Monday, February 12, 2018

Valentine's Day Superstitions and Folklore

Love has many convolutions, doesn't it? And as if the whole process of falling in love and romancing isn't fraught enough with difficulties, there are also many superstitions about it! Some try to be helpful, others give warning. 

This first one is kind of sweet, though. Some may believe that birds have nothing to do with romance, but in fact, legend has it that if a woman spots a winged creature on February 14, the type of bird she sees will predict the type of man she will marry. For example, reports that those who notice a bluebird within their vicinity are likely to marry with a happy man while women who see a robin will get engaged to a preacher. Just don’t go looking for owls, which supposedly indicate the viewer will remain single. Audubon's website says that you can expect the following for each of these birds:

Raptor: leader, powerful person
Bluebird: Comedian
Duck: stable, homey person
Sparrow: farmer
Canary: doctor
Turkey: environmental activist
Swan: writer or dancer

According to the Chinese, you can guarantee yourself a long life by eating a whole strand of noodles without breaking or cutting it. Cabbage also promises luck and fortune, and pomegranates bring fertility and abundance. 

We talk of birds and bees in relation to romance, but flowers have always played a large role in courtship. You can make whole bouquets to tell the story of your love if you're tongue-tied. Red flowers mean passion and romance, white flowers are for purity, pink for sweetness, and yellow symbolizes friendship. Naughty orange represents desire.There is a little book on the meaning of flowers that lists hundreds of blooms and their meanings.

In older days people believed that a single woman would marry the first single man she sees on Valentines Day. And count yourself lucky if you wake up to a kiss on Valentine's Day! Well, actually it would make a person feel lucky on any day, wouldn't it?

The apple didn't only have a role in the story of Adam and Eve. It also features in some love superstitions. Like if a young girl wonders how many children she might have, she could cut an apple open and count the seeds. 

And if a girl or boy thinks of several people who might be a good match for them they can recite those names while twisting an apple's stem. The name being chanted when the stem breaks is the lucky one. 

Another Valentine's Day activity that seems to have been part of several cultures was to match people up for the day by drawing lots, or by pulling names from a hat. That would be your sweetheart for the day. (I wonder how often this resulted in actual matches?) Some people think this was the beginning of the cards we send on Valentine's Day.

A few more great superstitions:

If you see a squirrel on Valentine's Day, you will marry a cheapskate who will hoard all your money.

If a man gives a girl a gift of clothing on Valentine's Day and she keeps it, then she has accepted is proposal of marriage. 

Find a glove on Valentine's Day and your true love will have the other glove.

In Wales, wooden love spoons would be carved and given as gifts. Favored decorations for the spoons were hearts, keys and keyholes...the decorations meaning "You unlock my heart!" I have one of these that we brought back from Wales.

The website Noverinna offers the following about this holiday, along with lots of other lore and history:

"In Great Britain during the 1700s, one very popular custom on the Eve of Valentine's Day, was for ladies to pin five bay leaves sprinkled with rose water to their leaf pinnned to the center and one to each corner. Eggs with salt replacing the removed yokes were then consumed before retiring for the evening. Before going to sleep, the lady would recite the following little prayer: "Good valentine, be kind to me; In dreams, let me my true love see." If this charm worked, then the lady would see her future husband in her dreams.
 In Great Britain, a woman would write the names of their sweethearts on small scraps of paper which would be placed on clay balls. The balls were dropped into water with the belief that whichever scrap of paper surfaced first would be the name of the man destined to be the future husband."

Let's close with this classic poem for the day, by e.e. cummings:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)
e. e. cummings 1952

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

1 comment:

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Our ancestors must have spent a lot of time dreaming up all these myths and superstitions! Makes you wonder if people ever really believed them.

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