Wednesday, 23 June 2021


Roughly corresponding with the June solstice and supplanting age-old rituals marking the changing season and agricultural and husbandry chores by calling it the eve of the Feast of John the Baptist, who according to liturgical sources was six months before Jesus, the festivities of midsummer making when the days start to diminish again after waxing longer to turn again on midwinter and Christmas, a reflection of the doctrine that John was preparing the way for Jesus and had to yield the stage at the right time. Customs leading up to the celebration include the lighting of bonfires and leaping over them—especially on the beaches, and the gathering of medicinal plants as those collected including verbena, rosemary, fennel, foxglove and Saint John’s Wort on this day are imbued with special potency. Originally titled St John’s Night on the Bare Mountain, Modest Mussorgsky’s iconic composition was renamed and revised to include a final daybreak movement and the peal of church bells to hasten away the mischievous and malevolent.