The dead rise from their graves

November 17, 2016


A correspondent sends a friend’s account of a curious custom in Argyle not reported from elsewhere; readers of Folk-Lore however may have come across it in Britain or on the Continent. The quotation is from Taynuilt, Argyll, as follows:

“The only performance in these parts which would interest you is a curious affair which takes place on All-Hallows evening.” The dead are supposed to rise from their graves and wander about. Some of the shepherds and some of the women cover their faces with white paste and get into all sorts of queer garments, some of the men in women’s clothes. They are supposed to represent these risen ghosts. They arrive at the house and wander aimlessly all over it, upstairs and downstairs and in my lady’s chamber. They do not speak and you must not speak to them. Finally they assemble in the hall and are each presented with an apple which they receive in silence, and depart in silence…I can give you no further information… The performance has taken place in this house, so I am an eye-witness. It is impossible to get these people to talk about such things, they shut up like clams.”

One may surmise that these whitened beings believe that they trick the real ghosts into a belief that the house has received its visitation and may therefore be passed over.

M. M. Banks
Calendar Customs: Orkney & Shetland Folklore
Vol. 58, No. 1 (Mar.1947) p. 239

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