It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands, and we’d be waiting… in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal, and the dead might be looking in… to sit by our fires of turf.
This eerie quote from Halloween 3: Season of the witch made me wonder what wattles and clay and turf might be. It’s always good to learn new things. Keep reading to be enlightened.
Turf is an old Celtic word for compressed peat used as fuel. This is fitting since modern Halloween is based on the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain. Peat forms when plant material, usually in marshy areas, is inhibited from decaying fully by acidic and anaerobic conditions. It is composed mainly of marshland vegetation: trees, grasses, fungi, as well as other types of organic remains, such as insects, and animal remains. Peat is soft and easily compressed. Under pressure, water in the peat is forced out. Upon drying, peat can be used as a fuel. Ireland and Scotland suffer from a scarcity of trees so peat is traditionally used for cooking and domestic heating. Stacks of drying peat dug from the bogs can still be seen in some rural areas.
Wattles and clay or daub are the terms used to describe an ancient building process. Walls are constructed using a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle. These walls are then daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. Wattle and daub has been used for at least 6,000 years, and is still an important construction material in many parts of the world.
Now go watch Halloween 3.