A while ago I was researching love divination superstitions when I came across an interestingly little charm from the 1696.
To know whom one shall marry. You must lie in another county, and knit the left garter about the right legged stocking.. and as you rehearse these following verses, at each comma, knot a knot.
‘This knot I knit,
To know the thing,
I know not yet,
That I may see,
The man (woman) that shall my husband (wife) be,
How he goes, and what he wears,
And what he does, all days, and years’
Accordingly in your dream you will see him: if a musician, with a lute or other instrument; if a scholar, with a book or papers.(1)
Now this is particular charm evolves so the more common usage of it is as written in 1899 “To induce favourable dreams, nine knots are tied on a garter.” (2) There are other regional variations of this as well that are interesting to look at but we’re going to deal primarily with these two variations.
Now, I am a folklorist at heart. I majored in it at college so I love to watch superstitions evolve in this manner (and then dissect why they evolved in this manner).
More importantly, this is interesting from a witchcraft perspective. Here, the practitioner is sleeping somewhere different away from home. While there, they knit their left garter around their right stocking and say the verses. In their dreams, they’ll get a vision of their future spouse. (Remember that around this time, garters more unisex than they are now.)
There’s a couple ways to break down this superstition into an actual practice and it would widely depend on how the garter was constructed and the usage of the word “knit”. I don’t knit personally (I’m a crochet girl) but theoretically, you’d have to pull stitches out in order to restitch the stitches for this charm or you’d end up adding length to the garter and defeating the purpose of the garter entirely. Or, you’d add length to the garter ties, making them longer than used (garters were tied at this time, not elastic as now).
But garters are still a close, personal thing. They’re kept close to the skin and were incredibly individual yet ubiquitous items. There’s also a level of propriety to be addressed with garters. Garter kept your clothing where you wanted it to be, it kept you properly dressed. Typically speaking, you were rarely improperly dressed except around wardrobe-related servants or your spouse. So there’s something of a “revealing the self” aspect to this charm, subconscious though it made me.
As pre-made clothing became more popular, people made less and less of their own garters. Garters eventually became less used as clothing designs changed. The origins of the charm became older and less known. It simplified, due to clothing changes and time itself. It became more of a “knot nine times to reveal your future spouse in a dream” sort of deal.
Either (and any) variation of this charm has legs to stand on so the actual change isn’t the problem we face when looking to use this spell. Instead, what we need to address in how to adapt this spell to modern times.
Few people regularly wear garters. Many people end up with garters for their wedding clothing and that’s about it. It’s a special occasion thing, usually, so not a lot of people would consider this specifically important. Of course, some people still regularly use garters for costuming, tall socks, or they wear them for work-related clothing.
We need to look at what’s important here. Is the garter itself important? Or is what the garter represented more important? If the garter itself was important, then you would have to use a garter to cast this spell. If the garter isn’t important, then what could be used in place of a garter? Would making nine tiny knots with a piece of sting in the hem of your underwear work in lieu of a garter? Shoelaces? Hair? Hair ribbon? Suit tie? What could be used when it comes to modern clothing?
At it’s heart, this superstition is a knot spell to induce dreams of love. That’s what it’s suppose to do. So… would any knot do? Could you make something and then knot it?
Could you make a garter specifically for this purpose and use the charm for it? Either by knitting, sewing, or even braiding some thread together and tying it to your leg. The steps would probably be creating the garter to your left leg measurements, then tie it to your right leg, saying the charm, then go to bed.
If you wanted to adapt this to modern usage you’d have to answer these critical questions:
What’s the purpose of the garter? What does it stand for? Does that meaning still stand today for me? Is there an equivalent I can use instead?
How can I knot the garter or garter substitute? Will sewing stitches be representative? Or does it have to be knitted?
In the end, any of these variations would work. I don’t have a “here’s exactly how you adapt this” because there’s so many ways you could go with this. Personally, I’d crochet a garter (because knitting seems to escape me) with my left leg measurements and say the charm as I made each stitch. I’d make it long enough to tie on and knot the tying portion nine times. Then I’d tie it to my right leg nine times, repeating the verses, before heading to bed.
But, that’s me. How would you adapt this classic superstition? Does it sound similar to an old superstition you’ve heard of before?
- Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions, editors Iona Opie and Moira Tatem. 2005 Edition, Oxford Press. Page 221-222