A Good Bonfire

Crooning with the Crows

Day Of The Dead

Divination at Halloween

The Elder

The Story of Dot Coming Home

Samhain History

Samhain Pouch

Samhain ritual for solitary practice

Magic of Halloween Herbs

Understanding The "Death" Tarot Card




Memories of Bonfire Nigh

Divination at Halloween

Samhain, the most important of the three spirit nights, was a special time for divination. The veil between the worlds was thin and one could hope for a clear view of the future. In Scotland, a child born at this time was said to be blessed with second sight. Our Celtic ancestors used to practice various techniques to discover the events of the coming year. They believed that a magical apple tree grew in the Otherworld. Heroes sailed out to find this "Paradise of Apples," known as Avalon in Britain, where the dead lived on forever nourished by the sacred fruit. Games, like apple bobbing, reflect the journey across water to the magic fruit. Many of the forms of divination used traditionally at this time of year, involved apples.

Peel an apple, but keep the peel in one unbroken piece. Say:
"This apple round and round I peel
My sweetheart’s name it will reveal
Behind me now, the single piece I cast
My true love’s initial it will show at last"
Throw the piece over your shoulder and it will fall in the shape of a letter (or two) - your lover’s initial(s).

Just before midnight, in a room lit by the moon or by a single candle, sit with your back to a mirror and silently ask a question. Then cut an apple into nine pieces and eat all but one piece. Throw this piece over your left shoulder, and turn your head to look into the mirror over the same shoulder. You’ll see an image or symbol in the mirror that will answer your question. OR Slice the apple crosswise (to show the five pointed star around the core), and eat it whilst combing your hair. Your future lover will appear in the mirror over your shoulder. Look for symbols or images in the pattern made by the flickering light of the candle or the shadows cast by the soft glow of the moon

Young girls used to stick apple pips to their cheeks; each one standing for a suitor. The suitor represented by the last pip to fall off is the girl’s true love.

Twist the stem from an apple whilst reciting the alphabet. Whatever letter you reach when the stem comes off is the first letter of your lover's name.

Bobbing for Apples.
This one is a game now, but was originally used for divination. Not recommended for young children (though I can recall participating from about the age of about five. Times were very different in those days!). Half fill a large tub with water. Add lots of smallish apples, and stir them around. Players take turns kneeling on the floor, with their hands behind their backs, trying to capture an apple with their teeth. Each gets three tries. Wear old clothes or boys go topless, and dry off by the fire. The first person to capture an apple will be the first to marry in the coming year. In Scotland this is called ‘Dookin’ for apples'. It may have evolved from the rite of ‘seining’, in which the initiate, blindfolded with hands tied behind, had his head immersed in the Cauldron of Regeneration. The apple is a symbol for the soul, the tub, the womb of the Goddess, and the water, the waters of birth.

There were also divinations, which did not involve apples. This was called 'Nutcrack Night', from the custom of casting nuts into the fire to see how they behaved. To the Celts, the hazelnut was a symbol of wisdom, which was often used to foretell the future:

Several people would throw nuts onto the fire. If a nut burned brightly it meant that the thrower would be alive in 12 months time. If it flared up, it meant marriage within the year. Seems a bit morbid, but life could be hard and there were no guarantees back then.

Scottish lovers name two nuts for each other, then put them side by side in a fire. If they burn to ashes, the couple will enjoy a happy life. If they pop or crackle, there will be hardship and quarrels. If they stay close as they burn then the relationship will last, but if they burst apart, it will break up. Whichever one jumps from the other, so will the person it represents behave in life.

Place hazelnuts along the edge of the fire, naming one for each suitor, saying, "If you love me, jump and turn; if you hate me, stay and burn" (The nut that roll or jump away from the fire are the true suitors, the ones that burn are the faithless suitors.

Girls would go blindfold to the fields and pull up a cabbage. Lots of earth attached to the roots meant that their lover would be rich. Its taste - bitter or sweet - echoed his character!

Take a perfect ivy leaf and place it in a glass of water. Leave it undisturbed overnight. If it’s still perfect and unspotted in the morning, you’ll have good health for the next twelve months.

This one is from Ireland. A blindfolded person sits at a table on which there are several saucers containing various items. The person must choose one (by touch), and its contents indicates their fortune for the coming year: water for travel, a coin or salt for wealth, earth means someone known to them will die, a bean for poverty and a ring for marriage.

A similar one involves making a cake into which you have put a ring, a thimble, a tiny figurine and a coin in different random locations. Warn people that they may get one of these items in their serving. The person that gets the ring will be married within a year, the thimble means you will never marry. The doll means lots of children and the coin means prosperity.

Dreaming Stones
If you need guidance or a solution to a problem, find a stream, close your eyes and using the thumb and the middle finger take three stones from the water. As each is gathered say these words:
I lift these stones from water’s edge
For honour, strength and courage;
And with me they will remain
Until an answer I shall gain.
Take then home and place them under your pillow. That night, ask for a dream that will give you the guidance or answers you seek; the stones will bring it.

To dream of the person you will marry, place a glass of water near to your bed on All Hallow's Eve.

Have fun, and Happy Halloween!

By Sylvia Richards October 2009