Throughout the UK and indeed throughout world there are many beliefs and superstitions surrounding this time of year.
Lancashire – Lating (Lighting the Witches)
To foretell one’s fate for the coming year, a candle was lit between 11pm and Midnight. If the candle burnt steadily without a flicker the person holding the candle would be safe and thrive for another year. However, if the candle flickered; or worse blew out, a witch was said to be watching them, which was a bad omen for the future.
North of England – Nut-Crack-Night
Nuts were placed on an open fire and were closely observed. The faithfulness of a sweetheart and the success or failure of a marriage; could be ascertained on how the nuts crackled and sparked in the fire.
Ireland – The Footsteps of Death
People knew that if they heard footsteps behind them, whilst out at Hallowe’en, it was imperative that they didn’t turn around. They believed that it was death shadowing their footsteps, and that he would take them if they turned and faced him.
England – Snap Apple Night
A dangerous variation on ducking for apples where an apple was suspended on a stick, with two lighted candles attached to either side. As the stick was swung around, the object of the game was to catch the apple in your teeth; whilst avoiding being burnt by the candles.
Spain – Day of the Dead
In Spain, the festival Dia De Los Muertos or ‘The Day of The Dead,’ lasts for three days starting on the 31st of October and culminating with All Souls Day on the 2nd of November. In homes alters were assembled, offering food and drink, whilst outside basins of water, soap and a towel was left, so that the dearly departed could clean themselves, before partaking in the feast.
Unlikely as it may seem, in amongst ghostly tales and happenings of the dark and sinister nature, romance and prophecies of matchmaking abound.
A tradition, which appears to have ambiguous origins, and yet seemed to have been popular throughout the world, was the practice of apple peeling. On Hallowe’en, it was said that if a young woman peeled an apple in one piece and through it over her shoulder; the apple peel would form the first initial of her true love.
Another way in which one could ascertain the identity of their future husband, was to steal away to an empty dark room at the stroke of midnight on Hallowe’en. Using the light of a single candle the maiden must stand in front of a mirror, whilst brushing her hair. As she carried out this task the face of her future husband would appear as a reflection of the mirror.
The Dark Side of Hallowe’en
On Hallowe’en, it was said that you could summon the Devil to do your bidding. On the last stroke of midnight whilst standing in front of a mirror, say the name ‘Lucifer I command thee,’ thirteen times. If Lucifer appeared in the reflection of the mirror, you had won his favour, if however, the reflection of the beast appeared, you had somehow displeased Lucifer and were cursed to eternal damnation.
Spine Chilling Hallowe’en
Suffolk, on the edge of the broads, with its acres of countryside punctuated with villages, ancient churches and graveyards provides a rich resource of ghostly tales, passed down from generation to generation.