Halloween in Scotland (1904)

Two of our collections – Godey’s Lady’s Book and Frank Leslie’s Weeklycontain many travelogue articles from all over the world. Many of the later articles contain early photos or illustrations of the scenes described by the travel writers.

The description of Halloween in Scotland below appeared as part of a longer travel piece titled Scotland the Playground of Royalty and Americans by Gilson Willets, special correspondent for Leslie’s Weekly. The description of how Halloween in Scotland contrasts with Halloween in America caught my eye.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, published from 1855 to 1922, was an American illustrated news publication started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.

Halloween Customs in Scotland

All Scotland is preparing even now for All Halloween . People are being invited for house parties where, on the first of November, all the customs of Halloween known in the United States, and many that are not known there, will be observed here. For this is the place where the custom of celebrating Halloween originated, and where the evening was given its name. Superstitious Scotchmen still believe that to be the night on which the invisible world has peculiar power. His satanic majesty and witches generally are supposed to have great latitude on this anniversary.

“You practice our Halloween customs in the States, but only in a half sort of way,” said a Scotsman who had been in America. “For example,” he added, “the apple trick should be performed before a mirror. As the clock strikes twelve go alone into a room where there is a mirror. Cut the apple into small pieces, throw one of them over your left shoulder, and, advancing to the mirror without looking back, proceed to eat the remainder of the apple, combing your hair at the same time. While thus engaged the face of the person you will marry will be seen in the glass. Then there’s the burning of the nuts. Put two nuts in the fire, side by side, close together. Give one of them your own name and the other the name of the one you want to marry. If the nuts burn side by side without separating, all will be well in your love affair; but if one nut burns away from the other, then you are to have bad luck.

“Then we have what we call measuring the haystack. We walk three times round the stack with outstretched arms, and the third time round you will clasp in your arms the girl you love. Then we have the three-plates trick. Place three plates in a row on a table. In one plate put water, in the second some vinegar, and in the third put nothing at all. Lead a girl blindfolded to these plates. If she touches the one with water she will marry a bachelor; if the vinegar, a widower; if the empty plate, she will remain an old maid.”

My friend continued through a list of customs too long to mention individually. One eerie custom he told of, as practiced in the Highlands on Halloween , described how an individual goes to a public road which branches in three different directions. At this junction he seats himself on a three-legged stool, on the eve of twelve o’clock. As the clock strikes, he hears proclaimed aloud the names of several persons who will die in the parish before next Halloween . If the person carries with him articles of wearing apparel, and throws a garment away on hearing each person’s name, it will rescue the one named from his impending peril.

I am told that any one of the 8,000 members of the Order of Scottish Clans in America, from Royal Chief Steen, of Braidwood, Ill., down to the lowliest clansman, could add details of a score of Halloween customs which are practiced in Scotland and which any number of unmarried American girls who read this would be glad to be informed about.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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