Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Traditions in Scotland

Christmas Traditions in Scotland

The Origins and Practice of Hogmanany




Although the well-known Scottish tradition of Hogmanay (originally the name was given to a type of three cornered, biscuit) is celebrated on New Year's Eve, its origins are age old and grounded in Celtic culture. Despite the long association with the Scots, Hogmanay is not a Scottish custom but practiced, all over Europe.



Hogmanay was first recorded in 1604 as Hagmanay (delatit to haue been singand hagmonayis on Satirday) in the Elgin Records. It was later documented in 1692 as an entry of the Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence,

"It is ordinary among some plebeians in the South of Scotland to go about from door to door upon New-years Eve, crying Hagmane."

The etymology of Hogmanay remains obscure and may arise from a French, Norse or a Goidelic (Insular Celtic) root.



In the old Celtic calendar, New Year fell on the 1st November and was called Samhain. This was an unreal time, when one year turned into another. A twilight zone where spirits of the dead and those not yet born walked freely among the living. It was a time of plenty as the stocks were returned from the hills before the severe winter ahead and a great time for kinship as the hill dwellers came to the gathering. Today this celebration is found throughout the Celtic and Hispanic world (The Festival of the Dead) and lasts from Halloween to New Year.



Samhain was a time where darkness of night was thought to prevail over the lightness of day. Lun the Sun God was defeated by his darker side and became the Lord of Misrule. Good people needed the comfort of their own kind and protection from the evil forces of the dark. Much of the sacred symbolism of Samhaimn can be found in the customs of Halloween and Hogmanay.



In the New Year, many cultures believed the first foot to cross the threshold brought the house good fortune for the coming year. "First footing" is an ancient custom and tradition demands the first person to pass the threshold must be a sonsy (trustworthy), a stranger of dark complexion and full head of hair, carry a lucky talisman. It was considered very unlucky to have a first fit who was a person with fair complexion. Suspicious people refuse to leave their home until they were first footed.



Bearing gifts echoes the 8th Century beliefs of the Vikings that good luck charms made the coming New Year a thriving one. Black bun (pastry covered rich current bun), and wassail (hot toddy) represent food and sustenance for the coming year. Coal symbolized good luck and prosperity.



In the Isle of Man (UK) a good first footer was a man of good appearance and dark complexion with in-steps high enough to allow a mouse to run through. The significance of the arched foot remains unclear but early Christians believed men were made in the image of God and the Christian Foot had a perfect arch. Flat feet or splayed feet were considered the sign of evil and hence unlucky omens.



Functional feet were important to the early Christians as walking was the only means to spread the Gospel. Subsequently well-formed feet became associated with joy and happiness. Literature abounds with reference to this. Prior to modern medicine illness and deformity were regarded as a form of demonic possession. Many contagious diseases of the time left deformities like flat feet.



First footing remains a strong tradition in rural areas. The modern interpretation is after hearing the Bells of the New Year ring, friends visit each other's homes sharing goodwill and treating them to intoxicating liquor. The Celts held alcohol in very high esteem and was an important part of ritual. In the past first footing had practical purpose to small communities which allowed everyone in the village to meet the New Year with good cheer and more importantly, be able to leave their abode after being first footed. In Scotland families gather on Ner’day (New Year ‘s Day) and feast like the traditional Christmas Day. This represents the modern “gathering of the clans.” Certain foods are thought to bring good fortune for the New Year. These include a thick and tasty bowl of Scotch broth: Steak pie and a Clootie dumpling (a sweet fruit pudding). It is not uncommon in Celtic tradition to have an extra place set at table for unexpected guests.



Auld Land Syne was a traditional air given lyrics by Robert Burns but this was not traditionally sang at Hogmanay until the 20th century after it was played at a New Year celebration in New York. The song and sentiment expressed was perfect for the occasion and have been associated ever since.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here's a hand, my trusty friend
And gie's a hand o' thine
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Slangevar and a Happy New Year to one and all.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Scottish Christmas


Yuletide



The Scots word "Yule" comes from the Old Norse "jól, which was the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. Traditionally 'Yultid' referred to the twelve days between December 25th and January 6th. It is thought the Vikings brought the celebration of Yuletide to Scotland. In any event the mid-winter festival blended with the Celtic Festival of Samhain. In Pagan tradition emphasis was placed on light and heat. The Yule log was a Norse custom and burning of the Yule was a celebration of the sun during the winter months. Most ancient superstitions surrounding Yuletide were concerned with the darkness and the evil it was thought to harbor. Many superstitious people keep a piece on the log from the previous year, as a lucky talisman. According to tradition it was extremely unlucky for a barefooted woman or a squint eyed man to see the yule log; and a flat footed visitor to the house whilst the log was burning was a very bad omen. Keeping Christmas cake or the remains of the Yule Log under the bed was also thought to help get rid of chilblains. The log has subsequently influenced other Christmas traditions including desserts such as log shaped cakes.



Sprigs of mistletoe were hung from ceilings and in doorways to bring luck and ward off evil spirits. Druids believed mistletoe had both medicinal and magical properties and kissing under the mistletoe was a common fertility right. In the pre Christian era pagans decorated their homes with holly and other evergreens as a symbol of the renewal of life.

