I recently read “Games for Hallow-e’en” by Mary F. Blain (1912). In her book, Blain tells how to throw a Halloween Party. Though you must keep in mind that it’s from the perspective of almost a century ago. I like her description of Halloween:
Hallow-e’en or Hallow-Even is the last night of October, being the eve or vigil of All-Hallow’s or All Saint’s Day, and no holiday in all the year is so informal or so marked by fun both for grown-ups as well as children as this one. On this night there should be nothing but laughter, fun and mystery. It is the night when Fairies dance, Ghosts, Witches, Devils and mischief-making Elves wander around. It is the night when all sorts of charms and spells are invoked for prying into the future by all young folks and sometimes by folks who are not young.
At the end of Blaine’s description, she mentioned “the night when all sorts of charms and spells are invoked for prying into the future”. She was talking about how people felt that Halloween was an especially good time for divination – predicting the future. Kids especially played games where they could predict their future spouses’ names or occupations. This seems like a fun idea for kids, so I pulled out of Blaine’s book the games that specifically relate to predicting future loves and/or those that have rhymes or chants involved. Here they are, quoted directly from the book:
A maid and youth each places a chestnut to roast on fire, side by
side. If one hisses and steams, it indicates a fretful temper in owner
of chestnut; if both chestnuts equally misbehave it augurs strife. If
one or both pop away, it means separation; but if both burn to ashes
tranquilly side by side, a long life of undisturbed happiness will be
lot of owners.
These portentous omens are fitly defined in the following lines:
“These glowing nuts are emblems true
Of what in human life we view;
The ill-matched couple fret and fume,
And thus in strife themselves consume;
Or from each other wildly start,
And with a noise forever part.
But see the happy, happy pair,
Of genuine love and truth sincere;
With mutual fondness while they burn,
Still to each other kindly turn;
And as the vital sparks decay,
Together gently sink away;
Till life’s fierce trials being past,
Their mingled ashes rest at last.”
In this game the seeker for a prize is guided from place to place by
doggerels (verses) as the following, and is started on his hunt with this rhyme:
“Perhaps you’ll find it in the air;
If not, look underneath your chair.”
Beneath his chair he finds the following:
“No, you will not find it here;
Search the clock and have no fear.”
Under the clock he finds:
“You will have to try once more;
Look behind the parlor door.”
Tied to the door-knob he discovers:
“If it’s not out in the stable
Seek beneath the kitchen table.”
Under the kitchen table he finds another
note, which reads:
“If your quest remains uncertain,
You will find it ‘neath a curtain.”
And here his quest is rewarded by finding the prize.
Apple seeds act as charms on Hallowe’en. Stick one on each eyelid and
name one “Home” and the other “Travel.” If seed named travel stays on
longer, you will go on a journey before year expires. If “Home” clings
better, you will remain home. Again, take all the apple seeds, place
them on back of outspread left hand and with loosely clenched right
hand strike palm of left. This will cause some, if not all, of seeds
to fall. Those left on hand show number of letters you will receive
the coming fortnight. Should all seeds drop, you must wait patiently
for your mail.
Put twelve apple seeds carefully one side while you cut twelve slips
of blank paper exactly alike, and on one side of each write name of
friend. Turn them all over with blanks uppermost and mix them so that
you will not know which is which; then, holding seeds in your left
“One I love,
Two I love,
Three I love I say;
Four I love with all my heart
Five I cast away.
Six he loves,
Seven she loves,
Eight they both love;
Nine he comes,
Ten he tarries,
Eleven he courts and
Twelve he marries.”
Stop at each line to place a seed on a paper, and turn slip over to
discover name of one you love or cast away. Continue matching apple
seeds with papers as you count, until all twelve seeds and twelve
papers are used.
Take half as many apples as guests, tie two long strings, one red and
one yellow, to each apple.
Place them in one large or several small baskets or receptacles on a
table. The girls choose the red and the boys the yellow strings and at
a signal they carefully pull the strings and follow them up until each
finds his or her mate holding the string of the opposite color,
attached to the same apple. The apples are then to be divided between
each couple and the seeds in each half, counted as follows:
One–I love thee.
