Calendula history and mythology

 Calendula, a.k.a. marigold

The flowers of Calendula are so bright and happy, difficult to believe that once they were associated with grief. A common idiom in ancient times, “He wears a necklace of marigold”, the name most often used to refer to calendula. Also associated with the sorrow of love unrequited.

In many places, they named marigold in reference to the virgin Mary. With the petals likened to the golden light often depicted as crowning her head and the color related to Mary’s giving of herself to the Lord’s plan. An English author by the name of Gay offered up a riddle relating the flower to Mary-

“What flower is that which bears the virgin’s name,

the richest metal added to the same. Marigold.”

Unfortunately, research has born out that this was just a case of religious opportunism. The word is an old Anglo-Saxon term of use for Caltha palustris a.k.a. Marsh Marigold; the word Marigold was later appropriated for the Calendula Officinalis plant.

Household uses

A household flower at one time, no house could do without this precious plant. Used in food and medicine alike, calendula is a powerhouse. Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote about it as part of his studies saying, “They brewed gooseberry wine, cured marigolds, and made the crust for venison pastry.” The Shropshire housewives often used marigold as coloring for the cheese they made. The moniker “pot marigold” came from the use of calendula as an inexpensive substitute for saffron so it was often in the cook pots of the poor. It can add color to cakes, butter, puddings, and the aforementioned cheeses.

Many countries

Romans had calendula in use for the treatment of scorpion stings. In German folklore, if the petals of calendula stay closed past 7 am, it will rain that day, and the same belief in Wales. Mexican tradition hold calendula as a flower associated with death. There people believe it  grew from the blood of the Indians killed by the Spanish invaders. Another belief hailing from lovely Wales is that anyone picking or even looking at the flower would develop a weakness for strong drink.

Safe ways to pick

There is a special way this flower could safely be picked. Pick the flower only when the moon resides in the sign of the virgin, never when Jupiter ascends because then it has none of its virtues. The person gathering the plant must be out of deadly sin and must say three Pater Noster and three Aves. This will give the wearer a vision of anyone who has robbed him. I pick calendula flowers in the morning after the dew is gone, with no regard to the ascendants.


There is a lovely story about how the calendula came to be the lovely flower we know now.

Once there was a maiden by the name of Caltha. This maiden was in love with the sun. Over time she became so in love with the sun that all she did was sit and gaze upon the sun all day long. Soon she would not leave even at night, because of her fear of missing the first golden rays of the sun as it appeared over the horizon. Caltha continued on this way until the sun absorbed her in its rays, forever taking her away from human sight. In the place where she had sat gazing grew the beautiful flower whose petals open with the sunrise and close with its setting.


Reid, Marilyn. Mythical Flower Stories. United Kingdom: Lipstick Publishing, 2005. Print.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *