Saint Johnswort also known ( Hypericum perforatum) has a special place in the Medieval Christmas tradition.
St Johnswort blooms during Summer Solstice, the time that the sun is at its zenith. The flowers of St. Johnswort would be traditionally picked during this time. The Latin name Hypericum is dervied from the name of the Greek Sun God, Hyperion. But later the herb adopted its name from John the Baptist whose feast day is June 24th which is also very close to the Summer Solstice.
The bright yellow flowers hold the essence of the peak of summers sunshine. It was picked on either the Solstice or St. Johns Day. The very best blossoms would be carefully dried and brought out on Christmas Day and placed on the altar as a promise of the light returning during the darkest days of winter.
Legends said when the mass was performed correctly the dried St Johnswort flowers would revive.
Today they have found that the tincture of St Johnswort helps with depression and helps a person to return to a sunny disposition. The very essence of this plant is the flora of sunshine.
Several years in a row my friend Susan and I would gather St. Johnswort on Summer Solstice and place the fresh flowers in jars of vodak or ever-clear alcohol. We left them in the alcohol until Winter Solstice. Then we would strain the golden tincture into pint bottles a little less then half full. Next, we would take 2 cups of raw sugar with two cups of fresh spring water and place this on the stove and melt the sugar and spring water until the sugar dissolved which created a light syrup. We then would add, ( through tasting) a small amount of syrup into the tincture in the pint bottles and top off the rest of the bottle with a good brandy. You don’t want the cordial to be to sweet so tasting little spoonfuls at a time until you get the measurements just right, It was our taste buds that made the decision of the right measure of sweetness.
The result is an beautiful amber color cordial which a friend who tasted it on Winter Solstice gave it the name liquid light. That Winter Solstice into Christmas Day we gave bottles of the St. Johnswort Cordial as gifts of sunshine to many people in the neighborhood to chase the winter blues away.