Known by many other names before the Christian church dedicated it to Saint John the Baptist, Saint John’s wort has served to drive out illness and evils of many forms worldwide for centuries. In ancient China it was known as Qian Ceng Lou and was used to treat many of the same complaints it still does today. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it for similar medical complaints, but they also made use of its magical qualities. Saint John’s wort was a common offering to local Greek and Roman gods and goddesses left at the feet of their statues.
They were combined with other herbs or used on their own in amulets, charms, and talismans. Saint John’s wort was hung above icons of Saint John, much as the ancients laid them at the feet of their gods and goddesses, to invoke the saint’s protection. Saint John’s wort was also hung above doorways, on bedposts, and worn to protect against the evil eye and to drive away calamity including storms, tornadoes, and all manner of harmful beings.
From Russia to England, Europeans used Saint John’s wort to cure a variety of illnesses and to drive out illness of mind and spirit. Oil of Saint John’s wort was commonly called the blood of Christ and was used both in healing and as an anointment during religious ceremonies.
In magic, Saint John’s wort was used in a variety of ways to banish evil spirits, such as demons, ghosts, and poltergeists. For these purposes, flowers were gathered on Midsummer’s eve and passed through the smoke of the night’s celebratory fire to purify them.
Saint John’s wort was also used by maidens to divine whether a husband may find his way into their lives within the year. To this purpose, the blossoms were placed under the pillow so they might inspire dreams of a future love.