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Origins: The Daisy Oracle (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not)

the ox-eye daisy

Recited while plucking the petals from a flower (usually a daisy):

He loves me,
He loves me not.
He loves me,
He loves me not.
He loves me,
He loves me not…

The couplet is repeated until the all of the petals are discarded; the line spoken when the final petal is plucked divines the truer statement.

While the rhyme can be gendered in any direction our heterocentric, traditionalist media would have you belive the ritual is the preserve of lovelorn adolescent girls and their younger counterparts.

Flowers and their symbolic  ties to human affections are deeply engrained in our culture, spawning a mythology and language of their own. Roses have long been associated with love, Daisies represent innocence, youth and vitality, appropriate to the carefree folly of early love the rhyme invokes.  The tradition of daisy-divination  is noted in Goethe’s Faust part one of which was completed in 1806:

Faust: Sweet darling!
Margaret: Wait a bit!

[She plucks a star-flower and picks off the petals, one after the other.]

Faust: What’s that? A nosegay?
Margaret: No, it’s just a game.
Faust: What?
Margaret: You will laugh at me, do go!

[She pulls off the petals and murmurs.]

Faust: What are you murmuring?
Margaret [half aloud]: He loves me – loves me not!
Faust: Sweet, heavenly vision!
Margaret [goes on]: Loves me – not – loves me – not-

[Plucking off the last petal with lovely joy.]

He loves me!

Faust: Yes, my child! and let this blossom’s word
Be oracle of gods to you! He loves you!
You understand that word and what it means? He loves you!

[He seizes both her hands.]

Malcolm Jones (in his book The Secret Middle Ages) dates the first printing of the “The Daisy Oracle” 1471, when  Augsburg nun and scribe  Clara Hätzlerin included it in her Liederhandschrift (songbook), making this the oldest rhyme we’ve tackled so far. The rhyme is still sung in Germany (liebt mich, liebt mich nicht).

“The Daisy Oracle” is thought to be French in origin but all the evidence  is anecdotal. I’ll be looking further into this, so check back for updates.

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3 responses »

  1. Love this bit of nostalgic trivia!! Great post perfect to accompany my latest post at catnipoflife:>) It will be published shortly with a link to this page. Found you on a Google search!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Inspiration: Drop a Stitch « catnipoflife

  3. Pingback: Hamlet Polski | Slavische Studies

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