Caths Guest Post: Weirdest Halloween traditions

by - Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Supposedly a night when the spirit world comes back to haunt the living, it’s no wonder Halloween has inspired many odd traditions and superstitions. From fortune-telling cakes to witch hunts, here are a few of the strangest.
Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-win), which marked the start of winter. It was celebrated with communal bonfires, animal sacrifices, and ghoulish disguises made of animal heads and skins, which lead to the modern tradition of dressing in scary Halloween costumes. The Celts also introduced the idea of carving creepy designs onto vegetables to protect themselves from the dead. Spare a thought for their fingers though, as they used turnips rather than pumpkins, filling them with burning coals to create a glowing effect. Speaking of fire, another Halloween tradition is to keep one burning all night to keep away spirits - but beware a blue flame. This means a ghostly being has entered the room.

Many Halloween traditions revolve around seeing the future, as the closeness of the spirit world supposedly made it easier to see distant events. Popular in Ireland, a Barnbrack cake is a fruit loaf that contains charms predicting the eater’s luck in the year ahead. A coin means wealth, a rag means poverty and a ring means romance. Love was also on the menu in Scotland, where young women used hazelnuts to work out who they should marry. They name each nut after one of their suitors, before throwing them all into the fire. The one that pops and jumps indicates the future husband, while those that burn to ash are definite no-gos.
If it’s not love but magic you’re looking for, there are a few traditional ways to spot a witch. While birthmarks and extra fingers are supposedly physical markers, you can also ask your suspect to recite the Lord’s Prayer, as this apparently leaves witches tongue-tied. If you do find one, you can escape her curses by turning your clothes inside out and walking around backwards. You’ll get out of being turned into a toad... but there’s a good chance everyone else will avoid you too.
Whether you adopt some of these weird and wonderful traditions is up to you, but they certainly make a night of horror films and trick-or-treating sound relatively safe!

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