falls asleep:
"Husband mine that is to be, Come this night and rescue me,"
she will dream of falling off a bridge into the water, and of being saved at the last minute by the spirit of her future husband. To receive a drink from his hand she must eat a cake of flour, soot, and salt before she goes to bed.
The Celtic spirit of yearning for the unknown, retained nowhere else as much as in Ireland, is expressed very beautifully by the poet Yeats in the introduction to his Celtic Twilight.
"The host is riding from Knocknarea And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare; Caolte tossing his burning hair, And Niam calling: 'Away, come away;
"'And brood no more where the fire is bright, Filling thy heart with a mortal dream; For breasts are heaving and eyes a-gleam: Away, come away to the dim twilight
"'Arms are heaving and lips apart; And if any gaze on our rushing band, We come between him and the deed of his hand, We come between him and the hope of his heart.'
"The host is rushing twixt night and day, And where is there hope or deed as fair? Caolte tossing his burning hair, And Niam calling: 'Away, come away.'"
IN SCOTLAND AND THE HEBRIDES
As in Ireland the Scotch Baal festival of November was called Samhain. Western Scotland, lying nearest Tara, center alike of pagan and Christian religion in Ireland, was colonized by both the people and the customs of eastern Ireland.
The November Eve fires which in Ireland either died out or were replaced by candles were continued in Scotland. In Buchan, where was the altar-source of the Samhain fire, bonfires were lighted on hilltops in the eighteenth century; and in Moray the idea of fires of thanksgiving for harvest was kept to as late as 1866. All through the eighteenth century in the Highlands and in Perthshire torches of heath, broom, flax, or ferns were carried about the fields and villages by each family, with the intent to cause good crops in succeeding years. The course about the fields was sunwise, to have a good influence. Brought home at dark, the torches were thrown down in a heap, and made a fire. This blaze was called "Samhnagan," "of rest and pleasure." There was much competition to have the largest fire. Each person put in one stone to make a circle about it. The young people ran about with burning brands. Supper was eaten out-of-doors, and games played. After the fire had burned out, ashes were raked over the stones. In the morning each sought his pebble, and if he found it misplaced, harmed, or a footprint marked near it in the ashes, he believed he should die in a year.
In Aberdeenshire boys went about the villages saying: "Ge's a peat t' burn the witches." They were thought to be out stealing milk and harming cattle. Torches used to counteract them were carried from west to east, against the sun. This ceremony grew into a game, when a fire was built by one party, attacked by another, and defended. As in the May fires of purification the lads lay down in the smoke close by, or ran about and jumped over the flames. As the fun grew wilder they flung burning peats at each other, scattered the ashes with their feet, and hurried from one fire to another to have a part in scattering as many as possible before they died out.
In 1874, at Balmoral, a royal celebration of Hallowe'en was recorded. Royalty, tenants, and servants bore torches through the grounds and round the estates. In front of the castle was a heap of stuff saved for the occasion. The torches were thrown on. When the fire was burning its liveliest, a hobgoblin appeared, drawing in a car the figure of a witch, surrounded by fairies carrying lances. The people formed a circle about the fire, and the witch was tossed in. Then there were dances to the music of bag-pipes.
It was the time of year when servants changed masters or signed up anew under the old ones. They might enjoy a holiday before resuming work. So they sang:
"This is Hallaeven, The morn is Halladay; Nine free nichts till Martinmas, As soon they'll wear away."
Children born on Hallowe'en could see and converse with supernatural powers more easily than others. In Ireland, evil relations caused Red Mike's downfall (q. v.). For Scotland Mary Avenel, in Scott's Monastery, is the classic example.
"And touching the bairn, it's weel kenn'd she was born on Hallowe'en, and they that are born on Hallowe'en whiles see mair than ither folk."
There is no hint of dark relations, but rather of a clear-sightedness which lays bare truths, even those concealed in men's breasts. Mary Avenel sees the spirit of her father after he has been dead for years. The White Lady of Avenel is her peculiar guardian.
