September 16, 2012

Some Apple Magic

September is apple season. I love going to the farmers market in my neighborhood to see what varieties they have, and sometimes we head out of the city and go apple picking. I love the sight, smell and of course the taste of apples!

This week over at they ran an article about fifteen ways to use apples, ranging from barbecue sauce to apples. They don't mention you can use apples to tell the future, but you can.

Apples are associated in European and American lore with love and sex (thank you Adam and Eve!), so apple magic from New England tends to be focused on divining who your true love might be. There are many ways to do this, but here are a few of my favorites.

One of the easiest divinations is to pare an apple in one long piece, and then throw this long piece of peel over your shoulder. Look at the shape the peel makes on the ground. It should form the first letter of your true love's name. Some writers stress that you also need to twirl the apple peel three times around your head before you throw it over your shoulder.

This belief comes from England, where it was mentioned by John Gay in his comic 1714 poem The Shepherd's Week. The country maiden Hobnelia says,

I pare this pippin round and round again,
My shepherd's name to flourish on the plain.
I fling th' unbroken paring o'ver my head,
Upon the grass a perfect L. is read. 

She's happy with the result, since she's in love with a shepherd named Lubberkin. Yay!

You can easily do the apple paring divination surreptitiously while you are making a pie, but the next form of divination is a little harder to hide. Take two apple seeds, and give each the name of someone you think might be attracted to you. Wet the seeds in your mouth, and then stick them on your eyelids. Blink rapidly. Whichever seed falls off last is the person who will be your true love. If anyone walks in while you have apple seeds stuck on your eyelids just tell them you are exploring your New England heritage.

The two previous forms of divination are from Alice Morse Earle's 1902 book Old Time Gardens, Newly Set Forth. I think they're both kind of charming, but here's one that's a little spookier from Fanny Bergren's Current Superstitions (1896).

At midnight, stand in front of a mirror holding a lamp and a mirror. As you eat the apple, say the following:

Whoever my true love may be,
Come and eat this apple with me.

Your true love should appear, though I'm not sure if they will appear in the mirror or in person. Bergren notes that this charm works better if performed on Halloween. I will also note that sometimes the person who shows up in these love spells is not always what you expect.

There is of course a darker side to apple lore, which I have written about here, here and here. I describe some additional apple charms here. Enjoy apple season!

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