Samhain: Gatherings and Games 1.3

Many of the Samhain divination traditions revolved around the identity of the future spouse, especially as November was the month that the most weddings occurred. In the alphabet game, a diviner cut every letter of the alphabet from a newspaper and then floated the letters in a bowl of water. The letters that floated to the top could reveal the name of a future spouse. In a similar game, young men were encouraged to write the names of female friends on slips of paper and then wrap the papers in dough. The young men then cast the dough onto the water: the woman revealed when the dough melted away was the young man’s true love. If perhaps he had trouble making decisions, someone wrote three names in the dust of a fireplace mantle and the one the young man’s finger landed on revealed his true love.

In another scenario, a young woman might, on Halloween day, go and thresh wheat, believing she would have a vision of her future mate by the time she finished her work. In a less strenuous version, a curious person might climb to some point that no four-footed animal could (usually a house roof) and close his or her eyes. The first animal spotted upon opening the eyes indicated characteristics of the future spouse. In an equally accident-prone variation, a person shut his or her eyes and walked backwards to the end of his or her house. Upon opening the eyes, the first thing seen indicates the nature of fortune in the coming year. Among the things that we’re lucky to see were men, especially men on horses. In this superstition, seeing a woman foretold ill luck, especially spying an old woman; seeing anyone digging or a bird with its head under its wing were also bad.