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)

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