'Antiquities of Scotland' Index
The footnotes in (brackets)
where written by Robert Burns himself to help explain the poem. I have
added the usual crosses
with explanation of the language used. The poem is included due to the references to
the caves below Culzean Castle, however it is a fascinating insight
into the old traditions associated with Halloween and well worth
by Robert Burns
"The following poem will, by many readers, be well
enough understood; but for the sake of those who are unacquainted with
the manners and traditions of the country where the scene is cast,
notes are added to give some account of the principal charms and
spells of that night, so big with prophecy to the peasantry in the
west of Scotland. The passion of prying into futurity makes a striking
part of the history of human nature in its rude state, in all ages and
nations; and it may be some entertainment to a philosophic mind, if
any such honour the author with a perusal, to see the remains of it
among the more unenlightened in our own." -Robert Burns
Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,
simple pleasure of the lowly train;
To me more dear, congenial to my
One native charm, than all the gloss of art.
Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers
Or for Colean the route is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the cove
(3), to stray and rove,
Among the rocks and streams
To sport that night.
thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making
beings are abroad on their baneful midnight errands; particularly
those aerial people, the fairies, are said on that night to hold a
grand anniversary. - Robert Burns
little, romantic, rocky, green hills, in the neighbourhood of the
ancient seat of the Earls of Cassilis. - Robert Burns
(3)→A noted cavern near Colean
house, called the Cove of Colean; which, as well as Cassilis Downans,
is famed, in country story, for being a favorite haunt of fairies. - Robert
Among the bonny winding banks,
ance ruled the martial
And shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry, friendly, country-folks,
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, and pou
famous family of that name, the ancestors of Robert, the great
deliverer of his country, were Earls of Carrick. - Robert Burns
The lasses feat, and cleanly neat,
than when they're fine;
Their faces blithe, fu' sweetly kythe,
Hearts leal, and warm, and kin';
The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs,
Weel knotted on their garten,
Some unco blate, and some wi' gabs,
lasses' hearts gang
Whiles fast at night.
Then, first and foremost, through the kail,
a' be sought ance;
their een, and graip
anes and straught anes.
Will fell aff the drift,
And wander'd through the bow-kail,
And pou't, for want o' better shift,
was like a sow-tail,
(5)→The first ceremony of Halloween is pulling each a
"stock," or plant of kail. They must go out, hand in hand, with eyes
shut, and pull the first they meet with: its being big or little,
straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand
object of all their spells-the husband or wife. If any "yird," or
earth, stick to the root, that is "tocher," or fortune; and the taste
of the "custock," that is, the heart of the stem, is indicative
of the natural temper and disposition. Lastly, the stems, or, to give
them their ordinary appellation, the "runts," are placed somewhere
above the head of the door; and the Christian names of the people whom
chance brings into the house are, according to the priority of placing
the "runts," the names in question.
- Robert Burns
or crooked, yird
They roar and cry a' throu'ther;
The very wee things, todlin', rin,
out owre their shouther;
sweet or sour.
they taste them;
Wi cannie care, they've placed them
To lie that night.
The lasses staw
'mang them a'
their stalks of corn:
But Rab slips out, and jinks
Behint the muckle
Nelly hard and fast;
a' the lasses;
But her tap-pickle
in the fause-house(7)
Wi' him that night.
(6)→They go to the barnyard, and pull each, at three
different times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the
"top-pickle," that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in
question will come to the marriage-bed anything but a maid. - Robert
(7)→When the corn is in a doubtful state, by being too green
or wet, the stack-builder, by means of old timber, etc., makes a large
apartment in his stack, with an opening in the side which is fairest
exposed to the wind: this he calls a "fause-house." - Robert
The auld guidwife's
Are round and round divided,
lads' and lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
coothie, side by side,
And burn thegither
Some start awa, wi' saucy pride,
And jump out-owre the chimlie
high that night.
(8)→Burning the nuts is a favorite charm. They name the
lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and
according as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one
another, the course and issue of the courtship will be.
- Robert Burns
Jean slips in twa
'twas she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, and this is me,
She says in to hersel:
her, and she owre him,
As they wad never mair
he started up the lum,
And Jean had e'en a sair
Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail
And Mallie, nae doubt, took the drunt,
To be compared to Willie;
out wi' pridefu' fling,
And her ain fit
While Willie lap, and swore
' Twas just the way he wanted
To be that night.