Festival of the Dead (Samahain)



According to Celtic myth Lugh, the Sun God was defeated by his dark side and become the Lord of Misrule. Good folk needed the comfort of their own kind and protection from the evil forces of the dark. Samhain was the great gathering of the clans and if you watched The Highlander film or TV series you will of heard of the Great Gathering. Well there was such an event and it took place in the mid winter. Samhain was celebrated on three levels. It was a time of plenty as the live stock were returned from the hills before the severe winter ahead; it was a time of great kinship, as the hill dwellers came to the gathering; and was the time of year when the darkness of night prevailed over the lightness of the day.



In pre-Christian times, Samhain was an unreal time, when one year turned into another. A twilight zone where the spirits of the dead and those not yet born, walked freely among the living. Halloween or the beginning of the Festival of the Dead and Hogmanay , the end as beginning of the New Year. Many rituals and superstitions from that time still prevail and are incorporated into modern Christmas customs. Christmas was called the Festival of Light in the Western or Latin Church. Lighting candles and lamps helped return the light and warmth as well as chasing away the spirits of darkness.

Christmas Day



Christians have celebrated Christmas Day since 336AD and the earliest known Christmas Day celebrations were in York, England in AD 521 by King Arthur. The establishment of Roman Catholicism in Scotland was in the 5th and 6th centuries, and gradually Pagan winter solstice traditions were incorporated although merriment and religious devotion were not associated in the early church, ultimately they became incorporated due to political pressures.



By the 11th century, after the Norman Conquest, Princess Margaret fled north and was shipwrecked on the Scottish coast in 1068. She married King Malcolm III and was a devout Catholic who worked to bring the Scottish Church practice in line with that of the continental church of Hungary, where she grew up. Queen Margaret of Scotland (c. 1045 – 1093), was sometimes called “The Pearl of Scotland” and many believe her strong Christian beliefs helped turn the previously pagan Yuletide season into a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. By the twelfth century Christmas had become the most important religious festival in Europe. The obsolete feasts of pagan antiquity were gradually adapted to the main events of the life of Christ. In retrospect it is very difficult to separate occult beliefs and the sacred doctrine since they have become complexly intertwined. By the 16th century the Christmas days were associated with games and feasting.



To promote universal celebration of the birth of Christ the main churches eventually agreed to accept Twelve Days of Christmas. In the Western Church this ran from Christmas Day until Epiphany, (January 6th). Some believers consider the first day of the Twelve Days of Christmas begin on the eve of December 25th with the following day considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th). Eastern Orthodox Christians use a different religious calendar and celebrate Christmas on January 7th. They observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th. In the Western church, Epiphany (Three Kings Day) is usually celebrated as the day the Wise Men (or Magi) arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Traditionally at the end of the Twelve Days a feast was held and gifts were given.



People ate cake (King Cake) and drank alcohol on Twelfth Night. Once December 25th became acknowledged as the main festival day, then exchanging gifts became part of the celebration. As the Twelfth Day marked the end of the Christmas celebrations then all Christmas decorations required to be removed from the house otherwise misfortune would follow.

Nollaig Beag



In the Scottish Highlands, Nollaig Bheag (little Christmas) refers to New Year's Day, also known as Là Challuinn, or Là na Bliadhna Ùire, while Epiphany is known as Là Féill nan Rìgh, the feast-day of the Kings. In Ireland Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas and is celebrated on January 6. Domestic roles are reversed and men cook and care for their woman folks. Women hold parties or go out to celebrate the day with their friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts. Bars and restaurants serve mostly women and girls on this night. Children often buy presents for their mothers and grandmothers.

The Scottish Reformation



The Scottish Reformation arose when Scotland formally broke away from the Papacy in 1560. This was part of the wider European Protestant Reformation, and in Scotland, culminated ecclesiastically in the re-establishment of the church along Reformed lines and politically in the triumph of English influence over the Kingdom of France. The Scottish Kirk and the state were closely linked and once the pope’s authority was repudiated, celebration of the Mass was forbidden. Attitudes to traditional Christian feasting days, including Christmas, were reviewed and all festival days and other church holidays were abolished. The celebration of Christmas was regarded as a "Popish festival" and charges were brought against people for keeping "Yule". John Knox, the leader of the Presbyterian movement, banned the celebration of Christmas in Scotland in 1580. He saw the holiday (including St. Nicholas) as one created by the Catholic Church and instead favored the continuation of Hogmanay as a time to celebrate new life.



By 1583, Bakers who made the Yule breads (mincemeat pies) were fined but their punishment could be lessened if they gave the names of their customers. Instead many bakers mincemeat pies became smaller and easier to hide. On 27 December 1583, five people in Glasgow were brought before the kirk session and sternly ordered to make public repentance for ‘keeping Yule’. During the Christmas of 1605, five Aberdonians were prosecuted for going through the town ‘maskit and dancing with bellis’

The Act of 1640



In 1640 the Parliament of Scotland abolished Christmas (the "Yule vacance and all observation thereof in time coming). This Act was partly repealed in 1686, when Episcopalianism was briefly in ascendancy within the Kirk.

