With the upcoming Solstice celebrations, I thought it would be a nice addition to this blog to write a post about the traditions I learnt from my grandmothers about this day. In Spain, the beginning of the Summer is not marked by the Solstice, but by San Juan’s eve, which is the night of the 23 of June.
That night is entirely devoted to the power of fire and its ability to clean negativity. Bonfires made using old furniture and all kinds of salvaged wood are created during the month of June, usually by children that go from door to door asking for stuff to be burnt. Anything that we wan to get rid of is added to the bonfire – many people add old clothes, papers with things we want to forget or finish, and students burn their school papers as it is usually the last day of the school year too.
On the night of the 23rd, the bonfires are lit at dusk and, by midnight, when the bonfires are reduced to burning coals, the tradition asks to jump over them three times to be cleansed of all negative energy for the whole next year. If the bonfire is made in a beach (which is quite usual), the tradition calls for three baths in the sea, to assure the good luck of the following year, and the banishing of all evil spirits; if you want to try that yourself, the baths must be taken facing the beach, not facing the sea, so the sea can take away from us all negative energies.
Speaking of Canarian traditions (as the bonfires are traditional to the whole country, and not specifically ours), each island has different ones, and sometimes even each region; in the north of Tenerife, for example, we have the (sadly disappearing) tradition of the “Hachitos”, which are burning three-armed – like a trident ;) – ornaments made of wood, flowers and ribbon, where dry corn kernels soaked in tar are used as the candle wicks. The Hachitos burn during the whole night, marking to path towards certain churches or places or prayer for the pilgrims (we are already making plans to make one for that night, pics soon).
In Puerto De La Cruz, my hometown, the day of San Juan’s central celebration is the bathing of the goats, a ritual where thousands of goats are led to the beach to the bathed and purified for the next year – truly a beautiful celebration! The goat has been the most important animal for the Canarians since the days of the Guanches, since our geography makes sheep and cows a very rare sight here.
Besides the celebrations that involve whole towns, there are also many local superstitions around the night of San Juan. We have been pestering our family and revising our books this week, gathering them for you :).
Protection And Magic:
- That night, place a big bowl of water outside. Before the sun comes up, but when there is light enough to see a bit, look at yourself in the water. Whoever that does not see his/her image, won’t live to see another night of San Juan unless he/she gets help from a Witch immediately.
- If you have seen your image in the water, use said water to wash your face; it is the best beauty aid you will ever try. You can bottle the rest of the water and use it as blessed water too.
- The night of San Juan is the night of divination; the most common method is lighting a white candle and putting a glass full of water between you and the candle. On the glass, break an egg that has been laid that day and study the figures that the egg and the water form, much like when making tea leaf readings. We have found a version of this spell using molten lead, probably using the small drop-shaped pieces called sinkers.
- Whoever is holding a branch of fern during the midnight, will be lucky for a whole year. The fern branch must be hung over the front door before the sun comes up on the 24th.
Love And Marriage:
- In the exact moment of midnight between the 23rd and the 24th, place a candle between you and a mirror. You will see your funeral behind your reflection in the mirror, for a brief instant. We have also found a version where you will see the Dead instead of your funeral.
- Any woman looking to be pregnant in a year shall wear wormwood in a sachet next to the skin while jumping over San Juan’s bonfires.
- Choose three small potatoes with similar shapes and, in a jug filled with water, put one completely peeled, one half-peeled and one as it is. Place the jug under your bed; when you wake up the morning of the 24th , and before you put your feet on the floor, reach the jar without looking and take one potato, the one you first touch. If it’s peeled, your husband will be poor; if it’s half peeled, he will be just rich enough to support the family; if you get the unpeeled one, your husband will be very wealthy.
- Instead of potatoes, there is also a spell made using paper bits with the names of the “competitors” for a woman’s heart. The paper bits are rolled and placed in a jug of water; the morning of the 24th, one paper will be unrolled and floating over the water; the name on that paper will be the name of the girl’s husband.
- The name of the first man you see on the street right after you wake up on the morning of the 24th, will be your husband’s name.