Conjuring the Man You'll Marry on St. Agnes Eve Jan 18, 2018 16:00:07 GMT -5 Kate and Joanna like this
Post by Graveyardbride on Jan 18, 2018 16:00:07 GMT -5
Conjuring the Man You’ll Marry on St. Agnes Eve
Ladies, if you’re single and wish to dream of your future partner, bake a dumb cake and get ready for St. Agnes Eve! January 20, the Eve of St. Agnes, is traditionally the night when girls and unmarried women desiring to dream of their future husbands would perform certain rituals before going to bed. Bizarrely, some of these rituals included transferring pins, one by one, from a pincushion to a sleeve while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Other methods involved fasting all day, or walking backwards to bed while reciting the following verse:
Sweet St. Agnes, work thy fast
If ever I be to marry man,
Or even man to marry me
I hope him this night to see.
Another tradition was to eat a slice of dumb cake before bed, hoping to dream of a future love by reciting:
St. Agnes, that’s to lovers kind
Come ease the trouble of my mind.
In Scotland, young women would meet in a field at midnight, throw grain onto the soil and intone:
Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,
Hither, hither, now repair;
Bonny Agnes, let me see
The lad who is to marry me.
So Who was St. Agnes? She was a beautiful young Christian girl of good family who lived in Rome in the early 4th century AD. The son of a Roman prefect wanted her as his wife, but she refused him, saying “Jesus Christ is my only spouse.” She was determined to remain pure and devote herself to religious piety. Angered by her refusal, the snubbed suitor denounced her to the authorities as a Christian. Her punishment for this offense was to be thrown into a public brothel, however, the Hand of God intervened. According to one legend, all the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind or rendered paralyzed. In another, her virginity was preserved by thunder and lightning from Heaven. Though she was spared a fate worse than death, she was by no means free because the authorities declared that only a witch had such powers and she was sentenced burn at the stake. The young martyr was tied to the pole, but the wood spread around her would not ignite. Eventually, one of the frustrated guards beheaded her with his sword.
Agnes was no more than 12- or 13-years-old when she was executed for her faith on January 21, 304 AD. When her parents visited their daughter’s tomb eight days later, they were greeted by a chorus of angels, one of whom was Agnes herself, and there was a white lamb beside her – the lamb being a symbol of purity. St. Agnes is the patron saint of chastity, girls, virgins, engaged couples and rape victims and the lamb is one of the symbols associated with the saint.
One of John Keats’ best-loved poems, published in 1820, is “The Eve of St. Agnes,” which recounts the story of Madeline and her lover Porphyro. The poem references the tradition in which girls aspire to dream of their future husbands on the Eve of St. Agnes:
Upon St Agnes’ Eve,
Young virgins might have visions of delight,
And soft adorings from their loves receive ...
Dumb Cake. This is a cake made on an auspicious day – St. Agnes Eve (January 20), St. Mark’s Eve (April 24), Midsummer’s Eve or Halloween – used to discover the identity of a woman’s future husband. “Dumb” may be derived from the middle English “doom,” meaning “fate” or “destiny.”
The Rev. M.C.F. Morris, in his “Yorkshire Folk Talk” of 1892, writes: “The proper day for making Dumb Cake was the eve of St. Agnes. What all the ingredients of the cake were, I know not, but one principal one was salt. I remember being told some years ago, by an old inhabitant in one of the dales, about the composition of this mystic cake. It was somewhat as follows:
“In the first place, four people had to assist in the making of it, each taking an equal share in the work, adding small portions of its component parts, stirring the pot and so forth. During the whole time of its manufacture and consumption, a strict silence has to be observed. Even when it is being taken out of the oven, each of the interested parties must assist in the work. When made, it is placed on the table in the middle of the room and the four persons stand at the four corners of the room. When set on the table, the cake is divided into equal portions and put upon four plates or vessels. The spirit of the future husband of one of the four would then appear and taste from the plate of his future bride, being only visible to her whose husband he was destined to be. As a preliminary to this, every door of the house had to be thrown open. The traditional hour for making the feast was midnight.”
Most extant records suggest the Dumb Cake was very plain. The Evening Telegraph on Thursday, June 21, 1928, published an article indicating the Dumb Cake “was a concoction of water, flour, sugar and salt, and no other ingredient, and absolute silence had to be maintained throughout the entire operation. The next condition was that two must make it, two must bake it and two must break it.”
But it might also have contained remarkable ingredients. It is possible that Dumb Cake is a remnant of an ancient shamanic or Druidic ritual wherein the visions of future husbands were assisted by the addition of hallucinogenic herbs such as mistletoe, a possibility heightened by the fact the Dumb Cake is associated with another well-known spinster’s ritual of planting Cannabis hemp ....