"... the kirk within this kingdom is now purged of all superstitious observation of days... therefore the said estates have discharged and simply discharge the foresaid Yule vacation and all observation thereof in time coming, and rescind and annul all acts, statutes and warrants and ordinances whatsoever granted at any time heretofore for keeping of the said Yule vacation, with all custom of observation thereof, and find and declare the same to be extinct, void and of no force nor effect in time coming."

The reformed church intended Christmas as a day of prayer and to stamp out frivolity, prescribed Christmas as a working day. Anyone who defied the new laws and continued their festivities were fined and in some cases imprisoned. Bakers were encouraged to inform on their customers. Catholics continued to celebrate Christmas and went to Church before work, or at Lunchtime, or in the evening. They would have a Christmas Tree and a Christmas Dinner.



Oliver Cromwell imposed a ban on Christmas in 1644 on the grounds any celebration was a heathen practice, and ordered Christmas to be kept as a fasting day. According to a letter entitled The Scots Demonstration of Their Abhorrence of Popery, with all its Adherents (1680), Edinburgh University students held a Christmas burning of an effigy of the Pope. “Our Chriftmafs, this morning very pleasantly began” begins the letter, describing how the students burnt the effigy in public, despite a plea by authorities against “tumultuous affemblies.”

The Restoration



The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II (1660–1685) after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The return of Charles II marked a reversal of the stringent Puritan morality. In Scotland, Episcopacy was reinstated. With the Restoration of the Monarchy came the restoration of Christmas. In Scotland, the rigid laws of the new Kirk still frowned upon Christmas celebration, so it stayed underground. Only the High church and the Catholics kept the old traditions going. In England many of the symbolisms and earlier religious elements were lost, and it took the intrepid Victorian historians to gather together the remnants and re-establish Christmas. English custom was not particularly accepted by Scotland with many of the opinion the English celebration was an attempt to emulate Hogmanay. Others viewed it, as a time for Victorian ‘do good’ers’ to exercise charity to the less privileged. The inherent need to celebrate came out in Scotland as a great revival of the New Year celebrations. Christmas in Scotland continued to be a working day and December 25 only become a public holiday in 1958. Boxing Day was not recognised as a festive holiday until 1974. Fading influence of the Kirk and influence from the rest of the UK and elsewhere, eventually meant Christmas time in Scotland began to celebrate the Festive Season with all the trimmings.



Monday, November 17, 2014

St Andrew: Who was he?




The feast of Andrew is observed on 30 November in both the Eastern and Western churches, and is the national day of Scotland. St Andrew’s patronage extends to fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers.



Andrew the Apostle (or Saint Andrew) was the brother of Saint Peter. Prior to becoming disciples, the brothers were Galilean fishermen working in the Black Sea. Andrew derives from the Greek word for brave and was martyred at Patras in Greece, bound, (not nailed), to an X shaped cross or saltire (crux decussata). Legend has it a Greek monk called St Rule or St Regulus was ordered in a vision to take relics of Andrew (a tooth, a kneecap, and arm and finger bones) to the ‘ends of the earth’ for safe keeping. He set off on a sea journey and eventually came ashore on the Fife coast at a settlement which would become the modern town of St Andrews.



According to legend, in 832 AD, Óengus II (Angus) led an army of Picts and Scots into battle where they were heavily outnumbered. The night before the battle Óengus prayed to St Andrew for help. In the morning a white cloud formed an X in the sky and after the battle Óengus honoured his pledge and duly appointed Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland. Andrew was first recognised as an official patron saint of Scotland in 1320 at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath an appeal to the Pope by Scottish noblemen asserting Scotland’s independence from England. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background was eventually adopted as the flag of Scotland with the earliest use of the saltire as a flag traced to 1542.The original colour of the saltire cross was silver (Argent), but in heraldry white stands for silver.



There were several advantages having Saint Andrew as Scotland's Patron. Early Picts and Scots Christian converts modelled themselves on Saint Andrew which, in turn, carried favour with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In the event of conflict between England and Scotland, the Scots could now appeal to the Pope for protection.



A local superstition was to use the cross of Saint Andrew as a hex sign on the fireplaces in northern England and Scotland to prevent witches from flying down the chimney and entering the house to do mischief. By placing the St Andrew's cross on one of the fireplace posts or lintels, witches are prevented from entering through this opening.



The Confederate flag also features a saltire commonly referred to as a St Andrew's cross, although the designer, William Porcher Miles, said he changed it from an upright cross to a saltire so that it would not be a religious symbol but merely a heraldic device.




The Lion Rampant





The Royal Standard of Scotland (Banner of the King of Scots) is the Scottish Royal Banner of Arms used historically by the King of Scots. The flag historically, and legally, belongs to the monarchy and since there has not been a Scottish Regent since the 17th Century, it now belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. The earliest recorded use of the Lion rampant was by Alexander II in 1222. Later a double border set with lilies was added to the standard during the reign of Alexander III (1249–1286). Following the Union of the Crowns of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1603, the Royal Standard of Scotland was incorporated into the royal standards of successive Scottish then, following the Acts of Union in 1707, British monarchs.



The Royal Banner of Scotland is used officially at the Scottish royal residences of the Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, and Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, when The Queen is not in residence. The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom used in Scotland is flown when the Sovereign is present.



