Cafes, Match.com, bars, church, your grandmother; all modern day methods of meeting a mate, but what if you were a woman in the middle ages, what would your options be? Most likely, you would start applying old wives tales, and superstitions to facilitate a proposal.
Of course superstitious rituals were used for any number of reasons. Suffer from epilepsy? Try crushing a human skull into a fine powder before sprinkling it on your oatmeal. Troubled by warts? Bathing in the warm blood of a freshly killed mole will clear them right up. Just plain unlucky? Well, if you can live with the stench, (not to mention the rot and decay), carrying a calf’s tongue in your pocket brings good luck (though, I’m not sure why, since it didn’t bring any luck to the calf). Migraines getting you down? If you can unearth a human skull, dry and crush any moss you might find and then snort it. An annoying nosebleed cramping your social life? Kill and dry-out a frog, then stuff it into a little canvas pouch to hang around your neck,
However, I digress. I was talking about finding a man in the medieval ages. One popular solution up until the 19th century involved lemons. If a sixteen year old had been sitting on her thumbs waiting for a certain person to come calling, she would speed the visit by using lemon peels. She would confiscate two or three lemon peels or perhaps the entire rind if it weren’t already in use by the cook or local healer/physician. Next, she would place the peels in her armpits until back in her bedchamber room for the night. Once there, she would remove the peels from and rub them on the bed frame. That night if she chanced to dream of a man carrying two lemons, that person was to be her husband.
Since most superstitious practices were rooted in Paganism, those preaching the new idea of Christianity eliminated many such beliefs. However, people were just beginning to emerge from Barbarism, and their superstitious practices remained deeply rooted in everyday life. Now, before you scoff at these people for their odd beliefs, let me remind you that modern people are no more immune to superstitious practices than our medieval ancestors. The only thing changed is our idea of normal behavior.
Who among us hasn’t attributed luck to an item, or, article of clothing for a successful job interview, date, or, a fav team winning the game? How many of us shy away from stepping on side walk cracks for fear of breaking our mother’s backs? Personally, I never open an umbrella in the house, and I take great pains to handle my hand mirror with extreme care—who needs seven years of bad luck, right? In examination of our present-day practices we may conclude bathing in moles blood back in 1498 wasn’t uncommon.
So the next time you happen across an article, or, story on the subject of superstitious practices, stop and think back to our ancestors. What might they have to say about the way we conduct our lives? They would probably conclude we’re a bit strange in our beliefs too. Now, throw some salt over your left shoulder, knock on wood, and go about your business!