Mythical Monday: Divining Love by Mae Clair

Young fashionably dressed couple with man in a top hat holding roseAs someone who reads and writes romance, it doesn’t surprise me that from the first glimmer of time, women—especially young girls—have had an insatiable curiosity to learn who their future husband might be. When I was a kid, there was a board game my friends and I used to play called Mystery Date.  I don’t remember much about it other than you collected cards and then spun a dial on a door to find out who your mystery date would be. The guys waiting on the other side ranged from a suave dancer in coat and tie, to a laid back surfer in beach clothing, and a string of others in between. Even then, as ten-year-old girls, we wanted to know the kind of guy we were going to end up with.

Women of the past were no different and often employed tricks of nature and time to catch a glimpse of their future husband. Certain days and seasons worked better than others, with some rituals highly involved, others basic. Of the later variety, a girl might place a two-leafed clover in her right shoe before venturing outside. The first man she encountered would either be her future husband or bear the same name. What a contrast, huh?

To discern the trade of the man she was destined to marry, all a girl had to do was gaze out her window on Valentine’s Day. The first bird she spied told the tale: Blackbirds indicated a cleric, a robin a sailor, a goldfinch a rich man. But woe to the poor maiden who spotted a woodpecker, for it was a certain indication she would never marry.

On Midsummer’s Eve maidens plucked rose blossoms and placed the petals beneath their pillows before falling asleep. On this magical night dreams were given power, allowing the girl to glimpse her future husband as she slept. The image would remain with her when she awoke, allowing her to recognize her true love in the waking world.

Happy groom and bride outdoors

On the eve of St. Agnes, the patron saint of virgins, girls would bake a mixture of flour, water, eggs, and salt, called a “dumb cake.” It had to be prepared in absolute silence and eaten before retiring.  If done correctly, the girl would meet her future husband in her dreams.

Another trick—performed on any night—was to walk around a churchyard twelve times at midnight. And, finally, on Christmas Eve, maidens prepared a feast to attract a husband. Like the dumb cake, the banquet had to be prepared in silence. The girl would set a sumptuous repast on the table then hide nearby. If a man appeared and ate the meal, he would marry her within the year. But the forces of darkness were at their peak in winter, and sometimes brought ill omens rather than favor. Should some foul monster devour the feast instead, it was a sign the poor maiden was doomed to marry a man who would make her miserable.

I’m sure there are many more superstitions related to seeing the future love of your life. I recall one about placing your shoes in the form of a “T” before going to bed, and I know there are several related to May Day. Can you think of any others? Have you ever tried any? I remember doing the shoe trick as a tween, but why I would have been thinking about a husband then, escapes me now.

Maybe I’ve just always been a diehard romantic. In any event, I met the right man. Dream or no dream, it’s beautiful magic.

18 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: Divining Love by Mae Clair

  1. Blast from the past some of these 😀 We used to use cherry pips, lay them out and go along saying. ‘tinker, tailor, solider, sailor’, and what ever it landed on was what you would marry!

  2. This is one of my favorites so far! Probably because it is so close to the romance that we write. What wonderful tidbits to include in a book some day. We used to have this diagram that we created with a box in the middle and four lines out to each side. We’d name four boys that we fancied, four cities, four cars (LOL) and four numbers. I think we then drew a spiral until the overseer (usually your girlfriend) said “stop.” She’d count all the arms of the spiral and that was your magic number, which then went into the box. She’d start at a “random” place on the diagram and count that number. When she landed on one, she’d cross it out and keep going until there was only one of each. This was supposed to tell us who we would marry, what city we were going to live in, what car we would drive and how many kids we would have. I think I’m remembering it right, but I could have mixed up more than one! Because there was also a version for your “mate for life” in cootie-catcher form, ya know one of those pyramid thingys that we made and wrote things on the inside flaps. It’s been too long!

    • Wow, you were super inventive. I loved this and can just imagine what a blast it must have been playing it with a bunch of your girlfriends. And I completely forgot about those pyramid thingies, but they were so much fun. Thanks for the reminder and a fun look back at the past!

  3. Sleeping with a sprig of rosemary, pinned inside your pillow the night before Valentine’s day, is supposed to conjure the face of your future husband in a dream. Can’t say that I ever tried it before though… Most enjoyable post Mae!

    • That’s a new one for me, Debbie. Valentine’s Day definitely seemed to be a conduit for a lot of magical charms. I love learning these. Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a wonderful post, Mae. I loved reading about these superstitions. Maybe if I’d tried one or two of these, I wouldn’t have had to do through two marriages to find the man of my dreams. Trial and error is definitely not the way to do it.

    • What counts is that you found him, Stanalei! 🙂 I guess sometimes it just takes longer than we expect, LOL. Superstitions shared with girlfriends were always fun. I wish I’d known more of them as a kid!

  5. Pingback: Mythical Monday: Divining Love by Mae Clair | F...

    • And that magical number 12 is in there too! And I think you know how I feel about that 🙂 I could definitely see that superstition factoring into a book!

  6. Fun, fun post. I’ve never heard of these, but when I was in sixth grade a friend of mine and I got a witchcraft book out of the library. It said to cut the footprint out of the grass of the boy you liked…don’t remember the rest. When my mother found out, she was so upset. She made me take that book back to the library and promise never to try anything like that again. To this day, I’m a little leery of witches and witchcraft.

    • LOL! I have to admit I steer clear of the witchy stuff too, but I love superstitions and folklore. I’ve never heard about cutting a footprint out of the grass, but I can just imagine you and your friend snooping around trying to find the right one. What fun that must have been! 🙂

  7. Loved this post. Anything to do with fortune telling and superstitions always intrigue me. I’m sure I tried some similar rituals as a young girl, possibly using playing cards, but I can’t remember much. This is now one of my favourite Mythical Monday features!

    • Thanks, Emma. My friends and I always enjoyed doing silly things that were supposed to show us the future, especially when it came to boys. I love looking back on stuff like that.

  8. Ooh fortune telling. How fun. I wish some of these methods were still around. All I remember doing is huddling around the game Dream Phone with my girlfriends and dialing fake numbers to find out which board game character liked you. “Hint* He’s not wearing a tie.” LOL

    • LOL! Dream Phone sounds a lot like a Mystery Date. Thinking about all those silly things we did with our girlfriends back then in so much fun. Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Jess. It’s great to meet you!

  9. Pingback: Friday Favorites | Stanalei Fletcher

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