The importance attached to dreams in all primitive and savage culture

accounts for the significance ascribed to certain plants found by

visitors to dreamland. At the outset, it may be noticed that various

drugs and narcotic potions have, from time immemorial, been employed for

producing dreams and visions--a process still in force amongst

uncivilised tribes. Thus the Mundrucus of North Brazil, when desirous of

gaining information on any special subject, would administer to their

seers narcotic drinks, so that in their dreams they might be favoured

with the knowledge required. Certain of the Amazon tribes use narcotic

plants for encouraging visions, and the Californian Indians, writes Mr.

Tylor,[1] "would give children narcotic potions, to gain from the

ensuing visions information about their enemies;" whilst, he adds, "the

Darien Indians used the seeds of the _Datura sanguinca_ to bring on in

children prophetic delirium, in which they revealed hidden treasure."

Similarly, the Delaware medicine-men used to drink decoctions of an

intoxicating nature, "until their minds became wildered, so that they

saw extraordinary visions."[2]

The North American Indians also held intoxication by tobacco to be

supernatural ecstasy. It is curious to find a survival of this source of

superstition in modern European folk-lore. Thus, on the Continent, many

a lover puts the four-leaved clover under his pillow to dream of his

lady-love; and in our own country, daisy-roots are used by the rustic

maiden for the same purpose. The Russians are familiar with a certain

herb, known as the _son-trava_, a dream herb, which has been identified

with the _Pulsatilla patens,_ and is said to blossom in April, and to

have an azure-coloured flower. When placed under the pillow, it will

induce dreams, which are generally supposed to be fulfilled. It has been

suggested that it was from its title of "tree of dreams" that the elm

became a prophetic tree, having been selected by Virgil in the Aeneid

(vi.) as the roosting-place of dreams in gloomy Orcus:

"Full in the midst a spreading elm displayed

His aged arms, and cast a mighty shade;

Each trembling leaf with some light visions teems,

And leaves impregnated with airy dreams."

At the present day, the yarrow or milfoil is used by love-sick maidens,

who are directed to pluck the mystic plant from a young man's grave,

repeating meanwhile this formula:

"Yarrow, sweet yarrow, the first that I have found, In the name of Jesus

Christ I pluck it from the ground; As Jesus loved sweet Mary and took

her for His dear, So in a dream this night I hope my true love

will appear."

Indeed, many other plants are in demand for this species of

love-divination, some of which are associated with certain days and

festivals. In Sweden, for instance, "if on Midsummer night nine kinds of

flowers are laid under the head, a youth or maiden will dream of his or

her sweetheart."[3] Hence in these simple and rustic love-charms may be

traced similar beliefs as prevail among rude communities.

Again, among many of the American Indian tribes we find, according to

Mr. Dorman,[4] "a mythical tree or vine, which has a sacredness

connected with it of peculiar significance, forming a connecting-link

and medium of communication between the world of the living and the

dead. It is generally used by the spirit as a ladder to pass downward

and upward upon; the Ojibways having possessed one of these vines, the

upper end of which was twined round a star." He further adds that many

traditions are told of attempts to climb these heavenly ladders; and,

"if a young man has been much favoured with dreams, and the people

believe he has the art of looking into futurity, the path is open to the

highest honours. The future prophet puts down his dreams in pictographs,

and when he has a collection of these, if they prove true in any

respect, then this record of his revelations is appealed to as proof of

his prophetic power." But, without enumerating further instances of

these savage dream-traditions, which are closely allied with the

animistic theories of primitive culture, we would turn to those plants

which modern European folk-lore has connected with dreamland. These are

somewhat extensive, but a brief survey of some of the most important

ones will suffice to indicate their general significance.

Firstly, to dream of white flowers has been supposed to prognosticate

death; with which may be compared the popular belief that "if a white

rosebush puts forth unexpectedly, it is a sign of death to the nearest

house;" dream-omens in many cases reflecting the superstitions of daily

life. In Scotch ballads the birch is associated with the dead, an

illustration of which we find in the subjoined lines:--

"I dreamed a dreary dream last nicht;

God keep us a' frae sorrow!

I dreamed I pu'd the birk sae green,

Wi' my true love on Yarrow.

I'll redde your dream, my sister dear,

I'll tell you a' your sorrow;

You pu'd the birk wi' your true love;

He's killed,--he's killed on Yarrow."

Of the many plants which have been considered of good omen when seen in

dreams, may be mentioned the palm-tree, olive, jasmine, lily, laurel,

thistle, thorn, wormwood, currant, pear, &c.; whereas the greatest luck

attaches to the rose. On the other hand, equally numerous are the plants

which denote misfortune. Among these may be included the plum, cherry,

withered roses, walnut, hemp, cypress, dandelion, &c. Beans are still

said to produce bad dreams and to portend evil; and according to a

Leicestershire saying, "If you wish for awful dreams or desire to go

crazy, sleep in a bean-field all night." Some plants are said to

foretell long life, such as the oak, apricot, apple, box, grape, and

fig; and sickness is supposed to be presaged by such plants as the

elder, onion, acorn, and plum.

Love and marriage are, as might be expected, well represented in the

dream-flora; a circumstance, indeed, which has not failed to impress the

young at all times. Thus, foremost amongst the flowers which indicate

success in love is the rose, a fact which is not surprising when it is

remembered how largely this favourite of our gardens enters into

love-divinations. Then there is the clover, to dream of which foretells

not only a happy marriage, but one productive of wealth and prosperity.

In this case, too, it must be remembered the clover has long been

reckoned as a mystic plant, having in most European countries been much

employed for the purposes of divination. Of further plants credited as

auguring well for love affairs are the raspberry, pomegranate, cucumber,

currant, and box; but the walnut implies unfaithfulness, and the act of

cutting parsley is an omen that the person so occupied will sooner or

later be crossed in love. This ill-luck attached to parsley is in some

measure explained from the fact that in many respects it is an unlucky

plant. It is a belief, as we have noticed elsewhere, widely spread in

Devonshire, that to transplant parsley is to commit a serious offence

against the guardian genius who presides over parsley-beds, certain to

be punished either on the offender himself or some member of his family

within the course of the year. Once more "to dream of cutting cabbage,"

writes Mr. Folkard,[5] "Denotes jealousy on the part of wife, husband,

or lover, as the case may be. To dream of any one else cutting them

portends an attempt by some person to create jealousy in the loved one's

mind. To dream of eating cabbages implies sickness to loved ones and

loss of money." The bramble, an important plant in folk-lore, is partly

unlucky, and, "To dream of passing through places covered with brambles

portends troubles; if they prick you, secret enemies will do you an

injury with your friends; if they draw blood, expect heavy losses in

trade." But to dream of passing through brambles unhurt denotes a

triumph over enemies. To dream of being pricked with briars, says the

"Royal Dream Book,"[6] "shows that the person dreaming has an ardent

desire to something, and that young folks dreaming thus are in love, who

prick themselves in striving to gather their rose."

Some plants are said to denote riches, such as the oak, marigold, pear

and nut tree, while the gathering of nuts is said to presage the

discovery of unexpected wealth. Again, to dream of fruit or flowers out

of season is a bad omen, a notion, indeed, with which we find various

proverbs current throughout the country. Thus, the Northamptonshire

peasant considers the blooming of the apple-tree after the fruit is ripe

as a certain omen of death--a belief embodied in the following


"A bloom upon the apple-tree when the apples are ripe,

Is a sure termination to somebody's life."

And once more, according to an old Sussex adage--

"Fruit out of season

Sounds out of reason."

On the other hand, to dream of fruit or any sort of crop during its

proper season is still an indication of good luck.[7] Thus it is lucky

to dream of daisies in spring-time or summer, but just the reverse in

autumn or winter. Without enumerating further instances of this kind, we

may quote the subjoined rhyme relating to the onion, as a specimen of

many similar ones scattered here and there in various countries:[8]

"To dream of eating onions means

Much strife in thy domestic scenes,

Secrets found out or else betrayed,

And many falsehoods made and said."

Many plants in dream-lore have more than one meaning attached to them.

Thus from the, "Royal Dream Book" we learn that yellow flowers "predict

love mixed with jealousy, and that you will have more children to

maintain than what justly belong to you." To dream of garlic indicates

the discovery of hidden treasures, but the approach of some domestic


Cherries, again, indicate inconstancy; but one would scarcely expect to

find the thistle regarded as lucky; for, according to an old piece of

folk-lore, to dream of being surrounded by this plant is a propitious

sign, foretelling that the person will before long have some pleasing

intelligence. In the same way a similar meaning in dream-lore attaches

to the thorn.

