In case you’ve missed it, check out our other article on How to Hop tu Naa.
As the oldest continuously-existing tradition in the Isle of Man, it isn’t very surprising that hop-tu-naa has many strange and wonderful customs connected to it.
Indeed, the most immediate and obvious strange thing about the Manx celebration at the end of October is its name; hop-tu-naa. Where does that come from?
The word is related to the Scottish word, ‘Hogmanay,’ linked to the New Year celebrations. In fact, both go back to the Old Norse language, at a time when the New Year began at the end of October; at hop-tu-naa.
In fact, some historians even believe that the Norse phrase it links to is ‘Hanga-man-ey’; ‘mound-men forever.’ And the men who live in mounds are, of course, Themselves; the fairies. More likely to ride around on thieved horses and steal your baby than fly on dainty wings and sprinkle fairy dust, traditional Manx (and Norse) fairies are things to be very wary of. And so at this time of the year, when they will be at their most powerful, it makes good sense to be especially nice to them. Such as by holding a celebration in their name; hop-tu-naa.
The strength of the spirit world at this time, at the point where the winter & summer halves of the Celtic year meet, also means that it is a point where you can gain access to mysteries from beyond this realm. Beliefs in divination are rife in traditional Manx customs.
Incredibly important in traditional Manx life was making a good marriage. This explains why most of the customs to discover the future at hop-tu-naa are concerned with who you will marry. Here are instructions for our top five hop-tu-naa marriage divinations:
Soddag Valloo (Dumb Cake)
Mix together a cake made of flour and eggs, and also add in things like eggshells and soot etc. After this foul mixture is baked, eat it and then retire to bed without speaking a word (hence the name of the cake). In your dream, you should then see the person who you are destined to marry.
The stolen salt herring
Firstly, go and steal a salt herring from a neighbour’s house. This should be done in the dark, without them knowing. Roast it in its own brine and then eat all of it – even the skin and bones. Do this in silence and don’t drink any water. At midnight, retire to bed backwards and undress in the dark. Your dreams will reveal your future spouse.
A mouth of water and a pinch of salt
Fill your mouth with water, hold a pinch of salt in each hand, and go and secretly go to listen in on your neighbours. The first name mentioned in their conversation will be that of the person you will come to marry.
Nuts in the grate
Put some nuts in the fire and name them with the names of yourself and the people you’re romantically interested in. If a nut cracks or jumps, then you are not destined to be with that person. But if your nut burns peacefully together with another, then you will be married.
Throwing a ball of wool
At midnight, take a ball of wool secretly to the barn. Twist the end of the yarn around your wrist and throw the ball as far as you can into the darkness. Wind it back in and if you find it held in the darkness, call out: ‘Who is holding the thread?’ You will then hear the name of the person you will one day marry.