Thursday, 31 October 2013

Hallowtide Apples

I had to mark Hallowe'en itself with something following on from Olivia Keirnan's fascinating post last week. I loved how these are living traditions in Ireland. 

Mine is more historical - but it still features apples. Perhaps it's something to do with Eve, but they do reoccur in ways of divining your future in love in many parts of the British Isles.

Lots of Hallowe'en traditions were social. One involved all the unmarried young people tying their apple onto a string and twirling it close to the fire. The quicker the apple came off the string, the sooner you would be married. Pity the poor girl whose apple stayed on till last.

A girl with several suitors might name an apple pip for each one and then put them on her cheek. They would fall off as they dried and the last one left would be for the faithful lover. You could do a similar rite with the pips on the fire grate saying this spell:
If you love me, bounce and fly,
If you hate me, lie and die .
 In Sussex where I live now, it was the other way round: a burst pip meant marrying that person would be a disaster.

A solitary way of finding your true love's name was for the brave, I think. You stood alone in your room at midnight and peeled an apple by the light of one candle. You had to stand  in front of a mirror without looking round.  You made the longest peel that you could so the marriage would last - and then threw the peel over your shoulder. Some traditions say it would spell out your true love's initials - others that their spirit would appear.

In Cornwall it was known as Allantide - and children were given Allan apples for luck. A girl might put one under her pillow to see if she would dream of her future husband.

A young man would need a lot of apples pips for this last one - or ashes from the Halloween Bonfire. He would find a path often used by girls he liked and lay a trail. The first girl to follow it would be his sweetheart.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Irish Halloween traditions: Wedding Rings, Apples and Barm Brack

A special guest post from the talented Irish writer, Olivia Kiernan
Halloween is upon us and the veil that keeps the non-living from the living has been lifted. Halloween is a Celtic and pagan tradition. Known in Ireland as OĆ­che Shamhna, it is a chance for the flesh and blood among us to ask those who have passed, to foretell our fortunes. So how does one ask the otherworld whom they might marry or what life might hold for us. These are a few games to while away the dark and spooky hours on All Hallow’s Eve.

Bobbing apples was one of my favourite games as a child, possibly not the most hygienic but great fun. The aim was to try and grab an apple from a tub of water, hands behind the back and using only the mouth. Once the wayward apple was caught, it was then used as an object to predict your future wife or husband. The skin was peeled and thrown over the left shoulder; the shape it formed on the ground was seen to represent the first initial of your true love.

As with most children at Halloween, I was particularly drawn to the macabre. The following method of fortune telling both thrilled and terrified me, but I was never too scared not to want to take part. Five saucers were laid on the kitchen table. Each one containing a single ingredient: water (meaning a journey overseas), clay (meaning death, hence my terror!), ring (meaning marriage), rag (meaning poverty) and finally coins (meaning riches). The participant would be blindfolded, spun three times and then was directed to reach out to one of the saucers and so discovering what fate awaited them in their future.
Image from Erin Darcy photography

And of course, no Irish Halloween would be complete with the Barm Brack. This was a light, yeast bread studded with sultanas and raisins. It’s something of a ritual in most Irish households at Halloween. At the end of the evening the brack, is sliced, to be shared out among the guests where one lucky person will find a ring buried in the dough. Of course, this indicated that person would soon be married.

A big thank you to KM Lockwood for giving me the opportunity to post on The Wedding Ghost. Wishing you all a great Halloween!

Olivia Kiernan is author of Dawn Solstice.
Twitter: @LivKiernan
On facebook: Olivia Kiernan (Author)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Tangled webs

Webs are fascinating in an eerie way. The delicacy of construction - and the strength of the silk.

The meticulous order of some - elegant, regular and meant for death.

The exuberant chaos of others - messy and changeable whichever way you look at them.

Is it the spinner that worries us - the spider, fungus or creeping caterpillar that made such gruesome beauty?

Or the small fear still lurking in our hearts from childhood that somehow we could get stuck, become a victim transfixed by threads we cannot escape?