By Lydia O'shea
The old proverb says "Pride feels no pain." Evidently this is true of curiosity, for otherwise one would think a half-brick taken from the nearest churchyard was not a very comfortable thing to have beneath one's pillow in order to dream of one's lover. Shropshire lassies, however, do not seem to mind this, nor the fact that the brick must be obtained at the witching hour of twelve.
The "peaspod " wooing is so called from the following device :
If one's apron-strings become unfastened of their own accord, it is a sign that one's lover's thoughts are busy with one. The same is believed when one's hair becomes loose and falls upon the shoulders, or the right ear burns.
There are also three popular flower-fancies. The flowering of a red rose in the garden early in the year is a sign of an early marriage for one of the members of the family, preferably for the owner of the tree if she be unmarried.
A second rose charm to be observed falls on June 27. The flower must be full-blown and as bright a red as can be obtained, also it must be plucked between three and four in the morning, quite unobserved. The maid must then carry it to her chamber, and hold it over a chafing-dish or any metal bowl capable of holding charcoal and sulphur of brimstone.
The rose must be held over this smoke for five minutes, and then placed at once in a sheet of paper on which is written the name of the diviner, the name of her favourite lover, the date of the year, and the name of the morning star then in the ascendant. The girl must then seal up the paper with three separate seals, and bury the packet at the foot of the tree from which the rose was gathered. There it must remain till July 6, then be dug up at midnight, and placed beneath the pillow, and wonderful dreams will follow. The rose may be slept on three nights without invalidating the charm.
A Picturesque Belief
From this complicated charm we turn to a simple one, which ordains that any girl desiring to keep her lover true to her shall grow the beautiful "love-in-a-mist" in her house or garden. So long as she tends it faithfully, so long will her lover remain constant and loyal. But, pretty as this fancy is, it is undoubtedly her own true heart that makes and keeps him leal for aye.
Love-in-a-Mist, may the angels guide you, Safe from the death and danger beside you, Lead you home your unlighted path, To the love that's patient and yours till death, Love-in-a-mist!
Love-in-a-Mist, may the angels tend you ! The eyes of God look down and befriend you! There is death in the valley, but up on the hill, The stars are shining - the night is still, Love-in-a-mist!
As the conditions and environment of feminine life alter and develop, changes are naturally wrought. The woman of to-day, therefore, has, by force of circumstances, become more self-reliant, stronger in nerve, and infinitely broader in mind than her dainty and secluded grandmother. Yet deep down in her heart - that heart which is so delightfully unalterable in all ages - there still lingers a sincere affection for the quaint old beliefs which were so cherished by her ancestors.
Everyone knows that To change the name and not the letter, Is to wed for the worse and not the better.
But only a few know the superstition that if a woman have both the initial and final letter of her Christian name identical with those of her lover, it foretells a happy union.
Birds are responsible for many superstitions, particularly the cuckoo,the robin, and the cock.
One superstition, which originated in East Anglia, but spread practically over the entire country, bade a maiden listen for the first call of the cuckoo, and when its welcome note sounded over the meadow or coppice, run into the field, and drawing off her left shoe, look into it, because there she would find a man's hair of the same colour as that of her future husband.
In Denmark, as soon as the cuckoo is heard in the woods, each village Chloe goes out and kisses her hand to the grey-feathered visitor, saying :
Cuckoo, cuckoo, when shall I be married ?
And the bird foretells the waiting years.
The fair-haired daughters of Sweden have a pretty rhyme to the same effect:
Cuckoo grey tell me, Up in the tree, true and free, How many years I must live and go unmarried ?
Thus Milton wrote in his " Sonnet to the Nightingale " :
The liquid notes that close the eye of day, First heard before the shallow cuckoo's bill Portend success in love.
This idea was also current as early as Chaucer's time, and Wordsworth enlarged on it But tossing lately on a sleepless bed - I of a token thought which lover's need. How among them it was a common tale, That it was good to hear the nightingale Ere the vile cuckoo's note be uttered.
If on a St. Valentine's Day a Derbyshire girl peeps through the keyhole of the hen-house door before opening the door, and beholds a cock and hen sitting quietly together, it is a sure omen that she will be married before the year is out.
In Russia, Chanticleer decides the maiden's fate. A party of girl-friends will repair to a barn or hayloft, and each will hide a ring under a little heap of corn on the floor. Proud Chanticleer is then brought in, and, after investigating his surroundings, he will turn his attention to the corn, the owner of the ring which he first discloses is regarded as the first bride-elect.
If anyone stumbles in preceding you upstairs, an early wedding is foretold; if, in rising from the table, your skirt catches in your chair and causes you to stumble or fall backward, your chance of marriage will be delayed. Two spoons in one tea-saucer denote a speedy union.
A curious and inexplicable superstition among the Highlanders forbids the gift of a dog between lovers unless they desire to court much ill-luck, but in the North Riding of Yorkshire black cats are much esteemed.
There were anxious times during the great Civil War for many a maid, whose lover was paying the penalty of loyalty to the defeated King. The clutches of Cromwell's minions were far reaching. It was hard to escape them, and the scene reproduced above, from a painting by Sir John Millais, is full of meaning. Such incidents were of daily occurrence