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Amongst other things, he says, "On the Oidhche Shamhna" (by the aspiration of the consonants pronounced Ee Owna)" or Vigil of Saman, the peasants in Ireland. assemble with sticks and clubs (the emblems of laceration) going from house to house, collecting money, bread-cake, butter, cheese, eggs, &c. for the feast, repeating verses in honour of the solemnity, demanding preparations for the festival in the name of St. Colomb Kill, desiring them to lay aside the fatted calf and to bring forth the black sheep. The good women are employed in making the griddle-caket and candles; these last are sent from house to house in the vicinity, and are lighted up on the (Saman)
* This was preparatory to the sacrifice of the black-sheep on the day following to Saman, Samhan, or Baal-Samhan, who was now supposed to call the souls to judgment; and, according to their previous conduct while connected with the body, assigned to them a future life either in the brute or human species. Hence he was also called BALSAB, bal signifying "lord," and sab "death." In all this we have another striking proof of the eastern origin of druidism, for both the Druids and Pythagoras, strictly agreeing in this article of faith, they were much more likely to have borrowed from one common source in the east than from each other. As to the sacrifice of black sheep, that ceremony is also mentioned by Virgil:
"Post ubi nona suos Aurora induxerat ortus
It is hardly necessary to add that if due presents were made to the priest of Balsab he allowed himself to be propitiated, and forgave the soul its sins in consideration of the bounty shown towards his servants. Most assuredly there is nothing new under the sun.
Griddle is a provincial word, particularly used in Devonshire, signifying, a gridiron. A griddle.cake is a cake baked, or perhaps we should rather say, toasted, on irons over the fire. It is still to be seen in the cottages of the peasants in the Western parts of England, while in Surrey it is superseded by the pot-cake, that is to say, a cake baked in a large iron sauce-pan.
next day, before which they pray, or are supposed to pray, for the departed soul of the donor. Every house abounds in the best viands they can afford; apples and nuts are devoured in abundance; the nut-shells are burnt, and from the ashes many strange things are foretold; cabbages are torn up by the root; hemp-seed is sown by the maidens, and they believe that if they look back they will see the apparition of the man intended for their future spouse; they hang a smock before the fire on the close of the feast, and sit up all night, concealed in a corner of the room, convinced that his apparition will come down the chimney, and turn the smock; they throw a ball of yarn out of the window, and wind it on the reel within, convinced that if they repeat the Pater-Noster backwards, and look at the ball of yarn without, they I will then also see his sith or apparition; they dip for apples in a tub of water, and endeavour to bring one up in the mouth; they suspend a cord with a cross stick, with apples at one point and candles lighted at the other, and endeavour to catch the apple, while it is in circular motion, in the mouth. These and many other superstitions, the remains of druidisin, are observed on this holiday, which will never be eradicated while the name of Saman is permitted to remain."t
* Sith is from the Hebrew Sheth, a demon. Bythner in his Clavis Linguæ Sancta, tells us that the German and Polish Jews, relying upon the ignorance of the Christians, used sarcastically to salute them with Sheth wilkome, that is "hail, devil, or "—what I must not translate; for the benefit however of the curious I give the original as quoted by Vallancy, (vol. iii. p. 460.)—“Hæc vox Judæis frequens est in ore, nam sub specie amicæ salutationis obvios Christianos in Polonia et Germania sarcasticè et impiè compellant, Sheth wilkome, i.e. podex, vel dæmon, salve; SHETH enim est DEMON."
+ Vallancy, COLLECTANEA DE REBUS HIBERNICIS, vol. iii. p. 459, 8vo. Dublin, 1786.
