Scottish Halloween Traditions
The day we call Halloween has its origins in the Celtic holiday Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The ancient Celts believed that on Samhain the veil between this world and the Otherworld grew thin, thus allowing humans to interact with the spirit world. This thinning of the veil not only made contact with spirits easier, it also allowed monsters to enter our world.
Celts would leave offerings outside their doors, such as a bowl of milk or a loaf of bread, to appease the fae. Some creatures, such as the impish puka, took their offerings directly from the fields. And some creatures were a death sentence to all who saw them, as were the Dullahan. They were headless men who rode horses with fire in their eyes, and if you saw one death was imminent.
Also on horseback were The Sluagh, or Faery Host, was made up of the spirits of the restless dead. They came from the west on Samhain, their mission to steal souls. Celts would keep all western-facing windows and doors shut on Samhain to keep the Sluagh from entering their homes.
With all these monsters afoot, folk devised several ways to ward off evil spirits. Large bonfires were set to ward off malevolent entities, and lanterns bearing scary faces were carved from neeps, what we Americans call turnips. Of course, this custom gave rise to the pumpkin jack o’ lantern we still see today.
Our custom of trick or treating also has roots in the Scots tradition of guising, in which children would disguise themselves as evil spirits. This way, they could venture out on Halloween without being detected by ghouls and monsters. However, guisers couldn’t simply knock on their neighbor’s door and expect candy. They first had to perform a trick, such as reciting a poem or joke, and candy was their reward.
Other traditional customs still practiced today, in one form or another, include dookin’ for apples. Much like the modern game of bobbing for apples, this game involved trying to grab apples from a tub of water using your mouth, or a fork clenched between your teeth. Children would also try to bit treacle scones suspended from ropes, while their hands were tied behind their backs. If you were recently engaged you might throw a nut on the fire. If it quietly burned amid the embers your union would be good, but if those nuts hissed and crackled it foretold of discord in the house.
Does your family still practice traditional Halloween customs? Let us know in the comments!
Jennifer Allis Provost
Genre: urban fantasy
Publisher: Bellatrix Press
Date of Publication: June 6, 2017
Number of pages: 271
Word Count: 75k
Cover Artist: Deranged Doctor Designs
Tagline: Karina didn’t set out to free the Seelie Queen’s gallowglass. Now she’ll do anything to keep him.
After Karina and her brother, Chris’s, lives fall apart in separate yet equally spectacular ways, they leave New York behind and head to the UK. Karina buries herself in research for her doctoral thesis, all the while studiously not thinking about the man who broke her heart, while Chris—who’d been a best-selling author before his ex-fiancée sued him for plagiarism—drinks his way across the British Isles.
In Scotland, they visit the grave of Robert Kirk, a seventeenth- century minister who was kidnapped by fairies. No one is more shocked than Karina when a handsome man with a Scottish brogue appears, claiming to be the Robert Kirk of legend. What’s more, he says he spent the last few hundred years as the Gallowglass, the Seelie Queen’s personal assassin. When they’re attacked by demons, Karina understands how dearly the queen wants him back.
As Karina and Robert grow closer, Chris’s attempts to drown his sorrows lead him to a pub, and a woman called Sorcha. Chris is instantly smitten with her, so much so he spends days with Sorcha and lies to his sister about his whereabouts. When Chris comes home covered in fey kisses, Karina realizes that the Seelie Queen isn’t just after Robert.
Can Karina outsmart the Seelie Queen, or is Robert doomed to forever be the Gallowglass?
My jaw dropped, and if I hadn’t already been on the ground I would have fallen. As it was, my arm went out from under me, and my shoulder bumped into Robert. “Are ye all right, lass?” Robert asked.
“Yes,” I lied. There was nothing all right about this. “Why did the queen take you?”
“She fancied me,” he replied. “Offered me an apple, ye ken. I said no, it angered her, she cursed me. And here we are today.”
I looked up at him. He still had his head tipped back against the tree, his eyes closed. “That sounds like the ridiculously oversimplified version.”
At that, he opened his eyes and speared me with his gaze. “Would ye be likin’ all the details, then, lass?”
I swallowed. “Um, maybe not just yet.” My gaze moved from Robert’s face to the quartz in my hand. “What makes you think I freed you?”
“Ye made contact wi’ the tree, wishin’ to rescue me. Wishes are powerful things, ye ken.” Robert leaned over and touched the quartz. “Then ye dropped your stone, and a door opened for me. I ha’ been waitin’ for ye ever since.”
“Wishes are powerful things,” I repeated. “Why do you want to leave with me? You don’t even know me.”
“I know ye freed me, and that is no small thing,” Robert replied. “I also know that as soon as Nicneven kens I’ve left me post, she will send her creatures to retrieve me.”
“Aye. And I do no’ want to be here when they arrive.”
I took a deep breath and got to my feet, Robert following suit. Once we were standing I looked into his clear blue eyes, his guileless face, and sighed. He was either telling the truth, or he was the greatest actor in the world. Or I was the world’s biggest idiot; the jury was still out on that.
“Well, let’s go.”
“Go?” he repeated hopefully.
“If you’re telling the truth—and I’m not saying that you are—I can’t just leave you here. And, if you’re not telling the truth, I’ll drop you at the nearest police station,” I added, trying to act tough in front of the armored man with the sword.
Robert inclined his head, and took both of my hands in his. “Lass, soon enough ye will ken that I only speak what’s true.” He once again brought my knuckles to his lips; this time, I let him kiss me. It was nice, having one’s hand kissed by a dark, handsome man. “Karina Siobhan Stewart, I am now your charge, and I shall follow your every command.”
“Okay. Um.” I looked him over and issued my first command. “First of all, you can’t tromp around Aberfoyle wearing chain mail. You’re going to have to take off your armor.”
About the Author:
Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library.) An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.
Web and blog: https://authorjenniferallisprovost.com