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June 24: “Summer Solstice” between mysteries and legends


by Donella Zanoboni –  On June 24, when the sun reaches its maximum declination, is considered the day of the summer solstice, the Feast of semenax increase St Giovanni and many myths and legends that accompany quuesto day.

It’s not easy to navigate the patchwork of beliefs and customs that revolve around June 24 because they are the result of various layers that collect fragments of both pagan and Christian traditions.

It remains unclear what was the reason why he was chosen the same day for both the popularity pagan and Christian (thus the birth of Giovanni the Baptist).

On the night of June 23 and 24 is considered magical and then in terms of beliefs and superstitions were there and there are still all over the world.

Without going too much into consideration for which we do not have a particular preparation, we’ll just tell you about some of the most curious episodes that happened and still happen in the magical night of San Giovanni.

Let’s start there with the history of water that flows on June 23 and only that night. A special water that heals all wounds, but, however, we must find the magic spot … even if it is clear that the reference to John the Baptist baptized with water from the Jordan River.

It is on that night that you have to collect the magical herbs, St. John’s wort, rue, mugwort, chaste tree, lavender, broom, verbena, fern and currants. It’s 9 herbs of St. Giovanni. They gather in clusters and are held in the house for protection.

If then we put under the pillow that night, it is said that “what you dream to happen.”

Some of the beneficial herbs, as well as to cast out demons and witches protect against the “evil eye”. The mugwort for example, once consecrated to the sister of the solar lunar Apollo (according to Apuleius), the vervain symbol of peace and prosperity and red currant whose fruits are called “berries of St. John.”

Also the widespread custom of lighting bonfires in the night dedicated to John the Baptist. These bonfires are thrown wood and dried herbs. Then jump on these fires means that you will be able to “jump” any hazards that will come up during the year.

Then burning some herbs into the fire (of those collections that night) and keeping the ashes, these also safeguard it against lightning during thunderstorms.

A proverb Istrian also ensures that “with St. John on ‘fogo brusa the witches el el moro’ lovo”, or “Saint John with his fire burning witches, the dark and the Wolf”.

In Normandy instead once we bathed in the dew on the morning of St. John of Jerusalem to rejuvenate your skin and protect it from disease. Dew that the virtue of protecting the clothes from moths so much so that our grandmothers during the night of June 23, the dew lay the sheets where it was put the bread to get a good rise!

The preparation of the walnut liqueur was done tonight and the custom dates back to the Celts of Brittany.

According to tradition, women must remove the nuts when the drupe is still green with a wooden knife, never metal. The infusion will give a liquor considered a real panacea.

Also for the young St. John gave his girlfriend a bouquet of flowers and she returned the gift to the feast of SS. Peter and Paul on June 29.

In Rome in the Middle Ages it was customary to eat, dance and sing on the lawns between the Basilica of St. John Lateran and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.

On the night of the eve bonfires were lit, they drank and danced outdoors or in taverns waiting for the sunrise!

Next to the fire that had a feature release, there was the dew from the virtues fertilizing! The young brides who wanted to get children, lifting their robes sitting on the wet grass on Mount Testaccio for an intimate washing propitiatory.

The function of the saint as the patron saint of friendship also remembers a Tuscan saying that says “St. John does not want to deceive” explaining that the Baptist according to legend was relentless with those who betrayed the trust of his friend!


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