Saturday, October 1, 2011

Out of the attic

Grammy had a wonderful attic.  For most of my childhood, it was unfinished, dimly lit, a bit spooky, but filled with fascinating things in the drawers of massive old dressers and on the shelves of a glass-fronted bookcase.  There was a copy of The Old Curiosity Shop which was inscribed Christmas, 1890 - which seemed positively ancient to me, and was probably the oldest thing i'd been allowed to handle without adult supervision.  I remember sitting on the floor in front of the bookcase with one slim blue volume from a set of "The World's 1000 Best Poems" and reaching the sucker punch at the end of "The Highwayman" - which leaves quite an impression when you're 10 or so.

Over a number of years, old volumes made their way to my own shelves, as gifts or on loan, or now and again even rescued out of boxes destined for garage sales (got a 1909 Hammond's World Atlas that way... that was in 1989 or 1990, and i remember being amused that the maps for swaths of Eastern Europe were almost current again).  By the time Grammy died, the collection was considerably smaller, and the bookcase - to my dismay - gone to a cousin.  But there were a few old books left, a bit of an odd selection, but i took several home because no one else wanted them.  One of those books seems seasonally appropriate, now that we're into October:

 This little book has a copyright date of 1912, and it's full of games that lean largely toward magical prediction, usually regarding selection of mates, rather than toward anything spooky or diabolical.  I rather suspect that it was aimed at young ladies.

A few of the suggested games, for inspiration in your own festivities:


1. The dragon consists of half a pint of ignited brandy or alcohol in a dish.  As soon as brandy is aflame, all lights are extinguished, and salt is freely sprinkled in dish, imparting a corpse-like pallor to every face.  Candied fruits, figs, raisins, sugared almonds, etc., are thrown in, and guests snap for them with their fingers; person securing most prizes from flames will meet his true love within the year.

2. Or, slips of paper on which verses are written are tightly wrapped in tin-foil and placed in dish.  Brandy is poured on and ignited.  The verse each person gets is supposed to tell his fortune.
     Place burning dish in middle of a bare table, for drops of burning spirits are often splashed about.

[Don't try this at home, kids...]


     Suspend horizontally from ceiling a stick three feet long.  On one end stick an apple, upon the other tie a small bag of flour.  Set stick whirling.  Each guest takes turn in trying to bite apple-end of stick.  It is amusing to see guests receive dabs of flour on face.  Guest who first succeeds in biting apple gets prize.


     Tie wedding-ring or key to silken thread or horsehair, and hold it suspended within a glass; then say the alphabet slowly; whenever ring strikes glass, begin over again and in this way spell the name of future mate.

The book helpfully gives examples for suitable invitations, too:

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