Overview

love divination


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Of all the varieties of divination in English folklore, by far the most common is concerned with love, courtship, and marriage, and most regional collections include several examples. Love divinations take a wide variety of forms but the basic principles are clear enough, and the underlying premises is as follows: If you (1) do something (2) in a certain way (3) at a certain time (4) you will discover or influence the future of your love-life. For any particular instance of divination, the instructions for elements 1–3 can be plotted on a continuum from simple to complex ingredients and actions, and these correlate closely with a scale from easy to do to difficult to do. More striking, however, is the scale subsumed in element 4—ranging from information to compulsion. The desired result can at the simplest end be to find out something about one's future spouse (the first letter of his name, his occupation, etc.), while at the other end the actions can be designed to force the man of your choice to take notice of you, which is where divination shades off into magic. At a point between these extremes are actions designed to make him appear to you— either safely in a dream or less safely in a mirror or even as a sort of spirit or wraith who is drawn to your presence.

In older records, love divinations cluster around certain days of the year (Halloween, Midsummer, St Agnes's Eve, St Valentine's Day, New Year), and the symbolic power of the particular date is thus added to the potency of the time of day (usually midnight), as well as the prescribed ingredients and actions.

At the simplest end of the spectrum are the cherry-stones, buttons, petals on a daisy, and so on, chanting ‘He loves me, loves me not …’, or the ubiquitous ‘Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor …’. The first recorded version of this type of procedure only dates from the 1820s, but it is commonly reported from then on.

A little more complex are those which use everyday objects:To meet your future wife or husband count seven stars in the sky on seven successive nights, and on the eighth day the first person with whom you shake hands will be your wife or husband. (Addy,1895: 76)To find out whether your husband will have light or dark hair, take a table-knife with a white haft and spin it round on a table. If it stops with the blade towards you your husband will be a dark-haired man; if with the haft, he will be a light-haired man. (Addy, 1895: 82)

To meet your future wife or husband count seven stars in the sky on seven successive nights, and on the eighth day the first person with whom you shake hands will be your wife or husband. (Addy,1895: 76)

To find out whether your husband will have light or dark hair, take a table-knife with a white haft and spin it round on a table. If it stops with the blade towards you your husband will be a dark-haired man; if with the haft, he will be a light-haired man. (Addy, 1895: 82)

[...]


Reference entries

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