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  A Year of Orcadian Tradition

"In my house," says October, "there are witches.
There are apples and nuts."
Then October again, offering a child an apple in the door. And if you go in, she'll tell you a story of witchcraft at her fire.


October The start of the long northern winter is now completely upon us.

The long summer twilights are replaced by cold, empty nights of total darkness. It is therefore not surprising that, in days past, preparation for the rapidly approaching winter were well under way by October.
  The third Sunday of the month was once referred to as "Winter Sunday Fastening".

This was the day that the cattle, who had roamed free all summer, were brought in from the fields and confined to the byre for the winter.

Even today, seeing the "kye" move to byre is a solemn occassion - a realisation that the darkness of winter awaits.
  In Orkney, October is most renowned for the ancient festival of the dead - Hallowe'en.

Like the rest of Britain, Orkney celebrates the festival in practically the same way. Lanterns are carved from turnips and great care taken to avoid the influences of the dead. The lanterns, referred to as "Neepy Lanterns", are carried from house to house where each householder gives the bearer "a penny for the lantern".

In Stromness, the carved turnip takes a different slant. There, the children carve heads from turnips and after impaling them on sticks go from door to door asking for a "Penny for me Pop".

This is all that remains of an older anti-Catholic tradition where the townsfolk asked for a "penny to burn the Pope".
  Until recently, Halloween was more commonly referred to as "Devilment Night" in recognition of the pranks carried out by the youngsters on this night. Generally a blind eye was turned on the youngsters exploits - pranks had been carried out for generations.

The "devilment" - dialect term for "mischief" - continues strong to this day with unwary travellers often finding themselves falling victim to showers of egg, flour, treacle and foam.
  At one time, Halloween was regarded as the best night in which to attempt to divine the future, particularly relating to matters of the heart.
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