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The Book of Hallowe'en

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Author Topic: The Book of Hallowe'en  (Read 129 times)
Amanda Messenger
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« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2009, 03:51:18 pm »


THE Teutons, that race of northern peoples called by the Romans, "barbarians," comprised the Goths and Vandals who lived in Scandinavia, and the Germans who dwelt north of Italy and east of Gaul.

The nature of the northern country was such that the people could not get a living by peaceful agriculture. So it was natural that in the intervals of cattle-tending they should explore the seas all about, and ravage neighboring lands. The Romans and the Gauls experienced this in the centuries just before and after Christ, and England from the eighth to the tenth centuries. Such a life made the Norsemen adventurous, hardy, warlike, independent, and quick of action, while the Celts were by nature more slothful and fond of peaceful social gatherings, though of quicker intellect and wit.

Like the Greeks and Romans, the Teutons had twelve gods and goddesses, among whom were Odin or Wotan, the king, and his wife Freya, queen of Beauty and love. Idun guarded the apples of immortality, which the gods ate to keep them eternally young. The chief difference in Teutonic mythology was the presence of an evil god, Loki. Like Vulcan, Loki was a god of fire, like him, Loki was lame because he had been cast out of heaven. Loki was always plotting against the other gods, as Lucifer, after being banished from Heaven by God, plotted against him and his people, and became Satan, "the enemy."

"Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th' Omnipotent to arms."

--MILTON: Paradise Lost.

It was this god of evil in Teutonic myth who was responsible for the death of the bright beautiful sun-god, Baldur. Mistletoe was the only thing in the world which had not sworn not to harm Baldur. Loki knew this, and gave a twig of mistletoe to Baldur's blind brother, Hodur, and Hodur cast it at Baldur and "unwitting slew" him. Vali, a younger brother of Baldur, avenged him by killing Hodur. Hodur is darkness and Baldur light; they are brothers; the light falls a victim to blind darkness, who reigns until a younger brother, the sun of the next day, rises to slay him in turn.

Below these gods, all nature was peopled with divinities. There were elves of two kinds: black elves, called trolls, who were frost spirits, and guarded treasure (seeds) in the ground; and white elves, who lived in mid-heaven, and danced on the earth in fairy rings, where a mortal entering died. Will-o'-the-wisps hovered over swamps to mislead travellers, and jack-o'-lanterns, the spirits of murderers, walked the earth near the places of their crimes.

The Otherworlds of the Teutons were Valhalla, the abode of the heroes whom death had found on the battlefield, and Niflheim, "the misty realm," secure from the cold outside, ruled over by Queen Hel. Valkyries, warlike women who rode through the air on swift horses, seized the heroes from the field of slaughter, and took them to the halls of Valhalla, where they enjoyed daily combats, long feasts, and drinking-bouts, music and story-telling.

The sacred tree of the Druids was the oak; that of the Teutonic priests the ash. The flat disk of earth was believed to be supported by a great ash-tree, Yggdrasil,

"An ash know I standing,
Named Yggdrasil,
A stately tree sprinkled
With water the purest;
Thence come the dewdrops
That fall in the dales;
Ever-blooming, it stands
O'er the Urdar-fountain."

--Voluspa saga. (Blackwell trans.)

guarded by three fates, Was, Will, and Shall Be. The name of Was means the past, of Will, the power, howbeit small, which men have over present circumstances, and Shall Be, the future over which man has no control. Vurdh, the name of the latter, gives us the word "weird," which means fate or fateful. The three Weird Sister in Macbeth are seeresses.

Besides the ash, other trees and shrubs were believed to have peculiar powers, which they have kept, with some changes of meaning, to this day. The elder (elves' grave), the hawthorn, and the juniper, were sacred to supernatural powers.

The priests of the Teutons sacrificed prisoners of war in consecrated groves, to Tyr, god of the sword. The victims were not burned alive, as by the Druids, but cut and torn terribly, and their dead bodies burned. From these sacrifices auspices were taken. A man's innocence or guilt was manifested by gods to men through ordeals by fire; walking upon red-hot ploughshares, holding a heated bar of iron, or thrusting the hands into red-hot gauntlets, or into boiling water. If after a certain number of days no burns appeared the person was declared innocent. If a suspected man, thrown into the water, floated, he was guilty; if he sank, he was acquitted.

The rites of the Celts were done in secret, and it was forbidden that they be written down. Those of the Teutons were commemorated in Edda and Saga (poetry and prose).

In the far north the shortness of summer and the length of winter so impressed the people that when they made a story about it they told of a maiden, the Spring, put to sleep, and guarded, along with a hoard of treasure, by a ring of fire. One knight only could break through the flames, awaken her and seize the treasure. He is the returning sun, and the treasure he gets possession of is the wealth of summer vegetation. So there is the story of Brynhild, pricked by the "sleep-thorn" of her father, Wotan, and sleeping until Sigurd wakens her. They marry, but soon Sigurd has to give her up to Gunnar, the relentless winter, and Gunnar cannot rest until he has killed Sigurd, and reigns undisturbed. Grimm's story of Rapunzel, the princess who was shut up by a winter witch, and of Briar-Rose, pricked by a witch's spindle, and sleeping inside a hedge which blooms with spring at the knight's approach, mean likewise the struggle between summer and winter.

The chief festivals of the Teutonic year were held at Midsummer and Midwinter. May-Day, the very beginning of spring, was celebrated by May-ridings, when winter and spring, personified by two warriors, engaged in a combat in which Winter, the fur-clad king of ice and snow, was defeated. It was then that the sacred fire had been kindled, and the sacrificial feast held. Judgements were rendered then.

