Divinations Marriage divinations

ALMONDS are significant as a fertility symbol at Greek weddings, and a further manifestation of this symbolism lies in the belief fostered by unmarried girls that involved taking some of the wedding almonds and using them for divination. Three of them put under the pillow would ensure dreams of the future husband. The same is occasionally said of PINE needles. One particular tree on the island of Bute served as a "dreaming tree". Some of its needles were put, with some ceremony, under the pillow, for dreams of the future husband or wife (Denham). Divinations were made with LEEKS, too, though details are often lacking. One Welsh charm is properly described, though. The girl had to go out into the garden and uproot a leek with her teeth! Then it had to be put under her pillow, and her lover would appear to her in a dream (Stevens) (or in the flesh, if the proper arrangements had been made). Even TURNIPS have been used to play the divination game. This one comes from west Wales and involves a girl stealing a turnip from a neighbour's field (it must be stolen, not given). She peels it in one continuous strip, in the same way as the much better known apple peel game, taking care not to break the peel, and then buries the peel in the garden. The turnip itself she hangs behind the door. Then she goes and sits by the fire, and the first man who enters after that will bear the same name as her future husband (Winstanley & Rose).

ASH, especially the Even Ash beliefs, were popular once. They are all quite well-known, for the leaf is often used for invoking good luck, as well ("luck and a lover" (Leather) ), and there is always a simple rhyme to accompany the charm. One from Cornwall runs:

Even ash, I do thee pluck Hoping thus to meet good luck If no good luck I get from thee I shall wish thee in that tree.

There are many others recited when the even ash is used for divination purposes:

If you find an even ash or a four-leaved clover Rest assured you'll see your true-love ere the day is over (Dyer).

From Northumberland, there is:

Even, even ash I pull thee off the tree The first young man I do meet My lover he shall be.

The leaf is then put in the shoe (Denham). A Buckinghamshire charm simply, i e with no accompanying rhyme, to be put in the right shoe -" ... the first man you meet you have to marry" (Heather).

This even ash I carry in hand

The first I meet shall be my husband

If he be single then he may draw nigh,

But if he be married then he may pass by (Friend).

That rhyme is quoted for Somerset (Tongue), with the additional proviso that the leaf had to be thrown in the face of the first man met. Northall recorded:

Even-ash, even-ash, I pluck thee This night my true love for to see; Neither in his rick nor in his rear, But in the clothes he does everyday wear.

It was important for a girl to know the trade of the future husband, and that could be deduced from the working clothes he was wearing. Sometimes the even ash beliefs did not rely on even florets at all. There is, for instance, an Oxfordshire requirement for "an ash-leaf with nine leaves on" (Thompson). Two leaves were also significant in Wales. Such a leaf had to be found by accident, and should be put under the pillow, so that the finder would dream of the future partner (Howells).

Another tree, HAWTHORN, is used in divinations, but to a much lesser extent. One of them involved a girl hanging a flowering branch at a crossroads on May Eve. She had to go back next morning to see in which direction the wind had blown it. From that direction would come the destined husband. Another was for her to partly break a branch on May Eve, and leave it on the tree. In the morning she must fetch it home, and then she would hope to see an image of the future husband on the way (Eberly). Something more direct from the south of Somerset called for the girl to dance barefoot round a hawthorn on old Midsummer Day before sunrise, to charm her lover into marrying her that year (Tongue). ACORNS, or rather their cups, have been used in Wales: two of them, one named for the lover, and the other for self, were set to float in a bowl of water - watch them. If they sailed together, there would be marriage, but if they drifted apart, then it was obvious what the result would be (Trevelyan).

Cut in two, BRACKEN root was supposed to show the initial letters of a lover's name (Leather, Courtney, Forby, etc.,). A particularly bizarre method of divination involved the NETTLE. It is said that if you beat yourself with one, you will be able to count from the number of blisters you get how many years it will be before you marry (Hald).

