By Patrick Warner
Herb Gatherer & FES Staff Member

Traditionally, St. John’s Wort is harvested on St. John’s Day (June 24). However, harvesting can take place as early as the summer solstice or as late as the end of the month. Either way, this plant is at peak bloom when our northern hemisphere summer is at peak daylight. But from the very beginning I realized that the plant, or rather its guardian spirit, has always guided me to the right time of harvesting.

To harvest St. John’s Wort is to enter a world of Spirit, a world that is not governed by the usual laws of time, space or logic that we are accustomed to in our everyday waking consciousness. In the course of harvesting St. John’s Wort, one is transported to a plane of experience and feeling that, while seeming otherworldly or unreal, is as real as anything one ever has or ever could be part of.

One of the first things you may want to understand when harvesting St. John’s Wort is that you can forget most of what you think you know about the rules of time and space. You will be in contact with an elemental force (Light) which is barely removed from the Creative Intelligence. Time and space (as most humans know them) are fairly gross end-manifestations of Spirit. Light, especially in its subtle forms, does not play by any such rules. A common example of this is experienced by many who harvest St. John’s Wort—the inability to keep track of time. At a certain point, you don’t know if it’s 10 a.m. or 2 p.m.; you just know that you have been cutting bunches of the beautiful golden-yellow flowers. Another example of the bending of the time/space rules, and one that is even more strange is the following: you will be cutting away, standing in a patch of St. John’s Wort; and just as you make the last cut, exhausting the patch you’re in, you turn around only to realize that there are many more plants that you apparently missed—which is strange—because it was such a small patch to begin with… This sort of thing happens with regularity throughout the day, and it is tempting to chalk it up to the otherworldly tone that the harvest of this special plant has now taken on. The excursion into another realm comes in waves, and all of a sudden you realize that things are somehow different around you. Then, just as you are ready to unload the bags full of St. John’s Wort flowers, the wave subsides and everything is back to normal. Moments later, as you begin another round of harvesting, the wave comes back, transporting you once again into St. John’s special time and space.

St. John’s Wort is an erect perennial herb that grows up to 32 inches tall and has a somewhat woody base. Commonly found in dry, gravelly soils, fields and sunny places in many parts of the world, including eastern North America and the Pacific coast. A woody branched root produces many round stems which put out runners from the base. The opposite, oblong to linear leaves are covered with transparent oil glands that look like holes. Flat topped cymes of yellow flowers, whose petals are dotted with black along the margins, appear from June to September.

From the Holisticonline.com plant profile page.

St. John’s Wort readily springs up in recently cleared places and will continue to grow as long as it is not crowded out by other plant species. And just as St. John’s Wort will retreat or completely disappear as other plants push in upon its territory, so the Divine Light (of which St. John’s Wort is but a plant kingdom manifestation) will not impose itself upon the individual in the face of conflicting crosscurrents of thought, self will or strong desires.

Two notable plant species that are regularly found in proximity to St. John’s Wort are Mullein and Blackberry. Mullein tends to be among the first plants that shoot up quickly on burnt or cleared ground. I have never seen St. John’s Wort within the bounds of a clearly defined patch of Mullein. And as long as the Mullein is there, St. John’s Wort will respect these boundaries. As a flower essence, Mullein addresses the individual’s need to hear the inner voice, to find their conscience. Thus it may be that Mullein must establish itself firmly and begin to recede before St. John’s Wort may grow in that area. And so it is with us: having cleared the ground of our consciousness of weeds, debris and choking underbrush, we must know our conscience before we can begin to express the Divine Light.

Top:
Blackberry Rubus ursinus

Left:
Mullein Verbascum thapsus

 

Blackberry, on the other hand, grows within and around patches of St. John’s Wort. In fact, some of the healthiest St. John’s Wort is found growing in close proximity to Blackberry thickets. Though this makes it somewhat difficult to harvest, it is usually worth the effort. And just as Blackberry flower essence addresses the ability to manifest dynamic will, St. John’s Wort is the embodied, manifest Divine Light. It is possible, even likely, that the dynamic will expressed by Blackberry encourages and paves the way for Light to come shining through St. John’s Wort from the plant spirit world to ours.

One final but no less important element of the world of St. John’s Wort is the presence of a certain species of beetle that has an appetite for the plant. The entomologist would speak of the type of beetle, its range and why if feeds on St. John’s Wort. And perhaps the botanist would see it as a threat to the local St. John’s Wort population. Either way, you will not find a harvestable amount of St. John’s Wort without seeing signs of this beetle. It is pea-sized and very shiny, with coloring ranging from black to navy blue to dark bronze. But that is just the barest of description and in no way serves to convey the true sense of this special organism that the St. John’s Wort harvester comes to know. Because we are in St. John’s world, we see a being that is very fortunate indeed: it feeds all day on the light flowing through the yellow flowers. Scientifically speaking, this may account for its shiny, metallic appearance. But in this magical realm, we are in touch with yet another of its magical denizens not understood by the eyes or mind alone, but only by the open heart.

St. John’s Wort is but one of a myriad of living beings on this vital, intelligent planet that will gladly give up its secrets if we lovingly appreciate it. The scientist may look in awe upon the mystery and intelligence expressing itself behind the outer appearance of our fellow living beings, and the average lay person may see nothing beyond the physical shell. But the person with an open heart (regardless of formal education or training) is a guest of honor at a pageant where the mystery of life is laid bare, not becoming devoid of miracles, but instead overflowing with an infinitude of them.

Read poetry by Pat Warner:

St. John's 2005

In the Blink of an Eye

Blue Mother sky...

Where did the two butterflies come from...

Mid-summer Dream of Forever

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