Let the Halloween Spirits Guide You …
Who will you marry? It's a question young girls have been asking for centuries.
While it may seem like a silly question today, it had a profound impact on our fore-mothers at a time when divorce was shameful (and often illegal) ... and women were not allowed to own property or have their own income. An unfortunate marriage to a man who turned out to be abusive, a gambler, an alcoholic, or just a poor money manager could determine whether you lived comfortably or died in poverty. And, as a woman, there wasn't much you could do about it. Choosing the right husband was of the utmost importance!
Many girls turned to folklore to "divine the future" and get a glimpse of their intended husband, and many of these traditions centered around Halloween.
Halloween is the day before November 1st, which was known as All Hallows' Day or All Saint's Day. A 'hallow" day is a holy day, so the eve of the hallow day is Hallow's Eve, or Halloween (often spelled Hallow'een or Hallowee'n in the 19th century). Many Catholic saints have their own day of celebration, but November 1st was a catch-all day set aside to celebrate all saints, including "unknown saints" that may be known as saints in heaven but not recognized as saints by those on earth.
Looking into the mirror to
see her future husband, 1896
Halloween Greeting Card
With so much holiness going around and the saints in heaven being near to those on earth for one special day, it seemed like a good time to call up the spirits! Halloween became a popular time for calling on the dead ... ranging from serious seances by true believers to call upon a deceased loved one to silly parlor games played by children and young adults.
A popular Halloween ritual was for a young girl to stand in a dark room and stare into a mirror. Then a lighted candle would be passed in front of the mirror - and the face of her future husband would suddenly appear in the mirror! But, if she sees a skull instead of a handsome young man in the mirror, it means she will die before her wedding day.
"On Halloween look in the glass, your future husband's face will pass."
This "trick" to see your future husband was so popular that it was a common subject on Halloween greeting cards sent in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
I hate to sound like a party pooper, but in this instance seeing the future may have more to do with wishful thinking than fortune-telling spirits. And science has suggested that it may be a simple hallucination ... stare into a dark mirror at any time of year, not just Halloween, and your mind starts to play tricks on you. You may "see" just about anything.
Because Halloween falls in apple season, many traditions involved apples. One was to peel an apple in one long strip on Halloween, then throw the apple peel over your shoulder. The apple peel will land on the ground in the shape of the first letter of your future husband's name.
Another test involved hazelnuts. Two hazelnuts would be named, one for yourself and the other given the name of a possible husband. Both nuts were then roasted on the fire. If the nuts jump away from the heat then the couple would not be a good match, but if the nuts roast quietly then the two will have a quiet and happy married life.
Hopefully, you make major life decisions based on more than a ghostly image that appears in a dark mirror. But it does work great for less-major decisions - like what Halloween-inspired project will you knit? Stare into a dark mirror and tell me which pumpkin project appears before you: The Connecticut Pumpkin, Patrick's Pumpkin Hat, or the Pumpkin Pincushion.
Boo! ... Happy Knitting ... Scout
"Would You Believe It!" the caption asks.
The artist suggests that the magical face
of her future husband in the mirror is
just be the reflection of the portrait
on the wall behind her. (1904)