According to an Act of Parliament, passed in 1672, it is an offense for any private citizen or corporate body to fly or wave this flag. In 1935, King George V gave permission for Lion Rampant flags to be waived by the public during his Silver Jubilee celebrations. Ever since the Lion Rampant is seen in public at many football matches and other events.

The Scottish Thistle



This is the oldest recorded 'National Flower' and one of the most well-known, and easily recognized symbols of Scotland. The prickly-leaved, pink or purple-flowered ‘Scotch’ thistle is a weed which may seem a strange choice for a national flower. This proud and regal plant grows to a height of five feet with vicious spines to protect it like a porcupine. It has no natural enemies.



For hundreds of years much of Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway. By the 13th century Norway seemed to have lost interest in their former territory. King Alexander III proposed to buy back the Western Isles and Kintyre from the Norse King Haakon IV (Haakon the Elder). He played the King of Norway for a fool, laying claim to the Western Isles and then stringing out negotiations until the Norwegian king lost patience. In 1263 King Haakon of Norway decided to conquer the Scots and sent a large fleet of longships. Storms forced the armada onto the beach at Largs in Ayrshire and the Norwegians were forced to land. Legend has it a sleeping party of Scots warriors were saved from ambush by the invaders when one of the attackers trod on a thistle with his bare feet. His cries raised the alarm and roused the Scots who duly defeated them. Many believe the thistle was adopted thereafter as the symbol of Scotland.



In Scotland there are several types of thistle and it is not clear which one was trod upon. Many believe it may have been the Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) as it is an abundant native species in Scotland.



Whilst the Cotton Thistle (Onopordum acanthium) is by far the most imposing thistle with extremely sharp thorns, it is unlikely to have been a native of Scotland at that time.



The first use of the thistle as a royal symbol of Scotland was on silver coins issued by James III in 1470. It is said that the Order of the Thistle, the highest honour in Scotland, was founded in 1540 by King James V who, after being honoured with the Order of the Garter from his uncle King Henry VIII of England and with the Golden Fleece from the Emperor of France, felt a little left out. He resolved the issue by creating the royal title of Order of the Thistle for himself and twelve of his knights. He set up the arms and badges of the order over the gate of his palace at Linlithgow. The common badge worn over the left breast by the knights is a cross surmounted by a star of four silver points, and over this a green circle bordered and lettered with gold, containing the motto "Nemo me impune lacessit", "No-one harms me without punishment" but more commonly translated in Scots as "Wha daurs meddle wi me", in the centre is the thistle.



Hugh MacDiarmid ‘s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle was published in 1926, and remains one of the most famous works by a Scottish poet.



Flower of Scotland



Flower of Scotland is a Scottish song, used frequently at special occasions and sporting events. Although there is no official national anthem of Scotland, Flower of Scotland is one of a number of songs which unofficially fulfil this role. Written by Roy Williamson (1936- 1990) of the folk group, The Corries in 1967 it refers to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) known, over King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The tune was originally composed on the Northumbrian smallpipes, which play in D and have the benefit of keys on the chanter to achieve a greater range of notes. The music is actually somewhat older, and was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick (c1834-1916) who emigrated to Australia as a young man, and composed the National Anthem of Australia, "Advance Australia Fair".



When sung at sporting events, crowds will often call back after certain lines: after the words "and stood against him", you may hear "(a)gainst who"; and after the words "and sent him homewards", you may hear "whit fur?" ("what for?").

The Flower of Scotland

O flower of Scotland
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

The hills are bare now
And autumn leaves lie thick and still
O'er land that is lost now
Which those so dearly held
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween by Robert Burns




In 1780 an obscure Scots poet by the name of John Mayne published a poem in Ruddimans Weekly Magazine on the subject of Halloween. In the twelve stanzas the poet makes note of the Scots ‘fearful’ pranks and supernatural associated with All Hallows Eve. Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) later revelled in similar pagan beliefs that still survived well into the modern age with his poem Halloween in1785 and published in the Kilmarnock volume. The night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are abroad on their baneful midnight errands. The Burns poem is written as a combination in both Scots and English and is accompanied by extensive footnotes.



Halloween1

The following poem will, by many readers, be well enough understood; but for the sake of those who are unacquainted with the manners and traditions of the country where the scene is cast, notes are added to give some account of the principal charms and spells of that night, so big with prophecy to the peasantry in the west of Scotland. The passion of prying into futurity makes a striking part of the history of human nature in its rude state, in all ages and nations; and it may be some entertainment to a philosophic mind, if any such honour the author with a perusal, to see the remains of it among the more unenlightened in our own.-R.B.1785

Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans 2 dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the rout is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the Cove, 3 to stray an' rove,
Amang the rocks and streams
To sport that night;

[Footnote 1: Is thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are abroad on their baneful midnight errands; particularly those aerial people, the fairies, are said on that night to hold a grand anniversary,.-R.B.]

[Footnote 2: Certain little, romantic, rocky, green hills, in the neighbourhood of the ancient seat of the Earls of Cassilis.-R.B.]

[Footnote 3: A noted cavern near Colean house, called the Cove of Colean; which, as well as Cassilis Downans, is famed, in country story, for being a favorite haunt of fairies.-R.B.]