ROSES are symbols of love, so it is hardly surprising to find them connected with love divinations. Girls would take a rose leaf for each of their suitors, and name each leaf after one of them. Then she would watch them until one after the other they sank in the bucket of water in which she had put them. The last that sank would represent the future husband (Napier). Or she would carefully pick a rose and lay it under her pillow on Midsummer Eve, when the future husband would appear in a dream (Higgins). Rather more ambitious is the one that requires a girl to pick a rose at Midsummer, fold it in paper, and put it by till Christmas Day. On that day she would wear it to church, and the man who would come and take it from her would be her husband (Opie & Tatem). ROSEMARY, too, is a symbol of fidelity in love, and this too has been the agent in marriage divinations, particularly on St Agnes' Night, when girls were advised to take a sprig of rosemary and one of THYME, and sprinkle them three times with water. In the evening, put one in each shoe, putting a shoe on each side of the bed. When going to bed, they had to say:

St Agnes, that's to lovers kind, Come ease the trouble of my mind.

Then the future husband will appear in a dream. So wrote Halliwell as an example of a charm from the north of England and Scotland. The rhyme, though, has been quoted also as:

Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,

Hither, hither, now repair;

Bonny Agnes, let me see

The lad who is to marry me (Drury.1986).

Derbyshire girls used to put a sprig of rosemary and a crooked sixpence under their pillows at Hallowe'en, so that they should dream of their future husband (Addy). "If you lay a branch of rosemary under your head, on Easter Eve, you will dream of the party you shall enjoy" - so says an 18th century chapbook (Ashton). Another kind of divination was the fashion in Herefordshire. There they put a plate of flour under a rosemary bush on Midsummer Eve. The initials of the intended lover were expected to appear in the flour next morning (Leather). BAY leaves across the pillow, sprinkled with rose water, were used on St Valentine's Eve, when the girl had to say:

Good Valentine, be kind to me,

In dream let me my true love see (Dyer. 1889).

(Substitute St Luke for Valentine in the rhyme, and another divination that uses MARJORAM is the result) (see MARJORAM). Another charm from Devonshire called for five bay leaves, one pinned at each corner and the fifth in the middle of the pillow. The operator of this charm had to say the rhyme seven times, and count seven, seven times over at each interval:

Sweet guardian angels, let me have What I most earnestly do crave -A Valentine endued with love, Who will both true and constant prove.

The future husband would appear in a dream (Vickery. 1995). The same number of leaves, disposed in the same pattern, was the rule at Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire (Rudkin). Usually, the girl had to put on a clean nightgown for the operation, often inside out (Drury. 1986).

HOLLY is used in various divination games. One from Swansea requires a girl to run seven times round a holly tree in one direction, and seven in the other, when she will see her future husband (Opie & Opie). There are, too, variations on the daisy-petal divinations - in one recorded in Brittany, the prickles on a holly leaf are touched, with "Fille, femme, veuve, religieuse", or "Fils, homme, veuf, religieux" (Sebil-lot), while a game from Edington, in Warwickshire, is for girls to pick a holly leaf and say:

I pluck this holly to see If my mother does want me.

And then count the prickles - yes, no, yes, no, until the last one (Northall). There is too an American game that consists of naming holly leaves as they are thrown in the fire. The one that pops first has the name of the one that loves you best (Thomas & Thomas). More complicated divinations include an Irish one called "building the house", played at Hallowe'en. Twelve pairs of holly twigs are arranged in a circle, pushed into the ground and tied together at the apex. A live turf representing the fire is put in the centre. Each pair of twigs is named after the boys and girls present, and the pair that first catches fire shows which boy and girl will be the first married (E E Evans). Another divination at Hallowe'en involving holly used to be played (if it can be called as such) in the Border counties. A girl had to take three pails of water up to her bedroom, and to pin three holly leaves to her nightdress before going to bed. She will be roused by three shouts, followed by three hoarse laughs, after which the form of her future husband will appear. If he is deeply attached to her, he will shift the position of the three pails (Banks). The holly leaves, though apparently essential, seem to play no part in the record of the charm. They must have done so at one time, and the way in which the divination has come down to us must be corrupt. IVY too can be used in divinations, but the records are mainly from Scotland, where the plant is held in higher regard than is the case elsewhere. Lanarkshire girls used to wear a piece of ivy against her heart, and repeat the rhyme:

In my bosom I put you

The first young man who speaks to me,

My future husband he shall be (Opie & Opie).

