Before recorded history, before anyone ever thought to put pen to paper, people celebrated what we have come to call Halloween. It began as a celebration of the end of the harvest season. It would come to be called Samhain “end of summer”. And eventually, it became Halloween.
On the night of Samhain, entire clans would come together. Bonfires would be lit. Games would be played. Music would be played and they would dance the night away. It was much like what we do at New Year’s Eve today. As it was the end of their new year, it was considered a prime time for divination to see what the new year might hold, and the tradition exists to this day.
While many things have changed over the years, we still honor certain traditions at Halloween and divination is a great example. Check out the list below for some great divination games that honor the past while looking to the future!
#1 Eating the Bairin Breac
The bairin breac or barmbrack is a sweetened Irish bread filled with various dried fruits. But that wasn’t all the bairin breac held. A single ring was baked into the bread. The man or woman who found the ring in their piece of bread was assured good luck in the coming year. As the tradition evolved, other tokens were added. Alongside the ring, one might find a penny, a button, a thimble, a piece of wood, and a piece of cloth. A note of caution, however. Not only might you break a tooth if you get carried away enjoying the barmbrack, but not all of those symbols mean good luck. While a penny means good fortune and a button hints at a carefree life, the thimble means spinsterhood, the wood foretells spousal abuse, and the cloth represents loss of fortune. If you’d like to make bairin breac for your Halloween bash, you’ll find a recipe here.
#2 Apple Paring
The apple has been associated with divination for millennia. It is a sacred fruit to many belief systems, and so it figures into many of the divination games. Tradition states that if a young, unmarried woman wants to see what her fate holds she should stand before a mirror lit by candlelight and slowly peel an apple. If she is destined to marry, the face of her future husband will appear in the mirror. If she will die unmarried, a skull will appear.
Another version of this tradition involves peeling the apple in one continuous piece. Take the peel and toss it over your should and the peel will form the letter of the first name of the person you’re destined to marry.
#3 Spinning the Apple
This game is played with everyone at once. Each person ties a string to the stem of an apple, and begins to spin them over a fire. The first apple to fall into the fire is said to predict the one who will marry first in the new year.
#4 Church Porch Sitting
Not all divination games were fun and frivolous. In old Ireland, an old tradition found people sitting on the porch of their local churches. It was said that if one sat on the porch and gazed into the night, apparitions of the people who were destined to die in the coming year would appear. (Warning: Nowadays, sitting on a church porch on Halloween night can be frowned upon. Best to ask permission first!)
#5 Hemp Seed Divination
This one’s for the boys! It could also get you in trouble with the law. It was said that if a young man wanted to know who he should marry, he should step out into his fields and toss hemp seeds three times across the furrows. When the seeds settle a third time, an apparition of his intended would appear to him in the field.
These are just a few examples of the many and varied forms of Halloween divination. There are so many more! Add a few to your Halloween party and see just what the future might hold for you…