Irish Halloween Superstitions Foretelling Romance, Love And Marriage

Move over Valentine’s Day – Halloween is nearly here, and in olden days in Ireland, this was the time of year for predicting romances, just waiting to flourish.

The Irish were, and still are, a very superstitious race. Since we will be celebrating Halloween at the end of this month (or all through this month, if you live in America), I thought why not explore some old Irish superstitions associated with this holiday, especially those centering around romance, love and marriage.

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Halloween is a great time for fortune telling and divination according to Irish tradition.  In days gone by Halloween night was a time when the Irish believed the future and past coincided, and for one night only every year, all time frames existed in the present. If the future collides with the present at Halloween, what better time could there be for looking into what the future may hold.

For all those in search of someone special to share their future, Halloween is the best night of the year to try to figure out who might be waiting just for you. Well that’s what the Irish believed anyway.

Here are some simple, romantic, prophetic tests from Ireland’s Celtic past and from around the British Isles…..

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The Cabbage Test:

 

For those interested in finding out their future partner’s wealth then all you need is a good old cabbage patch on this magical night.

Just follow these steps to find out what the future holds …..

  • Don a blindfold.
  • Run into a field of growing cabbages.
  • Search around the ground for a nice big head of cabbage, and yank it out of the ground, roots and all.
  • Now, uncover your eyes, and check out those cabbage roots.
  • If you extricate the vegetable with roots intact and a good amount of earth still attached, then your beloved will have oodles of money.

But don’t get too excited. You still don’t know if he’ll be cranky or kind.

Head on home with your newly harvested cabbage and cook it up Irish style.

If your cabbage is bitter, then I’m afraid a sour, old, so-and-so may be in your future. But if your cabbage is sweet, then your fate holds a kindhearted, loving mate.

The cabbage test was easy to complete if you lived in rural Ireland many years ago, but I’m afraid we urban dwellers today have little access to cabbage patches. So then, your best bet for predicting love is to move on to the bonfire test.

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The Bonfire Test:

 

A Halloween bonfire is touted as a way to help envision a future partner. Bonfires featured significantly in ancient, Celtic celebrations of Halloween or Samhain. Here’s what must be done to encourage dreams of your future love.

Simply snip a few strands of your hair, and drop them into the burning embers of a Halloween fire.

The magical flames of your burning hair will encourage vivid dreams of your future spouse. I hope he or she will fulfill all your dreams.

 https://www.flickr.com/photos/robbertholf/15241805765/in/photolist-pdSeQz-7zJTpB-7WhtNb-9C3Ybd-awf8T-kctbSc-e7GxYf-46NPSw-hEDBo9-5Yxqfi-bVhTNf-5wyfbU-ifg23C-p2fS3-5YBD8d-cvWvoL-dsYusi-65gpn7-6L6Hfj-8KrFjx-7zJSAB-8MaNFp-5F2f1N-fyDVNk-9cYfci-fr3U4A-kctgMx-4J6XP-9wtYoo-3eRwDK-8HMU3G-5WCY1r-ygyPR-jf9zuz-bwTm3w-5ddh2J-kJVW2b-7GzyYJ-2YzNc8-5nZHiq-9cZCKS-JMpS1-7AYGc-e9gQQf-CCkaJ-6Z2wEs-oM4XNS-5oifvJ-ih5xo4-h2P7nq/Image Credit

The Apple Peel Test:

 

Apples were also used for telling the future on Halloween night. When I was a little girl in Dublin, most home owners shared apples and nuts with trick or treaters, rather than candy or sweets. In recent years I have come to appreciate how this custom was rooted in age old traditions.

The apple peel love test may have originated in Scotland rather than Ireland, but this trick was practiced throughout the British Isles. A little apple peeling skill is required for this one.

First you must peel an apple all in one go, creating a long strip of peel. Love awaits only for those who can remove the peel with no breakages.

The peel must then be thrown over the shoulder. As it falls the peel may land to reveal the initial of a would-be suitor.

