Monday, 1 November 2010
Neeping Oor Heeds.
As is usual on the 1st of November, the citizens of Kirkwall picked their way into work this morning through a gluey crust of flour and eggshells. It is the custom here for a certain section of the populace to bombard the buildings of the town with both.
Lat night we received visits from 'trick or treaters' who were called 'guisers' in my day. A party piece of a song or joke is usually performed in exchange for sweets, but some of our delightful visitors did not bother with this irksome duty. Others did not even have costumes on and were clearly about 25.
Most of the revellers last night had pumpkin lanterns. When did people stop using turnips? Memories of Hallowe'ens past are always infused with the stink of hot neep.
In the not-so-distant past, Hallowee'n used to be a very special night for young, unmarried women. It was the only night of the year that they could peek into the future and glimpse their future husband.
One tradition was to eat a salt herring before bed in the hope that an apparition of their future spouse would glide into their room with the offer of a glass of water.
In the Orcadian parish of Orphir, hopeful girls took a live coal from the fire, submerged it hissing into water and tucked it under a piece of turf. In the morning, the turf would be broken in half to reveal fibres the colour of the future husband's hair.
Braver lasses used to sit in the barn all night with a sieve and a knife because then (of course), a ghostie of the hubby-to-be would drift past the doorway. Other girls used to go into the fields at night and walk around a corn-rick, arms outspread, expecting to touch the ghostie hand of said h-t-b. Aaaaggghhhh!!!!!!
I don't know about anyone else, but I much prefer today's tradition of sitting in front of the X-factor results show whilst munching upon the excessively large supply of sweets that only the visits of 3300 children could use up.
Information taken from the Ernest Walker Marwick Collection D31/72/1/26
More sieve information here and here