In Italy, the night between June 23rd and 24th holds a magical essence as the summer solstice occurs
In fact, for countless years, June 24th has been a special day in the Catholic Church's celebration of St. John the Baptist, where purifying and propitiatory rituals have been observed, leaving behind traces of ancient customs.
These practices originated from the ancient pagan festivals of the summer solstice and gradually intertwined with Christian traditions.
During this time, the Sun, representing fire, enters the sign of Cancer, ruled by the Moon, symbolizing water.
This symbolic union of the two powerful forces in nature bestows heightened potency upon plants and flowers, a phenomenon celebrated by people across all latitudes.
Eventually, it transformed into the feast of St. John the Baptist in Christian societies, who attributed purifying qualities to water and presided over ancient rituals associated with this precious element.
According to numerous ancient legends, on the night of St. John, witches claim the air surrounding villages, only to be dispelled through propitiatory practices such as the resounding beats of tambourines and other improvised instruments, incantations, or the illumination of bonfires.
This belief draws its roots from the Roman "solstitialis spina," a gathering of thorny flowers and herbs employed to seek the favor of deities.
The Calabrian tradition of the "erba di San Giovanni" (St. John's herb) originated from this notion
...And Calabrians believed in its power to repel demons.
The "erba di San Giovanni" consists of a simple bundle of medicinal herbs gathered on the enchanted night.
It was utilized for similar purposes by other European cultures and featured in the magical incantations of druids and witches.
The composition typically includes artemisia, rue, wild garlic, St. John's wort, mint, and other herbs based on regional variations.
A day filled with festivities, religious processions, and traditional customs
One of the most prominent celebrations takes place in the town of Coccorino, where locals gather to honor St. John in a spectacular event known as the "Festa di San Giovanni."
The streets are adorned with colorful decorations, and the air is filled with the joyful sound of music and laughter.
The day begins with a religious procession, where a statue of St. John is carried through the town's streets by devoted locals.
The procession is a sight to behold, with the statue lavishly adorned and accompanied by the rhythmic beat of drums and melodic tunes of traditional instruments.
The townspeople, dressed in their finest attire, follow the statue, creating a captivating spectacle that showcases the region's deep-rooted religious traditions.
As the sun sets, the festivities reach their peak with magnificent firework displays lighting up the night sky.
The captivating colors and patterns of the fireworks reflect the joy and enthusiasm of the locals.
Another significant tradition on this day is the lighting of bonfires.
These bonfires hold symbolic importance and are believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.
Families and friends gather around the crackling flames, sharing stories, laughter, and traditional Calabrian delicacies.
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