The Scottish Border, where Mary lived, is the seat of many superstitions and other worldly beliefs. The fairies of Scotland are more terrible than those of Ireland, as the dells and streams and woods are of greater grandeur, and the character of the people more serious. It is unlucky to name the fairies, here as elsewhere, except by such placating titles as "Good Neighbors" or "Men of Peace." Rowan, elm, and holly are a protection against them.
"I have tied red thread round the bairns' throats, and given ilk ane of them a riding-wand of rowan-tree, forbye sewing up a slip of witch-elm into their doublets; and I wish to know of your reverence if there be onything mair that a lone woman can do in the matter of ghosts and fairies?—be here! that I should have named their unlucky names twice ower!"
"The sign of the cross disarmeth all evil spirits."
These spirits of the air have not human feelings or motives. They are conscienceless. In this respect Peter Pan is an immortal fairy as well as an immortal child. While like a child he resents injustice in horrified silence, like a fairy he acts with no sense of responsibility. When he saves Wendy's brother from falling as they fly,
"You felt it was his cleverness that interested him, and not the saving of human life."
BARRIE: Peter and Wendy.
The world in which Peter lived was so near the Kensington Gardens that he could see them through the bridge as he sat on the shore of the Neverland. Yet for a long time he could not get to them.
Peter is a fairy piper who steals away the souls of children.
"No man alive has seen me, But women hear me play, Sometimes at door or window, Fiddling the souls away— The child's soul and the colleen's Out of the covering clay."
HOPPER: Fairy Fiddler.
On Hallowe'en all traditional spirits are abroad. The Scotch invented the idea of a "Samhanach," a goblin who comes out just at "Samhain." It is he who in Ireland steals children. The fairies pass at crossroads,
"But the night is Hallowe'en, lady, The morn is Hallowday; Then win me, win me, and ye will, For weel I wot ye may.
"Just at the mirk and midnight hour The fairy folk will ride. And they that wad their true-love win, At Miles Cross they maun bide."
Ballad of Tam Lin.
and in the Highlands whoever took a three-legged stool to where three crossroads met, and sat upon it at midnight, would hear the names of those who were to die in a year. He might bring with him articles of dress, and as each name was pronounced throw one garment to the fairies. They would be so pleased by this gift that they would repeal the sentence of death.
Even people who seemed to be like their neighbors every day could for this night fly away and join the other beings in their revels.
"This is the nicht o' Hallowe'en When a' the witchie may be seen; Some o' them black, some o' them green, Some o' them like a turkey bean."
A witches' party was conducted in this way. The wretched women who had sold their souls to the Devil, left a stick in bed which by evil means was made to have their likeness, and, anointed with the fat of murdered babies flew off up the chimney on a broomstick with cats attendant. Burns tells the story of a company of witches pulling ragwort by the roadside, getting each astride her ragwort with the summons "Up horsie!" and flying away.
"The hag is astride This night for a ride, The devils and she together: Through thick and through thin, Now out and now in, Though ne'er so foul be the weather.
* * * * *
"A thorn or a burr She takes for a spur, With a lash of the bramble she rides now. Through brake and through briers, O'er ditches and mires, She follows the spirit that guides now."
HERRICK: The Hag.
The meeting-place was arranged by the Devil, who sometimes rode there on a goat. At their supper no bread or salt was eaten; they drank out of horses' skulls, and danced, sometimes back to back, sometimes from west to east, for the dances at the ancient Baal festivals were from east to west, and it was evil and ill-omened to move the other way. For this dance the Devil played a bag-pipe made of a hen's skull and cats' tails.
"There sat Auld Nick, in shape o' beast; A tousie tyke, black, grim, and large, To gie them music was his charge: He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl, Till roof and rafters a' did dirl."
BURNS: Tam o' Shanter.
The light for the revelry came from a torch flaring between the horns of the Devil's steed the goat, and at the close the ashes were divided for the witches to use in incantations. People imagined that cats who had been up all night on Hallowe'en were tired out the next morning.
