Carving turnips and guising are Scottish Halloween traditions everyone knows, but the fuarag is one you might not have heard of.

Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is widely considered to be the natural evolution of Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival which marked the end of summer, celebrated the harvest and heralded the coming of winter.

The practices and rituals that began in Celtic strongholds such as Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man, have been passed on – and evolved – through the generations.

Many of these are still widely known, not just on these shores but wherever the Celtic diaspora spread – pumpkin carving, guising (trick or treating) and mischief making.

However, one practice which has largely been forgotten except in Gaelic speaking communities, both in the Highlands and Islands and in Canada (such a Cape Breton), is that of the fuarag (foo-ar-ak).

Many of the most prominent Halloween activities, such as dooking for apples, focused on divining the future at this liminal time of year.

The fuarag was no exception and would see various objects placed within a bowl of raw oatmeal mixed with cream and sugar – of late many have replaced this with mashed potatoes (or champit tatties) – and each guest, often blindfolded, given a spoon to take their share.

The objects that were discovered were then used to foretell that person’s future.

A ring would mean an upcoming marriage, the coin would donate financial good fortune, the button meant you were going to live a bachelor’s life and if you received the thimble you would become a spinster.

Finding a ring signaled marriage. Picture: Wayan Vota\Flickr

More modern additions such as a wishbone would indicate that the finder would receive their hearts desire, while the horseshoe would signal good luck.

Noted Scottish folklorist F.Marian McNeill recorded that, at a particular Halloween party she attended, the hosts used a “traditional fro’ing stick” (frothing stick) to whip the cream, before “a few handfuls of lightly toasted oatmeal were then thrown in” along with the charms to create their fuarag.

Should you wish to make a fuarag for your family and friends this Halloween – and spread some good fortune (or just some old fashioned fun) then a very good recipe can be found here.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

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