Love is an apple peel – it sounds like the name of a song.

 HazelnutsImage Credit

Hazlenut Trials:

 

If you’re still interested in finding out if your spouse will be bitter or sweet, and don’t have time to go pulling cabbages to cook, then never fear. A hazelnut will reveal your future love’s temperament, just as accurately as a trusted cabbage.

Simply pick out the hazelnut you believe represents your future love. Crack the shell and taste. You’ll quickly learn if a sweet or bitter nut awaits in your future.

And there’s even more romantic news to be uncovered through these powerful nuts.

If you want to know if your future marriage will be full of happiness, then you and your partner must each choose a hazelnut.

Light a match between the two nuts (only do this on a flameproof surface), and watch how your two nuts react, not only to each other, but to the flame of love burning between them.

Remember our forebears had stone hearths for these fiery tricks, so don’t do anything dangerous.

If the nuts burn quickly, then alack and alas, the future marriage may not be strong, and may be at great risk of crumbling when life gets tough.

Now if your two nuts do a little dance and move away from each other, then proceed to marriage with caution.

If your hazelnuts hop closer together, moving towards the flame of love, then future happiness is yours.

Believe it or not, these trusted nuts hold even more secrets of the future. Hazelnuts can be used to choose between potential beaus.

In the past, inquisitive young women determined which admirer might be faithful, by choosing three nuts, and naming them after the young men she wished to test. The three nuts were placed upon the bars of the fire grate.

If a nut cracked or jumped, then that lover might be unfaithful. If the nut burned brightly then that beau held a flame for the girl performing the hazelnut trial.

This test could be taken a step further by adding a fourth nut, named after the girl. If her nut and one of the nuts named after a potential suitor blazed together, then love was assured and marriage inevitable.

Sliced Tea Brack

A Slice Of Brack To Tell Your Fortune:

 

Traditional Irish Halloween celebrations involve serving an Irish cake called brack.  This tradition continues to this day.

These raisin breads are baked with hidden treasures in the dough, usually a coin, a piece of cloth, a key, a ring, a thimble or a button.

  • Lucky Halloween revelers who discover the coin can look forward to a year of prosperity.
  • But I’m afraid your finances look bleak if you find the old piece of cloth.
  • Of course, the ring foretells an impending marriage, or a new romance.
  • But if you find the thimble you’ll be an old maid.
  • A button foretells a year of bachelorhood for a male barmbrack eater.
  • And a key tells the story of an imminent journey.

 

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A Bowl of Porridge:

 

Now if you don’t have time to be baking fancy barmbracks with rings and things inside, do not fear. A simple bowl of porridge will do the trick.

Fuarag (pronounced foo-ur-ag) is a traditional dish of oatmeal mixed with cream. If you’re eager to learn if new love is just around the corner for you or one of your friends, just make a big pot of porridge.

Add some cream, a ring and a coin. Dish out the porridge to all those seeking to know if their future holds marriage or wealth. The lucky finder of the ring will be married within the year, while wealth awaits whoever recovers the coin.

And hold your breath if your bowl of creamy gruel reveals both the ring and the coin – a wealthy spouse may soon cross your path.

Remember to eat with caution on Halloween night – all these bits and pieces in traditional foods are a major choking hazard.

Colcannon with melting butter.

Colcannon:

 

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish served at Halloween. It’s a mix of kale and mashed potatoes, served with melted butter, and once again this simple dish holds the powers of divination.

In the past, unmarried women would take their first and last spoonful of colcannon and put it inside a stocking. These colcannon stockings were hung from the frame of the front door. The first man to enter the house and pass beneath the fortune telling stocking would become their husband.

 

Halloween – A Time For Romance:

 

And there you have it – my romantic guide to Halloween festivities. If you know of any more prophetic Halloween traditions concerning love and marriage, please feel free to add your two cents worth in the comment section below.  I look forward to hearing new superstitions from all over the world.

