Happy Hallowe'en!

This is it! The final post for October. So bittersweet. I didn't think I could do it, but here it is! Thank you for hanging out with me from the beginning. If you're a newcomer, well, welcome!

The picture to your right is of me in my demon garb manning the trick or treat table handing out candies to the kiddies.

For this final post, I wanted to reinforce my love for superstitions by sharing with you those associated with this day we all love. So, grab a chair, open a candy bar, and read on.

Hallowe'en is the festival celebrated on the 31st of October when ghosts roam abroad and witches traditionally hold their sabbaths. Originally a pagan festival of the dead, Hallowe'en marks the end of the Celtic year. It was said that the sun itself entered the gates of Hell on this day, providing an opportunity for evil spirits to slip out and menace the Earth for forty-eight hours, hence the ominous associations of the modern version of the festival. Attempts to Christianise the festival by making it the eve of All Hallows' Day or All Saints' Day, when Christian saints and martyrs are commemorated, have failed to obliterate its essentially pagan character, emphasized by the now ubiquitous imagery of broomstick-riding witches and grotesque masks fashioned from hollowed-out pumpkins which are meant to scare away demons.

Hallowe'en is the one time of year when the supernatural holds sway over the Earth, and numerous superstitions are associated with it. These range from protective rituals to keep evil spirits at bay to means of divining what the future has in store. one of the most widely held notions connected with the festival is the blood-chilling idea that on this date the souls of the dead make their way back to their earthly homes to warm themselves at their old firesides. In many quarters, it is thought dangerous to attempt to hinder the dead from returning in this way, and Hallowe'en is generally considered a time when extra care should be taken not to linger in churchyards or do anything that might offend the fairies or other malicious sprites.

If a person is walking down a road, for instance, and hears someone walking close behind, it is important that they do not look back. It is likely to be Death himself, and looking into his face will hasten the living person's own demise. It is also risky to look at one's own shadow in the moonlight and most inadvisable to go on a hunting expedition on Hallowe'en, as one may accidentally wound a wandering spirit. Children born on Hallowe'en will, however, enjoy lifelong protection against evil spirits and will also be endowed with the gift of second sight.

In rural areas, farmers may circle their fields with lighted torches in the belief that doing so will safeguard the following year's harvest, or else drive their livestock between branches of rowan to keep them safe from evil influences.

Most surviving Hallowe'en superstitions concern the business of foretelling the future, in particular getting a glimpse of a future partner. According to Welsh tradition, anyone going to a crossroads on Hallowe'en and listening carefully to the wind may learn what the next year has in store and when the church clock strikes midnight, will hear a list of the names of those who are to die in the locality over the next twelve months.

Several of the most widely known Hallowe'en divination rituals relate to apples. Superstition suggests that, if a girl stands before a mirror while eating an apple and combing her hair at midnight on Hallowe'en, her future husband's image will be reflected in the glass over her left shoulder. A variant dictates that she must cut the apple into nine pieces, each of which must be stuck on the point of the knife and held over the left shoulder. Moreover, if she peels an apple in one long piece, and then tosses the peel over her left shoulder or into a bowl of water, she will be able to read the first initial of her future partner's name in the shape assumed by the discarded peel. Alternatively, the peel is hung on a nail by the front door and the initials of the first man to enter will be the same as those of the unknown lover.

Hallowe'en is also the occasion on which groups of unmarried boys and girls twirl apples on strings over a fire, the order in which the apples fall off the strings indicates the order in which they will be married. The owner of the last apple to drop will remain unmarried.

Yet another Hallowe'en custom is the game of ducking for apples. How it works is without using their hands, children attempt to take bites out of apples floating in a bowl of water or suspended on a string. Superstition has it that they are fated to marry the owner of the apple they manage to bite. Alternatively, the winner of the game takes their apple to bed and sleeps with it under their pillow so as to get a vision of a future spouse in their dreams.

Other customs involve blindfolded girls pulling up cabbages and examining the shape of the root to make conclusions about a future spouse, throwing nuts into the fire to see it they jump (if they do, a lover will prove unfaithful), sprinkling letter cut out of a newspaper on to some water to see what name they form (that of a future lover) and inviting a blindfolded person to place their left hand on one of three dishes, one filled with clean water, another with foul water and the last empty. If the clean water is chosen, the person's future partner will be attractive and desirable; if the foul water is selected, he or she will already have been married; if the empty dish is chosen, there will be no partner at all.

Some girls may be tempted to follow the ritual of eating a salted herring before retiring for the night: the resulting thirst will summon up the sympathetic spirit of a future partner who will come with a drink of water. More complicated is the ancient procedure in which a person dips their sleeve in a stream at a point where land belonging to three people meets, and then goes home and hangs the sleeve in front of the fire: during the night the spirit of a future spouse will materialise and turn the sleeve to allow the other side to dry.

Okay, super long post! But I hope it's informative. I certainly learned something about Hallowe'en as I was putting it together. Any other superstitions you want to share? Hit me up in the comments sections. I'd love to hear from you.

Once again, thank you for sticking with me this whole month of October. I really enjoyed creating these posts for you. I already have ideas for November so stay tuned!

Until then, stay cool!

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