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Was eating sausage rolls on Halloween illegal in Scotland due to Witchcraft?

Published: October 31, 2022

It's an oft-reported fact that the Witchcraft Act of 1735 contained a clause preventing the consumption of pork and pastry on Halloween. But is this true?

Halloween in Scotland has been known for many things through the years, from guising to dooking for apples and catching a treacle scone.

Food has also played a part in Halloween celebrations, from modern-day pumpkin dishes to ancient things such as fuarag (foo-ar-ak).

But there was a time when, apparently, consuming pork and pastries on Halloween was illegal. Now this is being disputed by Old Weird Scotland, a Twitter account that posts forgotten stories from Scotland.

The intriguing thread is 'a deep dive into Scotland, Witchcraft, and Sausage Rolls' and challenges the 'oft-shared "tradition" that is absolutely nonsense and has zero truth behind it.'

The claim, which is often written about during October in the led up to Halloween, is that the Witchcraft Act of 1735 outlawed pork pastries, and the act was only repealed 60 years ago (this part is true).

A HistoricUK article says that pork and pastry are mentioned in one of the clauses of the 1735 Act. But on closer inspection, the act was to end the persecution of supposed witches. The thread says "It made it illegal for anyone to claim witches existed and was an attempt to put a stop to superstitious belief in magic.

"The 1735 act was repealed by the enactment of the 1951 Fraudulent Mediums Act (itself repealed in 2008). Again no reprieve mentioned for poor pork pies.

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"So the claim that it was "illegal" to eat pork pies, sausage rolls etc. between 1735 and 1951 is patently bogus (sorry!)."

After some digging, the thread then reveals that the claim that essentially sausage rolls were banned during Halloween was part of a joke from 1998.

So it would appear that sausage rolls were never banned at Halloween, but despite this have become a treat to enjoy during the seasonal festivities regardless of its history to the 31 October.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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