Calendula

Notes from the Apothecary

September, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Calendula

Calendula or marigold? Last month we explored the magic and mystical beauty of the true marigold and I mentioned in that article that marigolds are often confused with calendula. Botanically they are actually very different. Calendula are often called pot marigolds or common marigolds, but true marigolds are in the genus tagetes although both tagetes and calendula are in the Asteraceae family, along with sunflowers. Tagetes are native to North America, whereas calendula came to America from the Mediterranean. They have beautiful orange or yellow blooms, with an extremely long flowering season.

The Kitchen Garden

From Mrs Grieve’s Modern :

It was well known to the old herbalists as a garden-flower and for use in cookery and medicine. Dodoens-Lyte (A Niewe l, 1578) says:

‘It hath pleasant, bright and shining yellow flowers, the which do close at the setting downe of the sunne, and do spread and open againe at the sunne rising.’

She refers to calendula as the common marigold, and notes that it is easy to grow as long as the position is slightly sunny and the ground kept free of weeds. Calendula self-seed, and can spread quite easily although they are annuals so the new foliage replaces last year’s plants, rather than joining them. The seeds are curly little horns, perfectly beautiful and very decorative in their own way.

Calendula petals can be used as a substitute for saffron, but only for the yellow colour they impart, not the taste. The flowers make a tasty and beautiful garnish for salads and other foods, and can be mixed into butters and cheeses for colour and flavour. Even the peppery leaves can be eaten to add spice to a salad.

The Apothecary

Natural Living Magazine published a great feature on calendula and its many practical uses. The publisher, Amanda Klenner, notes that she uses the petals in skin lotions, body butters and salves. She also makes marigold tea which soothes irritated mucous membranes and internal tissues. She uses the tea for digestive health, and adds that the petals are used in some cold and flu remedies. She also believes it supports the lymphatic system, crucial for our immune systems.

In the same publication, Nina Katz states that the herb is, “Anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-septic, vulnerary, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulant, immunostimulant, cholagogue, heart tonic, hypotensive, lymphatic, respiratory tonic, emmenagogue, anti-spasmodic, astringent, aperient, diaphoretic…”

Many of these terms might be unfamiliar to you if you’re not an herbalist or phytologist. Vulnerary means healing of wounds or inflammation. Cholagogue means to stimulate the gall bladder to produce bile. Emmenagogue means to promote menstrual flow. This means it can be useful for period pain or delayed periods, as it stimulates the uterus. Pregnant women should not ingest calendula for this reason. Always check with a medical professional before changing or starting any type of medication.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Many believe that the term marigold comes from an association with the Virgin Mary. However, that supposition is a little backwards. The marigold (calendula) became associated with the Virgin Mary because the name sounded a little like Mary’s Gold, however the term ‘marigold’ was first coined by pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons, when referring to the marsh marigold, a plant related to neither calendula or tagetes (true marigolds). However, calendula has been used to honour Mary for so long that, if your path leans this way, it still makes a fantastic offering or altar decoration. It’s just good to know the origins and history so you can make your own mind up about what’s appropriate.

Cunningham tells us it is a masculine herb, which I presume is because of the plant’s association with the sun, and fire. I find it has a very feminine energy, but plants are complex and it’s often hard to pigeon-hole them. He advises picking calendula at noon in bright sunlight to ‘strengthen and comfort the heart’. He also states that calendula is used for protecting the home from evil, and scattered under the bed can give you prophetic dreams and ensure a safe night’s sleep. Calendula petals in the pocket will keep justice on your side if you need to attend court. His final and my favourite point about calendula magic is that, if a girl touches calendula petals with her bare feet, she will be able to speak to birds in their own language. How wonderful that would be!

Calendula has historically been used in divination, particularly relating to love and knowing who one’s true love may be. Rachel Patterson recommends the flower for spells or incense blends involved with psychic powers. She also writes that they promote happiness and uplifting energies, and can be used to make gossip about you cease.

