|Maclise, Tasting the Custoc|
HALLOW E'EN.It is mentioned by Burns, in a note to his poem on "Hallow E'en," that "The first ceremony of Hallow E'en is pulling each a stock or plant of kail. They must go out, hand in hand, with eyes shut, and pull the first they meet with. Its being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells—the husband or wife. If any yird, or earth, stick to the root, that is tocher, or fortune; and the taste of the custoc, that is the heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper and disposition. Lastly, the stems, or, to give them their ordinary appellation, the runts, are placed somewhere above the head of the door; and the christian names of the people whom chance brings into the house, are, according to the priority of placing the runts, the names in question." . . .
Burns says, that "Burning the nuts is a favourite charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and accordingly as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be." It is to be noted, that in Ireland, when the young women would know if their lovers are faithful, they put three nuts upon the bars of the grates, naming the nuts after the lovers. If a nut cracks or jumps, the lover will prove unfaithful; if it begins to blaze or burn, he has regard for the person making the trial. If the nuts, named after the girls and her lover, burn together, they will be married.
— Hone’s Every-day book Vol. 1, 1827*
In Vol 2, Hone notes:
The superstitious observances of this night, described in the former volume, are fast disappearing. In some places where young people were acustomed to meet for purposes of divination, and frequently frighten each other into fits, as of ancient custom, they have little regard to the old usages. The meetings on Hallow-eve are becoming pleasant merry0makings; the dance prevails till suppertime, when they take a cheerful glass and drink to their next happy meeting.
*The Google edition is 1837, but the volumes appeared in 1827.
Illustration, Maclise, Tasting the Custoc, Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA