Seven days of Halloween – day three!
On the third day of Halloween my true love sent to me three nuts a cracking, two cats a mewing and a vampire in a coffin. Continuing our countdown to October 31st by imitating the song the Twelve Days of Christmas, missed the previous days? See http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/news/seven-days-of-halloween-day-two/
Nuts and Halloween
Halloween is known as Nut-Crack Night in some parts of Britain due to the widespread eating of nuts and the specific use of hazelnuts in divination. The Gentleman’s Magazine (1784) described how:
‘The young folks amuse themselves with burning nuts in pairs on the bar of the grate, or among the warm embers, to which they give their name and that of their lovers … and from the manner of their burning and duration of the flame, draw such inferences respecting the constancy or strength of their passions.’
Across Britain there are lots of different accounts of nuts being used on Halloween, these are mostly hazelnuts and they are usually (but not always) used for divination. Here are some more examples:
Burning hazelnuts in their shells – Ireland – three nuts together in the grate – two nuts (men) either side another nut (the woman) – what happens predicts the nature of relationship woman will have with each man (burning steadily together = love and friendship, blaze and separate = passion and despair etc.)
The Black Sow – Wales – young people cast nuts into the fire and when the nuts burst or shot out, they fled in terror of “the goblin black tailed sow” (Hwch ddu gwta). This beast roamed wild on Halloween. In Anglesey the sow has no tail and is sometimes seen with a white lady with no head.
Feasting near ancient places – The fairy folk and fairy hosts are thought to hold games and feast upon nuts each Samhain at prehistoric mounds in Ireland.
Our exhibition on Halloween also contains an amazing film showing different methods of divination. It can be viewed online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5Bn0TB7LVo
Nuts as Halloween food
According to adverts and articles from the 19th century, the sorts of foods one could expect to eat at a Halloween party were: pecans, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, Brazil nuts, figs, raisins, oranges, grapes and apples.
“As children growing up in Scotland, in the 1950s and 1960s…we [did not] make any links with cyclical activities such as the harvest or seasonal fruits: in fact the most commonly consumed item—then and even to some extent now—was the monkey nut, an imported product seen only at that time of year and bearing no relationship with the typical produce of Scottish agriculture.” From Halloweening by Malcolm Foley and Hugh O’Donnell
The tradition of eating roasted chestnuts in Catalonia (Spain) on All Hallows or All Saints Day (November 1st) has led to the feast being given the name La Castanyada (the Chestnut Feast). In Catalonia, “All Saints is still a celebration associated above all with two autumn products, the chestnut and the sweet potato – and with the consumption of a special cake, the panellet (made from flour, eggs and pine nuts which is washed down with a sweet wine called muscatel).” From Halloween: Tradition as Snobbery by Salvador Cardus.
Tomorrow – four soulers souling, three nuts a cracking, two cats a mewing and a vampire in a coffin!