Some of the most popular herbs used in ritual at the Summer Solstice (Midsummer/Litha/Sun Blessing) are St. John's Wort, lavender, mistletoe, vervain, and fern. For the traditional herbalist who grows or gathers his or her own herbs, Midsummer Eve is the night to gather fern, mistletoe, St John's Wort, and vervain. It is a good time to discard of the old mistletoe and vervain and gather enough of these plants to dry for use in the coming year. Other plants are widely used in summer solstice rituals and celebrations, including rose, violet, chamomile, honeysuckle, basil, mint, rosemary, mugwort, and star anise, depending on what tradition you follow and your location on Gaea.
As St. John's Wort (hypericum perforatum) is one of the most popular plants used at the Summer Solstice, I have chosen to highlight this particular gift from our Mother Earth here.
St John's Wort is a plant that grows tall and slender
|St. John's Wort|
with bright yellow flowers and due to its abundant growth in places it is not always wanted, it is sometimes considered a 'pest' plant or weed. It is a dominating and invasive plant that can upset ecosystems, so if you grow your own strive to do so in an enclosed area. A large pot may be best. If you are gathering the plant in the wild, be sure to wait until it is flowering and then only harvest about a third of the plant, including leaves, stems, and flowers. A similar plant known as the Rose of Sharon grows closer to the earth and has more showy flowers.
|Rose of Sharon|
One good way to know you have St. John's Wort and not Rose of Sharon is to pinch one of the flowers. St. John's Wort 'bleeds' a red oil when you pinch the flowers, making it an easy way to determine if you have the right plant. Another way to identify the plant is to check its stem, as St. John's Wort has a wood-like stem with double-ridges running down its length. The flower petals often have dark spots or streaks, which also helps to identify the plant.
This is a plant with many diverse and medicinal uses, particularly as an herbal remedy for depression, but I would like to focus on the ritual uses of St. John's Wort and why it is used at the Summer Solstice. This plant is known in the craft by several different names: Goat Weed, rosin rose, chase-devil, Tipton Weed, and Klamath Weed. Long before John the Baptist walked the earth, practitioners were using St. John's Wort both medicinally and in their ritual work. St. John's Wort is classified as a masculine herb, an herb which is associated with the Sun and is of the element Fire.
The Summer Solstice is the best time of year to gather the plant as it begins blossoming in June and is ready to be harvested by the time the Sun moves into Cancer (around the 20th - 22nd of each year astrologically). This year, 2013, the Sun moves into the water sign Cancer at 1:04 am on June 21st (US East Coast). The Moon will be in Scorpio at the exact time the Sun moves into Cancer but void of course. For the most potent gathering this year, it may be better to wait until the Moon moves into the Fire sign of Sagittarius early in the morning (4:31 am EDT). Get up early (or stay up late!) and gather St John's Wort before the Sun rises, especially in the hotter regions of the world. A little dampness or dew is believed to imbue the herb with a more potent, balanced energy, taming the fiery energy (fire can easily get out of control) yet helping it to flow more readily...this is especially helpful if you plan to use the herb in love spells.
St. John's Wort is considered a protective herb and can be carried or worn to help ward off darker energy and spirits. Like many things pagan, early Christians took the knowledge of the wise ones and placed their own stories and beliefs on top or changed it to demonize those who did not follow the same path. This is true of St. John's Wort, an herb of great value and power that we still, even with all the scientific research and study, to this day, do not fully understand. The early Christians named the herb St. John's Wort after John the Baptist, who was born on June 24th. The red oil of St. John's Wort was considered to represent the spilled blood of their Saint.
An old English poem contains the following verse about St. John's Wort and how it would keep the 'witches' and devils away, showing the age old fear of magic and ritual of the craft. Strangely enough, the witches (the wise ones) were probably the only ones who originally knew how to use the herb!
St. John's wort doth charm all witches away
If gathered at midnight on the saint's holy day.
Any devils and witches have no power to harm
Those that gather the plant for a charm:
Rub the lintels and post with that red juicy flower
No thunder nor tempest will then have the power
To hurt or hinder your houses: and bind
Round your neck a charm of similar kind.
We see here, however, a use of the herb that is still commonly practiced. St. John's Wort is woven into a wreath or necklace and hung around the house or around the neck for protection, to keep away the dark and negative - or 'evil' - energies. The necklaces or bracelets made of the Midsummer harvest of St John's wort can be used as potent love charms as this herb is also one that is commonly used to attract a lover or enhance sensuality in a relationship.
Midsummer is a time to draw love, enhance fertility, and to make use of the heightened creativity of the Sun in the Moon's natural sign of Cancer. Midsummer is the longest day of the year and thus, also the shortest night of the year. Symbolically, God and Goddess now join in a loving, gentle relationship. The passion and ecstasy of Beltane has given way to a more solid and enduring union. The Moon Goddess is at her most sensuous; the Sun God is at his highest physical peak. Together they hold the power of creation. Midsummer is a time to celebrate and ask for Prosperity, Fertility, and a bountiful harvest. The Universe is eager to grant wishes at Midsummer and using St. John's Wort at this time enhances the magic of this solstice point. St. John's Wort can strengthen desire and motivate one to make their dreams come true.
How to use:
Gather, dry, and preserve St. John's Wort over the Solstice and through St. John's birthday, June 24th (when many people celebrate St. John's Day or Midsummer, although the solstice astrologically occurs days earlier) for the greatest potency. If you are able, obtain and preserve enough to use throughout the year in your ritual work.
If you have leftover herb from the previous years harvest, focus on one of your greatest desires and then burn it all in a great fire. Bonfires are common, so if you are attending one, you may want to take along your old herb. If you want a more private and sacred space to do your work, create your own fire in a fire pit or fireplace and burn your old herb there while you focus your intent and ask for what you want.
Weave the longer pieces of the fresh plant into wreaths, necklaces, bracelets, or rings. All them to dry before using. Be sure to focus your intent while you are weaving. You can change the energy of the wreaths by adding additional herbs, spells, or psychic energy into the work. For instance, if you are making a ring to attract love, you can burn rose incense, chant a love spell, and focus on what you would love in a partner. If you are making a protective wreath, you would focus on protection and safety or perhaps banishing if you need help with a specific problem.
St. John's Wort can be dried and chopped into small pieces, ground into a powder, made into a tea, made into tinctures and skin balms, soaked in oil to make St. John's oil...there are multitudes of uses.
Whenever you need to add the Sun's energy to your work, you can use St. John's Wort.