By ghoulish Emmet
How did a wacky holiday like Halloween last 2000 years? I am amazed that the religious right did not ban it, centuries ago.
Those crazy druids believed that the souls of the dead (both good and bad) came back to say hello on Samhain eve, just after harvest. Honest. To ward off these spirits they built huge bonfires, and then performed a little sacrifice of either human or animal subjects to prevent these dead relatives from eating all the food. This was performed at the traditional end of summer, which in Maine would be August 3.
Some Halloween traditions have lasted through the centuries, for reasons unknown. Thankfully, human sacrifice has been largely discouraged.
Naturally there were plenty of apples in late October, when Halloween was celebrated.
I am not sure of the origins of apple bobbing, or “dooking” in Scotland. I always thought it was to make the participants look as stupid as possible. In my day the apples contained nickels or dimes. Never quarters. The first successful “dooker” was supposed to be the first one married. Lucky them.
The Scots got into Halloween just like the rest of us. They thought you could tell your future by cutting an apple into one long strip, then throwing it over your shoulder. The peel was supposed to land in the shape of the first letter of one’s future spouse. And you thought “dooking” was bad.
Those unfortunate Scottish unmarried women were told that if they sat in a darkened room on Halloween and gazed into a mirror, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. The flip side was if she was going to die before marriage, a skull would appear. You laugh, but this belief was so popular that it was the subject of greeting cards until the early 20th century.
It wasn’t just apples. Walnuts were big on Halloween, too.
You have to remember, this was before “Survivor” and “Jersey Shore.” People were desperate for entertainment.
Halloween celebrants would predict fortunes for other people writing with milk on white paper. After drying, the paper was placed in walnut shells. When the shells were warmed the milk would turn brown and the writing would become legible. When they were bored with that (four minutes) they would cut out paper symbols like dollar signs for wealth, clothespins for poverty, thimbles for spinsterhood, umbrella for a journey and four leaf clovers for good luck. The partygoer would wet their hands, walk into a dark room and touch the platter full of cutouts. The cutout would (allegedly) determine their fate.
That makes even “Jersey Shore” look good.
Halloween brought out the gullible in all of us. Even the Irish. In 18nth Century Ireland, a cook would hide a wedding ring in a cupcake on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love, if not shattered teeth, to the diner who found it. This was before speed dating.
The Scots were just as bad. Fortune tellers would somehow get young women to name a bunch of hazelnuts after their ardent suitors (if they had any). The walnuts, not the suitors were thrown in the fire. The walnut that burned to ashes and did not explode indicated the suitor that would become the husband.
That makes “Survivor” look good.
Other lonely young women (no word on lonely men) tried to divine their future by reading egg yolks in water on Halloween.
In my days, West Roxbury children spent their Halloween burning every leaf pile in sight and breaking all available windows. Naturally, we ate candy until we got sick to ward off evil spirits.
No sacrifices, animal or human.