With Valentine's Day approaching, I thought I'd write about a book I picked up a little while ago at a charity book fair. It is Lovespells: The Authentic Collection of a White Witch by Claire Nahmad with illustrations by Juliette Pearce.
This lovely little hardback volume was published in 1993, but claims to contain wisdom passed down in handwritten manuscripts from the author's grandmother and great-grandmother, who were both wisewomen in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the 19th century.
The spells are all to do with love - mostly divinations to help girls learn something about their future husbands, what their betrothed will be like and when they will marry. Some are to attract a lover, while others are to find out if a man's love is true or false.
What is interesting about this book of spells is that they nearly all call upon saints to help bring about the desired effect, or are to be cast on saint's days or the evening. Some require the use of a bible or prayer book and a few need to be cast at the porchway of a church. One tends to think of the church disapproving of magic, but Claire explains that in the past few centuries: "Christianity and wiselore were by no means incompatible - rather they were considered as complementary to each other".
Although Valentine's Day may now be considered the prime time for thoughts of love, only a couple of the spells in this book are specifically intended to be cast on Valentine's Day. One involves taking five bay leaves, pinning four of them to the corners of your pillow and one in the middle before calling upon your guardian angel seven times to grant you a dream of your future betrothed while you sleep.
I'm not sure I would recommend the use of pins in this way, however traditional the spell might be. Getting one's face scratched or eye pricked in the night seems a high-risk strategy for winning a husband. Perhaps stitching the bay leaves in place - or taping them there - would be a safer option.
The second Valentine's Day spell suggests that those in love should pin a yellow crocus over their heart, as this flower is dedicated to St Valentine. Crocuses have long been associated with love and fertility.
One snippet of folklore that particularly interested me was advice on tea-leaf reading in regards to questions of marriage, because I've been trying to learn the skill of tea-leaf reading this year.
To do this, one drinks a cup of leaf tea, swirls the dregs about and then upends the cup before looking at the patterns left in the leaves. Claire suggests that if tea-leaves lie thickly at the bottom of the cup you will be married within a year, if the leaves cluster about the handle, you will have many friends, allies and suitors, but if the leaves all sit on the opposite side from the handle you must count the clusters to find the number of years before your wedding day.
This interested me because the way of measuring time is the opposite of that suggested in The Art of Tea-Leaf Reading by Jane Struthers. In that book, author Jane says that patterns at the bottom of the cup indicate things that will happen long in the future, but shapes near the rim show things that will happen soon.
I suspect this only proves that when you are reading books of spells and magic lore you should always be guided by your own common sense and intuition before deciding what you believe and how you interpret the advice.
Lovespells: The Authentic Collection of a White Witch is available to buy secondhand via Amazon.
Lovespells: The Authentic Collection of a White Witch