Wishing you all happy love matches this Halloween.

 

Samhain Shona Daoibh

Happy Halloween

 

Irish American Mom

Between The Jigs And The Reels

My West Cork granny frequently referred to jigs and reels in her daily speech. Whenever she was a little flustered, in a hurry, or feeling chaotic, she would make an exclamation about Irish dancing, no less.

“Between the jigs and the reels, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.”

 

Any stranger would believe she was an Irish step dancing champion with her constant referral to the two most popular of all Irish dances.

“Between the jigs and the reels, what are we up to now?”

 

But as far as I know, she was no River Dancer, although I suppose in her youth she rattled a few dance boards at the crossroads.

Irish Dance - Between the Jigs and the Reels

Her referral to jigs and reels was typically Irish – an idiom used to express perceived stress and difficulties. Perhaps this statement evolved as a reflection of the chaotic foot movement of Irish dancing.

 

“Between the jigs and the reels, I finally got it done.”

 

In this instance the saying reflects success was achieved, despite all the confusion.

 

“I don’t know how we did it, but between the jigs and the reels,

we’re finally ready to go.”

 

The primary way my granny used this expression was to say “what with one thing and another”.

 

“So, between the jigs and the reels, poor Mikey lost the cow.”

 

The jigs and the reels often expressed the trials and tribulations of farming life.

Irish Harp - Between the jigs and the reels.

At other times she used the phrase to express her determination, the words taking on a hopeful meaning of “somehow or another.”

 

“I’ll get that money together, between the jigs and the reels.”

 

As you can see, the jigs and the reels were frequently invoked during my childhood.

I was wondering if any of you remember your Irish relatives using this expression. Perhaps they paired it with another typically Irish exclamation. Please feel free to join in this little Irish dancing discussion, in the comments section below.

And so, between the jigs and the reels of life as mom, it’s time for me to sign off for today.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Irish Rainbow Blessings

Rainbows remind us of possibilities, opportunities and hope. Rainbows are God’s promise – His miracle.

In the midst of life’s storms it is often hard to spot a rainbow, but I think the most important thing is to remember, these miracles of the sky only appear after the storm.

In Ireland rainbows symbolize blessings from heaven, and this is reflected in some of the wise old words from generations past.

In today’s post, I have some wonderful photos of Irish rainbows, compliments of my brother-in-law, which I’ve paired with some traditional old Irish rainbow blessings and sayings.

Rainbow over Sutton, County Dublin

” May God give you…

For every storm, a rainbow,

For every tear, a smile,

For every care, a promise,

And a blessing in each trial.

For every problem life sends,

A faithful friend to share,

For every sigh, a sweet song,

And an answer for each prayer.”

~ Old Irish Blessing

 

Irish Rainbow in cloudy sky

May you have all the happiness

And luck that life can hold

- And at the end of your rainbows

May you find a pot of gold.

~ Old Irish Blessing

 

Donegal Rainbow

May you always have work for your hands to do.

May your pockets hold always a coin or two.

May the sun shine bright on your window pane.

May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.

May the hand of a friend always be near you.

And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

~ Old Irish Blessing

 

Colors of the rainbow

Wishing you a rainbow

For sunlight after showers—

Miles and miles of Irish smiles

For golden happy hours—

Shamrocks at your doorway

For luck and laughter too,

And a host of friends that never ends

Each day your whole life through!

~ Old Irish Blessing

 

Irish Rainbow

“May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day.

May songbirds serenade you every step along the way.

May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that’s always blue.

And may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through.”

~ Irish Blessing

 

Rainbow arc

“A rainbow afternoon,  

Good weather coming soon.”

 ~ Old Irish Saying

 

Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow

 

“Don’t miss all the colors of the rainbow,

Looking for that pot of gold.”

 ~ Old Irish Saying

 

Double Rainbow in Donegal

 “The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow,

But the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.”

