festivals and traditions

Somewhere on Midsummer’s Eve, between magic and reality

Midsummer is a time associated with magic and fairies. It is said that the little folk (the elves and fairies) can be easily seen on Midsummer’s Eve because this is one of the days when the veil between the two worlds is thin and can be easily trespassed.
As with nearly all festivals that go back to pagan times, also with Midsummer there are a certain number of superstitions which still survive and create a link with the world of magic.

There are a few plants that are said to possess magic powers that will manifest themselves on Midsummer’s Eve. One of them is hypericus, commonly called St. John’s wort. It is said that if you tread on one of its bright yellow flowers on Midsummer’s night, you will be magically transported into the land of fairies.

Another plant that is believed to have magical healing powers  if picked on Midsummer night is Calendula. Oh, and don’t forget roses. They say that every rose picked on Midsummer’s Eve, or on Midsummer’s Day, will stay fresh until Christmas.

And, much more interestingly, and still concerning roses, people say that at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve if a young girls scatters the petals of a rose before her and says:

Rose leaves, rose leaves,
Rose leaves I strew.
He that will love me
Come after me now.

on the next day her true love will visit her.

In Norway people also say that if a girl puts flowers under her pillow on Midsummer’s night she will dream of her future husband.

Traditionally, bunches made of fennel, ferns, rosemary, dog rose, verbena, St. John’s wort and elder flowers picked on Midsummer Eve were hung in doorways to protect the house.

I have also come across a very particular Finnish tradition concerning Midsummer Eve. But before I tell you about it, I maybe need to explain what a “will o’ the wisp” is, otherwise you won’t understand what this tradition is about! 🙂

A will o’ the wisp (in Italian, “fuoco fatuo”) is the phenomenon of seeing a far-away light at night, very similar to a flickering lamp, which seems to move away if you get closer. In most European folklore traditions will o’ the wisps are usually associated to fairy lights or evil spirits. But in Finland they believe that will o’ the wisps are lights that mark the spots where treasures are hidden. According to a Finnish myth, if someone finds the seed of a fern on Midsummer night (as ferns are said to bloom once a year, precisely on St. John’s night),he/she will be transported, invisible, to the places protected by the will o’ the wisps, where these fantastic treasures are hidden, and which only the holder of the fern seed can see.

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