St. John’s wort. Legends, rituals and medicine.


Although in mid-June the search for St. John's Wort increases significantly, herbalists and esoteric stores always have it on hand, knowing its properties. The real name of St. John's Wort is Hypericum Perforatum, a name with Greek and Latin history. The most common translation of Hypericum is "beyond the image" (according to some, "beyond imagination"), and Perforatum, "perforated" or "transparent." Greco-Roman tradition tells us that it is called that because it was put gr. hyper, above religious images (Gr. eikon, from which icon comes).

Science tells us that the name is due to the fact that "you can see beyond its leaves", since these, held up to the light, reveal the little holes where their oil glands are located: therefore, if they are crushed or squeezed the plant and petals, leaves reddish remains very easily. Of course, there is no shortage of those who give a magical air to the name "beyond the image", as a synonym for clairvoyance.

The name St. John's wort is medieval, around the 4th century. Medieval authors said that they bloomed on the night of the solstice, but that they "bled" on the festival of the Beheading of Saint John, on August 29. Without a doubt this blood was the oils.

As for the little dots on its flowers and leaves, it was said that the Devil, seeing that the Templars, on the other hand always devoted to Saint John the Baptist, were cured of all their wounds and illnesses with St. John's Wort, had a tantrum, caught a needle and began to prick the flower.

St. John's wort grows in warm climates throughout the world, although it is native to Eurasia. Its highest flowering stage occurs in late spring and early summer, and is therefore linked to the summer solstice (June 21/22), close to the date of St John (23/24). It is actually a perennial plant, although it is true that its yellow flowers are what make it striking. During the flowering season is when its active ingredients are highest, which is why popular knowledge shared the medicinal reason.

Magical uses

If you have the opportunity, you can go and collect the herb on the afternoon of the 23rd, and put it in a container with water collected from seven sources, along with other plants (for a total of seven, which vary according to tradition), and that it will be left in the moonlight of that night.

The seven most common herbs are: St. John's Wort, to ward off demons; Fern, to protect the home; Rosemary, to purify the home; Mauve, for good humor and softening the character; Fennel, for the evil eye and envy; Lemongrass, for love and friendship; and Retama, for bad energies. Some of these are changed by Rose, Elder, Codesus, Ivy, Verbena, Mugwort, lavender, myrtle, rue... depending on the region and esoteric interest.

The next morning, that water is used to wash your face, gaining beauty and health, as well as protection. For the latter, many people prefer to take a complete herbal bath, or infuse St. John's wort and use it to drink and wash, in addition to also washing the house or amulets. St. John's wort is considered protective against the evil eye and bad intentions, as well as warding off evil spirits, which is why in the Middle Ages it received the name Fuga Daemonum.

If one decides to wash his face at night, before dawn, he should not look in any mirror until the sun has risen. Otherwise, we can send our entire spirit to the other side (remember that tonight the door to the magical world "opens"), and our ritual would not only make no sense, but we could attract the opposite.

Those who have the opportunity to pick it fresh sometimes carry out the ritual of "making it bleed." Christian legend says that this flower was born from the drops of blood that fell from the decapitated head of Saint John the Baptist, and that is why its leaves bleed. As has been read before, the glands in the leaves give off a reddish color, and this is where the origin of this myth lies. The ritual would consist of squeezing this juice, either to paint your hands, face or body with it, or, more subtly, to prepare essential oil. Anointed with this "blood", the magic practitioner would increase all of his potential, being able to perform complex spells without danger from the spirits that cross the doors between worlds tonight. The oil is also used to write spells or wishes, or magical symbols on magical or valuable objects.

St. John's worts can be hung upside down in a bouquet and left to dry, to be placed near the front door. Some people use the same bouquet they put in the water. There are variants of the St John bouquet, in one of them only St. John's wort is used (obviously), immortelle, walnut branches and leaves, and stonecrop (sedum album) flowers and twigs. Another bouquet pattern includes St. John's wort, clover, elderberry, hawthorn and thistles. These last two herbs scare away demons and other evil entities with their spikes.

These bouquets must be burned at the bonfire the following year, and can be decorated with bells and bells and carried around the house and streets, or dancing around the bonfire, to scare away the demons with the commotion. But before being burned, its flowers and leaves can be taken throughout the year for different rituals.

Due to its yellow color, St. John's wort has been related to the Sun and also to Gold. You can keep flowers or the same herb in a sachet or bag, sometimes with laurel, and put it under the pillow or under the mattress, to attract prosperity.

If what you are looking for is love, you can do the same with St. John's wort and other loving herbs such as rose, verbena, cinnamon, ginger, yarrow...

Likewise, St. John's wort, normally when it is dry, can be stored in small cloth bags that can be carried in bags or backpacks, hung somewhere in the house, to attract luck and protect oneself. According to others, you can make a wish, and burn those herbs the following year.

