British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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394                                      HALLOW EYE.                           [OCT. 3I-
ancestors, and from which our country has happily been so long delivered that we can now scarcely believe they ever existed.—The Book of Days, vol. ii. pp. 517-519.
Oct. 31.]                     HALLOW EVE.
This eve is so called from being the vigil of All Saints' Day, and is the season for a variety of superstitious and other customs. In the north of England many of these still linger. One of the most common is that of diving for apples, or of catching at them with the mouth only, the hands being tied behind, and the apples suspended on one end of a long transverse beam, at the other extremity of which is fixed a lighted candle. The fruit and nuts form the most prominent parts of the evening feast, and from this circumstance the night has been termed NutcracJc Night*—Soane's Book of the Months, 1849, vol. ii. p. 215 ; see Book of Days, vol. ii. pp. 519-520.
Sir William Dugdale (Life, Diary, and Correspondence of Sir W. Dugdale, edited by W. Hamper, 1827, p. 104) tells us that formerly, on Halloween, the master of the family used to carry a bunch of straw, fired, about his corn, saying:
" Fire and red low Light on my teen now."
This fire-straw, says a correspondent of N. & Q. (3rd S. vol. i. p. 316), was meant to ward off witchcraft, and so preserve the corn from being spoiled. In Scotland, on Halloween, the red end of a fiery stick is waved about in mystic figures in the air to accomplish for the person the same spell. Eed appears to be a colour peculiarly obnoxious to witches. One Halloween rhyme enjoins the employ­ment of:
"Rowan tree and red thread, To gar the witches dance their dead;"
i.e., dance till they fall down and expire. The berries of
* See Michaelmas Eve, p. 375.
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