Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fiore! Sempre Fiore!

Sometimes it is all about the flowers!  From the sacred celebration of Corpus Domini and its Infiorata floral tapestries we move to one of the most romantic and fragrant rituals of summer, La Notte di San Giovanni, the night St. John’s Feast.  It is magical how intertwined this Feast Day of St. John, born six months before Jesus, has become with Midsummer’s Night.  The marriage of the sun and moon in the Summer Solstice comes alive in many different ways from culture to culture.  In Scandinavia huge bonfires are lit to celebrate the longest day of summer in the land of the Midnight Sun.  People take turns leaping over the fire to prove their courage.  In Italy it is a little more subdued.  The morning of June 23 we go out into the fields and forests to gather flowers for “Aqua Odorosa”, Fragrant Water.  The golden flowered summer plants are believed to possess great powers of healing for body

and soul.  St. John’s Wort and Calendula are the most favored for miraculous healing powers and for girls of a marriageable age to ensure a happy marriage.

As my friend, Omar, a young stone mason told me several years ago when I asked about Solstice celebrations, one of his most treasured memories is of rising early on the day of St. John’s Feast and

going out into the woods with his beloved grandmother to gather all sorts of flowers to make St. John’s water, Aqua di San Giovanni.

Here is the recipe: First gather as many of these flowers and wild herbs that you can find to make enough for everyone in the family: St. John’s Wort, Calendula, lavender, rose petals, sage, wild mint, chamomile, laurel and geraniums. 

Then immerse them in bowls of fresh, cold water; enough bowls for each person. 

Leave the bowls overnight outside the window of each sleeping person.  St. John will pass by and bless each bowl to enhance its healing and soothing powers. Rise early, strain the flowers and bathe your face and hands in this divinely fragrant water.

Although I am not in Piegaro for this beautiful and fragrant tradition, I will be in Norway with Laara and Milo building the traditional bonfire.  We will jump the fire to show our courage in the Viking manner.  I may even convince them to go into the fields to try to find flowers for St. John’s Water.  Summer comes later in Norway and the wild flowers are not as abundant as Italy now.  We may have to cheat and raid our friend’s gardens.  I did see spectacularly tall pink, purple and blue lupine along all the roads here. 
I wonder if lupine can be substituted for the golden flowers of Umbria. I’ll let you know!

Read my friend, Roberta's blog to find out more about St. John's Feast and the tradition of "Aqua Odorosa"!  She is a great writer at:

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