Today I ran as if Death were on my heels. Which supposedly He was. It’s Midsummer’s Eve. Midsummer is often confused with the Solstice but traditionally the Eve falls today and the Day falls tomorrow. Although slightly confusingly, Midsummer is also the term used to describe the period between yesterday and next Monday. Basically, it’s just one long beano.
Midsummer’s Eve is another of those nights where love divination is game on with lots of ways to do it. I chose hemp seeds. Mainly because I couldn’t find orpine, fern seed, or a lump of coal buried under a mugwort, I only had dried St John’s wort, and I’ve already fasted, and baked a dumb cake.
Ignoring the best before date of September 2016, I popped a handful of hemp seeds into my apron (see t-shirt pocket) and went to the nearest siding. Like with all these kinds of divinations, there’s never one true way. There are always different rhymes, different actions, different locations, different times. So I merged one from Vickery with one from Simpson and Roud, and repeated the following nine times:
Hempseed I sow, hempseed grow
For my true love, to come and mow
while dipping into my pocket with my right hand and scattering the hempseeds over my left shoulder. Then I legged it, for it’s said that once you’ve completed the ritual you must run back inside otherwise Death cuts off your legs with a scythe. However, to complicate matters while you’re running you’re also supposed to look back over your shoulder to see a vision of your true love mowing the freshly grown hemp.
I saw a jogger. He didn’t stop. I also dropped my phone in the middle of the road and smashed the screen. Thanks, Death.
But I did return home with all my limbs still intact, so I’m calling that a win. And of course, doing it this way meant that I didn’t have to run clockwise seven times round a church at midnight. Which will never not be a good thing.
If you’ve like what you’ve read, don’t be afraid to scroll down and share, or even subscribe! Oh and watch out for fairies and witches tonight. You’re welcome.
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Hazlitt, W.C. (1995) The Dictionary of Faiths and Folklore, Beliefs, Superstitions and Popular Customs, London, Bracken Books
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books
Simpson, J. and Roud, S. (2001) Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford, Oxford University Press
Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson