THE BLESSINGS OF SAINT JOHN'S DAYWATER, FIRE, AND THE MOON Return to HoodooRoots.com
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|A Walk at Dusk. Caspar David Friedrich, 1830-35|
From Solvang to Cambria, a huge swath of the central coast of California was lit only by lanterns, candles, starlight, and the moon. I spent the remainder of the evening with a candle and book, luxuriating in the 19th-century calmness which descends when one is completely unplugged. Note to self: once a week, when evening comes, unplug and return to the 19th century to calm and center.
SAINT JOHN'S DAY CUSTOMS
|A Midsummer bonfire in Scandinavia|
Today is St. John's Day! I hope that some of you were out reveling the night before, singing, dancing, and leaping bonfires under that magnificent moon.
Some bonfires are kept burning through the daylight hours, as well. Midsummer Eve applies both to the night before the Summer Solstice and St. John's Eve, which is June 23rd. In many countries, this remains an important holiday, especially in Northern Europe and the Baltics. Bonfire celebrations on this day are Pre-Christian in origin. Most frequently the sites chosen for these fires are very near to water, for it's spiritual impact. St. John the Baptist's Feast Day is celebrated on June 24th as well, and overall, the two traditions are strongly braided together.
Although specifics vary a bit from country to country, there are many constants. The Midsummer tradition of leaping over the fire is said to remove bad luck and ensure a good future. The fire itself is said to ward away bad spirits, to ward off sickness, to protect homesteads and farms from fire (indeed, not lighting a fire on Midsummer is considered by some to be an invitation to a burnt home at some point during the year), for good luck and an abundant harvest. Many also regard Midsummer as a highly favorable magical time for those hoping for love and fertility.
|Infant Christ Offering a Drink of Water to St. John. Murillo.|
JOHN THE BAPTIST
John the Baptist was born to an elderly cousin of the Virgin Mary, Elizabeth, who long believed herself to be beyond childbearing years: a miracle in itself. It is often thought that St. John the Baptist was born about six months prior to the birth of Jesus - hence, St. John's Day to Christmas, Midsummer to Yule.
In AD 27, John, who some believe may have been the reincarnation of the prophet Elijah, began baptizing people in the River Jordan,
to cleanse them of that which is unwholesome, to acknowledge their repentance of sin, and to ritually prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. John baptized Jesus Christ..
|The Baptism of Christ. Guido Remi, 1622-23|
June 24 is the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
ST. JOHN'S WATER
A tradition, especially in (but not restricted to) the New Orleans area, is to collect St. John's Water every year on St. John's Day. This water is protective; it wards off evil and keeps the one who collects and keeps it secure and safe from harm.
|River in Midday. Oil on canvas. Ostroukhov, Russian. 1892|
Carrying your bottle, go to a river in your area. Here on the central coast of California, this means climbing down into an arroyo, full of patterns in the sand from earlier floods, scrub brush, and animal tracks. At this time of year, though the water is still flowing, the stream is shallow and narrow. Rivers are the right body of water to use. We are, after all, dealing with St. John the Baptist, who baptized in the Jordan River.
|The beautiful Wissahickon River|
Ask for the help and the blessing of St. John the Baptist, he who was so intimately aware of the spiritual power of rivers. Fill your bottle, cap it, and take it home with you.
Set this bottle on it's side by the hinge side of your front door, so that it is a bit hidden from those who come to your door. Make sure that the neck of the bottle is facing the door. Keep the bottle in this position throughout the year.
If anyone comes to your door who you do not wish to deal with, anyone who may make life difficult for you - or even if you are just worried that they may come to trouble you - simply roll that bottle with your foot. Roll it back and forth on the floor, as you concentrate on exactly what you want. Then roll the bottle right back into it's original position, where it will continue to guard and defend your home for the remainder of the year. As always when requesting the aid of any saint, thank St. John the Baptist for his assistance.
Renew this every year on St. John's Day.
COLLECTING BOTANICALS ON ST. JOHN'S DAY
A MAGICALLY POTENT HARVEST
|St. John's wort - Hypericum perforatum|
St. John's Wort - Hypericum perforatum - has beautiful yellow flowers with little dark dots about their margins. The leaves have tiny, translucent glands which look rather like perforations when held up to the sun. Some say that if a sprig of St. John's Wort, harvested now, is placed under your pillow, you will dream very vividly, perhaps of St. John himself. St. John's Wort is believed to dispel evil in all it's guises. To protect your home from wicked practitioners of malefic magic and drive away evil, hang sprigs of St. John's Wort over your doors and windows.
|Rue. Ruta graveolens, the Herb of Grace|
St. Johnswort sends internal devils packing too: it is a wonderful plant for mild to moderate depression and for for irritable and jangled nerves. Paired with cornsilk and uva ursi, it is helpful for urinary tract infections. St. John's Wort oil is a healing oil par excellence for bruises, sprains, and scrapes. It helps to regenerate nerves and is useful in cases of peripheral neuropathy, numbness or tingling of the extremeties, etc. It helps to heal fresh scars. It is wonderful to use externally for a painful back. It is anti-inflammatory, good for joints, wounds, and sores. It even helps to overcome bed-wetting.
Other plants mentioned in pre-20th century European herbals for harvest at Midsummer for their magical and physical curative properties include fennel, rue, vervain, birch, calendula, rose, and others. I personally feel that this small window of time right around the Summer Solstice and St. John's Day is one of the very most blessed and magical times for collecting botanicals for medicine-making, whether for conjure oils or for teas, tinctures, poultices, and the like. I know that my products are made with these deep traditions in mind.
A TREAT FOR YOU
Finally, after all this talk of jumping over fires, herbs, rivers and the moon, one spectacular poem:
On The Origins Of Thingsby Troy Jollimore
|A Carnival Evening. Henri Rousseau, 1886|
as a renegade fragment of the sun, a solar
flare that fled that hellish furnace
and congealed into a flat frozen pond suspended
between the planets. But did you know
that anger began as music, played
too often and too loudly by drunken performers
at weddings and garden parties? Or that turtles
evolved from knuckles, ice from tears, and darkness
from misunderstanding? As for the dominant
thesis regarding the origin of love, I
abstain from comment, nor will I allow
myself to address the idea that dance
began as a kiss, that happiness was
an accidental import from Spain, that the ancient
game of jump-the-fire gave rise
to politics. But I will confess
that I began as an astronomer—a liking
for bright flashes, vast distances, unreachable things,
a hand stretched always toward the furthest limit—
and that my longing for you has not taken me
very far from that original desire
to inscribe a comet's orbit around the walls
of our city, to gently stroke the surface of the stars.
© Troy Jollimore
Troy Jollimore is the author of two books of poetry, 'At Lake Scugog' and 'Tom Thomson in Purgatory'. He is a 2013 Guggenheim fellow. Now in California, he grew up in Nova Scotia. I am in awe.
|Moonlight. John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1871|
Wishing you all all that is good,
St. John's Day, full moon in Capricorn
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The photo of the Wissahickon is © Dr. Eoghan Ballard.
The photo of the bonfire is courtesy of Wikipedia, altered by me.
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