Many in our community observed Halloween yesterday with customary costumes as the children scurried around town “trick or treating” in the various neighborhoods throughout Clinton County. It can be a fun time of year.
History tells us the Irish celebrated a festival named Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Samhain is believed to have Celtic pagan origins in Ireland.
It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. All across Ireland special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers, and there were rituals involving them.
According to legend, this was a time when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the “spirits” or “fairies” could more easily come into our world.
Some believed the celebration ensured that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality.
One Halloween night in particular stands out for me. There was a time, not too many years ago, when the psychic and fortune teller and “looking into the future” business was booming. A peek into the future is tempting, especially when financial hardships arrive, or a relationship turns sour.
I had heard the stories growing up, of course, of the Gypsy people having been associated with fortune telling and magic. According to the old television shows, gypsies could look into their crystal balls and predict the future.
My religion tells us to reject things of this sort because it may be the work of the devil. The only exception is when the fortunetelling is a form of entertainment or amusement, and not attempting to call upon spirits of the dead to obtain information.
As Halloween approached that year, Brenda said she knew a fortune teller in the county who could tell us the future.
“Let’s go see her. It’ll be fun,” Brenda said.
A short time later, Brenda, her mother, and I entered the small, inconspicuous house that sat beside the railroad tracks, and walked into a dark bedroom. The pleasant woman greeted us and asked us to sit down.
She put a string of beads around my neck. I noticed my hands were sweating and so did the woman. She grabbed my hand and said, “I predict you will get a cold.”
That was all she said. Then she laughed. “That is a joke,” she said kindly.
She put her hands around mine again and asked me to close my eyes. I peeked over at her one last time before shutting my one eye completely, and saw she had closed both of her eyes.
She leaned back in her chair and began telling me things about myself. She talked about my job, family, and personal habits. Some were accurate, some were completely off, but most were close to the truth.
I cautiously opened one eye and saw the woman was frowning. Although I looked at this experience as amusement, a parlor game, I have to say, her facial expression concerned me. “Is there a problem?” I asked.
“I see a bolt of lightning coming out of the sky with a terrific noise,” she said.
Just as the woman uttered the words, a fast-moving train passing by the house must have hit a loose railroad tie. There was a tremendous noise, one of explosive proportions, shaking the house.
As an old friend once said, “There wasn’t a dry pair of pants in the room – at least not on my side of the table.”
The woman had probably heard the distant train whistle and was used to the noise, but by this time, I had had enough. We got up to leave and she asked me what I thought about the experience.
“Since you can see into the future, do you ever pick lottery numbers?” I asked. Brenda and her mother laughed.
Ironically, one year later we learned the fortune teller won $10 million in the Ohio Lottery.
And I caught a cold.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.