Tam o' Shanter who was watching such a dance
"By Alloway's auld haunted kirk"
in Ayrshire, could not resist calling out at the antics of a neighbor whom he recognized, and was pursued by the witches. He urged his horse to top-speed,
"Now do thy speedy utmost, Meg, And win the key-stane of the brig; There at them thou thy tail may toss, A running stream they dare na cross!"
BURNS: Tam o' Shanter.
but poor Meg had no tail thereafter to toss at them, for though she saved her rider, she was only her tail's length beyond the middle of the bridge when the foremost witch grasped it and seared it to a stub.
Such witches might be questioned about the past or future.
"He that dare sit on St. Swithin's Chair, When the Night-Hag wings the troubled air, Questions three, when he speaks the spell, He may ask, and she must tell."
SCOTT: St. Swithin's Chair.
Children make of themselves bogies on this evening, carrying the largest turnips they can save from harvest, hollowed out and carved into the likeness of a fearsome face, with teeth and forehead blacked, and lighted by a candle fastened inside.
If the spirit of a person simply appears without being summoned, and the person is still alive, it means that he is in danger. If he comes toward the one to whom he appears the danger is over. If he seems to go away, he is dying.
An apparition from the future especially is sought on Hallowe'en. It is a famous time for divination in love affairs. A typical eighteenth century party in western Scotland is described by Robert Burns.
Cabbages are important in Scotch superstition. Children believe that if they pile cabbage-stalks round the doors and windows of the house, the fairies will bring them a new brother or sister.
"And often when in his old-fashioned way He questioned me,... Who made the stars? and if within his hand He caught and held one, would his fingers burn? If I, the gray-haired dominie, was dug From out a cabbage-garden such as he Was found in——"
BUCHANAN: Willie Baird.
Kale-pulling came first on the program in Burns's Hallowe'en. Just the single and unengaged went out hand in hand blindfolded to the cabbage-garden. They pulled the first stalk they came upon, brought it back to the house, and were unbandaged. The size and shape of the stalk indicated the appearance of the future husband or wife.
"Maybe you would rather not pull a stalk that was tall and straight and strong—that would mean Alastair? Maybe you would rather find you had got hold of a withered old stump with a lot of earth at the root—a decrepit old man with plenty of money in the bank? Or maybe you are wishing for one that is slim and supple and not so tall—for one that might mean Johnnie Semple."
BLACK: Hallowe'en Wraith.
A close white head meant an old husband, an open green head a young one. His disposition would be like the taste of the stem. To determine his name, the stalks were hung over the door, and the number of one's stalk in the row noted. If Jessie put hers up third from the beginning, and the third man who passed through the doorway under it was named Alan, her husband's first name would be Alan. This is practised only a little now among farmers. It has special virtue if the cabbage has been stolen from the garden of an unmarried person.
Sometimes the pith of a cabbage-stalk was pushed out, the hole filled with tow, which was set afire and blown through keyholes on Hallowe'en.
"Their runts clean through and through were bored, And stuffed with raivelins fou, And like a chimley when on fire Each could the reek outspue.
"Jock through the key-hole sent a cloud That reached across the house, While in below the door reek rushed Like water through a sluice."
DICK: Splores of a Hallowe'en.
Cabbage-broth was a regular dish at the Hallowe'en feast. Mashed potatoes, as in Ireland, or a dish of meal and milk holds symbolic objects—a ring, a thimble, and a coin. In the cake are baked a ring and a key. The ring signifies to the possessor marriage, and the key a journey.
Apple-ducking is still a universal custom in Scotland. A sixpence is sometimes dropped into the tub or stuck into an apple to make the reward greater. The contestants must keep their hands behind their backs.
Nuts are put before the fire in pairs, instead of by threes as in Ireland, and named for a lover and his lass. If they burn to ashes together, long happy married life is destined for the lovers. If they crackle or start away from each other, dissension and separation are ahead.
"Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e; Wha 't was, she wadna tell; But this is Jock, an' this is me, She says in to hersel; He bleez'd owre her, an' she owre him, As they wad never mair part; Till fuff! he started up the lum, And Jean had e'en a sair heart To see't that night."
