Love of the Irish
La Vailintin sona! Happy Valentine’s Day! In celebration of the holiday, today’s post is dedicated to the folklore, traditions, and superstitions about love and marriage.
The Truth About Your True Love
Do you believe you have a one and only, a soulmate specifically meant for you? If you do, you haven’t met him/her yet, and you’re curious what she/he will be like, you’re in luck. Irish folklore offers two ways for you to dream about your true love. The most commonly used method is to sleep with lavender under your people. An alternative is to use honeysuckle. You could just go with whichever scent you prefer but the latter brings a bonus with it. According to the folklore, having honeysuckle in the house will bring about a marriage within twelve months. But there’s a drawback too. Honeysuckle is said to cause risqué dreams. Of course, some people might not see that as a bad thing.
Irish folklore also names ways to determine how happy you and your beloved will be. But be warned. Two of the three ways are a bit hazardous. The first way is to take two hazelnuts, one representing you and the other representing your intended. Place them in a flame-resistant container, such as a pot or a heat-proof bowl, leaving a little distance between them. Light a match and place it between the two nuts and watch how the nuts react. If they move toward one another, your relationship with your true love will be happy. If the nuts move away from each other, you will have a difficult or short-lived relationship. If the nuts dance a bit back and forth, be careful about entering into the relationship at all. It will be an emotional roller coaster ride.
Cabbages also can be used to divine whether or not you and your beloved will be happy. This method, though, requires you to run through a cabbage patch blindfolded and randomly stop to pick up a head of cabbage. Take the vegetable home and cook it. if tastes good, all will be well. If it’s bitter…well, you know. I would strongly recommend not using this method. You could end up with more than a broken heart.
Attracting Love and Romance
Whether you believe everyone has a one-and-only or you think love is a lottery, before you live happily ever after you first have to meet and fall in love. Celtic folklore has a wealth of advice on how to draw love to you magically. Fortunately, none of it requires cooking eyes of newt bat wings.
One of the simplest ways to call love to you is to tie a ribbon from a hawthorn tree on Beltane and ask the faeries to send romance to you. But you also can attract love by using flowers and spices. Lavender and roses are associated with romance in many cultures, but Irish folklore recommends using hot spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. These are said to arouse passion. Here are a few suggestions for using these flowers and spices.
--Spray rosewater on your front door or rub a rose-infused oil on your wrists.
--Bathe in lavender or drink lavender tea.
--For guys who don’t want to smell too girly, savory rosemary is said to attract love as well.
--Add chamomile to any of the above as it is said to strengthen love spells and to induce marriage proposals.
--Invite someone you’re interested in over to your house for dinner. Use the hot spices in your cooking and burn a cinnamon candle for atmosphere.
--A final way to win someone’s heart (if you have a special someone in mind) is to turn a bluebell inside out without tearing it. But beware! This activity is risky. Bluebells are a favorite flower of the faeries. If you harm the flower while you’re attempting to turn it inside out, you’ll likely incur the wrath of the Good People. Before attempting this one, you should read my post “Irish Faeries: They’re No Disney Princesses” to find out how scary angry faeries can be!
Good Luck on the Wedding Day
You’ve fallen in love with someone who equally loves you. The two of you decided to make it permanent. Congratulations! And what every couple needs at the start of a marriage is a bit of good luck. Of course, you’ve heard the phrase “the luck of the Irish,” but the Irish know luck can go either way. So, they take steps on and before the wedding day to ensure good luck on the wedding day—or, at least, to avoid bad luck.
If the sun shines on the bride on the morning of her wedding, the couple, according to superstition, will have a happy marriage. But you can’t always depend on the weather to cooperate, so before the day, just to be sure, the bride’s family will place a statue of the Child of Prague outside the church. This is said to be a potent preventer of rain.
Encountering a funeral procession on the way to the church means terrible bad luck for the bride and groom and their marriage. So, careful thought and planning must be put into choosing the best route to the church. On the other hand, if the bride or groom hears a cuckoo or sees three magpies, that means very good luck for them. The couple also longs to hear is the ringing of the church bells. These are said to chase away evil. In contemporary Ireland, bells are a popular wedding gift. Some brides even wear a bracelet of bells during the ceremony. In fact, the bride can bring considerable good luck to the marriage simply by the things she brings with her as she walks down the aisle. Find out about them below.
The Bride’s Needs
While American brides tend to wear veils, Irish women traditionally do not. Instead, their hair is ornamented with flowers and lace. Many also wear their hair in braids as this is a symbol of feminine power. It’s extremely important, though, that the bride doesn't fix her own hair for the wedding. If she does, it will bring bad luck.
For good luck, the bride will carry a few things with her. Bells on a charm bracelet are said to chase away evil and harm. Another lucky item is a horseshoe. In the old days, Irish brides carried a real one, but nowadays, a small metal horseshoe charm or pin will do. For good luck, the bride wears old shoes and tucks a coin (traditional a sixpence piece) in the shoe. Finally, she wears her magic hanky. This is a lace handkerchief that has been passed down from mother to daughter through the generations. No self-respecting Irish bride would get married without it.
On leaving the church, three more traditions must be followed to obtain luck for the happy couple. The first person to wish the bride joy needs to be a man. If a woman does it, the couple essentially is doomed. For further good luck, the groom tosses coins to the children and someone must toss a shoe over the bride’s head (hopefully it's someone with good aim).
Reception Dos and Don’ts
At the reception, traditionally, a harpist should play at least a little something. More contemporary music can be played later during the dancing. Of course, the bride and groom are the first to dance, but he must be careful not to lift her up. At least one of the bride’s feet must remain on the ground at all times or she will be carried off by the faeries.
There is always a lot of food at a wedding reception but, at an Irish reception, tradition and superstition play a role in food and beverage choices. According to superstition, the first thing the bride and groom should eat is oatmeal. This, it is said, will protect them from the evil eye. Traditionally, the couple should drink honey wine, not only at the reception but throughout the honeymoon (the first 30 days of the marriage). This is to increase fertility.
And, naturally, there will be a wedding cake. A traditional Irish wedding cake is a multi-layered fruitcake soaked in whiskey. Single women are given a slice to take home to place under their pillows so they will dream of their own true loves. An extra piece also is given to the groom’s mother. She then breaks this slice of cake over her new daughter-in-law’s head. Somehow, this ensures a life-long friendship between the two women.
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Slan go foil!