Last year I did a Halloween tradition for every week leading up to Halloween, this year I thought I’d take a look at one I didn’t even think about – divination games.
Divination games were a very popular part of the Halloween festivals in Ireland. These games were associated with the Gaelic Samhain or summer end festival. An important aspect of Samhain is the very brief connection it brings to the “other side”. This enables the summoner to communicate with the deceased. These summoners would use traditional objects such as apples and nuts in order to receive answers from the unknown. Most of these games originated from rural Scotland and Ireland. We see fewer of these practices in England.
It is surmised that these divination rituals were already a tradition by the late 18th century. Some were still practiced but had become Victorian parlor games mostly revolving around questions of marriage and love. These games were carried across the channel to the US and Canada along with the Scottish and Irish travelers that were travelling to the New World. These games also became popular in the Middle East, although these were carried out all through the year and the summoner used astrology to know when to practice divination.
You’d think that since it’s a season of death and horror, most of the divinations would be about death and tragedy. However, as we see in history, more of these games focused on love, luck and marriage. Although the idea of courtship and marriage was associated with holidays and Saints’ days all year round, it became more closely associated with Halloween since this particular holiday dealt more with young people.
There are many tools by which summoners can call up the dead. I mentioned apples and nuts, but in reality far much more exist. These items were apples, garden veg, candles. and mirrors.
There are many traditions around divining. Most of these surround who your future spouse will be. Activities such as Apple Seed Numerology, Kaling, Oat Pulling, Nut Burning and many more. Use the below link if you want to know what these games entailed. The Horror of Being Emily gives a lovely description of it.
Practicing divination isn’t only limited to Halloween. Plenty of nations all around the globe practice divination going as far back as the days of the first kings. When I read throughout history about the nations, it seems that most kings back then had sorcerers, astrologers and wise men to give the kings counsel. Sorcerers would have been men who divined from various means what the kings should do regarding certain matters. Reading the stars, alchemy, necromancy are only a few examples of methods by which they could divine. There are so many more.
I often get scared when I hear about people playing these games. You do not know what is being summoned and that scares me. You won’t ever find me near a Quiji board or playing any games related to tampering with the spiritual realm.
God bless you and keep you safe and sound this season of witches and wizards.