The Argyllshire rhyme was:

Eevy, ivy,

I do pluck thee.

In my bosom I do put thee,

The first young man I do meet

Shall my true lover be (MacLagan).

This sort of thing is recorded in the Witney area of Oxfordshire, too. To see her future husband, a girl had to put an ivy leaf in her pocket. The first man she met out of doors whilst carrying it would be the one she would marry. But a most novel form of divination is recorded from Normandy - to be used when unsure of which saint to pray to! A number of ivy leaves are put in holy water, each one bearing the name of a saint; the first one to turn yellow shows the saint you were looking for (W B Johnson). Another example from Witney was to prick her lover's name in a leaf of CHERRY LAUREL. If the prick marks turned pink, it was a sign he would marry her, but if it did not, he would desert her (Oxfordshire & District Folklore Society. Annual Record; 1952).

CLOVER can be used, too; there is a well-known rhyme involving a two-leaved clover:

A clover, a clover of two,

Put it in your right shoe;

The first young man you meet,

In field, street or lane,

Similarly, there is a Quebec superstition that if you put a four-leaved clover in your shoe, you will marry a man having the first name of the man you meet first after doing so (Bergen. 1899). Another example comes from Michigan: with a four-leaved clover in your shoe, you will meet your lover. Another from the same area is if the finder of a four-leaved clover puts it in her shoe, she will marry the first person with whom she crosses a bridge. From other parts of America, the injunction is to put a four-leaved clover over the door. The first person to pass under it will be your future mate (Bergen. 1899). A two-leaved clover will do as well in Wales, provided it was found by accident. Then it should be put under the pillow, so that the finder should dream of the future partner (Howells). A sprig of MYRTLE, too, put under the pillow will bring on dreams of the future husband (Hawke). Something more complicated was recommended in the Midlands. Take a sprig on Midsummer Eve and lay it on your prayer book with the words "Wilt thou take me (mentioning her name) to be thy wedded wife?". She then had to close the book and sleep with it under her pillow. If the myrtle was gone in the morning, she would marry her present lover (Baker. 1980). SOUTHERNWOOD is another plant to be put under the pillow on going to bed, and then the first man she meets in the morning will be the one she will marry. That is an American belief too, that operates simply by putting a piece down the back, or tucking it in the shoe. Having done that, the first boy she meets will be her future busband (Bergen. 1899). A similar charm is recorded in Guernsey: put two fronds of AGRIMONY, each bearing nine leaflets, crosswise under the pillow, securing them by two new pins, also crossed. The future husband would appear in a dream (MacCulloch).

CORNFLOWERS could be used to test a lover's fidelity, using the he loves me, he loves me not formula

(Dyer). If the identification is correct, Northamptonshire children used to pick the leaves of LADY'S SMOCK one by one for a divination of the 'Rich man; poor man' type (Sternberg).

Some divinations using flowers rely on cut pieces re-growing and thus answering the question (or not). Plantain, for instance, or KNAPWEED. A young person would pull the flower from the stalk, cut the top off the stamens with scissors, and put the flower in some secret place where it could not be seen. She would think through the day, and try to dream through the night, of her sweetheart. Then, on looking at the flower next day, would judge of her success in love by whether or not the stamens had shot out to their former length (Henderson). John Clare described a similar charm in Shepherd's Calendar May:

They pull the little blossom threads From out the knapweed's button heads And put the husk wi' many a smile In their white bosoms for a while Who if they guess aright the swain That loves sweet fancy trys to gain 'Tis said that ere its lain an hour 'Twill blossom wi a second flower.

