A Russian Superstition - Divination by Means of Melted Lead - A Charm with Pips - The " Dumb

Cake " - St. Valentine's Day

"The passion for prying into futurity," wrote Burns, "makes a striking part of the history of human nature in all ages, and it may be some entertainment to see the remains of it in our own."

Undoubtedly, this desire is most keen concerning that which, according to Byron, constitutes "woman's whole existence"-namely, love, and all that appertains to love. Thus it is of interest to give a brief account of some quaint methods whereby maidens in different lands endeavour to obtain the coveted glimpse of their future husband.

Russian girls often seek to beguile the tedium of the long winter evenings by melting wax until it is very soft, and then pouring a spoonful of it upon the frozen snow. The form into which the wax congeals is supposed to portray the lineaments of the future spouse. In this, as in many other charms, a certain amount of imagination is required, but as this quality is seldom lacking in young maidens, some slight resemblance to a favoured swain can generally be traced.

Divination from Molten Lead

Another winter pastime is to cut a small strip of lead into little pieces, and put two or three of these into an old metal spoon, holding them in the fire till they liquefy, then dropping the contents into a cup or bowl of quite cold water. The forms into which the lead hardens are supposed to foretell the girl's fate.

For instance, a bouquet of flowers-a frequent shape-signifies a speedy marriage; a boat, that she will marry someone connected with the sea; a gun, rifle, or cannon, that her nearest and dearest will be a soldier; a cross, that he will belong to the clerical profession.

If the resemblances of trees or shrubs are formed, they are supposed to denote that after marriage the girl will live in the country; if blocks resembling houses or buildings appear, she will reside in a town.

A charm by which to find out a lover's initials is to cut twenty-six little squares out of paper or cardboard, and write one letter of the alphabet on each. Place these overnight, face downwards, in a basin of water, and those letters which have turned right side up by the morning are the fateful initials. If a complete name can be formed from them, great excitement prevails.

Austrian girls on the eve of St. Thomas (December 21) cut an apple in twain, and the pips in each half are carefully counted. If these are even in number, a marriage will soon take place; if one pip is cut through, the course of true love will not run too smoothly; but if two pips be severed, widowhood may be expected.

Yet another mode of divination directs one to throw a ball of red worsted out of the window after nightfall, retaining the end of the strand. When it touches the ground, the inquirer must begin to wind the held end round the fingers, and continue winding till all the worsted is re-wound. Then, as the last bit is drawn in over the window-ledge, the vision of the future mate will be seen coming into the room with the end of the wool.

St. Valentine's Charms

St. Valentine's Day, once the lovers' day par excellence, is now little observed, but two old customs are still sometimes practised

The first, a very simple one, consists in gathering five bay-leaves on the eve of St. Valentine's and pinning one to each of the four corners of the pillow, and the fifth in the centre. As usual, the sweetheart will appear in a dream.

The second rite decrees that an egg shall be boiled quite hard, the yolk removed, and its place filled with salt. On going to bed the egg must be eaten, without speaking or drinking after it! If any girl has the courage to consume this epicurean fare, she certainly deserves to obtain her wish, though it is more probable that she will have a nightmare.

The pretty term "The Birds' Wedding-day" still clings to this festival.

The "dumb cake" is a concrete example that silence is golden. Three girls are required for the performance of this charm-two to make the cake, two to bake it, and the third to place it under the pillows of each, strict silence being observed the whole time.