The Tudor Society

24 April – St Mark’s Eve

St Mark's Eve was all about divining the future, although what on earth that has to do with St Mark is anyone's guess!

In Folklore of Lincolnshire, Susanna O'Neill writes of how this was the night for young women to "divine who they were to marry". Ladies in North Kelsey would visit the Maiden Well, "walking towards it backwards and then circling it three times, still backwards, whilst wishing to see their destined husbands. After the third circling, the girl would kneel and gaze into the spring, where she would supposedly see the face of her lover."

Other ways of divining who you were going to marry, according to O'Neill and Steve Roud (The English Year), included hanging your washed chemise in front of the fire and waiting for a man (your future husband) to turn them, setting the table for supper and leaving the door open and waiting to see which man would come and join you, picking grass from a grave at midnight to put under your pillow so that you would then dream of your future beau, sitting in a barn at midnight and waiting for your future lover to walk through the door, and throwing an unbroken apple peel over your shoulder and then seeing whose name it had spelled out when it landed. A man could also divine who his future bride would be by visiting the local church at midnight and seeing whose reflection he would see in the church window at midnight.

Still another tradition, according to, was for a woman to "fast from sunset and then during the night make and bake a cake containing an eggshell full of salt, wheat meal, and barley meal. Then she should open the door of her home. Her future lover should come in and turn the cake."

I bet there were lots of disappointed young people on this night!

(Taken from our April Feast Days page)

Picture: St Mark the Evangelist from a Book of Hours, Rosenwald MS. 10 (1533).

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