Nell had the fause-house
in her min',
hersel and Rob in;
In loving bleeze
they sweetly join,
Till white in ase
Nell's heart was dancin' at the view,
She whisper'd Rob to leuk
Rob, stowlins, prie'd
her bonny mou',
Fu' cozie in the neuk
Unseen that night.
But Merran sat behint their backs,
Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
at their cracks,
And slips out by hersel:
She through the yard the nearest taks,
And to the kiln
for the bauks,
And in the blue-clue
(9) throws then,
Right fear't that night.
(9)→Whoever would, with success, try this spell, must
strictly observe these directions: Steal out, all alone, to the kiln,
and darkling, throw into the "pot" a clue of blue yarn; wind it in a
new clue off the old one; and, toward the latter end, something will
hold the thread: demand, "Wha hauds?" i.e., who holds? and answer
will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the Christian and
surname of your future spouse. - Robert
And aye she win't, and aye she swat,
she made nae jaukin',
Till something held within the pat,
Guid Lord! but she was quakin'!
But whether 'was the deil
Or whether 'twas a bauk-en',
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
She didna wait on talkin'
Wee Jennie to her grannie says,
"Will ye go wi' me, grannie?
I'll eat the apple
(10) at the glass
I gat frae Uncle Johnnie:"
In wrath she was sae vap'rin',
She notice't na, an aizle
Out through that night.
(10)→Take a candle and go alone to a looking-glass; eat an
apple before it, and some traditions say you should comb your hair all
the time; the face of your conjungal companion, to be, will be seen in
the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.
- Robert Burns
"Ye little skelpie-limmer's
you try sic sportin',
As seek the foul thief ony
For him to spae
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
has gotten a fright,
And lived and died deleeret
afore the Sherramoor, --
I mind't as weel's yestreen,
I was a gilpey
then, I'm sure
I wasna past fifteen;
The simmer had been cauld
was unco green;
And aye a rantin' kirn
And just on Halloween
It fell that night.
was Rab M'Graen,
A clever sturdy fallow:
His son gat
Eppie Sim wi' wean,
That lived in Achmacalla:
He gat hemp-seed,
(11) I mind it weel,
And he made unco light o't;
a day was by himsel,
He was sae
That very night."
(11)→Steal out, unperceived, and sow a handful of
hemp-seed, harrowing it with anything you can conveniently draw after
you. Repeat now and then: "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw
thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee." Look over your left shoulder, and you will see the
appearance of the person invoked, in the attitude of pulling hemp.
Some traditions say, "Come after me and shaw thee," that is, show
thyself; in which case, it simply appears. Others omit the harrowing,
and say: "Come after me and harrow thee."
- Robert Burns
Then up gat fechtin'
And he swore by his conscience,
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
For it was a' but nonsense.
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
And out a hanfu' gied him;
Syne bade him slip frae 'mang the folk,
Some time when nae ane see'd him,
And try't that night.
He marches through amang the stacks,
Though he was something sturtin;
The graip he for a harrow taks.
And haurls it at his curpin;
And every now and then he says,
"Hemp-seed, I saw thee,
And her that is to be my lass,
Come after me, and draw thee
As fast this night."
He whistled up Lord Lennox' march
To keep his courage cheery;
Although his hair began to arch,
He was say fley'd and eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
And then a grane and gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
And tumbled wi' a wintle
Out-owre that night.
He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
In dreadfu' desperation!
And young and auld came runnin' out
To hear the sad narration;
He swore 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw,
Or crouchie Merran Humphie,
Till, stop! she trotted through them
And wha was it but grumphie
Asteer that night!
Meg fain wad to the barn hae gaen,
To win three wechts o' naething;
But for to meet the deil her lane,
She pat but little faith in:
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
And two red-cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
In hopes to see Tam Kipples
That very nicht.
(12)→This charm must likewise be performed unperceived and
alone. You go to the barn, and open both doors, taking them off the
hinges, if possible; for there is danger that the being about to
appear may shut the doors, and do you some mischief. Then take that
instrument used in winnowing the corn, which in our country dialect we
call a "wecht," and go through all the attitudes of letting down corn
against the wind. Repeat it three times, and the third time an
apparition will pass through the barn, in at the windy door and out at
the other, having both the figure in question, and the appearance or
retinue, marking the employment or station in life.
