Is thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are abroad on their baneful midnight errands; particularly those aerial people, the fairies, are said on that night to hold a grand anniversary,.-R.B.
The following poem will, by many readers, be well enough
understood; but for the sake of those who are unacquainted with
the manners and traditions of the country where the scene is cast,
notes are added to give some account of the principal charms and
spells of that night, so big with prophecy to the peasantry in the
west of Scotland. The passion of prying into futurity makes a
striking part of the history of human nature in its rude state, in
all ages and nations; and it may be some entertainment to a
philosophic mind, if any such honour the author with a perusal, to
see the remains of it among the more unenlightened in our
Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,|
The simple pleasure of the lowly train;
To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
One native charm, than all the gloss of art.-Goldsmith.
Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans (2) dance,|
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the rout is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
|(2) Certain little, romantic, rocky, green hills, in the neighbourhood of the ancient seat of the Earls of Cassilis.-R.B.|
There, up the Cove, (3) to stray an' rove,
Amang the rocks and streams
To sport that night;
Amang the bonie winding banks,
|(3) A noted cavern near Colean house, called the Cove of Colean; which, as well as Cassilis Downans, is famed, in country story, for being a favorite haunt of fairies.-R.B.|
Where Bruce (4) ance rul'd the martial ranks,
An' shook his Carrick spear;
Some merry, friendly, countra-folks
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks,
An' haud their Halloween
Fu' blythe that night.
The lasses feat, an' cleanly neat,
Then, first an' foremost, thro' the kail,
|(4) The famous family of that name, the ancestors of Robert, the great deliverer of his country, were Earls of Carrick.-R.B.|
Their stocks (5) maun a' be sought ance;
They steek their een, and grape an' wale
For muckle anes, an' straught anes.
Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,
An' wandered thro' the bow-kail,
An' pou't for want o' better shift
A runt was like a sow-tail
Sae bow't that night.
Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,
The lassies staw frae 'mang them a',
|(5) 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: 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 "custock," 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.-R. B.|
To pou their stalks o' corn;(6)
But Rab slips out, an' jinks about,
Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippit Nelly hard and fast:
Loud skirl'd a' the lasses;
But her tap-pickle maist was lost,
|(6) They go to the barnyard, and pull each, at three different times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the "top-pickle," that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will come to the marriage-bed anything but a maid.-R.B.|
Whan kiutlin in the fause-house (7)
Wi' him that night.
The auld guid-wife's weel-hoordit nits (8)
Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e;
Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
Nell had the fause-house in her min',
But Merran sat behint their backs,
(7) When the corn is in a doubtful state, by being too green or
wet, the stack-builder, by means of old timber, etc., makes a
large apartment in his stack, with an opening in the side which is
fairest exposed to the wind: this he calls a "fause-house."-R.B.
(8) Burning the nuts is a favorite charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and according as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be.-R.B.
And in the blue-clue (9) throws then,
Right fear't that night.
An' ay she win't, an' ay she swat-
Wee Jenny to her graunie says,
|(9) Whoever would, with success, try this spell, must strictly observe these directions: 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, toward the latter end, something will hold the thread: demand, "Wha hauds?" i.e., who holds? and answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the Christian and surname of your future spouse.-R.B.|
I'll eat the apple at the glass, (10)
I gat frae uncle Johnie:"
She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sae vap'rin,
She notic't na an aizle brunt
Her braw, new, worset apron
Out thro' that night.
"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face!
"Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor,
|(10) 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 conjungal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.-R.B.|
He gat hemp-seed, (11) I mind it weel,
An'he made unco light o't;
But mony a day was by himsel',
He was sae sairly frighted
That vera night."
Then up gat fechtin Jamie Fleck,
He marches thro' amang the stacks,
He wistl'd up Lord Lennox' March
He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
Meg fain wad to the barn gaen,
|(11) Steal out, unperceived, and sow a handful of hemp-seed, harrowing it with anything you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then: "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee." Look over your left shoulder, and you will see the appearance of the person invoked, in the attitude of pulling hemp. Some traditions say, "Come after me and shaw thee," that is, show thyself; in which case, it simply appears. Others omit the harrowing, and say: "Come after me and harrow thee."-R.B.|
To winn three wechts o' naething; (12)
But for to meet the deil her lane,
She pat but little faith in:
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
An' twa red cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
In hopes to see Tam Kipples
That vera night.
She turns the key wi' cannie thraw,
They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice;
|(12) This charm must likewise be performed unperceived and alone. You go to the barn, and open both doors, taking them off the hinges, if possible; for there is danger that the being about to appear may shut the doors, and do you some mischief. Then take that instrument used in winnowing the corn, which in our country dialect we call a "wecht," and go through all the attitudes of letting down corn against the wind. Repeat it three times, and the third time an apparition will pass through the barn, in at the windy door and out at the other, having both the figure in question, and the appearance or retinue, marking the employment or station in life.-R.B.|
It chanc'd the stack he faddom't thrice (13)
Was timmer-propt for thrawin:
He taks a swirlie auld moss-oak
For some black, grousome carlin;
An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke,
Till skin in blypes cam haurlin
Aff's nieves that night.
A wanton widow Leezie was,
|(13) Take an opportunity of going unnoticed to a "bear-stack," and fathom it three times round. The last fathom of the last time you will catch in your arms the appearance of your future conjugal yoke-fellow.-R.B.|
Whare three lairds' lan's met at a burn, (14)
To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
Was bent that night.
Whiles owre a linn the burnie plays,
Amang the brachens, on the brae,
In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
|(14) You go out, one or more (for this is a social spell), to a south running spring, or rivulet, where "three lairds' lands meet," and dip your left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire, and hang your wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake, and, some time near midnight, an apparition, having the exact figure of the grand object in question, will come and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the other side of it.-R.B.|
The luggies (15) three are ranged;
An' ev'ry time great care is ta'en
To see them duly changed:
Auld uncle John, wha wedlock's joys
Sin' Mar's-year did desire,
Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
He heav'd them on the fire
In wrath that night.
Wi' merry sangs, an' friendly cracks,
|(15) Take three dishes, put clean water in one, foul water in another, and leave the third empty; blindfold a person and lead him to the hearth where the dishes are ranged; he (or she) dips the left hand; if by chance in the clean water, the future (husband or) wife will come to the bar of matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish, it foretells, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. It is repeated three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered.-R.B.|
Till butter'd sowens, (16) wi' fragrant lunt,
Set a' their gabs a-steerin;
Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,
They parted aff careerin
Fu' blythe that night.
|(16) Sowens, with butter instead of milk to them, is always the Halloween Supper.-R.B.|