Miss Arabella Whimsey recalled in The Leeds Mercury (Thursday, September 29, 1870): “I shall never forget what I did last Midsummer-eve. I and my two sisters tried the dumb-cake together. You must know, two must make it, two bake it, two break it, and the third put it under each of their pillows, but you must not speak a word all the time, then you will dream of the man you are to have. This we did; and to be sure I did nothing all night but dream of Mr. Blossom. The same night, exactly at twelve o’clock, I sowed hemp-seed in our backyard and said to myself:
Hemp-seed I sow,
hemp-seed I lies,
and he that is my true love
come after me and mow!
“Will you believe me? I looked back and saw him behind me, as plain as eyes could see him.”
However, the Dumb Cake could also have unfortunate consequences for those in later times who only half-remembered the ritual and had largely forgotten the cake’s ingredients, as recounted in this report from 1813:
Fatal Effects of Superstition: “The following circumstance, which ought to operate as a caution to the ignorant and superstitious, occurred about a month ago in the mansion of Charles Wood, Esq., at Thoresby, near Louth.
“Three females in the service of that gentleman, entertaining the prevalent notion that by partaking of a cake called a dumb cake, which among other ingredients, was to contain a portion of the juice or leaves of a certain tree (not named to us, but perhaps the “magic mistletoe”), they should enjoy the pleasure of dreaming of their sweethearts, weeding days, etc., went in search of this love and joy inspiring plant; but not being sufficiently skilled in the occult sciences, and not choosing to consult the gardener or his herbal, they mistook either the hellebore or the laurel (tree of immortal glory) for the still more pleasing and charm-fraught tree of earthly love, and gathered a potent quantity of the deadly ingredient, with which they imbued their cake. Of this they all three partook and to make the spell work, placed also a portion under their pillows.
“The effect was more sudden than they supposed it would be, for the family had not long retired to rest when they were awakened by groans and cries of distress and on repairing to the servants’s room, who were unable to attend the call, a scene presented itself truly shocking to contemplate. One of the girls had expired under the effects of the poison and the other two were in most dreadful agonies.
“Fortunately, however, medical assistance was speedily obtained and the lives of these two deluded females preserved, who own that they have once been cured of their love fancies; but the third, who had partaken more largely than the rest, had almost instantly and beyond remedy or resistance, acknowledged the power of the baneful infusion and paid the forfeit of her folly with her life, as already observed, the victim of a silly and superstitious notion too prevalent among females.”
The Dumb Cake in Lincolnshire. Weather and Folk Lore of Peterborough and District by Charles Dick (1911) includes the Dumb Cake ritual:
“On Midsummer Eve, three girls are required to make a dumb cake. Two must make it, two bake it, two break it, and the third put a piece under each of their pillows. Strict silence must be preserved. The following are the directions given how to proceed:
“The two must go to the larder and jointly get the various ingredients. First they get a bowl, each holding it and wash and dry it together. Then each gets a spoonful of flour, a spoonful of water and a little salt. When making the cake, they must stand on something they have never stood on before. They must mix it together and roll it. Then they draw a line across the middle of the cake and each girl cuts her initials, each on opposite sides of the line. Then both put it into the oven and bake it. The two take it out of the oven and break it across the line and the two pieces are given to the third girl who places a piece under each pillow and they will dream of their future.
“Not a word must be spoken and the two girls, after giving the pieces to the third girl, have to walk backwards to bed and get into bed backwards. One word or exclamation by either of the three girls will break the charm.
“Should a gale arise and the wind appear to be rustling in the room, during the baking or latter part of the preparation, if they look over their left shoulder, they will see their future husbands.
“In some districts the pieces of cake are eaten in bed and not put under their pillows, but nothing must be drank before breakfast next morning.
“Another variation is that two only make the cake and go through the same form as the preceding, only they divide it themselves, then each eats her portion and goes to bed backwards as in the first case and nothing must be drank or a word spoken.
“An uncooked dried salt fish eaten before going to bed in silence and walking backwards and getting into bed the same way, causes one’s future husband to appear in a dream with a glass of water in his hand, if a teetotaller, or a glass of beer if he is not one. Nothing must be drank before breakfast.
“An old woman said she had tried it over 40 years ago and her husband brought her a glass of beer and ‘he was not an abstainer, but rather the reverse.’”
The Deaf and Dumb Supper. In the Southern United States, a version of the “Dumb Cake” ritual called the “Deaf and Dumb Supper” is performed to ascertain the identity of one’s future husband. The entire meal is prepared by two or more women (or girls) in total silence. The participants then sit at the table and eat in silence. Before the repast is completed, storm-like conditions will occur and while the wind is blowing, the door will open and specters of the men the women are destined to marry will enter. If a woman is to be an old maid, instead of the likeness of a man, a coffin will appear in the doorway.
Sources: “The History and Heritage Accommodation Guide, Historic” and “The History of British Food,” Historic UK; Catholic Online; “Yorkshire Folk Tale” by the Rev. M.C.F. Morris; Weather and Folk Lore of Peterborough and District by Charles Dick; The Evening Telegraph; The Leeds Mercury; and personal files on Southern Hoodoo rituals.