The Everyday Lore Project

10 November 2020 – Martinmas Eve

10 November 2020 – Martinmas Eve

Firstly, apologies. My website has been up and down like a pixie on a pogo stick since early evening yesterday. So if you tried and failed to read yesterday’s post, hopefully you should have more luck now. It took me hours to post it, not that that should influence your decision to go back and read it. After it took me hours to post. 

And secondly, apparently I’m going to marry a bachelor. Which is nice. 

It’s Martinmas Eve, or St Martin’s Eve, and in Scotland on Martinmas Eve, it’s traditional to take part in The Trial of Three Dishes. Which sounds worse than it actually is, given The Trial of Three Dishes is just a bit of love divination. There are variations of this custom also practiced on Halloween, one of which is rather affectionately called Luggie Bowls (handles like ears on the bowls).

The craic is there are three dishes, one empty, one filled with clean water, and one filled with dirty water. Each of these dishes represent a type of potential suitor: clean = unmarried, dirty = has been married, empty = jog on, there’s nothing to see here. So when the person wishing to know their marital fate rocks up, blindfolded, and chooses their dish, they’ll know who to expect.

Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities recommends that the choosing is done three times, just to make sure there’s no fluking involved. I prepped my dishes. I didn’t have any old washing up water, so I robbed some earth from a cactus to make the water dirty. And in order to fool myself into not knowing where the dishes were in relation to each other, I popped them on a large plate that I could turn round and therefore discombobulate myself. Using my favourite face mask (made by the lovely Sarah’s mum) as my blindfold, I started the experiment. 

As it’s the 10th, I turned the plate ten times sunwise. To further fake myself out, they weren’t full turns, some were positively twitches. I hovered my hand over the plate to see if I could feel which dish I should choose. But my psychic powers were giving me nothing, so I dipped my fingers with wild abandon. Clean.

Next I turned ten times widdershins and dipped. Clean.

Sunwise times ten to finish. Clean. 

So there you have it, I’m marrying a bachelor. Despite the apple peel reveal saying the opposite. It’s all so confusing.

What isn’t confusing is why I didn’t choose to sprinkle the blood of a freshly slaughtered animal in the four corners of the house to ward off evil, another traditional Martinmas Eve option.

The Everyday Lore Project has been running since St Distaff’s Day on 7 January 2020 and will run until 12th Night on 6 January 2021. It does what it says on the tin, every day I try out a bit of lore and write about it. Some days like today I get lucky, in that I have a choice of folklore to try out – divine my one true love, or sacrifice an animal. Other days, I don’t get off that easily. Although there’s not long to go, please subscribe and share! And if you have any traditions I can try, let me know.


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Traditional Scottish Divination

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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