Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

In Elizabethan times the seed of ferns was thought to be invisible, except for a few moments around midnight on Midsummer Eve, when it could be seen falling to the ground; anyone who could catch some in a pewter plate would be invisible while he carried it. In 19th-century Lancashire, ‘It is said that young people went to Clough, near Moston, to gather silently the seeds of “St John's fern” on the Eve of St John's Day, to gain the affections of those maidens who would not accept their attentions’ (Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society 25 (1907), 69). In Lincolnshire, St Mark's Eve was called ‘the Devil's Harvest’ because ferns were said to bud, blossom, and yield seed, all between midnight and 1 a.m., and the Devil would harvest it; anyone who caught some between two pewter plates would become as wise as the Devil (J. A. Penny, Lincolnshire N&Q 3 (1892–3) 209).

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.