Hallowe’en Beliefs and Customs

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  • Teideal (Title): Hallowe’en Beliefs and Customs.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840111.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 15/11/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): evening class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

The púca is an outcast fairy, who is trying to get back into the fairy fold – he hasn’t done enough evil. Hallowe’en isn’t for kids! It’s the druidish new year. You go out into a neighbour’s field, take a turnip or a head of cabbage, throw it (gently) at a neighbour’s door, and when you do that, the púca cannot go near that door. It’s a way of wishing people lots of fruit (crops) in the coming year. People also used to build bonfires and put the cattle around them for the coming year. They would also put cinders from the fire into the crops, to prevent the púca from interfering with them.

On Hallowe’en night there would be games in the houses. Joe knew of a girl who made the mistake of looking in a mirror after midnight on Hallowe’en, and she dropped dead. People think she saw the devil looking over her shoulder. People are blindfolded, and if you put your hands on someone of the opposite gender, this would be the person you would marry in the coming year. But above all there was the risk this night that the fairies would take a child away from its parents.

Nobody opened their door after midnight for fear of the Cóíste Bodhar – the Deaf Coach: you don’t hear it, but you feel it. It’s pulled by four headless horses, and driven by two headless men; inside the coach there is the chief púca with his head under his arm and a jug of blood in his right hand ready to throw into the doorway of anybody who was unwise enough to leave their door open – in nine months, everybody in that house would be dead.


For a short account in Irish of Hallowe’en customs, see Hartmann, Hans, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen (1996), vol 1, lines 9283-96. The following summary is given: ‘Not much takes place on Hallowe’en nowaday, but previously, about 20 or 30 years ago, the young lads would be busy gathering the last fruits of the earth, e.g. mangles, swedes and cabbage, and throwing them about, beating and breaking doors with the intention of frightening the people. The reason for such activities was the belief that the fairies used to change their living quarters on Hallowe’en and go into other places. The people believed that in that night the ‘good people’ used to be rampant and do all kinds of damage.’ (vol 2, p. 149).