According to old dream-books, the dreaming of yew indicates the death of

an aged person, who will leave considerable wealth behind him; while the

violet is said to devote advancement in life. Similarly, too, the vine

foretells prosperity, "for which," says a dream interpreter, "we have

the example of Astyages, king of the Medes, who dreamed that his

daughter brought forth a vine, which was a prognostic of the grandeur,

riches, and felicity of the great Cyrus, who was born of her after this


Plucking ears of corn signifies the existence of secret enemies, and Mr.

Folkard quotes an old authority which tells us that the juniper is

potent in dreams. Thus, "it is unlucky to dream of the tree itself,

especially if the person be sick; but to dream of gathering the berries,

if it be in winter, denotes prosperity. To dream of the actual berries

signifies that the dreamer will shortly arrive at great honours and

become an important person. To the married it foretells the birth of a

male child."

Again, eating almonds signifies a journey, its success or otherwise

being denoted by their tasting sweet or the contrary. Dreaming of grass

is an auspicious omen, provided it be green and fresh; but if it be

withered and decayed, it is a sign of the approach of misfortune and

sickness, followed perhaps by death. Woe betide, too, the person who

dreams that he is cutting grass.

Certain plants produce dreams on particular occasions. The mugwort and

plantain have long been associated with Midsummer; and, according to

Thomas Hill in his "Natural and Artificial Conclusions," a rare coal is

to be found under these plants but one hour in the day, and one day in

the year. When Aubrey happened to be walking behind Montague House at

twelve o'clock on Midsummer day, he relates how he saw about twenty-two

young women, most of them well dressed, and apparently all very busy

weeding. On making inquiries, he was informed that they were looking for

a coal under the root of a plantain, to put beneath their heads that

night, when they would not fail to dream of their future husbands. But,

unfortunately for this credulity, as an old author long ago pointed out,

the coal is nothing but an old dead root, and that it may be found

almost any day and hour when sought for. By lovers the holly has long

been supposed to have mystic virtues as a dream-plant when used on the

eve of any of the following festivals:


New Year's Day,

Midsummer, and

All Hallowe'en.

According to the mode of procedure practised in the northern counties,

the anxious maiden, before retiring to rest, places three pails full of

water in her bedroom, and then pins to her night-dress three leaves of

green holly opposite to her heart, after which she goes to sleep.

Believing in the efficacy of the charm, she persuades herself that she

will be roused from her first slumber by three yells, as if from the

throats of three bears, succeeded by as many hoarse laughs. When these

have died away, the form of her future husband will appear, who will

show his attachment to her by changing the position of the water-pails,

whereas if he have no particular affection he will disappear without

even touching them.

Then, of course, from time immemorial all kinds of charms have been

observed on St. Valentine's Day to produce prophetic dreams. A popular

charm consisted of placing two bay leaves, after sprinkling them with

rose-water, across the pillow, repeating this formula:--

"Good Valentine, be kind to me,

In dream let me my true love see."

St. Luke's Day was in years gone by a season for love-divination, and

among some of the many directions given we may quote the subjoined,

which is somewhat elaborate:--

"Take marigold flowers, a sprig of

marjoram, thyme, and a little wormwood; dry them before a fire, rub them

to powder, then sift it through a fine piece of lawn; simmer these with

a small quantity of virgin honey, in white vinegar, over a slow fire;

with this anoint your stomach, breasts, and lips, lying down, and repeat

these words thrice:--

'St Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me,

In dream let me my true love see!'

This said, hasten to sleep, and in the soft slumbers of night's repose,

the very man whom you shall marry shall appear before you."

Lastly, certain plants have been largely used by gipsies and

fortune-tellers for invoking dreams, and in many a country village these

are plucked and given to the anxious inquirer with various formulas.


1. "Primitive Culture," 1873, ii. 416, 417.

2. See Dorman's "Primitive Superstition," p. 68.

3. Thorpe's "Northern Mythology," 1851, ii. 108.

4. "Primitive Superstitions," p. 67.

5. "Plant-lore Legends and Lyrics," p. 265.

6. Quoted in Brand's "Popular Antiquities," 1849, iii. 135.

7. See Friend's "Flower-Lore," i. 207.

8. Folkard's "Plant-lore Legends and Lyrics," p. 477.

DRAINAGE During Entire Growing Season (in inches) facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail