In North Wales it has long been the custom for each family, on All Saints’ Eve, to build a large bonfire in a conspicuous place near the house; when the fire is nearly extinguished each member throws a white stone into the coals, having first marked it. They say their prayers turning around the fire, then retire. In the morning they pull the stones from the ashes, and if any of them is found lacking, the person who threw it will not live to see another All Saints’ Eve.
A favorite ceremony of the Scottish peasantry was Pulling the Kale. They went out hand in hand, eyes shut, and pulled the first one they came to; its being big or little, straight or crooked, was prophetic of the size and shape of the future husband or wife. If earth stuck to the root it brought fortune; the taste of the heart of the stem indicated the mate’s temper and disposition. The stems were then placed above the door, those whom chance brought to pass under them determining the names of the lovers or sweethearts.
Burning nuts was a famous charm. A lad and lass was named for each pair, and accordingly, as they burned quietly together or jumped apart, was shown the course of their courtship.
A maiden stole out alone to the kiln and threw in a clue of blue yarn. As she wound it in, it was believed something would hold the thread. When she demanded, “Who bauds” (holds), an answer would come from the kiln telling the name of her future husband.
A young man went out to a south-running spring or rivulet, where three lairds’ lands met, and dipped his left shirtsleeve in the water. He must go to bed in sight of fire, before which he hung the shirt to dry. Sometime near midnight an apparition, bearing the likeness of his future wife, would come in and turn the sleeve as if to dry the other side.
In the north of England fruit and nuts form so large a part of the ceremonies that Halloween has been called Nutcrack Night. The ancient custom of giving each child a large apple is still observed at St. Ives. Children would deem it a great misfortune were they to go to bed without an apple to hide under the pillow. In Yorkshire the women make a cake for each member of the family and Hallowe’en is called Cake Night. In Lancashire it was formerly believed that witches assembled on Hallowe’en to perform wicked deeds; it was thought that if a lighted candle were carried over the hills from eleven until twelve o’clock at night and burned steadily, it would overcome the power of the witches. If by accident the light went, out it was an omen of evil to the holder.
Since Halloween comes the night before All Souls’ Day, when people are supposed to pray for the dead, it is called All Souls’ Eve in various parts of England. Both children and grown-up people went from house to house a-souling, that is, begging for soul cakes. They usually sang, and one of the favorite songs ends thus:
God bless the master of this house and the mistress also,
And all the little children that round the table go;
Likewise your men and maidens, your cattle and your store,
And all that live within your gates, we wish you ten times more.
We wish you ten times more, with your apples and strong beer,
And we’ll come no more a-souling until another year.
The soul cakes were a sort of bun which nearly all persons made to give away to others.
In Ireland a girl left by her bed a glass of water with a sliver of wood in it; before, sleeping she repeated:
Husband mine, that is to be,
Come this night and rescue me.
She would then dream of falling from a bridge into the water and would be rescued by the man she was to marry. According to an old Welsh custom those of both sexes would seek for an even-leaved sprig of ash; the first of either sex to find it would call out Cyniver; the first of the opposite sex to find one would answer and these two were supposed to wed.
In parts of Scotland children saved the largest turnips from the harvest. These were hollowed out carved into the likeness of a fearsome face, with, teeth and forehead blackened and lighted by a candle.
On the Isle of Lewis, off Scotland, the “dumb cake” ceremony was used. Girls were given a small piece of dough, mixed with any but spring water; this they kneaded with the left thumb, keeping absolute silence. Before midnight the initials of a young man were pricked on the cake with a new pin and it was placed before the fire to bake. The girls withdrew to the further end of the room; at midnight each lover was expected to enter and place his hand on the cake with his initials.
In the Highlands it was believed that anyone who took a three-legged stool and sat where three crossroads met, would hear at midnight the names of those who were to die the coming year. If the person took garments and threw one to the fairies for a present as a name was mentioned, that person’s life would be saved.
In localities in America there is an old belief that pills made of a hazelnut, a walnut and a nutmeg grated together and mixed with butter and sugar, will cause important dreams.
This rhyme has long been repeated and observed:
Turn your boots toward the street,
Leave your garters on your feet,
Put your stockings on your head—
You’ll dream of the one you’re going to wed.
Three doses of salt, taken two minutes apart; go to bed backwards, lie upon the right side, do not move until morning; this recipe is said to cause dreams that will foretell important happenings.