In Scotland they "set up bon-fires in every village. When the bon-fire is consumed, the ashes are carefully collected into the form of a circle. There is a stone put in near the circumference for every person of the several families interested in the bon-fire; and whatever stone is moved out of its place, or injured before the next morning, the person represented by the stone is devoted, or fey, and is supposed not to live twelvemonths from that day. The people received the consecrated fire from the Druid priests, which was supposed to continue for a year."*
We have similar traces of this fire worship in North Wales, where it is the custom on Allhallow Even to kindle a large fire, under the name of Coel Coeth, in the most conspicuous place near each house, and keep it up in the night for about an hour. When the fire is almost extinguished every one flings into the ashes a white stone, which he has previously marked, and, having said their prayers as they pace around the embers, they all go to bed. The first thing in the morning they search for the stones, it being their fixed belief that if any one be missing the person to whom it belongs will die before All Saint's Eve can come round again.†
In England also we find some faint traces of the same custom. Thus Sir W. Dugdale tells us, "On All-Hallow Even the master of the family anciently used to carry a bunch of straw, fired, about his corne, saying:
Fire and red low
Light on my teen low."‡
* SINCLAIR'S STATISTICAL ACCOUNT OF SCOTLAND, vol. xi. p. 621.
See PENNANT'S MS., as quoted by Brand.
SIR W. DUGDALE'S LIFE AND DIARY. Edited by W. Hamper, p. 104. 4to. Lond. 1827. This passage occurs in the Diary, but
It would seem moreover that the ringing of bells was a usual custom on Hallowe'en in the time of popery, greatly to the annoyance of Archbishop Cranmer, and others desirous of a church-reformation. Earnest were the endeavours of this prelate with his stiff-necked master, Henry, to abolish such vanities, as he called
them; and at length "he prevailed with the king
to resolve to have the roods in every church pulled down and the accustomed ringing on All-hallow night suppressed."*
Burns in his notes upon Halloween has given a minute account of the superstitions practised by the Scottish peasantry, and though familiar to most readers these details would hardly seem complete without them.
1. "The first ceremony of Halloween is pulling each a stock, or plant of kail. They must go out hand in hand, with eyes shut, and pull the first they meet with;
obscure as it is, the editor has not thought proper to offer any explanation. In the first line, low is evidently used in its provincial meaning of flame; and, taking teen in its now obsolete, but once common, signification of "grief, damage," the whole may stand for an invocation to fire-or, symbolically, to the sun-to keep off ill, and prosper the growing crops. But the passage is most probably corrupt.
* MEMORIALS OF CRANMER; by Strype, p. 442. folio. Lond. 1694. In all probability Strype drew his information from the fountain-head, namely from the Draught of a letter which the King was to send to Cranmer against some superstitious practices. A copy of this has been given by Burnet in his COLLECTION OF RECORDS part ii. book i. p. 237 (History of the Reformation), and in it the king states that he has been moved by the Archbishop and other learned men to abolish the "ringing of bells all the night long upon All-hallow-day at night," as the customs of many other vigils have been abolished "for the superstition, and other enormities and abuses of the same," and that in consequence he orders that there shall be "no watching nor ringing, but as be commonly used upon other holy days at night."
its being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells-the husband or wife. If any yird, or earth stick to the root, that is tocher, or fortune; and the taste of the custoc, that is the heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper and disposition. Lastly the stems, or—to give them their ordinary appellation—the runts, are placed somewhere above the head of the door; and the christian names of the people, whom chance brings into the house, are according to the priority of placing the runts, the names in question.
2. They go to the barn-yard, and pull each at three several times a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the top-pickle, the party in question will come to the marriage bed any thing but a maid.
3. Burning the nuts is a famous charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut as they lay them in the fire, and accordingly as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be.
4. Steal out all alone to the kiln, and darkling throw into the pot a clue of blue yarn; wind it in a new clue off the old one; and towards the latter end, something will hold the thread; demand, "who hauds?" i.e. who holds?—an answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the christian and surname of your future spouse.
5. Take a candle, and go alone to a looking-glass; eat an apple before it, and some traditions say you should comb your hair all the time; the face of your conjugal companion to be will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.
6. Steal out unperceived and sow a handful of hempseed, harrowing it with any thing you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then, "hemp-seed