The aphrodisiac has been around for a long time

In Switzerland one of the mountain orchids is traditionally slipped and the boys below to make him fall in love with the girl, or can be slipped by the boy into the girls pocket to get her to fall in love with him. In the USA and in North Africa the aphrodisiac plant vervain, can be planted outside your doorstep to attract lovers. The plant Coronilla varia, more commonly known as the devil shoestring, can be chewed then rubbed onto the palms of hands to give a manpower over any woman with whom he later shakes hands. (Our sticky hands really attractive?)

Going back to the revolting, in the Oz arcs, the dried tongue of a turtle dove is hidden in a girls room, after which she says yes to anything.

Of course these charms can work both ways. We've been talking about charms to achieve a marriage, but there are charms to break up marriages. Dig up the earth where husband and wife have trodden, put it in a bag with whiskers of cat and dog, (a bit Shakespearean that accept they use newts and frogs bits), throws onto a fire and from then on they will become antagonistic towards one another in their marriage will end.

I'm not quite sure what this married couple have done to deserve being broken apart like that, but more understandable is someone who is jilted. In Slavic customs the girl secretly mixed broken crab shells, (supposedly a counter aphrodisiac,) with the food of the lover who has jilted them, to cause him to pine for his earlier sweetheart throughout what will be a Richard marriage. I would have thought it more likely that just made him choke to death and that's how the Slavic girl got her revenge, but maybe that's too quick.

In Ireland the jilted girl buried a lighted candle in the churchyard night. That must be the pretty difficult trick, typically wet and windy Irish night. One antidote is to find the candle that is been buried in the churchyard and eat it this neutralises the curse.

Divining who will be your future lover and partner with something that great effort was put into, right up until the end of the 1800s and early 1900s. People wanted to know who they were going to be married to well in advance of the event. In 1913 it was written about a list of Herefordshire charms and magic potions that "nearly all (of the list) were still practised, though not so firmly believed in as formally".

Finding out who you are going to be married to worked better in certain days and seasons, which were by tradition the eaves of St Agnes and Saint Mark, Halloween, the eve of the Celtic summer which was 30 April, were spirit nights, when the barriers between real and supernatural worlds were weak.

Thinking back to grandparents and great grandparents, there seem to be a simplicity and naivete in those days, and no doubt these charms brought excitement to lives where gossip was the entertainment on television and been invented, and were taken half seriously and a half with amusement. And even if these love potions weren't having a real physical effect, they could be having a mental effect. Believe his half the battle in gaining a partner, and these magical ideas and potions could give the confidence to bend events in the required direction.

Is this so different from the horoscopes that people still pour over in the newspapers and TV magazines? I don't think so.

Back to America again, this time Arkansas, with a folklore charm centred around baking. This is how they get their husband or wife sorted out out there. The charm is the dumb supper (the name dried from the English baking the dumb cake), where bread made of cornmeal, salt and spring water was baked by 2 girls who had not spoken (hence the name) or eaten for the whole evening. Future husband entered the room as phantoms, to turn the cake and it was essential that the doors and windows of the kitchen were left open for them to leave, or the consequences could be dire. Talking, laughing or silly thought would destroy the charm. (Seems a pretty miserable evening to me!)

In Morocco a similar charm exist, where the person who wants no who the future husband will be bakes and eats a tiny highly salted cake, which she needs on her left thigh, during the night the spectre of a future husband will appear with water to quench the thirst.

Hemp is a common crop, but it's also a narcotic, and in the days where harvesting was done manually, workers in Enfield complained of headaches and women were never allowed to take part in the harvesting in case they became Baron. It was the devil's flower, and a usage and a hallucinogen, so quite capable of raising spectres if used in witchcraft. In a charm reputed to have been practised until the 1900s, the girl scattered hemp seeds as she walked through garden or churchyard on Midsummer Eve saying:

hempseed I set, hempseed I so; the man that is my true love, come after me and Mo.

After that, the ghostly form of her future lover would appear after, mowing the crop with his size. (Presumably nowadays he would be driving the combine harvester?)

Nuts and apples have been considered to have magical properties from early times, and traditionally not named after lovers were laid on a hot hearthstone Halloween to the rhyme "if you love me, pop and fly, if not, lie there silently". (Doesn't rhyme very well doesn't!).

In Wales grains of wheat one for the boy, one for the girl, were were put over the fire on a shovel. If they both jumped of the shovel together the couple would be bound into matrimony. Back to America, this time Ohio, the same was done but using apple pips, but with an added subtlety. If the girls Pip move towards the boys Pip, she was fond of him than any of her.

You would have thought that this American version of the custom might be popular in Kent and Herefordshire, both of which are cider areas, and in particular in Herefordshire with its cider festivals, there is ample folklore.

Standing stones and menhirs symbolise ancient ancestral potency. In Ireland, a girl who passes handkerchief through a hole in the stone of initial more will quickly find a lover. (A bit different from kissing the Blarney stone I suppose.) Even today single women will make a pilgrimage to sit on the huge granite clach na bhan stone, or stone of the woman, near Braemar in Scotland, on the white pierre du bomheur on the beach at LePollet in Normandy to make sure that they get themselves a husband within the year. All this is not so very different to pilgrimages to Lourdes or walking the many routes to Santiago de Compostela.

At the Chapel of St Catherine (the patron saint of spinsters), in France, girls sleep ins from a bridal veil in front of the image of the Saint to guarantee a quick marriage. And at Forcaray and Galatia, Spain, the statue of St Anthony is shielded from girls who would otherwise tie a rope around the saints neck and pulled him into the rain if he would fail to get them a lover. However, if St Anthony succeeds and finds them a lover" in double quick time, the girls tie their lovers neckties around his neck. Allegedly one morning not so long ago, he was found to have 7 ties around the saints neck.

Next time I'm caravanning in Spain I really must go and have a look. Certainly Spain is a place of tremendous tradition. Last time I was caravanning in Spain, has September and October last year, we stumbled across huge crucifixes being carried around villages by the women in traditional ceremonies, and we observed probably about 15 weddings taking place, all with their traditions. But that is the subject of another rambling at some other time. For now I want to do stick to the customs and folklore of marriage.