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A Dictionary of English Folklore

Jacqueline Simpson,

Steve Roud


Besides symbolizing sleep and unconsciousness, poppies were also associated with death, and already at the time of Waterloo it was said that those growing on the battlefield had sprung from the blood of soldiers (Dyer, 1889: 115). This symbolism was taken up during and after the First World War; in the period leading up to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday (11 November, and the Sunday nearest to it) they are widely worn as lapel badges, and wreaths of them laid at memorials for the dead of all recent wars.

Country beliefs about poppies were chiefly warnings: to pick or sniff them supposedly caused headaches, earache, blindness, warts, or a strong possibility of being struck by lightning. The purpose may have been to stop children trampling the corn in order to pick flowers (Vickery, 1995: 286–90).

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