Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1.  [Ipswich, Suffolk, 1957ish]  My mother would not let us pick lilac as it was unlucky and if we did someone would die in the family!  As a child I thought it was the truth.  We were not allowed peacock feathers in the house either, were told it was very unlucky if you did [e-mail, May 2017].

2.  I was brought up in Barnsley, South Yorks, where lilac was one of several plants it was unlucky to bring indoors.  My husband in Irish and in May they set up an altar to the Virgin Mary and decorated it with lilac all month.  I wonder if my sense that it’s unlucky is an anti-Catholic thing? [e-mail, April 2016].

3.  My mother from Kent and paternal grandmother both believed it unlucky to bring any type of lilac indoors.  In fact any spring blossom wasn’t brought indoors [e-mail, April 2014].

4. During my childhood, which was just before and during the 2nd World War, I lived in a village in Cambridgeshire. A superstition that was adhered to in my grandmother’s house and by other relatives was that we were forbidden to ever bring lilac into the house.
I remember that when we lived for a short time in London during the ‘flying bomb’ era, around 1944, I brought some lilac into the house and we were bombed out within the next day or so. I was not all that old, but I always thought that I had caused it to happen! I know it’s only a silly superstition, but to this day I don’t bring lilac into the house [Wickham Market, Suffolk, July 2011].

5. My grandmother, who was Scottish, wouldn’t allow me to bring lilac indoors. That was in Hampshire. There was a big old tree in the garden, and every year I wanted to bring some flowers indoors, but she wouldn’t let me [Hampshire, April 2005].

6. An old lady I know in Budapest says that you shouldn’t give anyone lilac; it’s only used for funerals [Natural History Museum, London, June 2003].

7. My mother always told me never to bring lilac into the house, I believe especially white lilac, for which I can see no reason! [Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, February 1998].

8. Lilac – the leaves would be placed across the lips and sucked – they ruptured with a nice plop sound [St Day, Cornwall, January 1994].

9. White lilac should never be brought into the house as it is unlucky (tho’ not the coloured lilac). This came from my mother, who died in 1938, and is still family practice [Chester, Cheshire, April 1984].

10. My mother thought that having white lilac in the house was a sure way of bringing about some dreadful disaster. Yet it was quite permissible to have a vase of mauve lilac in the house … Mother was born in Littleport, Cambs, so I would think the superstitions originated from that district [Little Eversden, Cambridgeshire, January 1983].

Images: cultivated, Drewstead Road, Streatham, London Borough of Lambeth, April 2014; inset, cultivated, Redlands Road, Reading, Berkshire, April 2018.