The summer solstice was marked by bonfires, like those of the Celts on May Eve and Midsummer. They were kindled in an open place or on a hill, and the ceremonies held about them were similar to the Celtic. As late as the eighteenth century these same customs were observed in Iceland.

A May-pole wreathed with magical herbs is erected as the center of the dance in Sweden, and in Norway a child chosen May-bride is followed by a procession as at a real wedding. This is a symbol of the wedding of sun and earth deities in the spring. The May-pole, probably imported from Celtic countries, is used at Midsummer because the spring does not begin in the north before June.

Yule-tide in December celebrated the sun's turning back, and was marked by banquets and gayety. A chief feature of all these feasts was the drinking of toasts to the gods, with vows and prayers.

By the sixth century Christianity had supplanted Druidism in the British Isles. It was the ninth before Christianity made much progress in Scandinavia. After King Olaf had converted his nation, the toasts which had been drunk to the pagan gods were kept in honor of Christian saints; for instance, those to Freya were now drunk to the Virgin Mary or to St. Gertrude.

The "wetting of the sark-sleeve," that custom of Scotland and Ireland, was in its earliest form a rite to Freya as the northern goddess of love. To secure her aid in a love-affair, a maid would wash in a running stream a piece of fine linen--for Freya was fond of personal adornment--and would hang it before the fire to dry an hour before midnight. At half-past eleven she must turn it, and at twelve her lover's apparition would appear to her, coming in at the half-open door.

"The wind howled through the leafless boughs, and there was every appearance of an early and severe winter, as indeed befell. Long before eleven o'clock all was hushed and quiet within the house, and indeed without (nothing was heard), except the cold wind which howled mournfully in gusts. The house was an old farmhouse, and we sat in the large kitchen with its stone floor, awaiting the first stroke of the eleventh hour. It struck at last, and then all pale and trembling we hung the garment before the fire which we had piled up with wood, and set the door ajar, for that was an essential point. The door was lofty and opened upon the farm- yard, through which there was a kind of thoroughfare, very seldom used, it is true, and at each end of it there was a gate by which wayfarers occasionally passed to shorten the way. There we sat without speaking a word, shivering with cold and fear, listening to the clock which went slowly, tick, tick, and occasionally starting as the door creaked on its hinges, or a half-burnt billet fell upon the hearth. My sister was ghastly white, as white as the garment which was drying before the fire. And how half an hour had elapsed and it was time to turn. . . . This we did, I and my sister, without saying a word, and then we again sank on our chairs on either side of the fire. I was tired, and as the clock went tick-a-tock, I began to feel myself dozing. I did doze, I believe. All of a sudden I sprang up. The clock was striking one, two, but ere it could give the third chime, mercy upon us! we heard the gate slam with a tremendous noise. . . ."

"Well, and what happened then?"

"Happened! before I could recover myself, my sister had sprung to the door, and both locked and bolted it. The next moment she was in convulsions. I scarcely knew what happened; and yet it appeared to me for a moment that something pressed against the door with a low moaning sound. Whether it was the wind or not, I can't say. I shall never forget that night. About two hours later, my father came home. He had been set upon by a highwayman whom he beat off."

--BORROW: Lavengro.

Freya and Odin especially had had power over the souls of the dead. When Christianity turned all the old gods into spirits of evil, these two were accused especially of possessing unlawful learning, as having knowledge of the hidden matters of death. This unlawful wisdom is the first accusation that has always been brought against witches. A mirror is often used to contain it. Such are the crystals of the astrologers, and the looking-glasses which on Hallowe'en materialize wishes.

From that time in the Middle Ages when witches were first heard of, it has nearly always been women who were accused. Women for the most part were the priests in the old days: it was a woman to whom Apollo at Delphi breathed his oracles. In all times it has been women who plucked herbs and concocted drinks of healing and refreshment. So it was very easy to imagine that they experimented with poisons and herbs of magic power under the guidance of the now evil gods. If they were so directed, they must go on occasions to consult with their masters. The idea arose of a witches' Sabbath, when women were enabled by evil means to fly away, and adore in secret the gods from whom the rest of the world had turned. There were such meeting-places all over Europe. They had been places of sacrifice, of judgement, or of wells and springs considered holy under the old religion, and whither the gods had now been banished. The most famous was the Blocksberg in the Hartz mountains in Germany.

"Dame Baubo first, to lead the cerw!
A tough old sow and the mother thereon,
Then follow the witches, every one."

--GOETHE: Faust. (Taylor trans.)

In Norway the mountains above Bergen were a resort, and the Dovrefeld, once the home of the trolls.

"It's easy to slip in here,
But outward the Dovre-King's gate opens not."

--IBSEN: Peer Gynt. (Archer trans.)

In Italy the witches met under a walnut tree near Benevento; in France, in Puy de Dome; in Spain, near Seville.

In these night-ridings Odin was the leader of a wild hunt. In stormy, blustering autumn weather.

"The wonted roar was up among the woods."
--MILTON: Comus.

Odin rode in pursuit of shadowy deer with the Furious Host behind him. A ghostly huntsman of a later age was Dietrich von Bern, doomed to hunt till the Judgement Day.

Frau Venus in Wagner's Tannhauser held her revels in an underground palace in the Horselberg in Thuringia, Germany. This was one of the seats of Holda, the goddess of spring. Venus herself is like the Christian conception of Freya and Hel. She gathers about her a throng of nymphs, sylphs, and those she has lured into the mountain by intoxicating music and promises. "The enchanting sounds enticed only those in whose hearts wild sensuous longings had already taken root." Of these Tannhauser is one. He has stayed a year, but it seems to him only one day. Already he is tired of the rosy light and eternal music and languor, and longs for the fresh green world of action he once knew. He fears that he has forfeited his soul's salvation by being there at all, but cries,

"Salvation rests for me in Mary!"
--WAGNER: Tannhauser.

