IF on midsummer-eve a young woman takes off the shift which I she has been wearing, and, having washed it, turns its wrong side out, and hangs it in silence over the back of a chair, near the fire, she will see, about midnight, her future husband, who deliberately turns the garment.
If a young lady will, on midsummer-eve, walk backwards into the garden and gather a rose, she has the means of knowing who is to be her husband. The rose must be cautiously sewn up in a paper bag, and put aside in a dark drawer, there to remain until Christmas-day.
On the morning of the Nativity the bag must be carefully opened in silence, and the rose placed by the lady in her bosom. Thus she must wear it to church. Some youngman will either ask for the rose, or take it from her without asking. That young man is destined to become eventually the lady’s husband.
“At eve last midsummer no sleep I sought,
But to the field a bag of hemp-seed brought;
I scatter’d round the seed on every side,
And three times in a trembling accent cried,–
‘This hemp-seed with my virgin hand I sow,
Who shall my true love be, the crop shall mow.’
I straight look’d back, and, if my eyes speak truth,
With his keen scythe behind me came the youth.”
The practice of sowing hemp-seed on midsummer-eve is not especially a Cornish superstition, yet it was at one time a favourite practice with young women to try the experiment. Many a strange story have I been told as to the result of the sowing, and many a trick could I tell off, which has been played off by young men who had become acquainted with the secret intention of some maidens. I believe there is but little difference in the rude rhyme used on the occasion, —
“Hemp-seed I sow,
Hemp-seed I hoe,”
(the action of sowing the seed and of hoeing it in, must be deliberately gone through) ;–
“And he Who will my true love be,
Come after me and mow.”
A phantom of the true lover will now appear, and of course the maid or maidens retire in wild affright.
If a young unmarried woman stands at midnight on Midsummer-eve in the porch of the parish church, she will see, passing by in procession, every one who will die in the parish during the year. This is so serious an affair that it is not, I believe, often tried. I have, however, heard of young women who have made the experiment. But every one of the stories relate that, coming last in the procession, they have seen shadows of themselves; that from that day forward they have pined, and ere midsummer has again come round, that they have been laid to rest in the village graveyard.
-Popular Romances of the West of England-
Illustration: Ernest Quost