 ~ Old Irish Saying

 

I hope these lovely rainbows, and Irish words of wisdom from the past, remind you that life is a rainbow of promise.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

Donegal Sunsets

As the sun sets, magic spreads across the world.  But according to Oscar Wilde, my obsession with sunsets is very old fashioned, and a sign that I may even be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud.

Oscar Wilde quote about sunsets

Oscar Wilde believed we don’t value sunsets because we don’t have to pay for them.  No matter how “unfashionable” it may be, I will always love sunsets and twilight

When my brother-in-law sent me his photos of the setting sun in Donegal, I was absolutely ecstatic. He shot these photos outside his own front door, looking across the River Swilly near Letterkenny.

A big thank you to my resident Donegal photographer for these beautiful shots.

Here’s one of my favorite Irish blessings to accompany these images.

 

As the sun goes down

May your joys be as bright as the morning,

 

Sunset near Letterkenny, Donegal

and your sorrows merely be shadows

that fade in the sunlight of love.

 

Donegal Sunset

May you have enough happiness to keep you sweet,

 

Golden skies

Enough trials to keep you strong,

 

Cloudy sunset

Enough sorrow to keep you human,

 

Golden summer sky in Ireland

Enough hope to keep you happy,

 

Irish Sky at Twilight

Enough failure to keep you humble,

 

Irish Sunset

Enough success to keep you eager,

 

Mackrel Sky in Ireland

Enough friends to give you comfort,

 

Sunset in Ireland

Enough faith and courage in yourself to banish sadness,

 

The setting sun

Enough wealth to meet your needs

 

As the sun sets in Ireland

and one thing more;

 

Watch the sun go down in Donegal

Enough determination to make each day

a more wonderful day than the one before.

- Old Irish Blessing

 

Somehow, I think if Oscar Wilde was with us today, he too might choose to be “unfashionable” and would love these sunsets too.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

The Irish – A Superstitious Race

Ireland is a land of superstitions. Take it from me. I grew up surrounded by these superstitions. Pheasant feathers or lilac were never to be brought into my granny’s house.

God forbid a robin landed on a window sill and flew indoors – he bore the news of imminent death. When visiting a house for the first time, we had to leave by the same door we entered.  I could go on and on.

The Irish - A Superstitious Race

 

Although most Irish people today probably don’t believe in many of these superstitions, our Irish psyche holds a healthy respect for them. Abiding by the rules of ancient Irish life comes naturally to many of us. We adhere to an unwritten mythical code out of pure habit, automatically reenacting behavioral patterns learned in our childhood years.

As I thought about Irish superstitions I was taught as a child I asked myself an inevitable question:

 

Why are the Irish so superstitious?

 

In today’s post I hope to explore some of the reasons why I believe the Irish seem to be consumed by irrational fears and beliefs. Listing all of our crazy superstitions is a job for another day, and probably fodder for a whole collection of blog posts, so instead let’s try to focus on the great big why surrounding Celtic faith in the supernatural.

 

What is a superstition?

 

Superstitions are beliefs based on myth, magic, or irrational thoughts, that are not based upon reason and knowledge.  Superstitions are intrinsically tied to traditional folklore, and let’s face it, Ireland is a country steeped in legends and myths with a vast array of characters from faeries to changelings, to wily leprechauns.

 

Two for Joy - Irish Magpies

Two for Joy

 Image Credit

The origins of superstitions:

 

The exact origins of many old superstitions may never by known, but they do appear to be an odd mixture of paganism, Christianity, and folklore, and deeply influenced by social history.

Human nature is such that we always search for a cause for things we cannot understand. That desire to figure things out is the root of all scientific progress, but on our journey in search of answers, many wrong conclusions have been reached.

When searching for a reason for things beyond their comprehension our ancestors explained situations as best they could, albeit their answers were steeped in mythical origins. The wrong answer was deemed better, than no answer at all.

 

Coincidence or a greater force at work?