Amang the bonie winding banks,
Where Doonrins, wimplin, clear;
Where Bruce 4 ance rul'd the martial ranks, An' shook his Carrick spear;
Some merry, friendly, countra-folks
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks,
An' haud their Halloween
Fu' blythe that night.

[Footnote 4: The famous family of that name, the ancestors of Robert, the great deliverer of his country, were Earls of Carrick.-R.B.]

The lasses feat, an' cleanly neat,
Mairbraw than when they're fine;
Their faces blythe, fu' sweetly kythe,
Hearts leal, an' warm, an' kin':
The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs
Weel-knotted on their garten;
Some uncoblate, an' some wi' gabs
Gar lasses' hearts gang startin
Whiles fast at night.

Then, first an' foremost, thro' the kail,
Their stocks 5maun a' be sought ance;
They steek their een, and grape an' wale
For muckleanes, an' straughtanes.
Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,
An' wandered thro' the bow-kail,
An' pou't for want o' better shift
A runt was like a sow-tail
Sae bow't that night.

[Footnote 5: The first ceremony of Halloween is pulling each a "stock," or plant of kail. They must go out, hand in hand, with eyes shut, and pull the first they meet with: its being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells-the husband or wife. If any "yird," or earth, stick to the root, that is "tocher," or fortune; and the taste of the "custock," that is, the heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper and disposition. Lastly, the stems, or, to give them their ordinary appellation, the "runts," are placed somewhere above the head of the door; and the Christian names of the people whom chance brings into the house are, according to the priority of placing the "runts," the names in question.-R. B.]

Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,
They roar an' cry a' throu'ther;
The vera wee-things, toddlin, rin,
Wi' stocks out owre their shouther:
An' gif the custock's sweet or sour,
Wi' joctelegs they taste them;
Synecoziely, aboon the door,
Wi' cannie care, they've plac'd them
To lie that night.

The lassies staw frae 'mang them a',
To pou their stalks o' corn; 6
But Rab slips out, an' jinks about,
Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippit Nelly hard and fast:
Loud skirl'd a' the lasses;
But her tap-picklemaist was lost,
Whan kiutlin in the fause-house 7
Wi' him that night.

[Footnote 6: They go to the barnyard, and pull each, at three different times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the "top-pickle," that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will come to the marriage-bed anything but a maid.-R.B.]

[Footnote 7: When the corn is in a doubtful state, by being too green or wet, the stack-builder, by means of old timber, etc., makes a large apartment in his stack, with an opening in the side which is fairest exposed to the wind: this he calls a "fause-house."-R.B.]

The auld guid-wife's weel-hoordit nits 8
Are round an' round dividend,
An' mony lads an' lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle couthie side by side,
And burn the gither trimly;
Some start awa wi' saucy pride,
An' jump out owre the chimlie
Fu' high that night.

[Footnote 8: Burning the nuts is a favorite charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and according as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be.-R.B.]

Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e;
Wha 'twas, she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, an' this is me,
She says in to hersel':
He bleez'd owre her, an' she owre him,
As they wad never mair part:
Till fuff! he started up the lum,
An' Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see't that night.

Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie;
An' Mary, nae doubt, took the drunt,
To be compar'd to Willie:
Mall's nit lap out, wi' pridefu' fling,
An' her ain fit, it brunt it;
While Willie lap, and swore by jing,
'Twas just the way he wanted
To be that night.

Nell had the fause-house in her min',
She pits hersel an' Rob in;
In loving bleeze they sweetly join,
Till white in ase they're sobbin:
Nell's heart was dancin at the view;
She whisper'd Rob to leuk for't:
Rob, stownlins, prie'd her bonie mou',
Fu' cozie in the neuk for't,
Unseen that night.

But Merran sat behint their backs,
Her thoughts on Andrew Bell:
She lea'es them gashin at their cracks,
An' slips out-by hersel';
She thro' the yard the nearest taks,
An' for the kiln she goes then,
An' darklins grapit for the bauks,
And in the blue-clue 9 throws then,
Right fear't that night.

[Footnote 9: Whoever would, with success, try this spell, must strictly observe these directions: Steal out, all alone, to the kiln, and darkling, throw into the "pot" a clue of blue yarn; wind it in a new clue off the old one; and, toward the latter end, something will hold the thread: demand, "Wha hauds?" i.e., who holds? and answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the Christian and surname of your future spouse.-R.B.]

An' ay she win't, an' ay she swat-
I wat she made nae jaukin;
Till something held within the pat,
Good Lord! but she was quaukin!
But whether 'twas the deil himsel,
Or whether 'twas a bauk-en',
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
She did na wait on talkin
To spier that night.

Wee Jenny to her graunie says,
"Will ye go wi' me, graunie?
I'll eat the apple at the glass, 10

I gat frae uncle Johnie:"
She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sae vap'rin,
She notic't na an aizle brunt
Her braw, new, worset apron
Out thro' that night.

[Footnote 10: Take a candle and go alone to a looking-glass; eat an apple before it, and some traditions say you should comb your hair all the time; the face of your conjungal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.-R.B.]

"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face!
I daur you try sic sportin,
As seek the foul thief ony place,
For him to spae your fortune:
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
An' liv'd an' died deleerit,
On sic a night.

"Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor,
I mind't as weel'syestreen-
I was a gilpey then, I'm sure
I was na past fyfteen:
The simmer had been cauld an' wat,
An' stuff was unco green;
An' eye a rantin kirn we gat,
An' just on Halloween
It fell that night.

"Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen,
A clever, sturdy fallow;
His sin gat EppieSim wi' wean,
That lived in Achmacalla:
He gat hemp-seed, 11 I mind it weel,
An'he made unco light o't;
But mony a day was by himsel',
He was sae sairly frighted
That vera night."

[Footnote 11: Steal out, unperceived, and sow a handful of hemp-seed, harrowing it with anything you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then: "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee." Look over your left shoulder, and you will see the appearance of the person invoked, in the attitude of pulling hemp. Some traditions say, "Come after me and shaw thee," that is, show thyself; in which case, it simply appears. Others omit the harrowing, and say: "Come after me and harrow thee."-R.B.]

Then up gat fechtin Jamie Fleck,
An' he swoor by his conscience,
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
For it was a' but nonsense:
The auld guidmanraught down the pock,
An' out a handfu' gied him;
Syne bad him slip frae' mang the folk,
Sometime when naeanesee'd him,
An' try't that night.

He marches thro' amang the stacks,
Tho' he was something sturtin;
The graip he for a harrow taks,
An' haurls at his curpin:
And ev'ry now an' then, he says,
"Hemp-seed I saw thee,
An' her that is to be my lass
Come after me, an' draw thee
As fast this night."

He wistl'd up Lord Lennox' March
To keep his courage cherry;
Altho' his hair began to arch,
He was saefley'd an' eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
An' then a grane an' gruntle;
He by his shouthergae a keek,
An' tumbled wi' a wintle
Out-owre that night.

He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
In dreadfu' desperation!
An' young an' auld comerinnin out,
An' hear the sad narration:
He swoor 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw,
Or crouchieMerranHumphie-
Till stop! she trotted thro' them a';
And wha was it but grumphie
Asteer that night!

Meg fainwad to the barn gaen,
To winn three wechts o' naething; 12
But for to meet the deil her lane,
She pat but little faith in:

[Footnote 12: This charm must likewise be performed unperceived and alone. You go to the barn, and open both doors, taking them off the hinges, if possible; for there is danger that the being about to appear may shut the doors, and do you some mischief. Then take that instrument used in winnowing the corn, which in our country dialect we call a "wecht," and go through all the attitudes of letting down corn against the wind. Repeat it three times, and the third time an apparition will pass through the barn, in at the windy door and out at the other, having both the figure in question, and the appearance or retinue, marking the employment or station in life.-R.B.]

She gies the herd a pickle nits,
An' twared cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
In hopes to see Tam Kipples
That vera night.

She turns the key wi' cannie thraw,
An'owre the threshold ventures;
But first on Sawniegies a ca',
Syne baudly in she enters:
A ratton rattl'd up the wa',
An' she cry'd Lord preserve her!
An' ran thro' midden-hole an' a',
An' pray'd wi' zeal and fervour,
Fu' fast that night.

They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice;
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanc'd the stack he faddom't thrice 13
Was timmer-propt for thrawin:
He taks a swirlie auld moss-oak
For some black, grousome carlin;
An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke,
Till skin in blypes cam haurlin
Aff's nieves that night.

[Footnote 13: Take an opportunity of going unnoticed to a "bear-stack," and fathom it three times round. The last fathom of the last time you will catch in your arms the appearance of your future conjugal yoke-fellow.-R.B.]

A wanton widow Leezie was,
As cantie as a kittlen;
But och! that night, amang the shaws,
She gat a fearfu' settlin!
She thro' the whins, an' by the cairn,
An' owre the hill gaed scrievin;
Whare three lairds' lan's met at a burn, 14
To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
Was bent that night.

[Footnote 14: You go out, one or more (for this is a social spell), to a south running spring, or rivulet, where "three lairds' lands meet," and dip your left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire, and hang your wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake, and, some time near midnight, an apparition, having the exact figure of the grand object in question, will come and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the other side of it.-R.B.]

Whiles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As thro' the glen it wimpl't;
Whiles round a rocky scar it strays,
Whiles in a wiel it dimpl't;
Whiles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
Wi' bickerin', dancin' dazzle;
Whiles cookit undeneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel
Unseen that night.

Amang the brachens, on the brae,
Between her an' the moon,
The deil, or else an outler quey,
Gat up an' ga'e a croon:
Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool;
Near lav'rock-height she jumpit,
But mist a fit, an' in the pool
Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
Wi' a plunge that night.

In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
The luggies 15 three are ranged;
An' ev'ry time great care is ta'en
To see them duly changed:
Auld uncle John, wha wedlock's joys
Sin' Mar's-year did desire,
Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
He heav'd them on the fire
In wrath that night.

[Footnote 15: Take three dishes, put clean water in one, foul water in another, and leave the third empty; blindfold a person and lead him to the hearth where the dishes are ranged; he (or she) dips the left hand; if by chance in the clean water, the future (husband or) wife will come to the bar of matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish, it foretells, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. It is repeated three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered.-R.B.]

Wi' merry sangs, an' friendly cracks,
I wat they did na weary;
And unco tales, an' funnie jokes-
Their sports were cheap an' cheery:
Till butter'd sowens, 16 wi' fragrant lunt,
Set a' their gabs a-steerin;
Syne, wi' a social glass o'strunt,
They parted aff careerin
Fu'blythe that night.

