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Wednesday 30 October 2013

Halloween Customs

The following Halloween customs were taken down by Calum Maclean from his father, Malcolm, styled Calum Chaluim Iain Ghairbh (1880–1951), a tailor to trade, on the 29th of January 1946:
Oidhche Shamhna bhiodh iad a’ fàgail an taighe treud dhiùbh is dh’fheumadh iad allt crìche a ruigheachd, crìoch eadar dà bhaile, ga bith gu dè cho fada is a bhiodh e air falbh – agus bha iad a’ toirt balagam an urra as an allt is ga chumail nam beul is chan fhaodadh iad guth a ghràdha gus a ruigeadh iad na taighean air ais, is nan cuireadh iad a mach am balagam às am beul is nam bruidhneadh iad gus a ruigeadh iad na taighean, cha robh feum sam bith ann. Bhiodh iad an uair sin mun d’reachadh iad a chadal, bha iad a’ deasachadh bonnach beag coirce is ga lìonadh làn salainn is dh’itheadh iad e, nuair a bhiodh iad a’ dol a leabaidh is ged a bhiodh iad gu bhith marbh leis a’ phàthadh, chan òladh iad deoch, is bha iad a’ dèanamh dheth an uair sin, nuair a bhiodh a leithid sin de phàthadh orra gun tigeadh an gille a bha dol gam
pòsadh a thoirt deoch dhaibh, is nam faiceadh iad a leithid sin de bhruadar air an oidhche, bhiodh iad uamhasach toilichte – nam faiceadh iad an gille a b’ fhèarr leotha a’ tighinn a thoirt deoch dhaibh. Bhiodh iad a’ falabh Oidhche Shamhna a’ spìonadh chàil agus tuirneap. Bhiodh iad a’ dol a-staigh a’s na gàrrannan is cha bhiodh iad gan tabhairt leotha idir. Cha bhiodh iad ach gan gearradh (càl agus tuirneap).
Bhiodh iad uaireannan a’ tabhairt crodh an nàbaidh a-staigh am bàthaichean eile. Nuair a chuireadh iad a-staigh an crodh sin, bheireadh iad a-mach an crodh eile agus chuireadh iad iad a-staigh sa bhàthaich as an tug iad an crodh eile.
Bhiodh iad a’ seifteadh chearcan on dàrna bothag is gan cuir às a’ bhothag eile. Bhiodh iad a’ seifteadh bhàtaichean is gan cuir am falach. Bhiodh iad a’ cur sgrathan air mullach shimileirean gus nach fhaigheadh an ceò a-mach. Giar (gear) sam bith a gheibheadh iad mun taigh bhiodh iad gan tabhairt leis is dòcha gur h-ann an ceann eile a’ bhaile a dh’fhàgadh iad iad. Bhiodh iad a’ losgadh chnothan. Chuireadh iad dà chrò as an teine airson gille is nighean is nan deanadh iad dà bhrag is gun gabhadh iad – nan gabhadh iad aig an aon àm, phòsadh iad. Ach mura gabhadh na dhà dhiubh aig an aon àm, nam b’e an nighean a ghabhadh, phòsadh ise ach cha ghabhadh an duine i, ach nam b’e an gille a ghabhadh, phòsadh eisean ach cha ghabhadh an nighean e.
Bhiodh iad a-rithist a’ cur ubhall ann am ballan uisge, is tè sam bith no fear sam bith a bheireadh air an ubhall le ’m beul, phòsadh iad. Chan fhaodadh iad an tabhairt as ach le ’m beul.
Bha iad an uair sin a’ dèanamh stapaig uachdair ann am basaidh. Bha iad a’ cur mu chuairt an stapag agus a’ cur fàinne innte is a’ chiad tè a gheibheadh fàinne ann an spàin – ’s i a’ chiad tè a phòsadh.
And the translation goes something like the following:
At Halloween a group of them would leave the house and they would have to go to a boundary burn, a boundary between two villages, however far they had to go – and they each took a mouthful of water from the burn and kept it in their mouths and they couldn’t say a word until they got back to their homesteads. If they let the mouthful out, if they spoke before they arrived back at the homesteads, it would be of no use. They would then, before going to bed, prepare a wee oatcake and would fill it full of salt and eat it just as they were going to bed; and even if they were dying of thirst they wouldn’t take a drink, and then they used to, when they had such a thirst that a lad who they would marry would come and give them a drink. If they saw such a dream at night, they would be very pleased – if they saw the lad they like best coming to give them a drink. They used to go at Halloween to pull up cabbages and turnips. They would go into the fields but they didn’t take any away with them at all. They would just cut the cabbages and turnips down.
At times they would take the neighbour’s cattle into another barn. When they had put that cattle in they would then take the other cattle and they would put them in the barn from where they had taken the other cattle.
They would move hens from one hen-house and put them in the other. They would move boats and hide them. They used to place peat on chimney tops so that the smoke couldn’t get out. If they found any gear around about the house they would take it with them even to the other end of the village and leave it there. They used to roast nuts. They would put two nuts into the fire for a boy and a girl and if they made two cracks as they can do – and if it was made at the same time, then they would marry. But if those two didn’t [make a crack] at the same time, and if the girl’s one didn’t make a crack, she would marry but the lad wouldn’t take her, but if the boy’s one didn’t make a crack, he’d marry but he wouldn’t take the lassie.
They also used to place apples in a tub of water, and if a lad or a lassie managed to get one of the apples, they would marry. They were not allowed to dook for them but with their mouths.
They would then make cream brose in a basin. They would circulate the cream brose with a ring was placed in it and the lassie who found the ring with a spoon would be the first one to be married.
As can be seen these customs represent old seasonal rituals that have been grafted onto medieval saints’ days and continue to survive as secularised celebrations. Halloween or Oidhche Shamhna (from Samhain, a liminal transition indicating summer’s end and winter’s beginning or the dark half of the year) was one of the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar and was celebrated throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Traditionally, Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) falls on the 31st of October, and usually involves youngsters guising or dressing up in costumes and entertaining for treats, engaging in mischief-making, as well as young girls performing divination to find out about their future spouses.
IFC 1026: 235–37
Halloween Turnip

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