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Traditions for St. John the Baptist in Abruzzo

The night between June 23 and 24 is in the folk tradition the night of the witches, travelling to their annual congress. In Abruzzo there are dozens of tricks against them, such as take inside the children's clothes left to dry before darkness comes, or place corn ears behind the door. This is also a night of prodigies. In Celano women collect the dew with a non-metal object to heal eye problems or, more simply, to be desired.

St John's will also give auspice, and the Abruzzese ask their questions to egg whites or thistles. One egg white is poured into a transparent container and left to the night dew, then collected before sunrise: the forms discernible will give reply to our questions or predictions. The thistle is used instead for questions regarding love: on this night young people pick a card and burn the petals a little, then place it is a container outside the window. If the next days the leaves are green again, the love wish will be fulfilled. In Pianella and San Salvo two due thistles are slightly burned, one is kept inside and the other placed to the night dew: if the latter appears in better health in the morning, the girl will marry a foreigner.

Another common custom was for girls to place under their pillow three broad beans: one completely peeled, another just half- peeled, and a third non peeled one. On the morning of the 24th the girl would blindly choose one of the beans: if the peeled one, she would marry a poor man, if the half-peeled, her husband would be neither poor nor rich, if the non-peeled one the husband would be very rich.

Celebrations in Civitella Roveto
The area is inside a natural reserve, celebrated for the miraculous powers of its waters since antiquity. Immersion in the waterfall of Zompo lo Schioppo on certain days is said to cure of sterility. The tradition connected to St. John says that on the night between June 23rd and 24th the waters of the Liri river acquire a very special healing power, and a large crowd comes on that night to bathe in the river and wait for down and the early morning Mars, celebrated along the river bank

Celebrations in Bisegna and Trasacco
Midway between the two little centers there is a "miraculous" fountain along the Giovenco river. Young men from the two villages come to the river and bathe, then fill bottles with water that can be used to heal skin aliments, and repeat a rite that will establish a link of "comparatico" (act of becoming compari, kind of blood pact) with each other exchanging small bunches of flowers, mint, rosemary and basil. After that they proceed to the church with the statue of San Giovanni.

St. John's Fires
If some decades ago you had flown by night over Abruzzo, you would have seen hundreds and hundreds of fires near villages and towns. Giant heaps used to be prepared the day before by each small or large community, for the joy of youths and children throughout the night.

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