[Footnote 16: Sowens, with butter instead of milk to them, is always the Halloween Supper.-R.B.]



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Halloween




Paganism

Paganism has its roots in the indigenous, pre-Christian religions of Europe. The majority of the population to inhabit Scotland in Pre-Christian times could trace their origins to Scandinavia, Northern Continental Europe and the Mediterranean. Some may even have emigrated from America around 7,600 BC. A mass immigration of people to mainland Europe and Ireland may also have occurred from North Africa around 650 A.D. Most historians agree Celtic culture can be definitively traced back to about 800 B.C. Judeo-Christian Benedictine monks in 750 AD found Ireland had a vibrant civilization, with many characteristics in common with Egypt and Libya; there was also a strong connection with South Central Europe. They considered the Celts must have reached Ireland about 400 BC., bringing with them civilization. Celts encompassed many different people and tribes and were loosely connected by language, art, culture and religion. The predominant faith was Druid and Priests played a major role in society, connecting people to other tribal communities, the gods and the dead as well as keeping an oral history of settlements. Celts did not have strict borders between the realms of the living and the dead. They believed a constant exchange of souls took place between the two worlds so that when someone died in the other world, it would bring a soul to this world. Rituals were largely based on both nature and the passage of time in nature such as the transition between day and night. This concept of natural change was also seen in the importance of transitions between the seasons, which also represented changes within the human life cycle. Spring represented birth, summer represented maturity, autumn represented decay and winter represented death and “re-birth into a new generation.” Druids gathered on 31st October to kindle a sacred fire (Hallowfire) and practice age old rituals. Christianity came to southern Scotland during the Roman occupation. It was mainly spread by missionaries from Ireland from the fifth century and is associated with St Ninian, St Kentigern and St Columba.

Halloween




Samhain (pronounced SAH-win or SOW-in) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year. It is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, which is nearly halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Old Celtic Calendar, New Year began on the 1st November. The Celts were mainly pastoral people and dependent on cattle Samhain was the time of year when the cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and livestock were slaughtered for the winter. This was the time of harvest and the gathering of the clans. In Gaelic, Samhuinn or hallow tide (or season) is the feast of all-souls which is sometimes referred to as the Festival of the Dead. It is the transition between old and new year was believed to set free evil spirits which walked among the living. A liminal (transitional) time where the darkness of night was thought to prevail over the lightness of day. Lugh the Sun God was defeated by his darker side and became the Lord of Misrule. A twilight zone where the spirits of the dead and those not yet born, walked freely among the living. The souls of the dead were believed to revisit their old homes and good people needed the comfort of their own kind and protection from the evil forces of the dark. During Samhain feasts were held and Hallowbonfires were lit while Druids practiced their rituals. The Hallowfires were supposed to scare away evil spirits. In modern times the celebration of Samhain was common along Scotland's Highland Line. Two bonfires sat adjacent and celebrants and livestock were walked or danced between them as a ritual of purification. In the late 18th century, in Ochtertyre, Perthshire, a ring of stones was laid round the fire to represent each person. Everyone then ran round it with a torch, "exulting". In the morning, the stones were examined and if any was mislaid it was said that the person for whom it was set would not live out the year. In Moray, the boys asked for bonfire fuel from each house in the village. When the fire was lit, one after another of the youths laid himself down on the ground as near to the fire as possible so as not to be burned, and in such a position as to let the smoke roll over him. The others ran through the smoke and jumped over him. When the bonfire burnt down, they scattered the ashes, vying with each other who should scatter them most. People took the flames from the bonfire back to their homes in the belief it would bring them luck. In northeastern Scotland, they carried burning fir around their fields to protect them, and on South Uist they did the same with burning turf. In some places, hearth fires were doused on Samhain night. Each family solemnly took it in turn to re-light its hearth from the communal bonfire. This was thought to bond the families of the village together. In many parts of Scotland it was customary to leave an empty chair and a plate of food for invisible guests. A western-facing door or window was also opened and a candle left burning on the windowsill to guide the dead home. Eating and drinking was very much part of celebrations but the Witchcraft Act of 1735 contained a clause preventing the consumption of pork and pastry comestibles on Halloween; the act was eventually repealed in the 1950s.

All Hallow’s Eve




The Roman Catholic holy day of All Saints (or All Hallows) was introduced in the year 609 AD. This had been originally celebrated on 13 May. Louis the Pious in 835AD., switched it to 1 November in the Carolingian Empire, at the behest of Pope Gregory IV. The night of 31 October was known as All Hallows' Eve (or All Hallows' Even). Later the 2nd November became All Souls' Day and over time Samhain and All Saints'/All Souls' morphed into the secular holiday known as Halloween. Fear of pagan ways by the Church, Samhain became associated with witches and broomsticks, black cats (familiars), bats (night creatures), ghosts and other spooky things. Once the The Gregorian calendar (Christian calendar) was accepted many of the observed customs of Samhain were absorbed into Hogmanay e.g first footing.

