Copyright Robert Harwicke Living in the country has made me more attuned to the seasons, especially which wild flowers grow near me and how long before they die. It’s rather a good thing when you dye with plants. And of course, all these plants and their uses end up being intriguing for stories too.

This year, I have been  fascinated with St John’s Wort. I have heard about all the dyers loving this flower for the reddish-brown it gives (which I didn’t manage to achieve, not gathering enough of the flowers) and its beautiful bright yellow (pictured below with madder on the right and cherry bark on the left.)

copyright Hannah Henry, free short story

But it’s also useful as a macerated oil for sunburn and pain related to rheumatism and joints. It’s really easy and fun to make. You only need to gather enough plant material for a jar, make it dry for two days so the humidity has time to evaporate, pour oil on it then leave it for a month in a cupboard so it’s not exposed to the sun. Then you’ll just have to transfer the oil (without the St John’s Wort) in a new jar and it’ll be ready to use.

Lobelia, the heroin of my free short story “The Sisterhood of the Gibbous Moon” didn’t call for St John’s Wort when she needed the help of her plants but it was a way for her to know the time of the year. St John’s Wort, that I called by its latin name in the story, ‘Hypericum’, was traditionally gathered at midnight on the 21st of June. I don’t think my witch would have had more use for it when time was so dangerously short and it was more about freeing oppressed women by moonlight than healing burns caused by the sun. But I like to think that now, when she will gather her healing flowers at midnight, she will have her newfound sisters with her and they will make a party with huge fires and reminisce about the night where they shed the blood of the men who wronged them.