Nos Calan Gwaf - the Cornish Halloween

Merry Maidens stone circle on Halloween night

In Kernow, the time of Halloween or Samhain, is known as Nos Calan Gwaf and is widely celebrated. Popularly linked to St Allen or Arlan a little known Cornish Saint, it is also known as Allan day.

A 19th century account informs that:

the shops in Penzance would display Allan apples, which were highly polished large apples. On the day itself, these apples were given as gifts to each member of the family as a token of good luck. Older girls would place these apples under their pillows and hope to dream of the person whom they would one day marry. A local game is also recorded where two pieces of wood were nailed together in the shape of a cross. It was then suspended with 4 candles on each outcrop of the cross shape. Allan apples would then be suspended under the cross. The goal of the game was to catch the apples in your mouth, with hot wax being the penalty for slowness or inaccuracy.

With a substantial Pagan community in Cornwall, the age old, pre-Christian rites are commonly observed. In a short story written by My Ha’m Ros, a Bard of Gorsedh Kernow, many of the traditions of the season are recorded.

A Cornish Halloween Story

Halloween – by My Ham’ Ros

Halloween is drawing nigh, when sensible children gather around the roaring fire to hear the stories of their elders.

Tonight, all the fairies move out and go abroad from their country, Annown, and creep through the darkness to dance their wild dance in the fairy ring.

Beware the beguiling sound of their sweet music! Close your ears lest you shall go astray.

The fog is rising, strange shapes floating in and out of sight; disconnected voices drift alarmingly near. Ghosts and evil monsters seek out their sacred trees, the trees with knowledge of good and evil.

Quickly! Turn your coat inside out! There is no other way to protect yourself!

Calan Gwaf  -  gans My Ha’m Ros

Yma Calan Gwaf ow tos nes, pan fleghes doth awra omguntell adro an tan whyflyn, dhe glewes an whethlow aga thus coth,

Haneth yu nos, oll an spyryjyon a wra gas achy, ha mos tramor dhyworth aga fow, Annown, ha slynkya dre an tewlder, dhe dhonsya aga dons gwyls y’n kelgh an bobel vyghan.

Bedheugh war an son garhanus aga menestrouthy whek! Gwra degea dha dhewscovarn rag dowt why a wra mos war stray.

Yma’n lewgh owth ascendya, shapys ancoth ow nyja yn ha mes a wel; levow dygelmys a wra dryftya yn uthek rybon. Bukkyas wyn ha tebel vestas a wra whylas aga gwyth hynwys, an gwyth a wothvos a’n da hag a’n drok.

Tn uskes! Treleugh dha gotta tu aberveth yn mes! Nys us forth nahen onwytha!

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