A number of beliefs centre on plant leaves. The simplest, which is still practised, is that it is lucky to catch a falling leaf before it reaches the ground. The first known mention is from Sussex - 'If you catch a falling leaf, you will have twelve months of continued happiness' (Folk-Lore Record 1 (1878), 9), although others say a happy day or month for each leaf caught. More serious forms of divination involve particular types of leaf. For example, leaves of 'holly are stipulated for a form of divination reported from Northumberland: She-holly leaves must be picked, in absolute silence, late on a Friday and collected in a three-cornered handkerchief. Nine leaves should be tied into the handkerchief, with nine knots, and placed under the pillow, and any dreams will come true (Henderson, 1866: 79). A somewhat different method is recommended by Flora Thompson (Over to Candleford (1941), chapter 23) using an 'ash leaf with nine leaflets. Another place to put a leaf was in the shoe, after scratching the proposed lover's name or initials on it, and this has much older roots. Opie and Tatem quote a description from 1507.
   ■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 230.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.


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