That description, though, is of a Buckinghamshire charm. The plant would bloom a second time if they could guess aright the name of the future husband (Leyel. 1926). RIBWORT PLANTAIN is used for a similar type of divination - rid the stalks of the flowers, and if they are blooming again when inspected the following day, the prospect of marriage is good. This is a Midsummer divination in the north of England and Scotland. The procedure differed here and there, but one of them was to take three stalks, strip them of their flowers, and put them in the left shoe, and afterwards under the pillow. In the morning, if the lover was to become the husband, they should again be in bloom. That same game was known in the Faeroe Islands as well, where it was known as a simple wish fulfilment custom (Williamson). The Berwickshire custom was to take two spikes, wrap them in a dock leaf and put them under a stone, or, in Shetland, buried in the ground (Banks). One of the two stalks represented the girl, the other the man. If both were in bloom next morning, it was a good sign for marriage (Denham). A different kind of divination game with Ribwort is an offshoot of the Soldiers game that children play. Soldiers involves trying to knock the head off the opponent's stalk. The divination is of the tinker-tailor-soldier-sailor type (the plant is actually called Tinker-tailor Grass in Somerset). The blow that knocks the head off marks the profession of the future husband (Elworthy. 1888). GREAT PLANTAIN, too, was used for divination in the same way, often connected with the Midsummer festival. SAGE leaves, twelve of them, were used in Yorkshire. They had to be picked at noon on

Midsummer Eve, and put in a saucer, where they would be kept till midnight, then they were dropped out of the bedroom window, one by one with the chiming of the hour. The future husband would be seen, or at least his step heard, in the street below (Morris). A Leicestershire variant of this requires the leaves actually to be picked at each strike of the clock at midnight (Palmer. 1985).

APPLES are important instruments for divination. Peeling the skin off in a continuous piece and throwing it over the left shoulder, whence it was hoped that it would fall in the shape of a letter which will be the initial of the man she will marry, is the best known of these divinations. Or, as in parts of America, the peel had to be put over the door, and the first man to enter through the door will be the husband (Stout). If the peel breaks, she will not marry at all (Waring). Sometimes, as in Lancashire, the peel had to hang on a nail behind the door, and then the initials of the first man to enter the house afterwards would be the same as that of the future husband (Opie & Tatem). The pips too could be used. If, for instance, a girl cannot choose among several of her lovers, she could take a pip, recite the name of one of the men, then drop the pip on the fire. If it pops, well and good, for it shows that the man is "bursting with love for her". Of course, if it is consumed without making any sound, she will know that the man is no good for her (Waring). The rhyme to be spoken is:

If you love me, pop and fly,

Another divination game involving apple pips is to take one of them between finger and thumb and to flip it in the air, while reciting "North, south, east west, tell me where my love doth rest". You had to watch the direction in which it fell, and then draw your own conclusions (Courtney). Another way of doing it was to stick two pips on the cheek or forehead, one for the girl's choice and the other for another man who was not. The one named for the man she really wanted would stick longest, not all that difficult to manage or to make sure the unwanted man fell first (Opie & Tatem, quoting Gay, Shepherd's Week 1714):

See from the core two kernels brown I take; This on my cheek for Lubberkin is worn And Boobyclod on t'other side is born. But Boobyclod soon drops upon the ground, A certain token that his love's unsound, While Lubberkin sticks firmly to the last; Oh were his lips to mine but join'd so fast.

A Kentucky version requires five seeds on the face, named. Then the first to fall off shows the one that the girl will marry (Thomas & Thomas). Another American children's game merely involves counting the seeds to predict the future:

One I love

Two I love

Three I love I say;

Four I love with all my heart

And five I cast away;

Six he loves

Seven she loves

Eight they both love;

Nine he comes

And ten he tarries,

Eleven he courts

And twelve he marries (Stout).

