23 June 2011

23 June - Midsummer Night Love Charms

This is Midsummer Eve or Night.  Be wary of sleeping in the woods.  A person could end up looking like an ass.

"Methought I was enamored of an ass"

Put a bowl of water outside the window and break an egg into the water at the stroke of midnight, or pour melted lead into a bowl of water at noon.  The shape seen will indicate the occupation of the future spouse.

Boil an egg hard and, walking backwards, take it upstairs with a glass of water.  Place both on a chair or table next to your bed.  Get into bed backwards, saying,
It's not this egg I mean to eat, 
but my true love's heart I mean to seek
In his apparel and array
as he wears it every day.
If this is done properly, your lover should come in and drink the water [the egg, I suppose, is for you].

Make a dumb cake tonight with an equally inquisitive friend.  In total silence, mix and bake a cake, then break it in two, and each put a piece under her pillow.  You should dream of your future husband.

A little more involved recipe says that the party of girls must number three.  Mix and bake the cake in total silence, as usual.  At midnight, each girl eats a portion of the cake; then taking another portion in her hand, each walks backward to bed, places the bit of cake under her pillow, and goes to sleep.  The results are the same.

[Explain to Mom that the bay leaves in January didn't work, so you were trying again.  Admit that you are fully aware that cake in bed brings ants and and makes a mess.  Wash bed linens and sweep up crumbs]

Fast all day on Midsummer Eve.  At midnight, lay a cloth on the table, with bread and cheese, and a cup of the best beer.  Leave the door to the room open and sit down at the table as though you were going to eat [and if you have been fasting all day, you won't need urging twice].  You should see the person whom you will marry come into the room and drink to you. [Then explain to Dad what you are doing with a cup of his beer.]

Another form of this says that as midnight chimes, a shadowy figure will come in and (with very unspiritual appetite) attack the supper and disappear [it's likely Dad looking for a midnight snack].

This one takes a bit of courage.  Try drinking that cup of beer first.
Take a handful of hempseed, then go to the churchyard and scatter it around saying,
Hempseed I scatter, hempseed I sow
He that is my true love, come after me and mow.
Then look behind you.  Your true love should be standing there, scythe in hand.  Do not look again, but take off running for home.  If you turn around, or stop for an instant, the phantom will overtake you and cut your legs with his scythe.

At Eve last Midsummer no Sleep I sought,
But to the Field a Bag of Hemp-seed brought,
I scatter'd round the Seed on ev'ry side,
And three times in a trembling Accent cry'd,
This Hempseed with my Virgin Hands I sow,
Who shall my True-love be, the Crop shall mow.
I strait look'd back, and if my Eyes speak Truth
With his keen Scythe behind me came the Youth.
John Gay, The Shepherd's Week

For this charm, you will need a garter (a very long one), a bedpost, and bed-curtains:
Tie your garter nine times around the bed-post and tie nine knots in it, saying to yourself,
This knot I knit, this knot I tie
To see my love as he goes by
In his apparel and array,
As he walks in every day.
Your intended spouse will come in and tuck the bed-clothes around your feet and draw the bed-curtains.

If you wet a clean shift  and turn it wrong side out and hang it on the back of a chair before the fire, your lover will make an appearance [updated, that would be a slip or undershirt hung up in front of the radiator].

Place beneath your bed a basin filled with water, where float the letters of the alphabet face downwards.  If the fates be propitious, the morning light will reveal two or three letters which have turned over during the night, being the initials of those who are interested in you.

Put a snail on a pewter plate and watch to see the letter he marks out in his travels.  That is the initial of your future spouse's name.

Walk backward into the garden on Midsummer Eve or Day, pluck a rose, and keep it folded in a clean sheet of paper until Christmas Day (without looking at it).  You should find it as fresh as when you plucked it, and if you wear it in your corsage, the man who is to become your husband will come and pluck it out [sounds like a set-up, to me].

Sleep with nine different kinds of flowers under your pillow and you will dream of your future spouse.

Or sleep with three beans under your pillow for the same result.

While on the subject of beans, take three broad beans (also called 'fava') - one whole, one without the eye (the little black line at the top), and one without the shell - and place them in a bag.  Shake the bag, then draw out a bean.  The whole bean signifies a rich husband; the eyeless bean signifies a sickly husband; and the bean without a rind means a husband without a - bean.

Sow some grain in a pot, then put the pot in a place where the sun doesn't enter [like a closet].  In eight days, check the pot.  The grain should have sprouted, and if it is green and healthy, you will have a rich and handsome husband.  If it is yellow or white, the man will be the opposite of rich and handsome, and you might want to consider a life of single bliss.

Go out alone and fill a cup with running water [a spigot will probably do, if no creek is handy], saying,
Water, water, running free
May my love run swift to me.
Then gather red and white roses, arrange them in a heart shape on a table before an open window, and go to bed.  In the morning, if they are still fresh, your lover is true; if faded, not; and if disarranged, you will have a new sweetheart.  Shut your eyes and choose a rose.  If it is red, you will marry a rich man; if it is white, he will be poor.

Gather buds of house-leek tonight and name each after a possible suitor.  In the morning, the bud which has bloomed most indicates the future husband.

Pluck a flower of St. John's Wort tonight and carry it to the church door.  Your future spouse will be seen to pass into the church. [Hopefully not one of those who will die or become ill in the coming year.  See Midsummer Night Traditions.]

Sleep with a sprig of St. John's Wort under your pillow to dream of your future husband.

Set Orpine (also known as 'Midsummer Man') in pieces of clay or potsherd, water it, and place it in the house.  In the morning, look to see if the stalk inclines to the left or right.  If right, your lover is true; if left, not.

Another charm with orpine is learned by planting two slips of it in a pot (naming one slip for the person in whom you are interested) and watching to see which way they grow.  If they lean towards each other, you and Interesting will eventually marry; if one withers, the person represented will die within the year.

Wives also used this charm to determine if their husbands were true to them - if the plants leaned together, the answer was yes; if they leaned apart... well, I'm sure that if the one representing the husband wasn't already withered, it soon would be.

Rev. Francis Kilvert wrote in his diary for June 11, 1873: "...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 and bedrooms on Midsummer Eve, for the purpose of divining about their sweethearts."

Artwork above: Henry Fuseli, Titania, Bottom, and the Fairies, c1794, Kunsthaus, Zurich