Home and Hearth

As we move from summer into fall, calendula should still be flowering for some time yet. If you are lucky enough to have calendula in your garden, pick a few of the flower heads and separate the petals out. Create a circle of petals on a clean cloth or on your altar, one petal at a time. Have the base of each petal pointing toward the centre of the circle, so the end of the petal points outwards. As you lay each petal, think of something in your life you are happy about, or grateful for. You don’t need to write this down or prepare for it. It should be spontaneous and from the heart.

The bigger you make your circle, the longer it will take to complete, but you will think about more happy things! If you have been struggling with dark feelings or depression, it may be sensible to start with a small circle. This can prevent you feeling like you ‘should’ have more to be happy about, which can actually make you feel worse. Sometimes, we may only have a few bright sparks in our lives, and that’s okay. We can still celebrate that, and as we move into the darker months, focusing on the good things we have becomes even more vital and soul supportive.

I Never Knew…

A snuff of marigold leaves was sniffed up the nose, to encourage sneezing to rid the sinuses of excess mucous. Lovely!

Image credits: Flower of calendula by Wouter Hagens, public domain; Calendula officinalis, Seeds by H. Zell, copyright 2009 via Wikimedia Commons; Calendula officinalis – Botanischer Garten Mainz by Natalie Schmalz, copyright 2011, via Wikimedia Commons.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

 

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways

Notes from the Apothecary

August, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Marigold

 

 

The marigold is a complicated puzzle to unfurl. True marigolds, tagetes, originated in North America and found their way back to Europe via Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Yet the plant we most often call marigold is actually calendula, which travelled the complete opposite way, arriving in America from the Mediterranean hundreds of years ago. The two types of plants are not botanically related, so calendula lovers, I’m sorry, but keep your eyes peeled next month. This month it’s the true marigold’s chance to shine.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Marigolds are striking and beautiful, with yellow and orange petals that come in a fascinating array of shapes. They bring a ray of sunshine to any kitchen plot, and help ward off many unwelcome visitors, including mosquitoes. They are particularly effective at ridding the soil of nematodes. They also do well in very dry conditions, particularly African marigolds, so are easy to care for.

The petals of marigolds are normally edible (as always, double check with an expert before you eat any wild flower) but they don’t all taste the same. Some are quite pungent, whereas others are citrusy and light. They make a wonderful, colourful addition to salads and cocktails, or as a garnish for just about anything you can think of.

 

The Apothecary

On the Modern site, Rita Jacinto has written a fascinating article about the marigold, including some interesting tidbits on their medical uses. She states that the marigold is an herb and that it contains lutein, which I know as a chemical which can help reduce eye damage, particularly that associated with aging. She also tells us that in India, marigold leaves are used for wounds, abrasions and even conjunctivitis. As always, consult a doctor before changing any medication.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

Cunningham, in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, told us that a garland of marigolds over the door would prevent evil from entering the home. However, he also named ‘Marigold’ as calendula officinalis, so he wasn’t talking about our true marigolds, the tagetes. Finding lore about the true marigold can be tricky, as many writers confuse the two plants, but they are so different botanically that it’s really worth trying to ensure you have the right plant for the job at hand.

Marigolds were used by the Aztecs to decorate temples and other sacred spots, and they are still used to this day to decorate graves in Mexico, and during Day of the Dead festivities. Just like the bright orange monarch butterflies are said to represent the souls of the dead visiting us for a brief time, maybe the bright orange, yellow and red of the marigold petals represents reaching through the veil, into the beyond, to talk with our dearly departed. They represent pain, loss, and trauma, but also dealing with these things positively, facing your painful emotions and not hiding from them or repressing them. They remind us to never forget, and that the past, history, or those we love will never die while we remember.