Two–he (she) loves me.
Three–Wedded we will be.
Four–he (she) loves me dearly.
Five–he (she) loves me nearly.
Six–a friend forever.
Seven–we must sever.
Eight–we met too late.
Ten–he (she) is my chosen mate.
AROUND THE WALNUT TREE
Of all Hallow-e’en spells and charms associated with nuts, the
following is one of the oldest: If a young man or woman goes at
midnight on Hallow-e’en to a walnut tree and walks around three times,
crying out each time, “Let him (her) that is to be my true love bring
me some walnuts,” future wife or husband will be seen in tree
GAME OF FATE
Guests take part, seated in a circle. Three Fates are chosen, one of
whom whispers to each person in turn name of his (her) future
sweetheart. Second Fate follows, whispering to each where he (she)
will next meet his (her) sweetheart; as, “You will meet on a load of
hay,” or, “at a picnic,” or, “at church,” or, “on the river,” etc. The
third Fate reveals the future; as, “You will marry him (her) next
Christmas,” or, “You will be separated many years by a quarrel, but
will finally marry,” or, “Neither of you will ever marry,” etc. Each
guest must remember what is said by the Fates; then each in turn
repeats aloud what has been told him (her). For example, “My future
sweetheart’s name is Obednego; I shall meet him next Wednesday on the
Moonlight Excursion, and we shall be married in a week.”
WHERE DWELLS MY LOVER?
Steal out unobserved at midnight; plucking a small lock of hair from
your head, cast it to breeze. Whatever direction it is blown is
believed to be location of future matrimonial partner.
“I pluck this lock of hair off my head
To tell whence comes the one I shall wed.
Fly, silken hair, fly all the world around
Until you reach the spot where my true love is found.”
Take two roses with long stems. Name one for yourself and one for your
lover. Go to your room without speaking to any one; kneel beside bed;
twine stems of roses together, and repeat following lines, gazing
intently on lover’s rose:
“Twine, twine, and intertwine,
Let my love be wholly thine.
If his heart be kind and true,
Deeper grow his rose’s hue.”
If your swain is faithful, color of rose will grow darker.
Walk backward several feet out of doors in moonlight with mirror in
your hand, or within doors with candle in one hand and mirror in
the other, repeating following rhyme, and face of your future
companion will appear in glass:
“Round and round, O stars so fair!
Ye travel and search out everywhere;
I pray you, sweet stars, now show to me
This night who my future husband (wife) shall be.”
NOTE FROM MAMA LISA – I’M NOT RECOMMENDING THAT CHILDREN PLAY THIS NEXT GAME! IT’S JUST INTERESTING TO READ ABOUT FROM AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE…
JUMPING LIGHTED CANDLE
Place a lighted candle in middle of floor, not too securely placed;
each one jumps over it. Whoever succeeds in clearing candle is
guaranteed a happy year, free of trouble or anxiety. He who knocks
candle over will have a twelve-month of woe.
[Another Note from Mama Lisa: This sounds like what’s being described in the rhyme Jack Be Nimble.]
Cut an apple open and pick out seeds from core. If only two seeds are
found, they portend early marriage; three, legacy; four, great wealth;
five, a sea voyage; six, great fame as orator or singer; seven,
possession of any gift most desired.
If you’re interested, you can read the whole book that these rhymes are from. It’s online at: Games for Hallow-e’en.
Enjoy predicting your future on Halloween! It’s all in good fun!
This article was posted on Friday, October 24th, 2008 at 4:07 pm and is filed under Autumn, Canada, Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, England, English, English Nursery Rhymes, Games Around the World, Halloween, History of Nursery Rhymes, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Mama Lisa, Nursery Rhymes, Nursery Rhymes about Halloween, Nursery Rhymes about Holidays, Rhymes by Theme, Rhymes for Divination, United Kingdom, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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