Similarly, the number of seeds found indicates the number of children you will have (Thomas & Thomas). Even the stalks could be used: the girl has to twist the stalk to find whom she will marry. The game is to twist while going through the alphabet, a letter for each twist. The letter she has reached when the stalk comes off is the initial of the first name of the man she will marry (Opie & Tatem). An Austrian divination involved cutting an apple in two on St Thomas's Eve and counting the number of pips. If it was an even number, then she was soon to marry. But if she had cut one of the pips, she would have a troubled life, and end up a widow (Waring). Even CRABAPPLES were used for the purpose in Somerset. A girl would pick crabs on Michaelmas Day, store them until Old Michaelmas (10 October) and arrange them to form the initials of her various suitors. Later inspection, though quite when is not clear, would reveal the one who would make the best husband, judging by the condition of the apples. An American divination that relied on movement, like apple pips, was played with BOX leaves. Name some leaves and lay them on a hot hearth. The one that swells and whirls towards you will be your future husband or wife. If one turns in the opposite direction, he or she will shun you (Whitney & Bullock). A pod with nine PEAS in it is a lucky find, and can be used in marriage divinations. If a girl finds such a pod, and if she then wrote on a piece of paper:

Come in my dear And do not fear, to fold and put in the pod, which then had to be laid under the door, the first man who entered the room would become her husband, or in some areas, his Christian name provided the initial of the future husband's name (Opie & Tatem).

Divining by sowing and reaping was probably the commonest form in this country, and the use of Hempseed is the best known, but FLAX could be used, and that used to be quite common in north-east Scotland. The rhyme spoken at the Hallowe'en divining game was:

Lint-seed I sow ye, Lint-seed, I sow ye,

Let him it's to be my lad Come aifter and pu' me (Gregor).

Dock could be used, too, or at least BUTTER DOCK (Rumex longifolius) could. The seeds had to be sown by a young girl half an hour before sunrise on a Friday morning, in some lonely place. She had to strew the seeds gradually on the ground, while saying:

I sow, I sow. Then my own dear, Come here, come here, And mow and mow.

She would see her future husband moving with a scythe (Halliwell. 1869).

MISTLETOE is used at Christmas time, either by putting a sprig (taken from the parish church, in Welsh practice (Trevelyan) ) under the pillow, to have a dream of the future husband, or, as with an Irish game, picking ten berries on Christmas Eve. Nine had to be kept, and the tenth thrown away. The nine were put to steep in a liquid composed of equal proportions of wine, beer, vinegar and honey. Then the berries had to be swallowed like pills on going to bed. These, too, would induce dreams about the future (Wood-Martin) (but mistletoe does not grow in Ireland!). In Alabama (R B Browne) and Kentucky (Thomas & Thomas), they used to hang mistletoe over the door to see who would be the first girl to walk in, and she would be the future wife. Another Kentucky divination was to name mistletoe leaves for a boy and a girl, and then put them on a hot stove. If the leaves hopped towards each other, it was taken as a clear sign of marriage between the two. ONIONS were also used at this season. These would be ST THOMAS'S ONIONS, used on the eve of St Thomas's Day (21 December). One game involved peeling a large red onion and sticking nine pins in it, the one in the centre being named for the man the girl really wanted, and the rest radially around this one. As they were put in, the girl recited a rhyme:

Good St Thomas, do me right, Send me my true love tonight, In his clothes and his array, Which he weareth every day, That I may see him in the face And in my arms may him embrace.

Normally, it would be an advantage to know in advance in what trade her future husband would be engaged, hence the insistence on "in his clothes and his array, which he weareth every day". Another version of the divination required the girl to cut the St Thomas's onion into quarters, whispering to each quarter the name of the man she was expecting to propose. She waved it over her head while saying the usual rhyme. Pennsylvania German girls used to take four onions, give each a name, and put them under the bed or the stove in the evening. The one that had sprouted next morning bore the name of the future husband (Fogel).

