There have been many rituals performed over the years in efforts to ward off evil spirits and predict the future. There were also certain superstitions that we no longer hear about, here's a list of 7 unusual Halloween Superstitions we no longer celebrate:
Unmarried girls would peel an apple, taking care to remove the peel in one long strip. They would then throw it over their shoulder. It was believed that when the peel landed, it would form the initials of the man they would marry.
Young unmarried ladies might also carry a lamp to a spring of water on Halloween night. This supposedly enabled them to see a reflection of their future husband in the water.
When the Druids' bonfires burned out, a circle was made with the ashes of it. A member of each family in the village would place a pebble inside the circle. The next day, if a stone was moved or damaged, it was believed that a person in the family of he who placed that stone would die by next Halloween.
The British believed that the Devil was a nut gatherer. On Halloween, they used nuts as magic charms.
Journeys should be completed before sundown on Samhain. Travellers carried with them a piece of “holy” bread with salt on it to keep witches away.
If a candle's flame turned blue or went out on its own on the evening of Samhain, it was believed that a ghost was nearby.
To ward off evil spirits, Celts would walk around their homes backward three times before sunset on Samhain.
Modern Halloween Customs and Superstitions
There are some customs and superstitions associated with Halloween that we still observe today. Here are explanations of some of the most prevalent.
Although there are reports of children asking for treats in the days of Samhain, it was not a particularly widespread practice. The idea of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated in the 9the century, not with pagans, but with Christians.
November 2nd was another Christian holiday, known as All Souls' Day. This was a day to commemorate the deceased. Some Christians would walk from house to house, knocking on doors and begging for square pieces of bread with currants, known as soul cakes. In exchange for the cakes, they would agree to pray for the dead relatives of the donors. This was believed to aid their passage into heaven.
By some accounts, this practice spawned another tradition for All Hallows Eve. This day of celebration was observed by the rich and poor alike, yet many could not afford to celebrate properly. So the poor would visit the well-to-do, asking for donations of money and food. These donations were used to prepare a feast and celebration for their families.
Jack o' Lanterns
The Jack o' Lantern is a staple of Halloween decorating. But few people are aware of the story behind it. This piece of Irish folklore makes an interesting tale for Halloween night.
As the story goes, there was a farmer by the name of Stingy Jack. He had a bad reputation for being a drunkard and a trickster. On Halloween, the left a pub and was greeted by the Devil himself, who wished to claim Jack's soul.
The clever Jack asked the Devil to let him have one more drink. The Devil obliged, but Jack said he didn't have any money. So the Devil turned himself into a coin. But instead of taking the coin in and buying a drink with it, Jack put it in his wallet, which contained a cross. The Devil lost his power and was unable to take back his true form. Jack said he would free the Devil if he would let him live for another year, and he had no choice but to agree.
A year later, the Devil came back once again to claim Jack's soul. This time, Jack tricked him into climbing an apple tree. He then carved a cross into the trunk. While he was in the tree, Jack convinced the Devil to let him live for 10 more years.
When Jack died, he was not allowed into heaven because of his misdeeds. He was sent to hell, but the Devil wouldn't let him in because he had already tricked him twice. The Devil threw Jack an ember, and he placed it into a hollowed-out turnip to use as a lantern as he roamed the earth for eternity.
The Irish began to make their own “jack o' lanterns” out of turnips for Halloween, as they were supposed to ward off evil spirits. But when Irish immigrants came to America, they found few turnips. Pumpkins, however, were plentiful, so they began to use them for their jack o' lanterns instead.
Bobbing for Apples
If you've ever attended a Halloween party, there's a good chance that you've either bobbed for apples or witnessed others doing so. It's lots of fun and quite a challenge! Even this game has roots in ancient Celtic folklore.
The goddess Pomona's symbol was the apple. In addition to being in charge of fruit and trees, Pomona was also known for her beauty and fertility. When the Romans combined Pomona's festival with the Celtic Samhain, the Celts began to take on some of the traditions associated with it.
One of these traditions was bobbing for apples, just like we do today. Apples were placed in a tub of water, and participants attempted to remove them using only their teeth. But in those days, it wasn't just a game played for fun and/or prizes. It was a means of predicting the future. The first person to successfully remove an apple was believed to be the next to marry.
Black cats have long been associated with Halloween. We've all heard the superstition that having a black cat cross your path is bad luck. There are numerous stories associated with this.
One such story comes from England in the middle ages. It's said that a father and his son were walking one night when they were frightened by a small animal that crossed their path. It ran underneath a house, and they threw rocks at it. When it reemerged, they saw that it was a black cat. Injured, it limped into the home of a woman who the villagers believed to be a witch. The following day, the father and son saw that woman, and she was bruised and bandaged. This brought forth the belief that witches turn themselves into black cats.
There were also rumours around this time that black cats were the Devil in disguise, or that they were possessed by evil spirits. Like those suspected of being witches, they were often hunted down and burned. Yet in some places, black cats are considered omens of good luck.
Some say that if you break a mirror, you will experience bad luck for 7 years. This too has roots in ancient times.
Our ancestors believed that the image they saw in the mirror was their soul. If someone broke a mirror, it represented the separation of the soul from the body, which caused bad luck. The only way to break the spell was to wait 7 hours, pick up the pieces, and bury them outside by moonlight.