At the holy name Venus and her revellers vanish, and Tannhauser finds himself in a meadow, hears the tinkling herd-bells, and a shepherd's voice singing,

"Frau Holda, goddess of the spring,
Steps forth from the mountains old;
She comes, and all the brooklets sing,
And fled is winter's cold.
* * * * *
Play, play, my pipe, your lightest lay,
For spring has come, and merry May!"

--Tannhauser. (Huckel trans.)

praising the goddess in her blameless state.

By the fifteenth century Satan, taking the place of the gods, assumed control of the evil creatures. Now that witches were the followers of the Devil, they wrote their names in his book, and were carried away by him for the revels by night. A new witch was pricked with a needle to initiate her into his company. At the party the Devil was adored with worship due to God alone. Dancing, a device of the pagans, and hence considered wholly wicked, was indulged in to unseemly lengths. In 1883 in Sweden it was believed that dances were held about the sanctuaries of the ancient gods, and that whoever stopped to watch were caught by the dancers and whirled away. If they profaned holy days by this dancing, they were doomed to keep it up for a year.

At the witches' Sabbath the Devil himself sometimes appeared as a goat, and the witches were attended b cats, owls, bats, and cuckoos, because these creatures had once been sacred to Freya. At the fest horse-flesh, once the food of the gods at banquets, was eaten. The broth for the feast was brewed in a kettle held over the fire by a tripod, like that which supported the seat of Apollo's priestess at Delphi. The kettle may be a reminder of the one Thor got, which gave to each guest whatever food he asked of it, or it may be merely that used in brewing the herb-remedies which women made before they were thought to practise witchcraft. In the kettle were cooked mixtures which caused storms and shipwrecks, plagues, and blights. No salt was eaten, for that was a wholesome substance.

The witches of Germany did not have prophetic power; those of Scandinavia, like the Norse Fates, did have it. The troll-wives of Scandinavia were like the witches of Germany--they were cannibals, especially relishing children, like the witch in Hansel and Grethel.

For the fourteenth to the eighteenth century all through Europe and the new world people though to be witches, and hence in the devil's service, were persecuted. It was believed that they were able to take the form of beasts. A wolf or other animal is caught in a trap or shot, and disappears. Later an old woman who lives alone in the woods is found suffering from a similar wound. She is then declared to be a witch.

"There was once an old castle in the middle
of a vast thick wood; in it lived an old woman
quite alone, and she was a witch. By day she
made herself into a cat or a screech-owl, but
regularly at night she became a human being

--GRIMM: Jorinda and Joringel.

"Hares found on May morning are witches and should be stoned," reads an old superstition. "If you tease a cat on May Eve, it will turn into a witch and hurt you."

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Amanda Messenger
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« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2009, 03:51:43 pm »


WALPURGA was a British nun who went to Germany in the eighth century to found holy houses. After a pious life she was buried at Eichstatt, where it is said a healing oil trickled from her rock-tomb. This miracle reminded men of the fruitful dew which fell from the manes of the Valkyries' horses, and when one of the days sacred to her came on May first, the wedding-day of Frau Holda and the sun-god, the people thought of her as a Valkyrie, and identified her with Holda. As, like a Valkyrie, she rode armed on her steed, she scattered, like Holda, spring flowers and fruitful dew upon the fields and vales. When these deities fell into disrepute, Walpurga too joined the pagan train that swept the sky on the eve of May first, and met afterwards on mountain-tops to sacrifice and adore Holda, as the priests had sacrificed for a prosperous season and a bountiful harvest.

So this night was called Walpurgis Night, when evil beings were abroad, and with them human worshippers who still guarded the old faith in secret.

This is very like the occasion of November Eve, which shared with May first Celtic manifestations of evil. Witches complete the list of supernatural beings which are out on Hallowe'en. All are to be met at crossroads, with harm to the beholders. A superstition goes, that if one wishes to see witches, he must put on his clothes wrong side out, and creep backward to a crossroads, or wear wild radish, on May Eve.

On Walpurgis Night precaution must be taken against witches who may harm cattle. The stable doors are locked and sealed with three crosses. Sprigs of ash, hawthorn, juniper, and elder, once sacred to the pagan gods, are now used as a protection against them.

Horseshoes are nailed prongs up on the threshold or over the door. Holy bells are hung on the cows to scare away the witches, and they are guided to pasture by a goad which has been blessed. Shots are fired over the cornfield. If one wishes, he may hide in the corn and hear what will happen for a year.

Signs and omens on Walpurgis Night have more weight that at other times except on St. John's Day.

"On Walpurgis Night rain
Makes good crops of autumn grain,"

but rain on May Day is harmful to them.

Lovers try omens on this eve, as they do in Scotland on Hallowe'en. If you sleep with one stocking on, you will find on May morning in the toe a hair the color of your sweetheart's. Girls try to find out the temperament of their husbands-to-be by keeping a linen thread for three days near an image of the Madonna, and at midnight on May Eve pulling it apart, saying:

"Thread, I pull thee;
Walpurga, I pray thee,
That thou show to me
What my husband's like to be."

They judge of his disposition by the thread's being strong or easily broken, soft or tightly woven.

Dew on the morning of May first makes girls who wash in it beautiful.

"The fair maid who on the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be."

--Encyclopedia of Superstitions.

A heavy dew on this morning presages a good "butter-year." You will find fateful initials printed in dew on a handkerchief that has been left out all the night of April thirtieth.

On May Day girls invoke the cuckoo:

"Cuckoo! cuckoo! on the bough,
Tell me truly, tell me how
Many years there will be
Till a husband comes to me."

Then they count the calls of the cuckoo until he pauses again.