An American divination game involved MULLEIN. All that had to be done was to twist a stalk nearly off, after naming it for someone. If it lived, then the someone loves you. Afterwards, you had to count the new shoots that sprang up - this will be the number of children you will have (Bergen. 1896). The instructions varied slightly; some say you should break the stalk right off before naming it. Or you had to bend it towards the sun (R B Browne), or in the direction of the boy friend's home, when if the stalk grows straight again, he loves you (Thomas & Thomas).

COWSLIP balls, known as Tisty-tosties, or Tosty-tosties, are the implements in a children's divination game. The blossoms, picked on Whit Sunday for preference, were tied into a ball, and strictly, the balls were the Tisty-tosties, though the growing flower got the name, too. Lady Gomme mentioned the game as belonging to Somerset, but it had a much wider spread than that. The cowslip ball is tossed about while the names of various boys and girls are called, of the time-honoured Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, etc., fashion, till it drops. The name called at that moment is taken to be the "one indicated by the oracle", as Udal puts it, for the rhyme spoken at the beginning of the game is:

Tisty-tosty tell me true

Who shall I be married to?

That is quoted as a Dorset rhyme, but the same is recorded in Herefordshire (Leather). The game is also known in Wales, where the purpose is different, for the rhyme there is:

Pistey, Postey, four and twenty,

How many years shall I live?

John Clare calls the cowslip balls cucking balls:

And cowslip cucking balls to toss

Above the garlands swinging light ..

A different tradition here, obviously. Roy Genders (Genders. 1976), who used the name cucka-balls, says they were often threaded on twine and hung from one window to another across the street. Games that children play with RYE-GRASS include one, of the Love-me-love-me-not kind, played by pulling off the alternating spikelets, hence names like Yes-or-no. A different version of the game accounts for the name Does-my-mother-want-me, yet another Somerset name (Elworthy). Another game that girls play involves striking the heads together, and at each blow saying Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, etc., The blow that knocks the head off marks the profession of the future husband (Grigson. 1959).

YARROW was widely used for love divinations, especially on May Eve and at Hallowe'en. Irish girls would fill a stocking with it, more specifically, the left stocking, tied with the right garter (Cooke), and put it under their pillow, while some recognised rhyme was recited. One Irish example is:

Yarrow, yarrow. Yarrow,

I bid thee good morrow,

And tell me before tomorrow

Who my true love shall be (Wilde. 1902).

Aberdeen girls went out to the fields on May morning, always in silence, to gather yarrow. They shut their eyes, and pulled what first came to hand, while repeating a local form of the rhyme, such as:

Good morrow, good morrow, To thee, braw yarrow; And thrice good morrow to thee; I pray thee tell me today or tomorrow Who is my true love to be.

Then they would open their eyes, and look around in every direction as far as the eye could see. If a man was visible, the girl who spied him would wed her mate that year. In some districts, they went out on the first night of May (again in silence), carried the yarrow home, and went to bed without speaking a word. During the night, the future husband would appear in a dream (McNeill. 1959), though to be sure of him, he had to be facing the dreamer, if he had his back to her, they would never marry (Beith). Some said that the yarrow had to be picked at the new moon. This applied in Cornwall (Courtney). The yarrow divination travelled to America as well. In Massachusetts, for instance, the formula while walking three times round the yarrow, was:

Good evening, good evening, Mr Yarrow.

I hope I see you well tonight,

And trust I'll see you at a meeting tomorrow.

Then the girls would pluck the head, put it inside their dress, and sleep with it. The first person they met, or spoke to, at church, would be their husband (Bergen. 1896). In Dorset and most of the south of England, the yarrow had to come from a young man's grave (Udal, Watson). Everyone knows the divination game played by pulling off DAISY petals one by one (he loves me, he loves me not ."(see Vickery. 1995), or (rich man, poor man .). An American example uses the rhyme:

One I love, two I love, three I love I say Four I love, with all my heart, And five I cast away.

Six he loves, seven she loves, eight they both love, Nine he comes, ten he tarries, Eleven he counts, and twelve he marries (Whitney & Bullock).

Another way of playing the game is by naming the alphabet until the last petal is reached. This will give the first letter of the name of the girl's lover (Whitney & Bullock).