 

Sometimes unhappy coincidences reoccurred frequently enough for a blind link to be acknowledged, and a superstition to become enshrined in the general belief system of a community.

Irish superstitions are ultimately concerned with addressing the helplessness of the human condition. In times of trouble, and there were plenty such times for the Irish in centuries past, our ancestors turned to old superstitions which may or may not have helped them at all.

This blind faith in haphazard cures and beliefs probably brought comfort and hope to those who felt helpless.  Whether the warding off of ill luck was real or imagined, at least reassurance lay in attempting to control these evils.

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Queen Meave and the Druid from The Boy’s Cuchulainn by Eleanor Hull 1904

 Image Credit

 

Enduring legacy of superstitions from the time of the druids:

 

Ireland remained under the influence of Druidic teachings far longer than any other European nation. This can be attributed to the island’s remoteness on the western edge of the continent, and its freedom from Roman conquest. When early missionaries converted the Irish to Christianity they did so with minimal conflict, adopting a creed of tolerance for the old way of life.

No persecutions are recorded. Rather than destroying sites of ancient worship, the new church transformed them into shrines of prayer and centers of worship by associating them with a saint.  This policy of tolerance for old Druidic superstitions may account for their survival.

The Irish have clung to the ancient customs of their forefathers for thousands of years. An enduring belief in a fairy race may be traced back to the time of the druids.

 

Irish Robin On A Planter

The Penal Laws:

 

The Penal Laws were statutes passed by the English parliament to penalize the Irish for their Catholicism. First written in 1695, the Irish suffered their consequences for more than 100 years.

A number of these laws excluded Catholics from working in any field of scientific study, thereby limiting our ability to rationalize some of these old beliefs. Irish Catholic children were forbidden to attend school.

Scholars and poets taught young Irish people in clandestine hedgerow schools, with curricular emphasis placed upon passing the legends and myths of ancient Celtic culture to the next generation. Irish belief in the supernatural was thereby strengthened.

The Penal Laws were enacted because Catholics were deemed to be superstitious and idolatrous by their Anglican rulers. I believe the Irish solidified their superstitious practices out of pure stubbornness, and in direct defiance of the laws designed to curtail them. If you tell an Irishman he cannot do something, then rest assured he will die doing it.

 

Are the Irish more superstitious than other cultures?

 

William Butler Yeats, the most famous of all Irish poets, recognized that the Irish were more superstitious than other races. He wrote:

 

“…. for everyone is a visionary, if you scratch him deep enough.

But the Celt, unlike any other, is a visionary without scratching.”

-W.B. Yeats

 

He also observed the peculiar, contradictory belief system of an old woman he met in the west of Ireland.

 

“One woman told me last Christmas that

she did not believe either in hell or in ghosts.

Hell she thought was merely an invention

got up by the priest to keep people good;

and ghosts would not be permitted, she held,

to go ‘trapsin about the earth’ at their own free will;

‘but there are faeries,’ she added,

‘and little leprechauns, and water-horses, and fallen angels.'”

- W. B. Yeats

 

http://www.irishamericanmom.com/2013/08/24/a-full-moon-over-dublin-bay/

 

Why do superstitions live on?

 

In light of all the scientific evidence that exists today to debunk these superstitions, why do old Irish superstitions live on? I don’t think there is a person alive with a drop of Celtic blood who can categorically deny they harbor an innate respect for some old wive’s tale.  Well, perhaps we don’t truly believe in all those omens of bad luck, but at the same time we wouldn’t dare change the original name of a boat, nor move house on a Saturday.

I think this adherence to an old superstitious code comes from a reverence for the past. We recognize that these old beliefs have been handed down to us from many generations that have gone before us. By sticking to their old code of mythical behavior, we acknowledge their legacy, and let the spirits know we understand the influences that helped shape their lives.

Because God between us and all harm, who knows what might happen if we blatantly went around the place ignoring flocks of magpies desperately trying to let us know if any luck might be in store for us.

 

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom