Friday, February 11, 2011

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

We are nearing the time of year when hearts start fluttering: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. As we’ve discussed, celebrating that day was highly popular in the nineteenth century, with plenty of cards and letters exchanged. But almost as popular was trying to determine who exactly your “true love” might be. After all, if you had a number of beaux flocking to your door, how were you to know which one to encourage?

Nineteenth century young ladies devised any number of schemes that were sure to tell them what they needed to know. Now, don’t try any of these at home. With the exception of the first, I highly doubt any of these will do more than keep you up at night!

  • Saying a prayer before going to sleep. The first man you saw the next morning was your true love. Note that anyone who lived in your house was exempt, which is a good thing or we would likely have had far too many cases of young ladies eloping with the footman!

  • Pinning bay leaves to your pillow. You pinned one leaf to each corner of your pillow and one in the center, and, when you slept, you would dream about your true love. Another version of this tradition has it that if you had a true love already and you dreamed of him, you were sure to marry him before the year was out. I don’t know about you, but laying my head on a pillow that smelled a bit like spaghetti sauce would probably have set me dreaming of Italian food rather than my one true love (although for some those might be the same thing!).

  • Eating a rather nauseating egg. You hard-boiled an egg, broke it in half with the shell in place, removed the yolk, and filled the space with salt. Then you ate the egg, shell and all, and refrained from speaking afterward before you fell asleep. You would then dream of your true love. Or perhaps a nice cup of chamomile tea.

  • Consulting floating paper. You took tiny scraps of paper and wrote the names of the gentlemen with whom you were acquainted. You then wrapped each piece of paper individually in clay and dropped them in water. Whichever one floated to the top first was the name of your true love. Another variation required the young lady to simply drop the paper pieces into the water and read the one that turned upward first. This variation sounds a little havey cavey to me: wouldn’t the ink just bleed once the paper hit the water?

Me? I think I’d have to rely on prayer and the whispers of my heart. Gosh, I guess that’s why I married my husband! That and the fact that he listens, he encourages, and he stands up for me. And he’s cute too (but don’t tell him I said that—he hates being called cute!).

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Anonymous said...

I remember hearing the pilgrim's answer to this. If you peeled an apple and managed to get the skin off in one continuous piece then swung it around your head and let it go that, provided it didn't break, it would land on the floor in the shape of your true love's initial. I can just see a bunch of older women coming up with this as a good way to get the younger ones to peel apples!

Regina Scott said...

Too funny! I remember friends of my sons twisting the stem on an apple and chanting the alphabet. Whichever letter you were on when the stem broke, that's the letter of the first name of the boy you're going to marry. A whole lot of girls were marrying someone named Adrian or Adam. :-)