Three "luggies," bowls with handles like the Druid lamps, were filled, one with clean, one with dirty water, and one left empty. The person wishing to know his fate in marriage was blindfolded, turned about thrice, and put down his left hand. If he dipped it into the clean water, he would marry a maiden; if into the dirty, a widow; if into the empty dish, not at all. He tried until he got the same result twice. The dishes were changed about each time.
This spell still remains, as does that of hemp-seed sowing. One goes out alone with a handful of hemp-seed, sows it across ridges of ploughed land, and harrows it with anything convenient, perhaps with a broom. Having said:
"Hemp-seed, I saw thee, An' her that is to be my lass Come after me an' draw thee——"
he looks behind him to see his sweetheart gathering hemp. This should be tried just at midnight with the moon behind.
"At even o' Hallowmas no sleep I sought, But to the field a bag of hemp-seed brought. I scattered round the seed on every side, And three times three in trembling accents cried, 'This hemp-seed with my virgin hand I sow, Who shall my true-love be, the crop shall mow.'"
A spell that has been discontinued is throwing the clue of blue yarn into the kiln-pot, instead of out of the window, as in Ireland. As it is wound backward, something holds it. The winder must ask, "Wha hauds?" to hear the name of her future sweetheart.
"An' ay she win't, an' ay she swat— I wat she made nae jaukin; Till something held within the pat, Guid Lord! but she was quakin! But whether 't was the Deil himsel, Or whether 't was a bauk-en' Or whether it was Andrew Bell, She did na wait on talkin To speir that night."
Another spell not commonly tried now is winnowing three measures of imaginary corn, as one stands in the barn alone with both doors open to let the spirits that come in go out again freely. As one finishes the motions, the apparition of the future husband will come in at one door and pass out at the other.
"'I had not winnowed the last weight clean out, and the moon was shining bright upon the floor, when in stalked the presence of my dear Simon Glendinning, that is now happy. I never saw him plainer in my life than I did that moment; he held up an arrow as he passed me, and I swarf'd awa' wi' fright.... But mark the end o' 't, Tibb: we were married, and the grey-goose wing was the death o' him after a'.'"
SCOTT: The Monastery.
At times other prophetic appearances were seen.
"Just as she was at the wark, what does she see in the moonlicht but her ain coffin moving between the doors instead of the likeness of a gudeman! and as sure's death she was in her coffin before the same time next year."
ANON: Tale of Hallowe'en.
Formerly a stack of beans, oats, or barley was measured round with the arms against sun. At the end of the third time the arms would enclose the vision of the future husband or wife.
Kale-pulling, apple-snapping, and lead-melting (see Ireland) are social rites, but many were to be tried alone and in secret. A Highland divination was tried with a shoe, held by the tip, and thrown over the house. The person will journey in the direction the toe points out. If it falls sole up, it means bad luck.
Girls would pull a straw each out of a thatch in Broadsea, and would take it to an old woman in Fraserburgh. The seeress would break the straw and find within it a hair the color of the lover's-to-be. Blindfolded they plucked heads of oats, and counted the number of grains to find out how many children they would have. If the tip was perfect, not broken or gone, they would be married honorably.
Another way of determining the number of children was to drop the white of an egg into a glass of water. The number of divisions was the number sought. White of egg is held with water in the mouth, like the grains of oats in Ireland, while one takes a walk to hear mentioned the name of his future wife. Names are written on papers, and laid upon the chimney-piece. Fate guides the hand of a blindfolded man to the slip which bears his sweetheart's name.
A Hallowe'en mirror is made by the rays of the moon shining into a looking-glass. If a girl goes secretly into a room at midnight between October and November, sits down at the mirror, and cuts an apple into nine slices, holding each on the point of a knife before she eats it, she may see in the moonlit glass the image of her lover looking over her left shoulder, and asking for the last piece of apple.
The wetting of the sark-sleeve in a south-running burn where "three lairds' lands meet," and carrying it home to dry before the fire, was really a Scotch custom, but has already been described in Ireland.
"The last Hallowe'en I was waukin My droukit sark-sleeve, as ye kin— His likeness came up the house staukin, And the very grey breeks o' Tam Glen!"
