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.

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Christmas Eve Legends

The celebration of Christmas touches us each in different ways. For me, as for many, it is a religious holiday, but it’s also a time for merriment, family, celebration and joy. There is a special magic that occurs at Christmas which transcends description, an enchantment of being that is spiritual, mythical and mystical. The power of believe!

The Eve of Christmas is noted for many old world superstitions and beliefs, among them the idea that the veil between worlds grows thin, allowing the departed to return to the homes of their loved ones.

bigstock-Medieval-Tavern-3878785 lightenedIn Scandinavia, people prepared feasts for the spirits, setting a table laden with holiday fare. They had their own festive celebration first, then before retiring for the night, made certain all the bowls and platters were refilled and heaping with food, jugs were brimming with Yule ale, and a fire burned brightly in the hearth. Many times chairs were wiped clean with a white cloth. The following morning the cleaning process was repeated and, if a bit of earth was discovered, it was proof-positive a visitor from the grave had been there.

Another myth related to Christmas Eve involved animals. At the stroke of midnight many believed animals could speak in human voices.  The downside? Anyone who overheard an animal talk usually met with an untimely end or some other dreadful circumstance. Probably why no one has ever reported hearing Fluffy and Fido shoot the breeze. How I would love to have a one-on-one with a cat!

In Europe it is said cattle kneeled to worship the new-born King, and that bees came together in great numbers to hum a Christmas hymn. Wouldn’t that be something to hear?

The creepiest legend I found involved a blacksmith. One Christmas Eve when a bell tolled, beckoning all the people of his village to midnight mass, he ignored the summons and continued to work. Not long after, a stranger arrived. Tall, but stooped over, he asked the blacksmith to add a nail to his scythe. When the blacksmith finished the task, the stranger told him to summon a priest for the work would surely be his last. The next morning the smitty perished, never realizing he had repaired the scythe of the Grim Reaper.

Surprisingly, there are many legends and superstitions related to this holiday, those above only a sampling of what I found. Given I’m a Myth-monger, I found all of them riveting. One item, however, that is certainly not a myth is the pleasure I receive from sharing these. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Whether you discover talking animals tonight, friendly phantoms come to call, or just the good cheer of family and friends, may your Christmas Eve be blessed and merry!