Victorian Romantic Rituals and Charms

The proper pastime for a young lady in the 19th century was the pursuit of marriage – the magical rituals and folk charms she used might be less proper.

’Hanging the Mistletoe‘ by Dante Gabriel Charles Rossetti, 1860. Bridgeman Images.

The setting is Christmas Eve, after a rollicking holiday party in North Yorkshire. While the rest of the family retires, the young woman of the house sets to work. She pulls a single mistletoe berry and leaf from the pocket where it has been stowed since her beloved kissed her under the bunch hung from the ceiling. (It was customary for couples kissing under the mistletoe in the 19th century to remove a berry each time a kiss was had. Once the berries were gone, no more kisses.) After locking the door she swallows the berry and works by candlelight to complete the charm. She pricks the initials of ‘him her heart loves best’ into the mistletoe leaf and then stitches it to the inside of her corset near her heart, where it would ‘bind his love to her so long as there it remains’.

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