Thursday, 23 June 2016

Collecting Magical Herbs on St John's Eve & Feast Day

Today is St John's Eve and traditionally a time when wisewomen collected several types of plants and herbs for healing and for magic. These included fennel, rue, rosemary, lemon verbena, mallows, laburnum, foxgloves and elder flowers - although laburnum and foxglove are now considered poisonous.

Tomorrow, on the Feast of St John, it was customary to gather St John's Wort. This perennial herb with yellow flowers has long been seen as a means to keep evil away magically and as a medicine. It is still used to treat depression today. From at least medieval times the herb has been hung over doors and windows to keep away evil spirits and wicked witches (although I am sure more than a few witches used the herb as well). In some areas, the yellow flowers are dipped in a bowl of water and left outside exposed to the dew of night until the following morning, when people use the flower water to wash their faces.

The is a photo of St John's Wort growing in the Horniman Museum Gardens. The Knights Hospitallers would have used the herb for its healing properties, which were well known, but it probably got its name because it starts to bloom around 24 June, St John’s Day.

Note: This is not medical advice, always consult a qualified medical herbalist before taking any herbal remedy.

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