- Robert Burns
She turns the key wi cannie thraw,
And owre the threshold ventures;
But first on Sawnie gies a ca'
Syne bauldly in she enters:
A ratton rattled up the wa',
And she cried, Lord, preserve her!
And ran through midden-hole and a',
And pray'd wi' zeal and fervour,
Fu' fast that night;
They hoy't out Will wi' sair advice;
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanced the stack he faddom'd thrice
Was timmer-propt for thrawin';
He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak,
For some black grousome carlin;
And loot a winze, and drew a stroke,
Till skin in blypes cam haurlin'
Aff's nieves that night.
(13)→Take an opportunity of going unnoticed to a
"bear-stack," and fathom it three times round. The last fathom of the
last time you will catch in your arms the appearance of your future
conjugal yoke-fellow. - Robert Burns
A wanton widow Leezie was,
As canty as a kittlin;
But, och! that night amang the shaws,
She got a fearfu' settlin'!
She through the whins, and by the cairn,
And owre the hill gaed scrievin,
Whare three lairds' lands met at a burn
To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
Was bent that night.
(14)→You go out, one or more (for this is a social spell),
to a south running spring, or rivulet, where "three lairds' lands
meet," and dip your left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire,
and hang your wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake, and, some time
near midnight, an apparition, having the exact figure of the grand
object in question, will come and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the
other side of it. - Robert Burns
Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As through the glen it wimpl't;
Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays;
Whyles in a wiel it dimpl't;
Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle;
Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel,
Unseen that night.
Among the brackens, on the brae,
Between her and the moon,
The deil, or else an outler quey,
Gat up and gae a croon:
Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool!
Near lav'rock-height she jumpit;
but mist a fit, and in the pool
Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
Wi' a plunge that night.
In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
The luggies three
(15) are ranged,
And every time great care is ta'en',
To see them duly changed:
Auld Uncle John, wha wedlock joys
Sin' Mar's year did desire,
Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
He heaved them on the fire
In wrath that night.
three dishes, put clean water in one, foul water in another, and leave
the third empty; blindfold a person and lead him to the hearth where
the dishes are ranged; he (or she) dips the left hand; if by chance in
the clean water, the future (husband or) wife will come to the bar of
matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish, it
foretells, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. It is repeated
three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered.
- Robert Burns
Wi' merry sangs, and friendly cracks,
I wat they didna weary;
And unco tales, and funny jokes,
Their sports were cheap and cheery;
Till butter'd so'ns,
(16) wi' fragrant lunt,
Set a' their gabs a-steerin';
Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,
They parted aff careerin'
Fu' blythe that night.
(16)→Sowens, with butter instead of milk to them, is
always the Halloween Supper. - Robert
This recipe was taken from
the 'Scots Independent' site
Sowens, or Flummery as it
is known in England, is a sweet dessert which needs three days to
prepare (not all of three days!)
Ingredients (Serves six):
3 oz/ 75 g fine oatmeal
coarsely grated rind and
juice of two oranges
1 oz/ 25 g caster
half pint/ 300 ml double
2 tbsp/ 30 ml clear
Scottish honey (heather blossom if possible)
Put the oatmeal in a bowl and just cover with cold water. Cover and
leave to stand for 24 hours, adding a little more water as necessary
to keep the oatmeal covered. Strain off the liquid and tip the oatmeal
back into the bowl. Pour over 2 pints/ 1.2 litres fresh water and
leave to stand for a further 24 hours. Strain through a sieve into a
saucepan, pressing the oatmeal with a wooden spoon to extract as much
liquid as possible. Discard the oatmeal. Strain the orange juice and
put in the saucepan with the sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until
thick, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat and leave until
fairly cool, then stir in half the cream. Pour into six individual
serving dishes and leave to set. Whip the remaining cream until
peaking. Top each flummery with a spoonful of the whipped cream,
trickle the honey over and sprinkle with the orange rind.
The Scots Dialect Dictionary - compiled by
Alexander Warrack MA
The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Burns
with an appreciation by Lord Rosebery. 1902 - published by Thomas
Nelson & Sons, Ltd.