BURNS: Tam Glen.
Just before breaking up, the crowd of young people partook of sowens, oatmeal porridge cakes with butter, and strunt, a liquor, as they hoped for good luck throughout the year.
The Hebrides, Scottish islands off the western coast, have Hallowe'en traditions of their own, as well as many borrowed from Ireland and Scotland. Barra, isolated near the end of the island chain, still celebrates the Celtic days, Beltaine and November Eve.
In the Hebrides is the Irish custom of eating on Hallowe'en a cake of meal and salt, or a salt herring, bones and all, to dream of some one bringing a drink of water. Not a word must be spoken, nor a drop of water drunk till the dream comes.
In St. Kilda a large triangular cake is baked which must be all eaten up before morning.
A curious custom that prevailed in the island of Lewis in the eighteenth century was the worship of Shony, a sea-god with a Norse name. His ceremonies were similar to those paid to Saman in Ireland, but more picturesque. Ale was brewed at church from malt brought collectively by the people. One took a cupful in his hand, and waded out into the sea up to his waist, saying as he poured it out: "Shony, I give you this cup of ale, hoping that you'll be so kind as to send us plenty of sea-ware, for enriching our ground the ensuing year." The party returned to the church, waited for a given signal when a candle burning on the altar was blown out. Then they went out into the fields, and drank ale with dance and song.
The "dumb cake" originated in Lewis. Girls were each apportioned a small piece of dough, mixed with any but spring water. They kneaded it with their left thumbs, in silence. Before midnight they pricked initials on them with a new pin, and put them by the fire to bake. The girls withdrew to the farther end of the room, still in silence. At midnight each lover was expected to enter and lay his hand on the cake marked with his initials.
In South Uist and Eriskay on Hallowe'en fairies are out, a source of terror to those they meet.
"Hallowe'en will come, will come, Witchcraft will be set a-going, Fairies will be at full speed, Running in every pass. Avoid the road, children, children."
But for the most part this belief has died out on Scottish land, except near the Border, and Hallowe'en is celebrated only by stories and jokes and games, songs and dances.
IN ENGLAND AND MAN
Man especially has a treasury of fairy tradition, Celtic and Norse combined. Manx fairies too dwell in the middle world, since they are fit for neither heaven nor hell. Even now Manx people think they see circles of light in the late October midnight, and little folk dancing within.
Longest of all in Man was Sauin (Samhain) considered New Year's Day. According to the old style of reckoning time it came on November 12.
"To-night is New Year's night. Hogunnaa!" Mummers' Song.
As in Scotland the servants' year ends with October.
New Year tests for finding out the future were tried on Sauin. To hear her sweetheart's name a girl took a mouthful of water and two handfuls of salt, and sat down at a door. The first name she heard mentioned was the wished-for one. The three dishes proclaimed the fate of the blindfolded seeker as in Scotland. Each was blindfolded and touched one of several significant objects—meal for prosperity, earth for death, a net for tangled fortunes.
Before retiring each filled a thimble with salt, and emptied it out in a little mound on a plate, remembering his own. If any heap were found fallen over by morning, the person it represented was destined to die in a year. The Manx looked for prints in the smooth-strewn ashes on the hearth, as the Scotch did, and gave the same interpretation.
There had been Christian churches in Britain as early as 300 A. D., and Christian missionaries, St. Ninian, Pelagius, and St. Patrick, were active in the next century, and in the course of time St. Augustine. Still the old superstitions persisted, as they always do when they have grown up with the people.
King Arthur, who was believed to have reigned in the fifth century, may be a personification of the sun-god. He comes from the Otherworld, his magic sword Excalibur is brought thence to him, he fights twelve battles, in number like the months, and is wounded to death by evil Modred, once his own knight. He passes in a boat, attended by his fairy sister and two other queens,
"'To the island-valley of Avilion; Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard-lawns And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea——'"
TENNYSON: Passing of Arthur.
