ACORNS

2010

ACORNS have their own folklore. In some parts of the Continent they were put into the hands of the dead. Their cups and stems are the pipes smoked by the leprechauns, and the cups are fairies’ shelter, as Shakespeare knew: “All their elves, for fear, creep into acorn-cups, and hide them there” (Midsummer Night’s Dream act 1. sc 1). Carrying one around in your pocket or purse is a way to keep yourself youthful, and to preserve health and vitality, or to prevent rheumatism. Dreaming of then is a good sign- it shows that health, strength and wordly wealth will be the dreamer’s, for acorns were in ancient times the symbol of fecundity — the acorn in its cup was one of the earliest phallic emblems (the acorn is the masculine, and the cup the feminine). But over most of Europe, and in America, a plentiful crop of acorns augurs a poor corn crop next year. There was a form of marriage divination connected with them, or rather, their cups — two of them were taken, one named for the lover, and the other for one’sself Then they were set to float in a bowl of water; watch them — if they sailed together, there would be marriage, but if they drifted apart then it was obvious what the result would be. Of course, acorns have been of economic importance since prehistoric times as a substitute food. The offical hunger bread of Tsarist Russia consisted often parts of acorn flour, two parts of rye flour and two parts of rye bran. In parts of Poland, acorn flour was quite usual as an ingredient of bread — in fact, loaves made purely from cereal flour were virtually unknown. In Norway, too, acorn flour was used for bread right up to the 19 century. Another way of using them was to grind them up as flour with peas and beans. Very important, too, was the practice of releasing pigs into oak woods — Gerard said,”swine are fatted [on acorns], and by feeding thereon have their flesh hardy and sound”. Evelyn followed with “A peck of acorns a day, with a little bran, will make an hog (’tis said) increase a pound-weight per diem for two months together”.