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St. Mary's Church, Bampton

St. Mary's Church, Bampton

Photo by Hugh Llewelyn, licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Halloween Divination at Bampton Church

23 November 2021

In her book Mayday to Mummers, Christine Bloxham records a belief held by people in Bampton that in you wished to know who in the village was going to die in the following year it was possible to find this out by going to St. Mary's church at midnight on 31 October.

According to the tradition, if you waited by the church's west doorway, you would see a silent procession of all the sick or elderly people in the village slowly making their way into the church.

Soon after, another procession would emerge from the church, but this time it would only include those who would survive the next twelve months. If you saw one of your loved ones go in but not come out, you knew their time on Earth was coming to an end!

Similar church divinations

The above belief bears a similarity to some other church-based divination rituals. At North Leigh it was believed that it was possible for a woman to find out who she was going to marry by going to the church on Christmas Eve, walking three times around the churchyard while sowing hemp seed over her shoulder and reciting a certain rhyme.

After the third lap of the church was complete the woman would be able to look over her shoulder and see a vision of her husband-to-be following her and harvesting the crops that had grown from her seeds! A tale about how this ritual misfired for three unfortunate North Leigh girls can be found elsewhere on this website.


  1. 'Mayday to Mummers' by Christine Bloxham (The Wychwood Press, 2002, ISBN: 9781902279114)