The hope of being healed there is like that given to Cuchulain (q. v.), to persuade him to visit the fairy kingdom. Arthur was expected to come again sometime, as the sun renews his course. As he disappeared from the sight of Bedivere, the last of his knights,
"The new sun rose bringing the new year."
Avilion means "apple-island." It was like the Hesperides of Greek mythology, the western islands where grew the golden apples of immortality.
In Cornwall after the sixth century, the sun-god became St. Michael, and the eastern point where he appeared St. Michael's seat.
"Where the great vision of the guarded mount Looks toward Namancos, and Bayona's hold."
As fruit to Pomona, so berries were devoted to fairies. They would not let any one cut a blackthorn shoot on Hallowe'en. In Cornwall sloes and blackberries were considered unfit to eat after the fairies had passed by, because all the goodness was extracted. So they were eaten to heart's content on October 31st, and avoided thereafter. Hazels, because they were thought to contain wisdom and knowledge, were also sacred.
Besides leaving berries for the "Little People," food was set out for them on Hallowe'en, and on other occasions. They rewarded this hospitality by doing an extraordinary amount of work.
"—how the drudging goblin sweat To earn his cream-bowl duly set, When in one night, ere glimpse of morn, His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn That ten day-laborers could not end. Then lies him down the lubbar fiend, And stretcht out all the chimney's length Basks at the fire his hairy strength."
Such sprites did not scruple to pull away the chair as one was about to sit down, to pinch, or even to steal children and leave changelings in their places. The first hint of dawn drove them back to their haunts.
"When larks 'gin sing, Away we fling; And babes new borne steal as we go, And elfe in bed We leave instead, And wend us laughing, ho, ho, ho!"
JONSON: Robin Goodfellow.
Soulless and without gratitude or memory spirits of the air may be, like Ariel in The Tempest. He, like the fairy harpers of Ireland, puts men to sleep with his music.
"Sebastian. What, art thou waking?
Antonio. Do you not hear me speak?
Sebastian. I do; and, surely, It is a sleepy language; and thou speak'st Out of thy sleep: What is it thou didst say? This is a strange repose, to be asleep With eyes wide open; standing, speaking, moving, And yet so fast asleep."
SHAKSPERE: The Tempest.
The people of England, in common with those who lived in the other countries of Great Britain and in Europe, dreaded the coming of winter not only on account of the cold and loneliness, but because they believed that at this time the powers of evil were abroad and ascendant. This belief harked back to the old idea that the sun had been vanquished by his enemies in the late autumn. It was to forget the fearful influences about them that the English kept festival so much in the winter-time. The Lords of Misrule, leaders of the revelry, "beginning their rule on All Hallow Eve, continued the same till the morrow after the Feast of the Purification, commonlie called Candelmas day: In all of which space there were fine and subtle disguisinges, Maskes, and Mummeries." This was written of King Henry IV's court at Eltham, in 1401, and is true of centuries before and after. They gathered about the fire and made merry while the October tempests whirled the leaves outside, and shrieked round the house like ghosts and demons on a mad carousal.
"The autumn wind—oh hear it howl: Without—October's tempests scowl, As he troops away on the raving wind! And leaveth dry leaves in his path behind.
* * * * *
"'Tis the night—the night Of the graves' delight, And the warlock are at their play!
Ye think that without The wild winds shout, But no, it is they—it is they!"
Witchcraft—the origin of which will be traced farther on—had a strong following in England. The three witches in Macbeth are really fates who foretell the future, but they have a kettle in which they boil
"Fillet of a fenny snake,
* * * * *
Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blindworm's sting, Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble——"
They connect themselves thereby with those evil creatures who pursued Tam o' Shanter, and were servants of the Devil. In 1892 in Lincolnshire, people believed that if they looked in through the church door on Hallowe'en they would see the Devil preaching his doctrines from the pulpit, and inscribing the names of new witches in his book.
The Spectre Huntsman, known in Windsor Forest as Herne the Hunter, and in Todmorden as Gabriel Ratchets, was the spirit of an ungodly hunter who for his crimes was condemned to lead the chase till the Judgment Day. In a storm on Hallowe'en is heard the belling of his hounds.
