Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/249

This page has been validated.
237
VINOUS SUPERSTITIONS.

Church, St. Stephen. At Freiburg the Johannites were accustomed to hang a stone, representing one of those thrown at Stephen, to a silver chain. Wine was poured upon the stone and then given to the faithful to drink. Memorial drinks to St. Michael and St. John the Evangelist were also very common. Departing guests and travelers were accustomed to drink "John's blessing" as well as in memory of St. Gertrude; and a number of mythical stories are associated with these draughts.

St. Gertrude is said to have drunk a St. John's draught with a knight who had entered into a pact with the devil, and thereby to have delivered him. Since St. Gertrude was the patron of sailors, and her chapel at Bonn, near the Rhine, was much visited by seafaring people, it is easy to explain why the draughts to her honor were drunk in a glass shaped like a ship. It is still customary in some Roman Catholic churches to bless a cup of wine on St. John the Evangelist's day (the 27th of December), and commend to the people the memory of the beloved disciple. These customs are not observed outside of Germany. In Catholic Germany it is usual to celebrate a first festival at the house with the wine (generally red wine) which has been blessed at the church, and to give to the whole family to drink out of the same cup; a few drops are even poured out for the baby in the cradle. Part of what is left is preserved, and part is poured into the cask, to impart its blessing to what is there and turn all evil spells from it. Speculative Swabian hosts often consecrate large quantities of wine for the entertainment of their guests and neighbors; and the popular fancy prevails that, if such of this wine as has been kept over the whole year is drunk on the annivesary of the day of its consecration, it will bring recovery to the sick, and protection and strength to those who are about to start on a journey. Engaged couples taste this wine at their betrothals, when it is offered to them by the priest after having blessed it. If one drinks it on the day it is consecrated, he is secured for the whole year against poisoning, witchery, and lightning. It is an old Bavarian custom for the father to drink a "John's blessing" before departing on a journey, and then, swinging the cup backward over his head, to cast a few drops on the ground. The "John's blessing" on St. John the Baptist's day, June 24th, which the South-German Protestants observe socially, without making a church festival of it, is doubtless related to the Catholic custom.

The John's blessings have been referred to the cup drunk by the disciples, or perhaps to the wedding at Cana of Galilee; but we think we have shown that they are derived from the old heathen thank-offerings, and the sacramental wine has probably been also brought within the scope of the usage by popular fancy. Many healing powers are attached to this wine in some places, and it is sometimes called in as the last and surest remedy in extreme cases. That industrious investigator of folk-lore, M. Töppen, says on this subject in his work on