The marigold is associated with the month of October, probably because it has such a long flowering season and can often still be found in full bloom even as the autumn evening start to draw in. If you manage to collect some flowers before Samhain, try hanging them to dry, and you’ll have delightful yellow and orange flowers to complement your sacred space over Samhain.

Marigolds also represent love, fierce loyalty and the contentment you feel when you are with someone you truly feel comfortable with. Meditate on the marigold to understand where your true feelings lie about someone, or a group of friends.

The Latin name tagetes comes from Tages, the Etruscan prophet who taught divination. So it makes sense that the marigold is associated with magic to induce visions, see the future, prophetic dreams and psychic abilities.

Marigolds are sometimes used in Hindu ritual and religious decoration, so if you are influenced by Hinduism marigolds may hold great significance for you.

 

Home and Hearth

If you’re a fan of home dyeing, marigold petals are known to give a gorgeous, yellow colour. This can also be used to colour foods such as desserts or cheeses, so they are really handy for the keen homesteader. Chickens who eat marigolds will have a richer colour to their egg yolks.

During Lughnasadh, or Lammas, use marigold blooms to represent the sun on your altar or sacred space. They represent the south, fire, and the endurance of the sun through the colder days that are coming after the harvest is done.

 

I Never Knew…

In parts of India, marigold flowers are given as offerings to the God Vishnu.

 

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

 

 

Seed, Root & Stem

August, 2013

 

The homestead is abuzz, quite literally, as I’ve released some three thousand ladybugs in to feast on the gray aphids.  Calendula heads are clipped and their vine-dried seeds harvested. Bunches of oregano, thyme and rosemary are hanging to dry.  Lavender and fennel are deflowered, hibiscus blossoms in their natural wrappers are almost ready for the teapot and honeysuckle flowers are twining their golden arms around each other on the rack. The drying room is filled with intoxicating odors and I have already begun to blend them for next year’s ritual incense.  My favorite season of all is just about here – Autumn.

I’m reflecting once again on the year that is almost passed. As my hands perform each mundane chore, I quickly find myself contemplating the new learning the year has brought me in those countless hours nurturing, cajoling and whispering each plant from the dark Mother’s womb into fullness. The moon is full, shimmering on the wheat that stands tall in the fields. Bats are breaking my concentration as they dive through the mosquito swarms, and I am keenly aware that the River’s tide has turned because the breeze has picked up across the island.

The first batch of Helichrysum (aka Immortelle) is in. These petite, sun-shaped flowers nestle against a silvery mist of leaves and stalks, and true to their nature, they’ve improved my disposition by scent alone as I hang them on the line to dry. This herb is well-known for its medicinal value and it is said by some that it stimulates the right side of the brain. It also is reported to ease exhaustion and lethargy as well as treating pain and depression. I harvest the flowers for tea, a tasty and potent treat.  It makes a great addition to my soaps and bathwater, and it is a “must have” in my medicine bag.  The herb being burned for cleansing the house is powerful.  Extracts are also added to sunscreens to block UV rays[1].

I planted this seedling on August 16, 2010 according to my diary. It’s now a mature bush providing enough for my household’s use. Each year I put the first of its harvest on the altar as an offering of my thanks and a prayer that next year will be just as blessed. This year, the first of the harvest has been dried and blended with freshly dried bergamot and laid on the altar beneath the pear tree now surrounded by small tufts of dill. The garden fae appear pleased at its presence, peace and joy are amplified through the power of the bergamot.

Carrying a bunch of the dried helichrysum blooms with some bergamot leaves in my pocket, I cross the hedge. I visit the Spirits that I am forging relationship with; I’ve attempted to build relationships with the moody, grouchy ones by leaving handfuls for them as well. Sometimes I get ignored or maybe a disinterested stare from those Ones who have no desire to be my ally.  But more often than not, this handcrafted offering has proved to be well-received and beneficial. I rarely ‘leave home’ without it as I  travel along the Witch’s path.

 

 



[1] herbal Soaps & Detergents Hand Book, H. Pand