Orkney Halloween customs, including divination; tricks at Ha...

Date 01 July 1977
Track ID 51630
Part 1

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Orkney Halloween customs, including divination; tricks at Halloween and other times.

Girls could foretell the wealth of their future husbands by seeing how much gutter [mud] was on a kail stalk they uprooted. At Halloween parties, a person might be tricked into blackening his or her face. Eggs would be dropped into a glass of water and the resulting shape would tell about the future husband. Mrs Leith's aunt saw a farmyard in her glass and ended up marrying a farmer. Fathoming the scroos [hay or corn stacks] meant going round the stacks until you met your future husband in your arms. Before Mrs Leith's time, a girl would dip the sleeve of her chemise in a burn [stream] where three lairds' lands met and hang it before a fire; the man she was to marry would come and turn the sleeve. A girl would also throw a clew (ball of wool) down into the kiln and call, "Wha haads ontae me clew's end?"

Halloween tricks included throwing turnips down the lum [chimney] onto the fire and possibly into a cooking pot. The lum could also be stopped up with a fail [turf]. Anecdote about this being done one Muckle Supper night [Beltane celebration]. Anecdote about a skylight, the only window, being blocked with a fail and the husband eventually saying, "Get up, Betty, and see the sun rising in the wast!" A similar trick played on Hogmanay meant the people missed their New Year. Moving and tampering with things was also great sport, e.g. dismantling a cart and re-assembling it inside a house. Bairns [children] no longer went guising by 1977, but still came begging Pace [Easter] eggs.

Recording Location

County - Orkney

Parish - Stenness

Item Location

County - Orkney

Parish - Birsay and Harray

Island - Orkney Mainland


English, Scots



Source Type

Reel to reel

Audio Quality