A gypsy divination using THORN-APPLE seeds, required nine seeds, ploughed-up earth from nine different places, and water from nine more. With these, the girl had to knead a cake, which was laid on a crossroad on Easter or St George's morning. If a woman stepped first on the cake, her husband would be a widower or older man, but if it was a man who trod on it, the husband would be single or young (Leland. 1891).

ORPINE, under another of its names, Midsummer Men, has been used for Midsumer Eve divinations for a very long time. Another name, Love-long, recalls its use by hanging up a piece named after a girl's boy-friends. The piece that lives longest determines the successful suitor. "In Gander Lane we saw in the banks some of the 'Midsummer Men' plants which my Mother remembers the servant maids and cottage girls sticking up in their houses on Midsummer Eve, for the purpose of divining about their sweethearts" (Kilvert). Other divinations are by the bending of the leaves to the right or left, telling whether a lover were true or false (Leather), or, as in America, to tell from what quarter the lover will come (Bergen. 1899). Also, if gathered by two people on Midsummer Eve, and the slips planted, they would know their fortune by the growing or otherwise of the slips. If they leaned towards each other, the couple would marry; if one withered, the person it represented would die (Radford & Radford). Aubrey had noticed the custom in 1686: "Also I remember, the mayds (especially the cooke mayds & Dayrymayds) would stick up in some Chinkes of the joists ... Midsommer-men, which are slips of orpins. They placed them by Paires: one for such a man, the other for such a mayd his sweet-heart, and accordingly as the Orpin did incline to, or recline from the other, that there would be love, or aversion; if either did wither, death". The belief travelled to America, too, albeit in an altered form. A record from New Brunswick advises "take a love-forever leaf, squeeze it to loosen the inner and outer skin. If it makes a balloon as you blow into it, you will be married and live a long time. If it does not, you will be an old maid" (Bergen 1899). ST JOHN'S WORT is another of the Midsummer plants, much used in divinations at that time. In Denmark, girls used to gather it and put it between the beams under the roof, in order to see the future - usually one plant for themselves and one for the boyfriend. If they grew together, it foretold a wedding. Or the plant was set between the beams, and if it grew upwards towards the roof, it was a good sign, but if downwards, sickness and death was forecast (Thorpe). Orkney girls used to gathered the Johnsmas (as Midsummer was known there) flowers, remove the florets, one long, one short, from each flower, wrap what remained in a docken leaf, and bury it overnight. If by morning the florets had re-appeared, it was taken as a happy omen (F M McNeill). Similarly, in parts of Germany, girls fasten sprigs to the walls of their rooms. If they are fresh next morning, a suitor may be expected. If it droops or withers, the girl is destined for an early grave. This custom was also known in Wales, where the plant had to be gathered at midnight, by the light of a glow-worm carried in the palm of the hand (J C Davies). HEMPSEED appears frequently in divinations, sown on Midsummer Eve and at Hallowe'en; often it is necessary for the hemp seed to be harrowed - "steal out unperceived, harrowing with anything you can conveniently draw after you ..." (Bell), or else the true love is the one who is supposed to appear to rake it. Sometimes hemp has to be cut, and this figures in the divinations:

Hempseed I sow, and hempseed I mow,

And he that is my sweetheart come follow me I

trow.

Or the apparition will do the cutting:

Hempseed I set, hempseed I sow,

The man that is my true love

Come after me and mow (Northall).

The significance lies in the fact that freshly-cut hemp is strongly narcotic (hence the bad headaches that the harvesters used to get).

A divination game, which must be modern, is played with a BANANA. To find out whether a boy is being faithful, the question is put, and the lower tip of the fruit is cut off. The answer is found in the centre of the flesh, either a Y, meaning yes, or a dark blob, meaning no (Opie & Opie. 1959). Clearly, the system can also be used to predict the outcome of many other activities, or to solve a problem that requires a simple yes or no answer (Vickery. 1995).

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