It is time to say a good word for witches, whose life is not all cats, bats, broomsticks and cauldrons. Witches also work spells and, come Saturday night, the air will be crowded with them as they rush about in aid of the spellbound.
The best spells are the ones to do with love, and in the old days, before the advent of trick or treat, it was the custom for young people to gather together on Halloween and cast spells to see who they would marry.
There is no reason why today's teen-agers can't use the same omens. They are simple enough -- no newt's ears or bat's tails, just apples and nuts, which are as plentiful today as they were 100 years ago.
"In the rural sacrifice of nuts, propitious omens are sought touching matrimony," wrote John Brand in his Popular Antiquities, explaining that unmarried women would set two nuts in the fire, designating one with their own name and the other with the name of their lover.
"If the nuts lie still and burn together, it prognosticates a happy marriage or a hopeful love; if, on the contrary, they bounce and fly assunder, the sign is unpropitious."
In Ireland, said Brand, young women who want to know if their lovers are faithful put three nuts upon the bars of the grate, 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 a regard for the person making the trial. If the nuts named after the girl and her lover burn together, they will be married. (Such tests should be conducted with a screen over the fireplace, since one does not wish to be burned when an unfaithful lover explodes.)
Not only were the lovers nuts, they were also cabbages. In a custom that must have guaranteed a rotund mate, women in Scotland were blindfolded and led to a pile of cabbages. The one they drew determined the figure and size of their future husband.
A blindfold also figures in a test to predict the state of your future mate.Three bowls are placed on a table, one filled with clean water, a second with dirty water and a third empty. Someone is blindfolded, led to the table and told to put their hand in a bowl. If their hand goes in the first bowl, they will marry a single person; if in the second a widow or widower, if in the third they will not marry at all.
An apple peel also can give a clue to the identity of your future mate. Pare the apple in an unbroken peel and throw the paring over your shoulder. The initial it forms will be that of your future lover.
And there is another test of fidelity which involves sticking an apple seed on each cheek, giving each the name of a lover. The one that falls off first will prove unsound.
Witchiest of all is the tradition that tells a yound woman to take a candle and go stand alone in front of a looking glass. If she eats an apple while staring into the mirror, the face of her future husband will appear briefly over her shoulder.