site.btaChurch Commemorates Nativity of St. John, Midsummer Day Adds Charmed Herbs, Silent Water and Fire
Observed annually on June 24, the Nativity of John the Baptist is a high-ranking liturgical feast celebrating the birth of St. John the Baptist. This and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin are the two notable exceptions of the rule, according to which the day of a saint's death is usually celebrated as his or her feast day, because it marks his or her dies natalis, or "birthday", into eternal life.
This is also the day of the solstice celebrated by people as the first day of summer.
Christians have long interpreted the life of John the Baptist as a preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ and the circumstances of his birth, which as recorded in the New Testament, are miraculous.
The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest feasts of the Christian church, listed by the Council of Agde in 506.
It was also thought that this was a time when spirits roamed freely, so bonfires were lit to ward off and protect from the evil spirits. Later on, the solstice was seen as a time when witches or even dragons needed to be kept at bay with a bonfire.
All over Europe "Saint John's fires" are lighted on mountains and hilltops on the eve of his feast. As the first day of summer, Saint John's Day is considered in ancient folklore one of the big "magical" festivals of the year. Divining rods should be cut on this day. Herbs acquire unusual healing powers, which they retain if they are picked during the night of the feast.
In Bulgaria, the day is called Enyovden and is associated with the healing powers of the sun, water and plants, and is celebrated as the day of herbalists. Herbs to be picked at sunrise include lady’s bedstraw (known locally as enyovche), sweet clover (kumoniga), wild primula and lemon balm.
The bunch of herbs is then dipped in a vessel of water filled in silence from a spring. People are then sprinkled with "silent" water in a ritual that is believed to make wishes come true and ensure health and prosperity.