A lot is still collected from nature here in the Marche: wild asparagus in spring, mushrooms in autumn and herbs in summer. The nicht before Saint John the Baptist plays a special role in this, because the dew that falls that night is said to have special healing powers, and so the “Acqua di San Giovanni”, the Saint John’s water, is produced with herbs and flowers that have been collected on that night.
The day of Saint John the Baptist (San Giovanni), June 24, is a special day for many, whether you are celebrating the Christian John the Baptist, or you are connecting it to Midsummer and the summer solstice (June 22-24) in pre-Christian times. Correspondingly, countless customs and practices have grown up around this day and many have to do with water, flowers and herbs. Think of the midsummer celebrations with flower wreaths in Scandinavia, fountain festivals or the bonfire in southern Germany.
Isabelle and Elke simulated the preparation of the “Acqua di San Giovanni” for you. The water unfolds its full effect when women, as sober as possible, collect certain herbs at sunset before Saint John’s Night, put them in an earthen bowl and pour fresh spring water over them and leave them in the open air overnight.
In order to have the post ready for tonight, Isabelle and Elke made the water some days ago and took photos. They were neither on an empty stomach nor at sunset. And the “spring water” that they took was water from Isabelle’s well, but it comes from the mountains and was of the best quality. So if it doesn’t work, you know why!
Here is a list of the most important herbs and flowers that are needed:
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), yarrow (Achillea), wormwood (Aremisia), wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), oats, large algae fern (Azolla filiculoides), laurel, lemon balm, curry plant (Helicrysum Always Green), Elder, mint (Tanacetum balsamita), lavender, thyme, rosemary, rose petals, marigold (calendula), sage and rhombus (Ruta Graveolens). Other plants can also be added if they have a medicinal property.
When the bowl with the herbs infused with water is outside on Saint John’s Night, the magical Saint John’s wort falls into it, which has a particularly strong effect that night.
If you wash your face, eyes and body the next morning, you will be protected for a whole year, people say:
“La guazza di San Giovanni guarisce tutti i malanni” – the Johannis water heals all deseases.
Or, as we would say: even if it doesn’t help, it doesn’t hurt either.