Plant Folklore: St. John’s Wort

Plant Folklore: St. John’s Wort

Ann Meyer

St John’s Wort is a sunny yellow plant found in bloom during the summer solstice. Its golden flowers, reminiscent of the sun, bloom in synchrony with the feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24th, embodying the essence of light and renewal. It is an honored and celebrated plant signifying the beginning of summer. 

In the heart of meadows and along sunny roadsides, St. John's Wort grows, reaching towards the sky.  The Ancient Greeks used it for various ailments, including wounds, burns, and gastrointestinal issues. During the Middle Ages, it was believed to ward off evil spirits and protect against witchcraft, often hung over doorways or worn as a charm. In modern times, St. John's Wort is best known for its antidepressant properties. Numerous studies have validated its efficacy in treating mild to moderate depression, however it is known to counteract with some medications, and should consult a doctor before use. Additionally, it is used topically for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making it a popular natural remedy for skin conditions.

The folklore surrounding St. John's Wort is as rich and vibrant as the plant itself. One of the most enduring legends is that the plant sprang from the blood of St. John the Baptist after his beheading, imbuing it with his protective spirit. When rubbing the petals together the golden color slowly turns red, mimicking the hue of blood. Since the blooms reach full expression on the summer solstice, various rituals are performed on Midsummer Eve, a time traditionally associated with magic and the supernatural.

In European folklore, St. John's Wort was believed to have the power to drive away evil spirits and protect against the evil eye. People would gather the flowers on St. John's Eve and hang them in their homes for protection. In some traditions, young women placed the flowers under their pillows to dream of their future husbands. The plant was also used in divination practices; it was believed that if you picked the flowers while saying a charm, they could reveal secrets and provide guidance.

St. John's Wort bridges the physical and spiritual realms, reflecting the connection between the natural world and the divine. With its enchanting folklore and wisdom, it invites us to embrace the sacred in our everyday lives. Whether used for its healing properties or mystical associations, St. John's Wort is a symbol of the interconnection between nature, health, and spirituality.

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