A few years ago, I shared a podcast about the kind-of data generation loss of Halloween traditions, exported from pre-Christian Oíche Shamhna traditions in Ireland and then re-importing back there after they were mutated by American culture. Now, my friend Darach O'Séaghdha — author of Motherfoclóir: Dispatches from a not-so-dead language and Craic Baby: Dispatches from a Rising Language as well as the host of the recently-deceased Motherfoclóir podcast — has shared some other weird old Irish Halloween traditions that, well, honestly, I think we need to bring back. For the sake of cultural purity, and de-appropriation, you understand.
These suggestion come from actual archives of handwritten texts, mind you. Like this one:
Halloween is always on the last day of October. We all have good sport eating nuts, bean, and apples on Halloween night. Some people celebrate it by hitting other people's doors with cabbage stalks. Other people burn live nuts as a man and his girl to see which of them will die first. The people must be present in the house and then take the ashes of each nut and dream upon them. The dream is supposed to come true. Other people tie apples to the roof and try to catch them with their mouths. Others put an apple into a dish of water and try to lift it out with their mouths. Whoever lifts it out gets it.
Which is corroborated here:
The customs in my father's time were to make raids to cabbage garden's. Every one would have brought a cabbage which they pulled in the garden. The loss of the cabbage was mostly taken in good part by the owner. It was looked on as old custom even in those days. They cut the stalks from the cabbage head and some of the girls and boys went in front of the house where some bad tempered person lived. They hit the door two or three raps with the "kale runt" as the cabbage stalk was called in those days at the same time shouting "Halloween night". The old man of the house came running out and opened the door. When some of the boys coming behind would throw a cabbage head in the door way which probably would tumble him. Halloween is kept as a pagan feast.
Of course, it's not all cabbage throwing. There's also the tradition of, uhhhh, hiding a horseshoe in a cake?
In years gone by people used to be preparing for Halloween weeks before, cabbage stumps used to be thrown at the neighbors doors. Children used to hang up an apple to see who would get a bite off it. At Halloween the house wife makes different things for eating such as, cakes, pies and also some of them make boxty. They put a ring in the cake, a little thimble , and a horse shoe. Some be married before twelve months. If you get the horse shoe it is for good luck. If you get the thimble you will either be a tailor or a dressmaker.
There were apparently some other weird romantic notions associated with the end-of-harvest festival as well:
There's also a traditional emigration game which, err, probably has some depressing implications in its association with a festival about the dead, if we really want to unpack it in depth:
Three saucers are got and placed on the table. Water is put on one, clay on the other and a ring on the third. Each person is blind folded and brought up to the table in turn. The person has to put one hand in one of the saucers. If he or she puts a hand in the saucer that the clay is in it is believed to be a sign that that person will die before next Halloween. If a person puts his or her hand in the saucer with the water in it, it is believed to be a sign that that person will emigrate before next Halloween. If a person puts his or her hand in the saucer with the ring in it, it is believed to be a sign that that person will be married before the next Halloween.
And of course, there are some good traditions involving the faeryfolk that we should bring back as well:
On Halloween it is a customs that nobody should go out after twelve o'clock in the night because it is said that the fairies are out after that time.
On Halloween the people go around with holy water and they shake it on the cow houses because it is said that a hare goes around on that night and milks all the cows.
(I'm assuming that hare is actually a púca but maybe not)
There is some devilish fun to be had as well:
The children play tricks. They hang an apple out of the ceiling and whoever got it on their mouth could keep it. They duck and get cabbage stumps and peg the doors. They get a knife and a bundle of sticks and run around the stack of corn three times and they would see the devil. There does be spirits out on Halloween night. If you would walk around a rick of hay seven times you would meet the devil.
Notice how the cabbage slinging plays a role in here as well. Clearly it's time to bring back this tradition.
Image: Lucinda Jolly / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)