If a man wears clothes made of yarn spun on Walpurgis Night to the May-shooting, he will always hit the bull's-eye, for the Devil gives away to those he favors, "freikugeln," bullets which always hit the mark.

On Walpurgis Night as on Hallowe'en strange things may happen to one. Zschokke tells a story of a Walpurgis Night dream that is more a vision than a dream. Led to be unfaithful to his wife, a man murders the husband of a former sweetheart; to escape capture he fires a haystack, from which a whole village is kindled. In his flight he enters an empty carriage, and drives away madly, crushing the owner under the wheels. He finds that the dead man is his own brother. Faced by the person whom he believes to be the Devil, responsible for his misfortunes, the wretched man is ready to worship him if he will protect him. He finds that the seeming Devil is in reality his guardian-angel who sent him this dream that he might learn the depths of wickedness lying unfathomed in his heart, waiting an opportunity to burst out.

Both May Eve and St. John's Eve are times of freedom and unrestraint. People are filled with a sort of madness which makes them unaccountable for their deeds.

"For you see, pastor, within every one of us a spark of paganism is glowing. It has out-lasted the thousand years since the old Teutonic times. Once a year is flames up high, and we call it St. John's Fire. Once a year comes Free-night. Yes, truly, Free-night. Then the witches, laughing scornfully, ride to Blocksberg, upon the mountain-top, on their broomsticks, the same broomsticks with which at other times their witchcraft is whipped out of them,--then the whole wild company skims along the forest way,--and then the wild desires awaken in our hearts which life has not fulfilled."

--SUDERMANN: St. John's Fire. (Porter trans.)


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Amanda Messenger
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« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2009, 03:52:30 pm »


ONLY the Celts and the Teutonics celebrate an occasion actually like our Hallowe'en. The countries of southern Europe make of it a religious vigil, like that already described in France.

In Italy on the night of All Souls', the spirits of the dead are thought to be abroad, as in Brittany. They may mingle with living people, and not be remarked. The Miserere is heard in all the cities. As the people pass dressed in black, bells are rung on street corners to remind them to pray for the souls of the dead. In Naples the skeletons in the funeral vaults are dressed up, and the place visited on All Souls' Day. In Salerno before the people go to the all-night services at church they set out a banquet for the dead. If any food is left in the morning, evil is in store for the house.

"Hark! Hark to the wind! 'T is the night, they say,
When all souls come back from the far away--
The dead, forgotten this many a day!

"And the dead remembered--ay! long and well--
And the little children whose spirits dwell
In God's green garden of asphodel.

"Have you reached the country of all content,
O souls we know, since the day you went
From this time-worn world, where your years were spent?

"Would you come back to the sun and the rain,
The sweetness, the strife, the thing we call pain,
And then unravel life's tangle again?

"I lean to the dark--Hush!--was it a sigh?
Or the painted vine-leaves that rustled by?
Or only a night-bird's echoing cry?"

--SHEARD: Hallowe'en.

In Malta bells are rung, prayers said, and mourning worn on All Souls' Day. Graves are decorated, and the inscriptions on tombs read and reread. For the poor is prepared an All Souls' dinner, as cakes are given to the poor in England and Wales. The custom of decorating graves with flowers and offering flowers to the dead comes from the crowning of the dead by the ancients with short-lived blooms, to signify the brevity of life.

In Spain at dark on Hallowe'en cakes and nuts are laid on graves to bribe the spirits not to disturb the vigils of the saints.

In Germany the graves of the dead are decorated with flowers and lights, on the first and second of November. To drive away ghosts from a church a key or a wand must be struck three times against a bier. An All Souls' divination in Germany is a girl's going out and asking the first young man she meets his name. Her husband's will be like it. If she walks thrice about a church and makes a wish, she will see it fulfilled.

Belgian children build shrines in front of their homes with figures of the Madonna and candles, and beg for money to buy cakes. As many cakes as one eats, so many souls he frees from Purgatory.

The races of northern Europe believed that the dead returned, and were grieved at the lamentations of their living relatives. The same belief was found in Brittany, and among the American Indians.

"Think of this, O Hiawatha!
Speak of it to all the people,
That henceforward and forever
They no more with lamentations
Sadden souls of the departed
In the Islands of the Blessed!"

--LONGFELLOW: Hiawatha.

The Chinese fear the dead and the dragons of the air. They devote the first three weeks in April to visiting the graves of their ancestors, and laying baskets of offerings on them. The great dragon, Feng-Shin, flies scattering blessings upon the houses. His path is straight, unless he meets with some building. Then he turns aside, and the owner of the too lofty edifice misses the blessing.

At Nikko, Japan, where there are many shrines to the spirits of the dead, masques are held to entertain the ghosts who return on Midsummer Day. Every street is lined with lighted lanterns, and the spirits are sent back to the otherworld in straw boats lit with lanterns, and floated down the river. To see ghosts in Japan one must put one hundred rush-lights into a large lantern, and repeat one hundred lines of poetry, taking one light out at the end of each line; or go out into the dark with one light and blow it out. Ghosts are identified with witches. They come back especially on moonlit nights.

"On moonlight nights, when the coast-wind
whispers in the branches of the tree, O-Matsue
and Teoyo may sometimes be seen, with bamboo
racks in their hands, gathering together the
needles of the fir."

--RINDER: Great Fir-Tree of Takasago.

There is a Chinese saying that a mirror is the soul of a woman. A pretty story is told of a girl whose mother before she died gave her a mirror, saying:

"Now after I am dead, if you think longingly of me, take out the thing that you will find inside this box, and look at it. When you do so my spirit will meet yours, and you will be comforted." When she was lonely or her stepmother was harsh with her, the girl went to her room and looked earnestly into the mirror. She saw there only her own face, but it was so much like her mother's that she believed it was hers indeed, and was consoled. When the stepmother learned what it was her daughter cherished so closely, her heart softened toward the lonely girl, and her life was made easier.

