Broomsticks and pumpkins at the ready, we’re getting ready to celebrate our first Hallowtide at Little Moreton Hall. So what did the Tudors do at Hallowe'en, or Hallowtide, as they would have called this period?
What is Hallowtide?
Hallowtide covers the three days – 31 October (All-Hallows or Hallowe'en), 1 November (All Saints) and 2 November (All Souls). The British Celts believed that supernatural forces were most at work these nights and would use protective measures to protect themselves. By the Tudor times, the ritual was adopted by the Christian church and was a significant event in the year, to help the souls of those in purgatory. Bells were rung in churches to comfort the souls in purgatory and the congregation were encouraged to make acts of charity and pray for the souls of the dead.
What was ‘souling’?
One of these acts of charity was to give specially baked bread to the poor in return for prayers for the souls of the departed which became known as soul cakes. An old souling rhyme for this is; 'A soul cake, a soul cake; Have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake.'
This custom of soul-caking continued through the 19th-century. Later, those visiting houses expected to receive cakes, apples, drink, or money at each house in response to their singing a souling rhyme, which would vary from each county. Nowadays, we know this custom as Trick or Treat.
Ghosts and witches
The Tudors still believed that supernatural forces were prevalent on these nights, and would light large bonfires and create protective charms to ward off evil spirits. They also believed in witch-craft and ghostly happenings, and would use protective talisman against them and the Tudors definitely had some spooky stories, which you can find out about at Little Moreton Hall.