23 June 2011

23 June - Midsummer Night Traditions

This is Midsummer Night or Saint John's Eve. This is a night to have bonfires.

[A word from the Widow.  If you have a bonfire, get the correct permits, alert the fire department where and when this bonfire will take place, and take all precautions, including all ways to put out a fire if it starts to get out of hand. And somebody keep the fire department's phone number handy]

Jumping over the bonfire is considered an antidote against stomach problems.  Some are more generous and say that you will be free from fever and all illnesses for a year.

Jump nine times over the embers to ensure a prosperous year.

Rake out some of the (cooled and extinguished) embers from Saint John's fires to protect home and barn from fire during the coming year.  Scatter the ashes over the fields with a prayer for a good harvest. [And I am serious about the cooled and extinguished part.  Our firemen have enough fires to attend - let's not overwork them with our stupidity!]


Water on Saint John's Eve has great healing powers.  Before dawn, wash in a river or the morning dew for health and strength.  Bathing your face in spring water or dew will ensure beauty in the coming year.

Drink the water from seven different springs today for good luck and health.


St. John's Wort growing around a house will prevent it from being invaded either by witches or the devil.

Gather St. John's Wort today and hang it up in your house as a preservative against thunder and evil spirits.

Cover your door with birch, long fennel, St. John's Wort, Orpine, and White Lilies to avert evil.

Dig up St. John's Wort at midnight, and the roots will be efficacious in driving evil away.


One tradition says that tonight the soul of every person leaves his or her body and finds the place where death will occur.  The soul then returns to its owner.

Like Saint Mark's Eve, this is a night to fast all day and then watch at the church door at midnight to see the wraiths of those who are doomed to illness or death in the coming year.  Those that will be ill will come out of the church again; those that will die will stay inside.

To be cured of fits, go to the parish church at midnight and walk three times through each aisle.  Then crawl three times from north to south under the Communion table as the clock strikes twelve. [And if there is anyone watching for the wraiths of those who will die in the coming year, you are likely to give them fits, instead.]


Stand under an elder tree tonight at midnight, and you will see the king of the elves going by with his train. [of what use that is, I don't know, but since elves are supposed to be the guardians of treasure, perhaps you can get a few hints as to its whereabouts.]


According to legend, the fern blooms and seeds only at midnight tonight.  Fern seed – so tiny as to almost be invisible – is supposed to render those who carry it equally invisible.  To procure it, the seeker after invisibility must go at midnight tonight to the place where the fern grows  
    1. barefoot,
    2. in his shirt,
    3. thinking holy thoughts. 
Place twelve stacked pewter plates under a likely fern.  The seed is said to pass through eleven of the plates and remain on the twelfth.

A more involved ceremony requires the person to carry a white napkin, a cross [make it a large cross, and one without a Corpus on it], a Testament [Old or New isn’t specified], a glass of water, and a watch to the place in the forest where the fern grows.  With the cross, trace a large circle.  Place the napkin within the circle, the cross on the napkin, and the Testament and the glass of water on the cross.  Keep an eye on your watch; at the precise stroke of midnight, the fern will bloom and drop its seed.  If you see this, you will have the gift of knowing all that is happening in the world, and all that is going to happen.

Other traditions state that he who finds the fern-seed tonight will be happy, have the strength of twenty men, be able to discover precious metals in the earth, and foretell the future.  But be careful!  Demons are also abroad watching to convey away the seed before anyone can possess themselves of it, and they will expend much effort in getting your attention so that they can snatch your horde away from you.

The fern plant itself has good and bad properties.  While finding it on Midsummer night is lucky, if you pass it by without noticing it, you will lose your way, no matter how well you know the road.  Plucking a fern will produce a violent thunderstorm, and by wearing it, you risk being pursued by serpents until you throw it away.

On the other hand, it protects the wearer from sorcery and the Evil Eye, and a frond or two placed in the cows’ trough with their water will protect them against witches and evil spirits, and ensure good luck.