Burning the herbs in a cauldron or censer, or making bundles with St. John's herbs is another good option, used especially to purify the house at any time of the year.

St. John's wort is frequently used to dress well-wishing candles, and to burn alongside other herbs and incenses. As seen in other articles, bad things can be burned in the candle or made wishes, and the wax must then be thrown into a stream of water or buried. If you participate in the bonfires, you can set the plants on fire (many farmers continue to make bouquets of this and other herbs and surround the crops to protect them and guarantee the fruits) or throw them into the bonfire asking for wishes and blessings.

Midsummer's Eve is also a favorable time for divination, as the veils between worlds disappear and everything becomes clearer.

When walking through the countryside on the eve of Midsummer's Eve, you can ask yourself questions in the air, close your eyes and run your hand through the herbs, taking a few, then counting the number of flowers or petals. This was formerly done in the towns to know the years until marriage or the number of children.

Flowers are also collected and left in specific places, making wishes. If the flower is still fresh after the night, the wish will be fulfilled, while if it has dried, the answer will be negative.

With the smoke from candles or burning and with the dregs of infusions, one tries to find out the future (see article on taseomancy). It is also done with the shapes that the herbs may have taken at rest (at the bottom or floating) in the water left in the light of the moon, or even taking a handful of crushed grass and throwing it on a smooth surface, to try to see the shapes that appear.

Medical uses

St. John's wort has been used for multiple purposes since ancient times, but the most common today is as an antidepressant. In controlled doses, this plant calms anxiety and improves mood, although it has many contraindications that should be reviewed before taking it, for example, it is an abortive plant. However, there is no doubt that it had uses as an arousal or as a calming agent.

St. John's wort is also anti-inflammatory and healing (especially in oil, like the one we saw before), in addition to helping with circulatory and digestive problems. These properties and the previous ones were already known in the ancient Mediterranean world, as demonstrated by the text of Dioscorides (SI), transmitted here in a Spanish translation from the 16th century: (english below)

<<El hipérico, llamado ambroseno de unos, de otros corio y camepitys por otros, que quiere decir pinillo, porque su simiente huele a resina de pino...Tiene facultad de mover la orina, y aplicado por abajo provoca el menstruo. Bebido con vino extermina las tercianas y las cuartanas. Su simiente bebida por una cuarentena de días, cura la ciática, y las hojas con la simiente aplicadas en forma de emplasto, sana las quemaduras del fuego>>

<<The St. John's wort, called ambrosene by some, corio by others, and camepitys by others, which means pinillo, because its seed smells like pine resin...It has the power to move urine, and when applied from below it causes menstruation. Drunk with wine it exterminates tertians and quartans. Its seed drunk for about forty days cures sciatica, and the leaves with the seed applied in the form of a poultice heals fire burns>>

An ancient legend exposed King Mithridates IV (2nd century) creating herbal antidotes which included St. John's wort. The same legend, transmitted by the poet E. Housman (19th century), tells us that King Mithridates was poisoned on multiple occasions, and yet, he ate and drank what was poisoned without flinching. Its resistance became so famous that the herbal mixture received the name mithridate, and although St. John's wort cannot be considered, by any means, the main ingredient (barely 20 grams for the development of 1kg of antidote), its renown In ancient times it was notable, only to be lost with the advancement of medicine and commercialization.

Modern studies have shown that St. John's wort can act on the liver, which would have caused the famous Mithridates to develop a greater speed of synthesis and filtration, which will nullify the effects of poisons.

But as we saw in the rituals, coincidentally its use in infusion or food is minimal. This is due to the knowledge of its toxicity in high doses. In infusion, for example, its dose should be controlled, not exceeding one teaspoon per liter, and no more than three cups a day. The most notable overdose effects are photosensitivity, including sun allergy, and an increase in blood flow that causes swelling of the body's limbs (even more so if sun exposure has occurred). As already said, it is abortive and in cases of depression, it can interact negatively if other antidepressants are already being taken. It is also not recommended with immunosuppressants. Of course, taking it in infants is not recommended.

However, in this changing, difficult and unbalanced world, for many people, including doctors, St. John's wort could become the 21st century solution to survive at least the early stages of depression. In this way, it seems that St. John's wort still maintains both its medicinal use and its "spiritual magic."

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada -


-Flores Arroyuelo, F. J. Diccionario de supersticiones y creencias populares. Alianza ed. 2000.

-Kynes, S. Plant Magic. A year of Green and wisdom for pagans and wiccans. Llewellyn worldwide, 2017.

-Frazer, J. La Rama dorada. Estudios de magia y religión. Fondo de Cultura económica, 2015

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