Guising




From the 16th century guising (or mumming) became part of Halloween, and involved young people going door-to-door in costume (in disguise), often reciting verses in exchange for food (souling). In the Middle Ages poor people travelled from door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). A common belief was during Samhain the deceased would visit their old home and the purpose of disguise was to impersonate the dead and demand reward in exchange for good fortune. It is also thought guisers were able to ward off evil spirits. Playing pranks at Samhain is recorded in the Scottish Highlands as far back as 1736 and was also common in Ireland, which led to Samhain being nicknamed "Mischief Night" in some parts. In some parts of Scotland young men went house-to-house with masked, veiled, painted or blackened faces (using the village bonfire ashes ) often threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed. This may be the origin of todays ‘trick or treat.’ Adults also took special care not to offend the little people(aos sí) and sought to ward-off any who were out to cause mischief. They stayed near to home or, if forced to walk in the darkness, turned their clothing inside-out or carried iron or salt to keep them at bay. Up until the early 19th century, locals in Lewis, the Outer Hebrides gathered on the shore on 31 October. One man walked into the water up to his waist, before emptying a cup of ale into the sea. He then called on the Celtic water spirit (Seonaidh - Shoney), to bestow blessings on the local fishermen.

Jack–o-lanterns




The traditional illumination for guisers or pranksters abroad was provided by turnips or mangel wurzels, hollowed out to act as lantern. These often had grotesque faces to represent spirits or goblins. Traditionally the flame from the village bonfire was carried in the turnip lantern. Villages doused their home fires so they could be rekindled it with the new flame. By this means not only would it bring good luck the household, it also joined the communities together by sharing the flame from the village bonfire. Candles in hollowed-out turnips produce flickering flames. The old belief was candle flames which flickered on Samhain night were being touched by the spirits of dead ancestors, or "ghosts." They may have also been used to protect oneself from harmful spirits. The mass transatlantic Irish and Scottish immigration to North America popularized the Halloween traditions. "Jack of the Lantern” was an old Irish tale and Jack was a man who could enter neither heaven nor hell and was condemned to wander through the night with only a candle in a turnip for light. The term Jack-o’- lantern became associated with Halloween lanterns in the 20th century along with wearing costumes. In the US trick-or-treating became popular from the late 1940s.



By the 19th century children masqueraders in disguise and carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips to visit homes and be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money was well established. Children were only supposed to receive treats if they performed a party trick for the household. This normally took the form of singing a song or reciting a poem or telling a funny joke which the child memorized before setting out. Occasionally more talented children might do card tricks, play the mouth organ, or something even more impressive. More often than not today they do not even need have to perform to gain reward.

Seasonal foods




Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were traditionally used to reward guisers. Later money, chocolate and other candies replaced them. In preparation for Halloween festivities, apples were ritualistically peeled by the young girls of the house. A long strip of peel was passed thrice, sunwise; around the head before the young girl throw it over her shoulder. If it fell to the ground in the shape of the initial letter this was a clear indication of the first letter of a future spouse's name. In the preparation of Halloween cake, egg whites were dropped in water, and the shapes foretold the number of future children.



Holloween cakes also contained tokens for luck.

Party Games




Today childrens’ parties are still an important element of Halloween. The games played traditionally had their origins in divination for the coming year.

Dooking (or bobbing) for apples




One of the most popular games in Scotland is dookin' for apples, where bairns (children) have their hands tied behind their backs and try to grab apples from a basin full of water with their teeth. The apples being less dense than water floated to the surface and just to make it more difficult sometime flour was sprinkled on the water. A modified form of the game was to allow the child to kneel on a chair and hold a fork handle between their teeth. Taking aim they would release the fork, prongs side down into the basin and retrieve and keep any apple they skewered.



A variation on the game is "snap apple" where the fruit is hung from the ceiling on strings.



The origin of the game dates back to Roman Times, the Romans introduced the apple tree to Britain. When an apple is sliced in half, the seeds form a pentagram-shape. The apple was taken as a symbol of fertility and used to determine marriage. During the annual celebration, young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string; the first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to be allowed to marry. Girls who place the apple they bobbed under their pillows are said to dream of their future lover.



Because Pomona was a fertility goddess and because the Celts believed that the pentagram was a fertility symbol and when an apple is sliced in half the seeds form a pentagram it is natural that they believed the apple could be used to determine marriages during this magical time of year. From this belief comes the game bobbing for apples. During the annual celebration young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string. The first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to marry.

Treacle Scones




Another game played at parties is the game of treacle scones. With hands tied behind the back and sometimes blindfolded the participants are invited to bite a scone, covered in treacle, hanging from a string.



One custom in the Western Isles was for engaged couples to put two large nutshells on the grate of the fire. Each shell was named after the couple. If the heated nuts make a lot of noise like spitting and hissing etc., and flew off the hearth, this foretold it would be a stormy marriage. If the nuts burnt slowly and quietly, then the marriage would be a happy one. If the nuts jumped together this was deemed a good omen for the couple.



Another fortune telling game for adults is "Pull a Stock." Young men and women are blindfolded and walk toward a field of kale stocks (a form of cabbage). They must stop at the first one they come to and pull it from the ground. The shape of the stock indicates the shape of their future husband or wife; for example, thick, thin, tall, short, straight or crooked. Furthermore, if soil is stuck to the stock, this indicates a wealthy future.