Midsummer- St. John’s Eve June
(St. John was martyred by beheading in Connaught it is said that he was burned alive)
The celebration marks the nativity or birth of St. John Baptist
Other dates with like celebrations: Saints Peter and Paul June 29 and July 4.
1. Light bonfire exactly at sunset on the Eve.
2.You can Begin to swim in the river.
3. Gather the “hocusfian” (large leaf with strong stem) from marshlands
and hit each person you meet
4.Throw most troublesome weeds into the fire to protect fields.
5. Jump over the fire from side to side. This jumping will show in the
fire flickering and
6. Priests ask questions and exorcise demons by the fire.
7. Take ashes and scatter them on the fields.
8. Those who have recently built a house should take a part of the fire to light their own fire-with the Teine F/eil’ E/oin.
9. A part of the fire brought home to start one’s own will also bring good luck in crops and stock and succession of children to one’s possessions.
10.Select a man to be Giolla an teine to supervise and direct ceremonies.
11. Walt through the fields with lighted torches to the fire then throw them in so that crops and fields might be protected.
12. Place portions of the fire to burn on fairy paths so as to keep midnight noises and supernatural manifestations away and have good luck and health.
13. Burn things used in pise/oga. Burn worn out statues rosaries, scapulars etc...
14. Go door to door asking for fuel for the large communal bonfires.
If you are not given fuel
15. Call out the names of donors of fuel for cheers and non donors for boos at the fire.
16. Throw bones on the fire.(some say the bones of Protestants!)
17. Set fire to a rivals pyre a day or two early.
18. Say this prayer when lighting fire:
19. First come prayers then merrymaking.
20. Merrymaking: loud cheers, blow on horns, beat tin cans. Play music. Dances..., Songs in-between dances, individual dances, recitations, storytelling, instrumental solos, various party pieces.
21. Young men and boys wave burning bushes in the air or hold up burning
wood on pitchfork.
22. Throw burning sticks into the air as high as you can.
23. Sprinkle holy water on the fire just after it is lit (this is done by an oldest or youngest person) Sprinkle holy water then on everything.
24.Burn an effigy of a human figure sometimes that of a traitor.
25.Set fire to brush so as to clear fields for cultivation.
26. Bring food for yourself or to be shared. In Connaught you eat “goody” -white shop bread soaked in hot milk flavored with sugar and spice. (Put this in large iron pot heated on bonfire) Participants bring their own spoons bowls and plates.
27.Children go house to house collecting pennies for the bonfire to be used to purchase sweets.
28.Men collect money for beer barrels or porter.
29.If you are a strict believer you will protest the jumping through
the fire by saying:
30. Jumping Through the Fire:
31. Light a quiet and religious family fire for protection of crops and livestock farm and family.This fire can be very small.
31.If someone has recently died do not go to the fire or light a fire at your home.
32. The smoke from the fire should reach the important crops in the field. You should also put embers from the fire in the four corners of each field or throw it as far as possible into the crop.
33. If you can not see the glow of an ember thrown into a field then you will have good luck.
34. Torches often elaborate made of bushes, a tall bush, bog deal slips, bunches of reeds or of straw or oil soaked rags called: siop Se/ain, cliar, wisp...afterwards carry them around the fields.
35.Plant a torch or burning bush in the ground and let burn out.
36. If you wish to harm your neighbors crops steal away the ember(s) from the field.
37. Using ash or embers the next day is helpful but not as good as on the day itself.
38. Put cows in the field where the smoke from the fire goes so they will be protected. Put charred sticks in the dairy for protection. Bring cows through or between the fires. Singe cows hair. Blend water and fire ashes and give water to cows and animals for “elf shot”.
39. People can mix ashes and water for cures. Ashes can give a peaceful death to old folks.
40.Gather St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) on the eve.
41: Gather foxglove and figwort between the two feasts of St. John (June 29 and 4 July) boil them in the water of three boundaries and keep till required.
42. Gather Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Use it as a marriage divination:
Good morrow, good yarrow, good morrow to thee
Put plant under the pillow and dream of future husband.
43.Gather mug/uird, bog/uird, mugwor (Artemissa vulgaris) throw some in fire.
44. Tradesmen march in processions.
45.Dress as a “merryman” in party coloured rags and in masks and make antic tricks and gambols at the head of processions and go to houses for money along the way.
46. Bless boats and fishing nets. Have a “salmon dinner: (fish soup, freshly caught salmon, new potatoes and Bushmills whiskey.)
48. In Dublin City go to the pattern at St. John’s Well, Kilmainham. Or go on a pilgrimage to any St. John’s well.
49.Complain about revelry if you wish
50.Set out for migratory labor in England and Scotland.. Save turf in advance of their leaving and earth up potatoes before they go.
51. Watch for change of weather and weather omens which will predict crops.(farmers want wet before festival and dry after.)
51.The cuckoo ceases to call (tell children that he has flown to Spain)
52. If you survive Midsummer you will live at least till Autumn.
53. Hold a fair. Set up a decorated pole in the center of the assembly
ground. It is called a craebh put flowers on it with silk kerchiefs nad
ribbons. Put a basket of cakes or gingerbread on its top with a large bunch
of parti colored worsted garters. The best musician plays at its
base and the best dancers compete for cakes and garters. The man
gets garters the lady the gingerbread. The winners are highly praised.
54.Some say (Connaught) that fires on St. John’s were a signal for an
attack against the Norsemen.
-Source-Danaher, Kevin.,The Year In Ireland. Mercier Press, Cork 1972.