This is All-Hallows Eve, better known as Hallowe’en, when witches fly abroad and ghosts, fairies and other supernatural beings are at their most active (oh, so many potential comments there…. let’s leave that!). The traditional beliefs and practices may be connected with rituals performed during the night before Samhain, the Celtic festival celebrated in Ireland and Scotland on 1 November. They may also have been influenced by the Christian feast of All Souls on 2 November, when the dead are remembered in prayer.
But let’s face it, whatever the traditions in years gone by, the modern Hallowe’en is chiefly celebrated by children, who dress up as witches, ghosts, devils, pumpkins and the like (though over here in Canada, they dress up as anything they want apparently….). The pumpkin lanterns come out – after much scooping out – and youngsters go out trick or treating. Traditional Hallowe’en games such as ‘bobbing’ or ‘ducking’ for apples is still practiced by some: trying to eat or catch an apple suspended on a string or floating in a bowl of water.
In former times, Hallowe’en was also an occasion for love divination rituals. One of these apparently involved placing a pair of nuts in the fire or on a hot grate (sounds painful!): if the nuts burned quietly together or exploded simultaneously, the couple represented would be married….. there were many other rituals too. Sounds a bit crackers to me but hey, each to their own!
Regular readers will know that I have a penchant for finding ‘odd’ census records and so today of course, I have searched for ghosts. I don’t believe in them but apparently, there were plenty around in 1911….
…. including the above John Fleming, who wasn’t quite a ghost but a general labourer in a Monastic Institution ‘Brotherhood of Monks, Fathers of the Holy Ghost’. Some of the children of George and Emma Scott, of West Hartlepool, were no longer living in 1911 and were therefore recorded:
Along with Ghost Row in a suburb of Cannock, Staffordshire, there are also no less than 87 correctly transcribed GHOST name bearers! Well, no too many I guess…. I still ‘ain’t afraid of no ghost’ (Source: Ghostbusters).