Halloween Gardening
The Somber Garden

Halloween Plants

When people nowadays think of Halloween, they think of pumpkins, since the pumpkin motif is seen everywhere, children love to carve jack'o'lanterns out of pumpkins, and the color of pumpkins--orange--has become one of three main colors of halloween (along with the white of ghosts and the black of witches). However, lanterns at halloween were originally made of two different plants: turnips and mangold. Turnips were hallowed out in Ireland and northern England. Mangold (Beta vulgaris) has large orange roots which were hallowed out for lanterns. These lanterns became known as "punkies", and are still used on Guy Fawlkes day. And in one region of England, these punkies were used by women to search for their drunk husbands.

Another plant, or rather, fruit, with a strong connection to Halloween is the apple. At halloween parties now we bob for apples in a tub. Originally, apples were given as presents to children for them to hide underneath their pillow at night. Girls, if they did this, would dream of their sweethearts. Another custom involving apples at Halloween would have girls line up in front of a mirror at midnight and brush their hair three times. The visage of her future husband is supposed to look over her shoulder when she does this. Then each girl should peel an apple in a single strip, and throw that peel over her left shoulder using her right hand, and it will form the initial of her future husband.

A Victorian Halloween postcard showing the apple peel ritual. A rhyme explains:
If your future hubby's name you wish to know,
Over your left shoulder an apple peel throw
It will wriggle and coil, and you will see
The first initial of who it will be.
For the witches plot, and the hexes scheme
On the mystic night of Halloween.

Cabbage, like apples, was used for divination on Halloween. Both boys and girls will invade a cabbage garden at night and pick the first cabbage he or she comes upon. The attributes of the cabbage will be the attributes of the future spouse; if it has a long straight stalk, their spouse will be tall. A short stalk means their spouse will be small; if it's crooked, so shall the spouse be. And a bit of clay stuck to the cabbage means the spouse will be rich.

In Scotland, flax was used for divination on Halloween. A girl would take a handful of flax seeds, and walk across a field as dusk fell, sowing the seeds, and chanting:

Lint seed I saw ye
Lint seed I saw ye
Lat him it's to be my lad
Come aifter and pu' me.

She would then look over her left shoulder to see the apparition of her future husband pulling flax.
Hazel nuts could be used in divining. The nut is believed to be at its strongest on Hallowe'n night, which was once known as 'Nutcrack Night' in England. To gain foresight into which lover to choose:

Two hazel nuts I threw into the flame,
And to each nut I gave a sweetheart's name.
This, with the loudest bounce me sore amazed,
That, with a flame of brightest colour blazed.
As blazed the nut, so may thy passion grow,
For 'twas thy nut that did so brightly glow.

Robert Burns also spoke of the hazelnut:
Some merry, friendly, countra folks
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an' pu their stocks,
An' haud their Halloween
Fu' blithe that night.'

If a man places one of ten ivy leaves gathered on Halloween under his pillow it is thought he will dream of his future bride. Women are advised to recite the following once they have collected the leaves "Ivy, ivy, I love you, In my bosom I put you, The first young man who speaks to me, My future husband he shall be".

Blackberries have many superstitions attached to them, but a few are entered around Halloween. Many people say that blackberries can't be eaten after October 31st, because on Halloween night the witches pee on them. Others attribute the foulness of the blackberries to Pooka, who spits on them, or does worse, on Halloween.

Thanks to Gothic Gardening