Valentine’s Day Superstitions
By Mary-Anne Alvaro
It’s coming up to Valentine’s Day – the day for love and lovers. Personally, I have found it quite interesting that this day should occur in Aquarius, the most detached sign of the zodiac! Not exactly known for warmth and passion.
And like the sign in which this Lover’s Day resides, some of the traditions and superstitions surrounding Valentines were not exactly loving. In the 1400, 1500 and 1600′s, it was common to draw lots for one’s Valentine.
Here’s one of the Valentine’s Day rules for the women from 1596:
After the Queens have chosen, the rest may cast lots for their Valentines.
Valentine’s Day had it’s right protocols, even back then! Tell us about your superstitions.
We’ve been sending Valentine’s for hundreds of years, but it seems the tradition was originally based on superstitions associated with drawing one’s Valentine, as we find in this quote: from a diary dated 1667:
to Mrs. Pierce’s, where I took up my wife and there find that Mrs. Pierce’s little girl is my Valentine, she having drawn me – which I was not sorry for, it easing me of something more that I must have given to others.
Here’s a sampling of how some of these Valentine’s Day draws worked: : From Voyage round the World comes this:
(1712) That same day, in commemoration of the ancient custom of chasing Valentines, I drew up a list of the fair Ladies in Bristol….and sent for my Officers in the Cabin, where every one drew.
I wonder how the women chosen felt about that – considering these guys were, after all, sailors! Here are some more:
(1725) It is a ceremony, never omitted among the Vulgar, to draw Lots which they Term Valentines, on the Eve before Valentine-day. The names of a select number of one sex, are by an equal number of the other put into some vessel; and after that, every one draws a name, which…is called their Valentine, and is also looked upon as a good omen of their being man and wife afterwards.
And who said finding a mate was difficult!
Well, maybe they were onto something because from 1790 comes this cute little poem that looks to me as though the universe was sending this young man a message.
Yestreen at the valentines’ dealing,
My heart to my mou gied a sten
For thrice I drew ane without failing,
And thrice it was written “Tam Glen”.
I wonder if he married her. Probably. Considering three times he drew the same.
In 1866, from Scotland they wrap this up for us by writing:
young people write names on slips of paper, placing those of lads and lasses in separate bags apart. The maidens draw from the former, the young men from the latter, three times in succession….If one person takes out the same name three times, it is that of the future husband or wife.
Obviously that was before video dating! In 1698 they tell us:
There is another kind of Valentine; which is the first young man or woman that chance throws in your way, in the street or elsewhere on that day. That becomes your valentine.
Now personally, I don’t like that one – what if I see someone I don’t like. It seems that there was a solution (the same one I would have invented). It goes like this:
(1812) The first person of the opposite sex who is seen, is generally esteemed the Valentine for the year, whether consonant to ‘choice’ or not…Some young gentlemen and ladies, in order to remedy this uncertainty, contrive to be brought together blindfold.
(1755) Mr. Blossom was my man; and I lay a-bed and shut my eyes all the morning of Valentine’s Day, till he came to our house; for I would not have seen another man before him for all the world.
So, the last word comes in Punch publication from 1872:
The belief is universal…that if you are single, the first unmarried person you meet outside the house on St. Valentine’s Day will exercise an important influence over your future destiny. Fortunately there is a simple way of evading the hand of Fate, open to those who desire a greater freedom in their choice of a partner in wedlock – at least, if they are willing to remain indoors till the expiration of the spell at twelve p.m. It is amazing how much faith they put into this sort of thing.
Amen. Well, Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year. Since the first man I usually see on a Saturday is my old grocer, I think I’ll be sleeping in that day!
So to all a loving Valentine’s Day – whether your eyes are open or shut! Best Wishes, Mary-Anne
As usual, the source for this information is A Dictionary of Superstitions, Edited by Iona Opie and Moira Tatem and published by Oxford Press.