Halloween wasn't always about dressing up and getting drunk on weird tasting homemade punch. First starting with the Celts as Samhain, a whopping 2,000 years ago, it was all about scaring off the demons they believed could visit the earth at the turn of their new year, on November 1. Oh, and it also, later, became the ultimate way to put a ring on it.
But since the Romans invaded and right through to the Victorian times in Britain, Halloween wasn't just a night where the veil between the living and the dead was a lot thinner than usual; it also became a prime opportunity to cast a spell to boost your love life and find a man to marry.
For the sake of science, and because I'm single and want to know who I'll be boning over the next few decades (if anyone), I decided to try out some of the most popular traditional Halloween rituals.
The apple peeling spell
As part of an 18th century Irish tradition, young girls would peel apples and throw them over their shoulders in the hope that the peelings would spell out the names of their future husbands. Apples are the key to why Halloween became so marriage-obsessed, and they also crop up a lot over the festival.
I'll goddamn tell you why. By 43 AD the Romans had invaded everything, but also celebrated their dead on October 31, so they merged the Celtic Samhain with their own traditions—one of which was all about Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. Her symbol was an apple. If you cut an apple in half across the middle bit, like an idiot who doesn't understand apples, the seeds form a beautiful five-pointed star like the Pagan pentacle. (Pagans believe that the number two is the number of female power and three represents male power.)
This is why apples are associated with Halloween, but also why Halloween is linked to marriage. It also explains why apple bobbing, the shittest game ever, exists.
What happened when I did the spell: Well, I guess I'll be marrying Koml Oooc. Or Cor. Maybe it was a full sentence, like, "Cor! You'll marry Koml Oooc!" Or maybe it didn't work.
Throwing string at people
This is one of my absolute favorites, because it involved throwing string at a man. Spells were often found on Victorian postcards, harking back to a time when practising magic wouldn't get you ostracized. Also, everyone was so desperate to bag a man by any means possible, so they loved collecting postcards with spells about string on them. This particular one states: "On Halloween your ball of yarn / From out the window fling / And he who is to be your fate, will come to wind the string."
What happened when I did it: I am in the perfect position for this spell, as I live on a main road where lots of people must walk down in order to get to the two largest supermarkets in the area. I flung the string and immediately a man appeared, but he was on his phone and, upon seeing me waggling string at him from two floors up, ignored me with an intensity bordering on violence.
Excitingly, within minutes an older man with headphones had stopped under my window and was looking up nervously. "Can I pass?" he asked. "Wind my string!" I said. He crossed the road. So close, but so far.
Firstly, my egg yolk had blood in it which means I'm either going to miscarry or someone's casting spells on me. Genuinely felt a bit down about that.
Gazing into a sink of water to see your future husband's face
Another 18th century Irish classic. This one involves looking into a bowl of water at midnight on Halloween in an attempt to see your future love. After a while looking, you'd probably start hallucinating anyway, so this makes sense.
What happened when I did the spell: Absolutely no sign of Koml Oooc so I'm either marrying myself, or the ceiling light in the bathroom. You're all invited—especially if it's the latter.
Looking into a mirror over your shoulder
In this ritual, girls would look at their reflections over their shoulders in darkened rooms. What for? To see what the future political landscape would look like over the next decade? Whether women would discover a greater sense of freedom? Alright, fine, it was to find out their future husband's faces.
What happened when I did it: So that's two points for marrying myself so far.
Divining an egg
Also known as Oomancy, egg divination a genuine tradition among modern day Wiccans and pagans. People look at eggs and have looked at eggs to tell the future ever since there were eggs, apparently. There are loads of different ways to do it, so I chose the most interesting (and, as it turns out, the trickest) one—you pierce the egg, pour the white into a bowl of hot water, and read the symbols the egg whites form as they half-poach in the bowl. Then you look at the yolk.
What happened when I did the spell: Firstly, my egg yolk had blood in it which means I'm either going to miscarry or someone's casting spells on me. Genuinely felt a bit down about that.
Secondly, I couldn't see the egg whites because, in a display of real intelligence, I'd used a white bowl. After transferring them into a blue bowl, I still couldn't see anything except a reindeer that looked like it was wearing a hat, and maybe a woman with her hands up holding a balloon. I looked up what those symbols meant, but apparently how you interpret the symbols is entirely up to you. Here goes: I'm looking forward to Christmas, and hopefully someone will give me a hat or a balloon. Or I'll see a woman with a balloon and she might give me a reindeer. Something along those lines.
Bit of fun, this, and another found on a Victorian postcard. Excitingly, this one was thought to bring the spell-caster luck if they performed the ritual on Halloween, rather than finding out who you were going to marry. Annoyingly, it still involves writing the name of a man you fancy on a piece of paper, albeit using a cork you've just set fire to as a pencil.
What happened when I did it: I don't have a boyfriend, so I opted for Mark Ruffalo. Then I slipped on an apple peel and, upon stopping writing this article for a quick snack, have realized I only have some rancid yoghurt and a bit of old meringue in the kitchen cupboard. Thanks Mark.
Spitting water at people
This Victorian postcard is my number one favourite. It reads: "Fill your mouth with water, shut it tight, pray for good luck on this magic night, cross your fingers and go forth and greet the first man you meet on the street. And no matter how odd your actions may seem, he's bound to propose to you Halloween."
This needs pretty much no explanation but I'll provide some form of translation: It involves filling your mouth with water, accosting the first man you see outside with a mouth full of water, and they'll propose to you on Halloween despite the fact you have water in your mouth.
What happened when I did the spell: Couldn't leave the kitchen because I kept laughing and spewing the water out of my mouth, so had to try it on my flatmate. He is a gay man. It didn't work.