A lost tradition of the Amalfi coast is that of the night of San Giovanni which falls between 23 and 24 June, during the summer solstice. To be more precise, we must say that from an esoteric point of view, the Summer Solstice covers a period of about four days, from 21 June to 24 June, the fateful night of San Giovanni.
From the esoteric point of view it is a very important night and many ancient pagan rites were celebrated during this night, with Christianity all these rites and beliefs have been incorporated by religion and associated with St. John the Baptist who is honored on June 24th. The anniversary is felt in many places in the country, to quote the words of Matilde Serao:
“… There are a hundred, but there are a thousand, the small, the great legends of St. John, the mystical Precursor, with a solitary and ardent heart; and every region, every country, it can be said that every hamlet has its own legend… ”.
A bit of history and religion
St. John is a very important character for Christianity. June 24 commemorates the day of his birth. At mature age, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth begins to preach as a prophet, in the short term he surrounds himself with a large circle of acolytes and has the opportunity to know and baptize Jesus, hence the epithet of the “Baptist”. His work is stopped by Herod Antipas, who arrests him with the concern that it could cause a popular revolt. The Synoptic Gospels are of another opinion, the reason is to be found in the denunciation of John to Herod for the incestuous wedding with Herodias. The latter manages to press on her daughter Salome to convince Herod to behead John. The beheading has been the subject of inspiration for many artists, including the well-known painter Caravaggio with his “Beheading of St. John the Baptist”.
The legend of the fire beam of the Amalfi Coast
Until recently on the Amalfi coast there was the habit of absolutely not having the first swim in the sea before June 24th.
The ancient legend tells that in the night of the day of St. John the Baptist a beam of fire descends from the sky and magically heats the water, making it more hospitable, especially for the elderly, for whom summer began only after June 24 .
The legend also tells in addition to the beam of fire, pieces of charcoal also fall from the sky, which were then found the next day in the soil of the vegetation.
The saying, by the way, goes like this: “care ò trave è fuoco a mare” (the beam of fire falls into the sea).
And yet another proverb mentions: “San Giuvann’ vò tre muort’ l’anno, uno acciso, uno scapezzato ed uno affogato” (San Giuvanni wants three deaths a year, one killed, one fallen and one drowned). So bathroom forbidden.
According to others, the fall of the beam of fire represents the descent of the Holy Spirit into the sea and, therefore, the saint’s day is the right day to bathe and soak in the water blessed by St. John the Baptist.
How many children and how many boys, years ago, were blocked by parents and grandparents from taking their first bath in sea water, because of this myth.
And then we anxiously awaited the right moment to go to the beach, staying for whole days, even very hot, to desire the sea.
Perhaps at the time the adults were not entirely wrong in waiting for the day of St. John the Baptist to allow the little ones to dive: in fact the sea water in the first two weeks of June is always a bit cold, and diving can lead to colds, especially in younger or older people.
So, as we see, the little legends always have a foundation of truth.