All Hallows

£D front cover of Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry Together with a Book of Huswifery by William Fordyce MavorAccording to Robert Nares’ Glossary, ‘All-Hallown summer’ means ‘late summer; all hallows meaning All Saints, which festival is the first of November’. This is not dissimilar to ‘St Martin’s summer’, an unseasonal spell of warm, bright weather around St Martin’s Day, 11 November. Martlemas ‘was the customary time for hanging up provisions to dry, which had been salted for winter provision’. The Elizabethan poet-farmer Thomas Tusser, in his Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, edited by William Mavor in 1812, has ‘Hallontide’ as the period of slaughtering: ‘At Hallontide, slaughter-time entereth in/And then doth the husbandman’s feasting begin:/From thence until Shrovetide, kill now and then some,/Their offal for houshold the better will come.’

And he also recommends salting or smoking beef for next spring: ‘(For Easter) at Martilmas, hang up a beef/… With that and the like, ere an grass beef come in,/Thy folk shall look cheerly, when others look thin.’

The problem with Tusser is that he is so eminently quotable: his December and Christmas rhymes could fill a blog on their own (and may yet do so). But back to All Hallows … Nares says: ‘In the ignorance of popish superstition, all-hallows was worshipped as a single saint; or at least this ignorance was imputed to them: “Frendes, here shall ye se evyn anone/Of all-halloes the blessed jaw-bone,/Kisse it hardely with good devocion.”‘

And for Hallowmas, All Saints Day, 1 November: ‘Shakespeare alludes to a custom relative to this day, some traces of which are said to be still preserved in Staffordshire; where, on All Saints’ Day, the poor people go from parish to parish a souling, as they call it; that is, begging in a certain lamentable tone, for a kind of cakes called soul-cakes, and singing a song which they call the souler’s song. Several of these terms clearly point out the condition of this benevolence, which was, that the beggars should pray for the souls of the giver’s departed friends, on the ensuing day, Nov. 2, which was the feast of All Souls.’

In John Brand’s Observations on Popular Antiquities, Allhallow Even (‘vulgarly Halle E’en, as also, in the North, Nutcrack Night’), is the time for apple-bobbing, and throwing nuts in the fire – the latter were given potential lovers’ names, and the one which blazed up most brightly was the destined partner. In Scotland, according to Thomas Pennant in his Tour of Scotland, it is the evening when women draw cabbage leaves from a basket to see the image of a future husband (?), or sow hemp-seed to see the image rising from the ground.

And by the way, thinking back a few days to the St Jude storm, 28 October is St Simon and St Jude’s Day, proverbially wet: ‘As well as I know ’twill rain on Simon and Jude’s day’; or ‘Now a continual Simon and Jude’s rain beat all your feathers as flat down as pancakes’.


This entry was posted in History, Printing and Publishing History, Spiritualism and Esoteric Knowledge, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to All Hallows

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