A day/evening of divination, disguises, ducking for apples. People were really fearful of this time of the year. On this night of enchantment, journeys were completed before sunset, bread was crossed with salt and kept in pockets as a witch repellent and a rowan cross tied on bridles. Lighted candles were kept in windows all night to guide travellers safely and keep evil at bay. Candles were also placed in barns to protect the stock. All doors were shut tightly as a door that was ajar would allow an unwanted supernatural visitor to enter and never leave.
Apples were the fruit of the day used in games such as apple bobbing, for divination and given as gifts to ‘Soulers’. It was traditional for groups of children or the needy to go to wealthier houses and sing a Souling song to pray for deceased members of the family whose door they knocked on. In return a gift was given. ‘Soul, Soul! For a soul cake, I pray, good missus, a soul cake, an apple, or pear, a plum or a cherry, any good thing to make us merry.’
As time went by a more mischievous side developed to this tradition if people didn’t answer doors or give generously pans were clattered, the song sung louder and louder and even peeping through Key Holes!!! Precursor to trick or treat? Very probable I guess.
In Shropshire, our home county, All Hallows’ Eve was known as All Halontid’ or Hallantide depending what part of the county you came from. This year we are celebrating All Hallows’ the Shropshire way as told to us by our county’s folklorists Georgina Jackson, Charlotte Burne & Mary Webb who recorded & interpreted the customs, traditions, superstitions, stories & dialect words of local people in and around Victorian times, but often relating to things from way back that had been handed down through generations. We are part of a community group called FOLK who have organised this special event where 65 people will be joining us as guests and a further 24 people as performers or stewards at Acton Scott Victorian farm. We will be hearing tales relating to Sin- Eating, visiting known haunted hot-spots on the farm, playing divination games, joining in Souling songs, listening to Shropshire ghost stories and looking at strange folk items in the caravan of curiosities.
Its a time to remember those who have left us and set a platter for them at your celebrations.
Hope you and yours have an equally seasonal way to celebrate this time of the year with some old ways. x