Updated: Dec 2, 2020
June 24th is the feast of St John the Baptist (San Giovanni Battista). It is traditional in parts of Italy, on the eve of St John the Baptist's day (June 23rd), for women to prepare acqua di San Giovanni, a delicately aromatic infusion that owes its perfume to a mix of wild flowers and herbs and which, according to folklore, takes on not only restorative properties but also bestows good fortune on those who bathe in it - that is, after it has been properly prepared and touched by the magical powers of the San Giovanni moon.
The process is simple and, well, it's worth a try, right?
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On the eve of St John the Baptist's day, the idea is to pick flowers and herbs from your garden or the verges and fields close to where you live. (Please, don't pick rare or protected wild flowers.) The traditional flowers/herbs collected vary from area to area, but some of the common components include fennel, rue, rosemary, lemon verbena, mallows, clover, St John's wort (of course) and elder flowers.
At sunset, the flowers are placed in a large bowl of water, which is left outdoors overnight to allow the San Giovanni moon to work its magic and to collect the dew of the gods.
And that's it. The following morning you use the delicately perfumed water to wash your face (and of course also offer it to family and friends to do the same). Its powerful magical properties will (according to folklore) bestow on the bather beauty, health and prosperity, and protect against misfortune and evil.