Are you going to a Halloween party tonight? If so, make sure you get there unfashionably early (before sunset), if you want to avoid the perils of being out in the dark on the most perilous night of the year, when the veil between this world and the Otherworld grows thin. If you’re brave enough to stay out late, remember to put a piece of bread crossed with salt in your pocket – witches loathe salt. And if you should hear footsteps behind you, don’t turn around, because it could be Death following you, and if you look him in the face, you’re a goner. Probably best to add hazelnuts to your pocket as a charm to ward off the Devil as well, while you’re at it. On the other hand, if you actually want to meet a witch, you need to put your clothes on inside out and walk backwards.
If you’re spending Halloween at home, be sure to walk round your house three times, backwards and counter-clockwise, to ward off demons and evil spirits. You could also consider ringing a bell to frighten away any lurking ghosts – witches can be driven off by standing on your doorstep and beating your saucepans very loudly with a metal spoon (If the neighbours complain about the racket, simply invite them in for an evening of traditional Halloween divination). Remember to leave a candle burning in a Jack-O-Lantern (a pumpkin you carved earlier) outside your house. This has the double advantage of being particularly repellent to vampires – who once their identity is revealed will not trouble you again – and also guides home the friendly ghosts of your ancestors who may want to visit. In fact, any spider you see in your house on Halloween could be an ancestral spirit watching over you.
Having secured your home against the forces of darkness (if not the depredations of trick or treaters), you’re ready to use the magic unleashed on Halloween to look into the future. Those hazelnuts you’ve been carrying around all day now come in very useful if you’re an unmarried girl who wants to know who you’ll marry. You simply have to put one hazelnut for each of your suitors along a fire-grate and chant ‘If you love me pop and fly/If you hate me burn and die.’
A length of apple peel tossed over your shoulder will fall on the floor in the shape of your future husband’s initials. If you are concerned about his prospects, you’re going to have to venture outside to a cabbage patch (don’t forget the hazelnuts and the salt). A pulled-up cabbage with earth-covered roots indicates that your intended is going to be a wealthy man.
You don’t have any apples or cabbages? Not to worry, you can carry a lantern to a nearby spring, where you'll see your intended’s face reflected in the water (to see the faces of your future children, take with you a broken egg in a glass, add spring water and mix well). No handy spring? You can still see your future spouse by eating an apple in front of your bedroom mirror by candlelight – his reflection will appear, looking endearingly over your shoulder. Can’t face another apple? The spell also works if you comb your hair. And if all else fails, sleep with rosemary under your pillow, and you’ll see him in your dreams.