By the Arabs spirits were called Djinns (or genii). They came from fire, and looked like men or beasts. They might be good or evil, beautiful or horrible, and could disappear from mortal sight at will. Nights when they were abroad, it behooved men to stay under cover.

"Ha! They are on us, close without!
Shut tight the shelter where we lie;
With hideous din the monster rout,
Dragon and vampire, fill the sky."

--HUGO: The Djinns.


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« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2009, 03:53:03 pm »


IN Colonial days Hallowe'en was not celebrated much in America. Some English still kept the customs of the old world, such as apple-ducking and snapping, and girls tried the apple-paring charm to reveal their lovers' initials, and the comb-and-mirror test to see their faces. Ballads were sung and ghost-stories told, for the dead were thought to return on Hallowe'en.

"There was a young officer in Phip's company at the time of the finding of the Spanish treasure-ship, who had gone mad at the sight of the bursting sacks that the divers had brought up from the sea, as the gold coins covered the deck. This man had once lived in the old stone house on the 'faire greene lane,' and a report had gone out that his spirit still visited it, and caused discordant noises. Once . . . on a gusty November evening, when the clouds were scudding over the moon, a hall-door had blown open with a shrieking draft and a force that caused the floor to tremble."

--BUTTERWORTH: Hallowe'en Reformation.

Elves, goblins, and fairies are native on American soil. The Indians believed in evil manitous, some of whom were water-gods who exacted tribute from all who passed over their lakes. Henry Hudson and his fellow-explorers haunted as mountain-trolls the Catskill range. Like Ossian and so many other visitors to the Otherworld, Rip Van Winkle is lured into the strange gathering, thinks that he passes the night there, wakes, and goes home to find that twenty years have whitened his hair, rusted his gun, and snatched from life many of his boon-companions.

"My gun must have cotched the rheumatix too. Now that's too bad. Them fellows have gone and stolen my good gun, and leave me this rusty old barrel.

"Why, is that the village of Falling Waters that I see? Why, the place is more than twice the size it was last night--I---

"I don't know whether I am dreaming, or sleeping, or waking."

--JEFFERSON: Rip Van Winkle.

The persecution of witches, prevalent in Europe, reached this side of the Atlantic in the seventeenth century.

"This sudden burst of wickedness and crime
Was but the common madness of the time,
When in all lands, that lie within the sound
Of Sabbath bells, a witch was burned or drowned."

--LONGFELLOW: Giles Corey of the Salem Farms.

Men and women who had enemies to accuse them of evil knowledge and the power to cause illness in others, were hanged or pressed to death by heavy weights. Such sicknesses they could cause by keeping a waxen image, and sticking pins or nails into it, or melting it before the fire. The person whom they hated would be in torture, or would waste away like the waxen doll. Witches' power to injure and to prophesy came from the Devil, who marked them with a needle-prick. Such marks were sought as evidence at trials.

"Witches' eyes are coals of fire from the pit." They were attended by black cats, owls, bats, and toads.

Iron, as being a product of fire, was a protection against them , as against evil spirits everywhere. It had especial power when in the shape of a horseshoe.

"This horseshoe will I nail upon the threshold.
There, ye night-hags and witches that torment
The neighborhood, ye shall not enter here."

--LONGFELLOW: Giles Corey of the Salem Farms.

The holiday-time of elves, witches, and ghosts is Hallowe'en. It is not believed in here except by some children, who people the dark with bogies who will carry them away if they are naughty.

"Onc't they was a little boy wouldn't say his prayers--
An' when he went to bed at night, away upstairs,
His mammy heerd him holler, an' his daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wasn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbley-flue, an' ever'wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was thist his pants an' roundabout!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you, ef you don't watch out!"

--RILEY: Little Orphant Annie.

Negroes are very superstitious, putting faith in all sorts of supernatural beings.

"Blame my trap! how de wind do blow;
And dis is das de night for de witches, sho!
Dey's trouble going to waste when de ole **** whine,
An' you hear de cat a-spittin' when de moon don't shine."

--RILEY: When de Folks is Gone.

While the original customs of Hallowe'en are being forgotten more and more across the ocean, Americans have fostered them, and are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days overseas. All Hallowe'en customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries. All superstitions, everyday ones, and those pertaining to Christmas and New Year's, have special value on Hallowe'en.

It is a night of ghostly and merry revelry. Mischievous spirits choose it for carrying off gates and other objects, and hiding them or putting them out of reach.

"Dear me, Polly, I wonder what them boys
will be up to to-night. I do hope they'll not put
the gate up on the shed as they did last year."

--WRIGHT: Tom's Hallowe'en Joke.

Bags filled with flour sprinkle the passers-by. Door-bells are rung and mysterious raps sounded on doors, things thrown into halls, and knobs stolen. Such sports mean no more at Hallowe'en than the tricks played the night before the Fourth of July have to do with the Declaration of Independence. We see manifested on all such occasions the spirit of "Free-night" of which George von Hartwig speaks so enthusiastically in St. John's Fire (page 141).

Hallowe'en parties are the real survival of the ancient merrymakings. They are prepared for in secret. Guests are not to divulge the fact that they are invited. Often they come masked, as ghosts or witches.

