Numerous folk customs connected with the pagan observances for the dead have survived to the present. The various activities traditional to Halloween are mostly associated with the idea of obtaining good fortune and foretelling the future.
Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter.
Folk tradition tells us of many divination practices associated with Samhain. Among the most common were divination dealing with marriage, weather, and the coming fortunes for the year.
These were performed via such methods as ducking for apples, and apple peeling.
- A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire.
- There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune.
- If a person hold a mirror on Halloween and walk backwards down the stairs to the basement, the face that appears in the mirror will be their next lover.
- Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck.
- Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse.
- One way of looking for omens of death was for people to visit churchyards, because the spirits of those who were going to die during the coming year were thought to walk around the churchyard during this night.