St. John's wort

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) was an indispensable plant with a variety of uses. Known by a preponderance of folk names including sv. Janeza roža, janževa roža, ivanjska zel, krčna zel, and krifrišarca, it was closely associated with the summer solstice, when it was believed to offer protection from lightning. St. John’s wort was the midsummer plant most often invoked for protection against fire and lightning. St. John’s wort was traditionally believed to possess magical powers that protected against dark forces, thunder, and lightning. It was said to be especially hated by the devil, who pierced its leaves through with needles – the resulting perforations in its leaves being attested by the specific name perforatum. Once blessed, the plants were stored and used piecemeal throughout the year for various purposes. Often they were burnt to cleanse the house of disease and hung as protection against fire and lightning. St. John’s wort was regarded as particularly effective in the latter case, and it was distributed throughout the house and outbuildings for this purpose. A bunch of St. John’s wort flowers held under one arm was additionally thought to ease fear of thunder. The alternative folk name križeva roža (“flower of the cross”) originates from the Christian legend in which John the Baptist stood below the cross, grieving, and picked the flowers on which the Saviour’s blood had fallen. Another name for it is krvavec (“bloody one”), owing to John’s death by decapitation. Medicinally, it was used in a tea to treat insomnia, depression, and disorders of the bile ducts, bladder, and kidneys. Soaked in spirits, St John’s wort was used to disinfect wounds; in wine, it was given to patients with epilepsy and dysentery. Oil of St John’s wort was applied to burns or massaged into joints to treat rheumatism.

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