"Still, still shall last the dreadful chase Till time itself shall have an end; By day they scour earth's cavern'd space, At midnight's witching hour, ascend.
"This is the horn, the hound, and horse, That oft the lated peasant hears: Appall'd, he signs the frequent cross, When the wild din invades his ears."
SCOTT: Wild Huntsman.
In the north of England Hallowe'en was called "nut-crack" and "snap-apple night." It was celebrated by "young people and sweethearts."
A variation of the nut test is, naming two for two lovers before they are put before the fire to roast. The unfaithful lover's nut cracks and jumps away, the loyal burns with a steady ardent flame to ashes.
"Two hazel-nuts I threw into the flame, And to each nut I gave a sweetheart's name. This with the loudest bounce me sore amaz'd, That in a flame of brightest color blaz'd; As blaz'd the nut, so may thy passion grow, For 't was thy nut that did so brightly glow."
GAY: The Spell.
If they jump toward each other, they will be rivals. If one of the nuts has been named for the girl and burns quietly with a lover's nut, they will live happily together. If they are restless, there is trouble ahead.
"These glowing nuts are emblems true Of what in human life we view; The ill-matched couple fret and fume, And thus in strife themselves consume, Or from each other wildly start And with a noise forever part. But see the happy, happy pair Of genuine love and truth sincere;
With mutual fondness, while they burn Still to each other kindly turn: And as the vital sparks decay, Together gently sink away. Till, life's fierce ordeal being past, Their mingled ashes rest at last."
GRAYDON: On Nuts Burning, Allhallows Eve.
Sometimes peas on a hot shovel are used instead.
Down the centuries from the Druid tree-worship comes the spell of the walnut-tree. It is circled thrice, with the invocation: "Let her that is to be my true-love bring me some walnuts;" and directly a spirit will be seen in the tree gathering nuts.
"Last Hallow Eve I sought a walnut-tree, In hope my true Love's face that I might see; Three times I called, three times I walked apace; Then in the tree I saw my true Love's face."
The seeds of apples were used in many trials. Two stuck on cheeks or eyelids indicated by the time they clung the faithfulness of the friends named for them.
"See from the core two kernels brown I take: This on my cheek for Lubberkin is worn, And Booby Clod on t'other side is borne; But Booby Clod soon drops upon the ground, A certain token that his love's unsound; While Lubberkin sticks firmly to the last. Oh! were his lips to mine but joined so fast."
In a tub float stemless apples, to be seized by the teeth of him desirous of having his love returned. If he is successful in bringing up the apple, his love-affair will end happily.
"The rosy apple's bobbing Upon the mimic sea— 'T is tricksy and elusive, And glides away from me.
"One moment it is dreaming Beneath the candle's glare, Then over wave and eddy It glances here and there.
"And when at last I capture The prize with joy aglow, I sigh, may I this sunshine Of golden rapture know
"When I essay to gather In all her witchery Love's sweetest rosy apple On Love's uncertain sea."
MUNKITTRICK: Hallowe'en Wish.
An apple is peeled all in one piece, and the paring swung three times round the head and dropped behind the left shoulder. If it does not break, and is looked at over the shoulder it forms the initial of the true sweetheart's name.
"I pare this pippin round and round again, My sweetheart's name to flourish on the plain: I fling the unbroken paring o'er my head. A perfect 'L' upon the ground is read."
In the north of England was a unique custom, "the scadding of peas." A pea-pod was slit, a bean pushed inside, and the opening closed again. The full pods were boiled, and apportioned to be shelled and the peas eaten with butter and salt. The one finding the bean on his plate would be married first. Gay records another test with peas which is like the final trial made with kale-stalks.
"As peascods once I plucked I chanced to see One that was closely filled with three times three; Which when I crop'd, I safely home convey'd, And o'er the door the spell in secret laid;— The latch moved up, when who should first come in, But in his proper person—Lubberkin."
Candles, relics of the sacred fire, play an important part everywhere on Hallowe'en. In England too the lighted candle and the apple were fastened to the stick, and as it whirled, each person in turn sprang up and tried to bite the apple.