Trick or treat

There was an anti-Halloween letter in The Sentinel recently, repeating the myth that..

“It’s only been the last 20 years or so that we have copied trick or treat from the Yanks.”

Actually it’s a very ancient and local tradition, as I’ve shown here previously

“In the north [of the Midlands] (and also in Cheshire and North Shropshire), the festival of All Souls, November 2nd, is celebrated [on the Eve, 1st Nov] by parties of lads and children going round to all the principal houses begging for apples — and formerly for cakes and ale — and droning out:

  “Soul soul, for a apple or two
  If ye’ve got no apples, pears’ll do,
  Up wi’ the kettle and down wi’ the pan.
  Give us a big ‘un, and we’ll be gone.”

There is also the line: “He speaks puling [whimpering], like a beggar at Hallowmas,” in Shakespeare (Two Gent.), from which we can infer that in Shakespeare’s time this was also a Warwickshire custom.

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Penny for the Guy national survey

A new Penny For The Guy: The Penny For The Guy Spotting Project, running in 2013. This venerable tradition is very rare now, but it was once very common to see children making their own approximate Guy Fawkes mini-effigy out of stuffed old clothes and then asking for coins for it. They would either parade it around in an old pram, and/or then perhaps a lone kid would prop it outside a shop for an hour or so. They usually appear on fine days from late September, but are most usually seen after Halloween (between 1st Nov and Bonfire Night on the 5th Nov).

Here’s my photo of an independent lad with his self-made Penny-for-the-Guy in Stoke town, Stoke-on-Trent, in 2012…

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The Magical Imagination

Interesting new Cambridge University Press book, The Magical Imagination: Magic and Modernity in Urban England, 1780-1914, with obvious resonances with my novel The Spyders of Burslem

“This innovative history of popular magical mentalities in nineteenth-century England explores the dynamic ways in which the magical imagination helped people to adjust to urban life. Previous studies of modern popular magical practices and supernatural beliefs have largely neglected the urban experience. … Rather than portraying magical beliefs and practices as a mere enclave of anachronistic ‘tradition’ and the fantastical as simply an escapist refuge from the real, he reveals magic’s adaptive and transformative qualities and the ways in which it helped ordinary people navigate, adapt to and resist aspects of modern urbanization. Drawing on perspectives from cultural anthropology, sociology, folklore and urban studies, this is a major contribution to our understanding of modern popular magic and the lived experience of modernisation and urbanisation.”