The decorations make plain the two elements of the festival. For the centerpiece of the table there may be a hollowed pumpkin, filled with apples and nuts and other fruits of harvest, or a pumpkin-chariot drawn by field-mice. So it is clear that this is a harvest-party, like Pomona's feast. In the coach rides a witch, representing the other element, of magic and prophesy. Jack-o'-lanterns, with which the room is lighted, are hollowed pumpkins with candles inside. The candlelight shines through holes cut like features. So the lantern becomes a bogy, and is held up at a window to frighten those inside. Cornstalks from the garden stand in clomps about the room. A frieze of witches on broomsticks, with cats, bats, and owls surmounts the fireplace, perhaps. A full moon shines over all, and a caldron on a tripod holds fortunes tied in nut-shells. The prevailing colors are yellow and black; a deep yellow is the color of most ripe grain and fruit; black stands for black magic and demoniac influence. Ghosts and skulls and cross-bones, symbols of death, startle the beholder. Since Hallowe'en is a time for lovers to learn their fate, hearts and other sentimental tokens are used to good effect, as the Scotch lads of Burns's time wore love-knots.

Having marched to the dining-room to the time of a dirge, the guests find before them plain, hearty fare; doughnuts, gingerbread, cider, popcorn, apples, and nuts honored by time. The Hallowe'en cake had held the place of honor since the beginning here in America. A ring, key, thimble, penny, and button baked in it foretell respectively speedy marriage, a jouney, spinsterhood, wealth, and bachelorhood.

"Polly was going to be married, Jennie was going on a long journey, and you--down went the knife against something hard. The girls crowded round. You had a hurt in your throat, and there, there, in your slice, was the horrid, hateful, big brass thimble. It was more than you could bear--soaking, dripping wet, and an old maid!"

--BRADLEY: Different Party.

The kitchen is the best place for the rough games and after-supper charms.

On the stems of the apples which are to be dipped for may be tied names; for the boys in one tub, for the girls in another. Each searcher of the future must draw out with his teeth an apple with a name which will be like that of his future mate.

A variation of the Irish snap-apple is a hoop hung by strings from the ceiling, round which at intervals are placed bread, apples, cakes, peppers, candies, and candles. The strings are twisted, then let go, and as the hoop revolves, each may step up and get a bite from whatever comes to him. By the taste he determines what the character of his married life will be,--whether wholesome, acid, soft, fiery, or sweet. Whoever bites the candle is twice unfortunate, for he must pay a forfeit too. An apple and a bag of flour are placed on the ends of a stick, and whoever dares to seize a mouthful of apple must risk being blinded by flour. Apples are suspended one to a string in a doorway. As they swing, each guest tries to secure his apple. To blow out a candle as it revolves on a stick requires attention and accuracy of aim.

The one who first succeeds in threading a needle as he sits on a round bottle on the floor will be first married. Twelve candles are lighted, and placed at convenient distances on the floor in a row. As the guest leaps over them, the first he blows out will indicate his wedding-month. One candle only placed on the floor and blown out in the same way means a year of wretchedness ahead. If it still burns, it presages a year of joy.

Among the quieter tests some of the most common are tried with apple-seeds. As in England a pair of seeds named for two lovers are stuck on brow or eyelids. The one who sticks longer is the true, the one who soon falls, the disloyal sweetheart. Seeds are used in this way to tell also whether one is to be a traveler or a stay-at-home. Apple-seeds are twice ominous, partaking of both apple and nut nature. Even the number of seeds found in a core has meaning. If you put them upon the palm of your hand, and strike it with the other, the number remaining will tell you how many letters you will receive in a fortnight. With twelve seeds and the names of twelve friends, the old rhyme may be repeated:

"One I love,
Two I love,
Three I love, I say;
Four I love with all my heart:
Five I cast away.
Six he loves,
Seven she loves,
Eight they both love;
Nine he comes,
Ten he tarries,
Eleven he courts, and
Twelve he marries."

Nuts are burned in the open fire. It is generally agreed that the one for whom the first that pops is named, loves.

"If he loves me, pop and fly;
If he hates me, live and die."

Often the superstition connected therewith is forgotten in the excitement of the moment.

"When ebery one among us toe de smallest pickaninny
Would huddle in de chimbley cohnah's glow,
Toe listen toe dem chilly win's ob ole Novembah's
Go a-screechin' lack a spook around de huts,
'Twell de pickaninnies' fingahs gits to shakin' o'er de embahs,
An' dey laik ter roas' dey knuckles 'stead o' nuts."

--IN WERNER'S Readings, Number 31.

Letters of the alphabet are carved on a pumpkin. Fate guides the hand of the blindfolded seeker to the fateful initial which he stabs with a pin. Letters cut out of paper are sprinkled on water in a tub. They form groups from which any one with imagination may spell out names.

Girls walk down cellar backward with a candle in one hand and a looking-glass in the other, expecting to see a face in the glass.

"Last night 't was witching Hallowe'en,
Dearest; an apple russet-brown
I pared, and thrice above my crown
Whirled the long skin; they watched it keen;
I flung it far; they laughed and cried me shame--
Dearest, there lay the letter of your name.

"Took I the mirror then, and crept
Down, down the creaking narrow stair;
The milk-pans caught my candle's flare
And mice walked soft and spiders slept.
I spoke the spell, and stood the magic space,
Dearest--and in the glass I saw your face!

"And then I stole out in the night
Alone; the frogs piped sweet and loud,
The moon looked through a ragged cloud.
Thrice round the house I sped me light,
Dearest; and there, methought--charm of my charms!
You met me, kissed me, took me to your arms!"

--OPPER: The Charms.

There are many mirror tests. A girl who sits before a mirror at midnight on Hallowe'en combing her hair and eating an apple will see the face of her true love reflected in the glass. Standing so that through a window she may see the moon in a glass she holds, she counts the number of reflections to find out how many pleasant things will happen to her in the next twelve months. Alabama has taken over the Scotch mirror test in its entirety.

A girl with a looking-glass in her hand steps backward from the door out into the yard. Saying:

"Round and round, O stars so fair!
Ye travel, and search out everywhere.
I pray you, sweet stars, now show to me,
This night, who my future husband shall be!"

she goes to meet her fate.

