Untitled Souling Index Untitled John Speller's Web Pages Souling Songs

John Speller's Web Pages

- Souling
The largely forgotten European custom of "Souling" at Halloween is long due for revival in the twenty-first century when dressing up on All Hallows' Eve and "Trick-or-Treating" is so popular. The custom doubtless has connections with the pre-Christian observance of the pagan autumn festival of Samhain.

I have reproduced a number of the carols that were used which can be accessed on the top menu. Beside the "Souling Songs" such as those listed here, other carols were sometimes used, "The Joys of Mary," "The Holy Well," and "Dives and Lazarus" being particularly popular.

It was the custom to serve beer (or hard cider in the West of England where I come from) and soul-cakes to the singers.

Soul Cakes

A typical recipe for soul cakes:

Ingredients: 3/4 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar 4 cups sifted plain flour, 3 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon mixed spice or allspice, 3 oz. currants,some warm milk (a little saffron was added in Cornwall)

Method: Cream the butter and sugar together until they are a fluffy consistency; beat in the egg; fold in the flour and spices; add sufficient milk to make a soft dough; make into small cakes and mark the top of each one with a cross;bake in the oven at 350F for around 15 minutes or until golden.

Souling Plays

Most of these were antisemitic in character and seem to have had their origins in the Crusades. A Scottish Hogmanay Play, however, which was very similar to many of the souling plays but did not have their shortcomings was written down in Falkirk, Scotland in the early nineteenth century and ran as below. It might mutatis mutandis be used as a souling play:

Introducer: Rise up gudewife and shake your feathers Dinna think that we're beggars, We are bairns com'd to play And for to seek our [souling play]; Redd up stocks, redd up stools, Here comes in a pack o' fools.Muckle head and little wit stand behint the door, But sic a set as we are, ne'er were here before.

King of Macedon Here comes in the great king of Macedon, Who has conquer'd all the world but Scotland alone.When I came to Scotland my heart grew so cold, To see a little nation so stout and so bold, So stout and so bold, so frank and so free! Call upon Galgacus to fight wi' me.

Enter Galgacus Galgacus: Here comes in Galgacus - wha doesna feear my name? Sword and buckler by my side, I hope to win the game!

They close in a sword fight, and the King of Macedon is victorious. He says:

Down Galgacus! down to the ground you must go - Oh O! what's this I've done? I've killed my brother Galgacus, my father's only son! Call upon the doctor.

Enter Doctor

Doctor: Here comes in the best doctor that ever Scotland bred.

King of Macedon: What can you cure?

[The Rudheath Souling Play here has:

Doctor: The All sorts.

King of Macedon: What's the allsorts?

Doctor: The Ipps, the Pips, the Pops, the Gout, A man having nineteen devils in his body, It is bound to knock twenty out.]

King of Macedon: What will ye tak to cure this man?

Doctor: Ten pound and a bottle of wine.

King of Macedon :Will six not do?

Doctor: No, you must go higher.

King of Macedon: Seven!

Doctor:That will not put on the pot, &c.

A bargain however is struck, and the Doctor says to Galgacus,

DoctorStart to your feet and stand!

Galgacus: Oh hon, my back, I'm sairly wounded.

Doctor:What ails your back?

Galgacus:There's a hole in't you may turn your toungue ten times round it!

Doctor: How did you get it?

Galgacus: Fighting for our land.

Doctor How mony did you kill?

Galgacus I killed a' the lons save ane, but he ran, he wad na stand. Part of the play is here missing

[The Rudheath Souling Play here has:

Galgacus: My back is broken, my heart's confounded,knocked seventeen senses into four score, The like was never seen in Scotland before. And if you can't believe me what I say,Step in, Judas, and clear the way.

Enter Judas. ]

Judas: Here comes in Judas - Judas is my name, If ye pit bought sillar i'my bag, for gudesake mind our wame! When I gaed to the castle yett and tirl't at the pin, They keepit they keys o' the castle wa', and wad na let me in. I've been i' the east carse, I've been i' the west carse, I've been to the carse o' Gowrie, Where the clouds rain a' day wi' peas and wi'beans! And the farmers theek houses wi' needles and pins! I've seen geese ga'in' on pattens! And swine fleeing i'the air, like peelings o'onions! Our hearts are made o' steel, but our body's sma' as ware, If you've onything to gi' us, stap it in there!
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), All Souls' Day
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