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Folklore Friday: Calendula

Updated: Mar 6

Calendula is depicted here in the stunning medieval tapestry "The Unicorn in Captivity".

Calendula officinalis — the herb of the sun! Not only reflecting the sun's glorious pigments of gold and orange in his petals, but also pulling those petals in like a cocoon to sleep at sunset, and unfurling his radiant mane to greet Grandfather sun at sunrise. Or as Shakespeare poetically put it in A Winter's Tale — "The Marigold that goes to bed wi' th' sun, and with him rises weeping".

Δ So there's no better place to begin our folkloric foray than to mention that if Calendula goes against his very sun-worshipping nature and doesn't open his flowers in the morning, then folklore decrees that it will rain the following day!

Δ Calendula was a key ingredient in a magical eye ointment recipe from the 1600's that was said to enable you to see fairies! Was this to be followed with a good swig of absinthe, I wonder? ;)

Δ Macer's Herbal stated that simply looking upon calendula flowers would "draw evil humours out of the head" and strengthen eyesight.

Δ Calendula has long been used as a natural dye to colour cheese/food, fabric and cloth, and to lighten hair (hello Mary Moon's Highlighting Hair Rinse!). Calendula gained the name of "poor man's saffron" for this reason.

Δ It was said that carrying calendula in your pocket would help justice smile favourably upon you while in court (take note, peeps!).

Δ To send someone calendula is flower lore language for "I'm thinking of you."

Δ Scattering calendula under your bed (or pillow) would protect you while sleeping and give you prophetic dreams. This was also used to summon visions of anyone who had robbed you!

Δ If a girl touched the flowers of calendula with her bare feet, she would thus understand the languages of the birds (I love this).

Δ It was believed that bathing in calendula would help to win the respect and admiration of everyone you meet (I'm actually running a calendula bath right now, I'll let you know how this goes!).

Δ So why did Shakespeare say Calendula wakes up "weeping"? Ah — because dear Calendula is known to collect dew drops in his closed bud at night, and as he wakes with the sun, the droplets drip off his unfurling petals like tears (the poetic beauty of this is killing me — ugh). Thus, Calendula has also been known as the "flower of grief".

Δ Despite Calendula's forlorn association in the poetic sense, energetically Calendula has long been used to comfort the heart and spirits — his sunny, bright and warm nature uplifting you whether you drink him as tea, or have a bouquet of his radiant blooms nearby.

Δ Like my previous post on Rosemary, Calendula's folklore runs deep. I could write for pages on this magical herb, but I wanted to end with pointing out the image I've used here — the stunning medieval artwork "The Unicorn in Captivity" — one of the seven unfathomably beautiful Unicorn Tapestries. Our friend Calendula is depicted in this one. Can you spot him?

Want to experience the myth and magic of Calendula for yourself? You can find him in So Smooth Salve and Highlighting Hair Rinse.

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