Halloween In Wales
IN Wales the custom of fires persisted from the time of the Druid festival-days longer than in any other place. First sacrifices were burned, the creatures merely passed through the fire; and with the rise of Christianity fire was thought to be a protection against the evil power of the same gods.
Pontypridd, in South Wales, was the Druid religious center of Wales. It is still marked by a stone circle and an altar on a hill. In after years it was believed that the stones were people changed to that form by the power of a witch.
In North Wales the November Eve fire, which each family built in the most prominent place near the house, was called Coel Coeth. Into the dying fire each member of the family threw a white stone marked so that he could recognize it again. Circling about the fire hand-in-hand they said their prayers and went to bed. In the morning each searched for his stone, and if he could not find it, he believed that he would die within the next twelve months. This is still credited. There is now the custom also of watching the fires till the last spark dies, and instantly rushing down the hill, "the devil (or the cutty black sow) take the hindmost." A Cardiganshire proverb says:
"A cutty [short-tailed] black sow
November Eve was called "Nos-Galan-Gaeof," the night of the winter Calends, that is, the night before the first day of winter. To the Welsh it was New Year's Eve.
Welsh fairy tradition resembles that in the near-by countries. There is an old story of a man who lay down to sleep inside a fairy ring, a circle of greener grass where the fairies danced by night. The fairies carried him away and kept him seven years, and after he had been rescued from them he would neither eat nor speak.
In the sea was the Otherworld, a
"Green fairy island reposing
This was the abode of the Druids, and hence of all supernatural beings, who were
"Something betwixt heaven and hell,
As in other countries the fairies or pixies are to be met at crossroads, where happenings, such as funerals, may be witnessed weeks before they really occur.
At the Hallow Eve supper parsnips and cakes are eaten, and nuts and apples roasted. A "puzzling jug" holds the ale. In the rim are three holes that seem merely ornamental. They are connected with the bottom of the jug by pipes through the handle, and the unwitting toper is well drenched unless he is clever enough to see that he must stop up two of the holes, and drink through the third.
Spells are tried in Wales too with apples and nuts. There is dicking and snapping for apples. Nuts are thrown into the fire, denoting prosperity if they blaze brightly, misfortune if they pop, or smoulder and turn black.
"Old Pally threw on a nut. It flickered and then blazed up. Maggee tossed one into the fire. It smouldered and gave no light."
-MARKS: All-Hallows Honeymoon.
Fate is revealed by the three luggies and the ball of yarn thrown out of the window: Scotch and Irish charms. The leek takes the place of the cabbage in Scotland. Since King Cadwallo decorated his soldiers with leeks for their valor in a battle by a leek-garden, they have been held in high esteem in Wales. A girl sticks a knife among leeks at Hallowe'en, and walks backward out of the garden. She returns later to find that her future husband has picked up the knife and thrown it into the center of the leek-bed.
Taking two long-stemmed roses, a girl goes to her room in silence. She twines the stems together, naming one for her sweetheart and the other for herself, and thinking this rhyme:
"Twine, twine, and intertwine.
She can see, by watching closely, her lover's rose grow darker.
The sacred ash figures in one charm. The party of young people seek an even-leaved sprig of ash. The first who finds one calls out "cyniver." If a boy calls out first, the first girl who finds another perfect shoot bears the name of the boy's future wife.
Dancing and singing to the music of the harp close the evening.
Instead of leaving stones in the fire to determine who are to die, people now go to church to be by the light of a candle held in the hand the spirits of those who will not be alive next Hallowe'en.
On the Eve of All Souls' Day, twenty-four hours after Hallowe'en, children in eastern Wales go from house to house singing for
"An apple or a pear, a plum or a cherry,
It is a time when charity is given freely to the poor. On this night and the next day, fires are burned, as in England, to light souls through Purgatory, and prayers are made for a good wheat harvest next year by the Welsh, who keep the forms of religion very devoutly.