In Slovenian folk tradition common bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is the best known of the midsummer plants associated with the summer solstice, during which it is ascribed magical and protective properties, but it was also once used medicinally. It was added to baths to treat rheumatism and gangrene, and its roots were soaked in spirits for topical application. Bracken tea was drunk in cases of roundworm or tapeworm. Fresh leaves were tied to the forehead and eyes to ease pain, while dried ones were used to line shoes as a remedy for tiredness. Healing and magical plant! Common bracken is the most mysterious and magical midsummer flower, which connected the visible and invisible worlds – once it also played an important role in this ritual. Beautifully described by Boris Čok in V siju mesečine (In Moonlight’s Glow, 2012), this pagan ritual was practiced as late as the 1830s in the rock shelter of Triglavca near Divača. The day before the ritual, girls and women gathered bracken from the local area and washed it in clear spring water. The next day, the priestesses tied the bracken around their waists for protection against besi and curses. During the ritual itself – which was led by a man (Božeglav) – the women removed their bracken belts and placed them on a ritual stone. Afterwards, they reclaimed the belts, and the next evening girls would carry them to all the families in the village, to place by their hearths. Thus sanctified, the bracken protected the families from misfortune, diseases, natural disasters, famine and supernatural forces. Common bracken, the most well-known midsummer plant, was also used for apotropaic purposes.
More about healing and magical plants in Slovene tradition you can read in book SACRED PLANTS IN FOLK MEDICINE & RITUALS – ETHNOBOTANY OF SLOVENIA by Vlasta Mlakar
© Vlasta Mlakar