"So Leslie backed out at the door, and we shut it upon her. The instant after, we heard a great laugh. Off the piazza she had stepped backward directly against two gentlemen coming in.

"Doctor Ingleside was one, coming to get his supper; the other was a friend of his. . . .

'Doctor John Hautayne,' he said, introducing him by his full name."

--WHITNEY: We Girls.

A custom that is a reminder of the lighted boats sent down-stream in Japan to bear away the souls of the dead, is that which makes use of nut-shell boats. These have tiny candles fastened in them, are lighted, and named, and set adrift on a tub of water. If they cling to the side, their namesakes will lead a quiet life. Some will float together. Some will bear steadily toward a goal thou the waves are rocked in a tempest. Their behavior is significant. The candle which burns longest belongs to the one who will marry first.

The Midsummer wheel which was rolled down into the Moselle River in France, and meant, if the flames that wreathed it were not extinguished, that the grape-harvest would be abundant, has survived in the fortune wheel which is rolled about from one guest to another, and brings a gift to each.

The actions of cats on Hallowe'en betoken good or bad luck. If a cat sits quietly beside any one, he will enjoy a peaceful, prosperous life; if one rubs against him, it brings good luck, doubly good if one jumps into his lap. If a cat yawns near you on Hallowe'en, be alert and do not let opportunity slip by you. If a cat runs from you, you have a secret which will be revealed in seven days.

Different states have put interpretations of their own on the commonest charms. In Massachusetts the one who first draws an apple from the tub with his teeth will be first married. If a girl steals a cabbage, she will see her future husband as she pulls it up, or meet him as she goes home. If these fail, she must put the cabbage over the door and watch to see whom it falls on, for him she is to marry. A button concealed in mashed potato brings misfortune to the finder. The names of three men are written on slips of paper, and enclosed in three balls of meal. The one that rises first when they are thrown into water will disclose the sought-for name.

Maine has borrowed the yarn-test from Scotland. A ball is thrown into a barn or cellar, and wound off on the hand. The lover will come and help to wind. Girls in New Hampshire place in a row three dishes with earth, water, and a ring in them, respectively. The one who blindfolded touches earth will soon die; water, will never marry; the ring, will soon be wedded.

To dream of the future on Hallowe'en in Pennsylvania, one must go out of the front door backward, pick up dust or grass, wrap it in paper, and put it under his pillow.

In Maryland girls see their future husbands by a rite similar to the Scotch "wetting of the sark-sleeve." They put an egg to a roast, and open wide all the doors and windows. The man they seek will come in and turn the egg. At supper girls stand behind the chairs, knowing that the ones they are to marry will come to sit in front of them.

The South has always been famous for its hospitality and good times. On Hallowe'en a miniature Druid-fire burns in a bowl on the table. In the blazing alcohol are put furtunes wrapped in tin-foil, figs, orange-peel, raisins, almonds, and dates. The one who snatches the best will meet his sweetheart inside of a year, and all may try for a fortune from the flames. The origin of this custom was the taking of omens from the death-struggles of creatures burning in the fire of sacrifice.

Another Southern custom is adapted from one of Brittany. Needles are named and floated in a dish of water. Those which cling side by side are lovers.

Good fortune is in store for the one who wins an apple from the tub, or against whose glass a ring suspended by a hair strikes with a sharp chime.

A very elaborate charm is tried in Newfoundland. As the clock strikes midnight a girl puts the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, cut from paper, into a pure-white bowl which has been touched by the lips of a new-born babe only. After saying:

"Kind fortune, tell me where is he
Who my future lore shall be;
From this bowl all that I claim
Is to know my sweetheart's name."

she puts the bowl into a safe place until morning. Then she is blindfolded and picks out the same number of letters as there are in her own name, and spells another from them.

In New Brunswick, instead of an apple, a hard-boiled egg without salt is eaten before a mirror, with the same result. In Canada a thread is held over a lamp. The number that can be counted slowly before the thread parts, is the number of years before the one who counts will marry.

In the United States a hair is thrown to the winds with the stanza chanted:

"I pluck this lock of hair off my head
To tell whence comes the one I shall wed.
Fly, silken hair, fly all the world around,
Until you reach the spot where my true love is found."

The direction in which the hair floats is prophetic.

The taste in Hallowe'en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Burn's poem Hallowe'en as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe'en is out of fashion now. "Cyniver" has been borrowed from Wales, and the "dumb-cake" from the Hebrides. In the Scotch custom of cabbage-stalk, if the stalk comes up easily, the husband or wife will be easy to win. The melted-lead test to show the occupation of the husband-to-be has been adopted in the United States. If the metal cools in round drops, the tester will never marry, or her husband will have no profession. White of egg is used in the same way. Like the Welsh test is that of filling the mouth with water, and walking round the house until one meets one's fate. An adaptation of the Scottish "three luggies" is the row of four dishes holding dirt, water, a ring, and a rag. The dirt means divorce, the water, a trip across the ocean, the ring, marriage, the rag, no marriage at all.

After the charms have been tried, fagots are passed about, and by the eerie light of burning salt and alcohol, ghost stories are told, each concluding his installment as his fagot withers into ashes. Sometimes the cabbage stalks used in the omens take the place of fagots.

To induce prophetic dreams salt, in quantities from a pinch to an egg full, is eaten before one goes to bed.

"'Miss Jeanette, that's such a fine trick! You must swallow a salt herring in three bites, bones and all, and not drink a drop till the apparition of your future spouse comes in the night to offer you a drink of water.'"

--ADAMS: Chrissie's Fate.

If, after taking three doses of salt two minutes apart, a girl goes to bed backward, lies on her right side, and does not move till morning, she is sure to have eventful dreams. Pills made of a hazelnut, a walnut, and nutmeg grated together and mixed with butter and sugar cause dreams: if of gold, the husband will be rich; if of noise, a tradesman; if of thunder and lightning, a traveler. As in Ireland bay-leaves on or under a man's pillow cause him to dream of his sweetheart. Also

"Turn your boots toward the street,
Leave your garters on your feet,
Put your stockings on your head,
You'll dream of the one you're going to wed."

Lemon-peel carried all day and rubbed on the bed-posts at night will cause an apparition to bring the dreaming girl two lemons. For quiet sleep and the fulfilment of any wish eat before going to bed on Hallowe'en a piece of dry bread.

A far more interesting development of the Hallowe'en idea than these innocent but colorless superstitions, is promised by the pageant at Fort Worth, Texas, on October thirty-first, 1916. In the masque and pageant of the afternoon four thousand school children took part. At night scenes from the pageant were staged on floats which passed along the streets. The subject was Preparedness for Peace, and comprised scenes from American history in which peace played an honorable part. Such were: the conference of William Penn and the Quakers with the Indians, and the opening of the East to American trade. This is not a subject limited to performances at Hallowtide. May there not be written and presented in America a truly Hallowe'en pageant, illustrating and befitting its noble origin, and making its place secure among the holidays of the year?

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Amanda Messenger
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« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2009, 03:53:20 pm »


Bring forth the raisins and the nuts--
To-night All Hallows' Spectre struts
Along the moonlit way.
No time is this for tear or sob,
Or other woes our joys to rob,
But time for Pippin and for Bob,
And Jack-o'-lantern gay.

Come forth, ye lass and trousered kid,
From prisoned mischief raise the lid,
And lift it good and high.
Leave grave old Wisdom in the lurch,
Set Folly on a lofty perch,
Nor fear the awesome rod of birch
When dawn illumes the sky.

'Tis night for revel, set apart
To reillume the darkened heart,
And rout the hosts of Dole.
'Tis night when Goblin, Elf, and Fay,
Come dancing in their best array
To prank and royster on the way,
And ease the troubled soul.

The ghosts of all things, past parade,
Emerging from the mist and shade
That hid them from our gaze,
And full of song and ringing mirth,
In one glad moment of rebirth,
Again they walk the ways of earth,
As in the ancient days.

The beason light shines on the hill,
The will-o'-wisps the forests fill
With flashes filched from noon;
And witches on thier broomsticks spry
Speed here and yonder in the sky,
And lift their strident voices high
Unto the Hunter's moon.

The air resounds with tuneful notes
From myriads of straining throats,
All hailing Folly Queen;
So join the swelling choral throng,
Forget your sorrow and your wrong,
In one glad hour of joyous song
To honor Hallowe'en.

--J.K. BANGS in Harper's Weekly, Nov. 5, 1910.

Who's dat peekin' in de do'?
Set mah heart a-beatin'!
Thought I see' a spook for sho
On mah way to meetin'.
Heerd a rustlin' all aroun',
Trees all sort o' jiggled;
An' along de frosty groun'
Funny shadders wriggled.

Who's dat by de winder-sill?
Gittin' sort o' skeery;
Feets is feelin' kind o' chill,
Eyes is sort o' teary.
'Most as nervous as a coon
When de dawgs is barkin',
Er a widder when some spoon
Comes along a-sparkin'.

Whass dat creepin' up de road,
Quiet like a ferret,
Hoppin' sof'ly as a toad?
Maybe hit's a sperrit!
Lordy! hope dey ain't no ghos'
Come to tell me howdy.
I ain't got no use for those
Fantoms damp an' cloudy.

Whass dat standin' by de fence
Wid its eyes a-yearnin',
Drivin' out mah common-sense
Wid its glances burnin'?
Don't dass skeercely go to bed
Wid dem spookses roun' me.
Ain't no res' fo' dis yere head
When dem folks surroun' me.

Whass dat groanin' soun' I hear
Off dar by de gyardin?
Lordy! Lordy! Lordy dear,
Grant dis sinner pardon!
I won't nebber--I declar'
Ef it ain't my Sammy!
Sambo, what yo' doin' dar?
Yo' can't skeer yo' mammy!

--CARLYLE SMITH in Harper's Weekly, Oct. 29, 1910.

Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite
All are on their rounds to-night,--
In the wan moon's silver ray
Thrives their helter-skelter play.

Fond of cellar, barn, or stack
True unto the almanac,
They present to credulous eyes
Strange hobgoblin mysteries.

Cabbage-stumps--straws wet with dew--
Apple-skins, and chestnuts too,
And a mirror for some lass
Show what wonders come to pass.

Doors they move, and gates they hide
Mischiefs that on moonbeams ride
Are their deeds,--and, by their spells,
Love records its oracles.

Don't we all, of long ago
By the ruddy fireplace glow,
In the kitchen and the hall,
Those queer, coof-like pranks recall?

Eery shadows were they then--
But to-night they come again;
Were we once more but sixteen
Precious would be Hallowe'en.

--JOEL BENTON in Harper's Weekly, Oct. 31, 1896.

A gypsy flame in on the hearth,
Sign of this carnival of mirth.
Through the dun fields and from the glade
Flash merry folk in masquerade--
It is the witching Hallowe'en.

Pale tapers glimmer in the sky,
The dead and dying leaves go by;
Dimly across the faded green
Strange shadows, stranger shades, are seen,--
It is the mystic Hallowe'en.

Soft gusts of love and memory
Beat at the heart reproachfully;
The lights that burn for those who die
Were flickering low, let them flare high--
It is the haunting Hallowe'en.

--A.F. MURRAY in Harper's Weekly, Oct. 30, 1909.

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