Calendula – Calendula officinalis
The flowers of Calendula are so bright and happy seeming, it is hard to believe that once they were associated with grief. A common idiom in ancient times was “He wears a necklace of marigold”, which is the name most often used to refer to calendula. Calendula was likened with the sorrow of love unrequited.
In many places it was said that calendula was 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. By then the word was already an old Anglo-Saxon term used for Caltha palustris a.k.a. Marsh Marigold and the word Marigold was eventually appropriated for the lovely flower of the Calendula Officinalis plant.
Calendula was a household flower at one time, no house could do without this precious plant. It was used in food and medicine alike. 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. Its color was used to add to cakes, butter, puddings, and the aforementioned cheeses.
Romans had calendula in use for the treatment of scorpion stings. In German folklore it is said that if the petals of calendula stayed closed past 7 am, it would surely rain that day, and the same was said in Wales. Mexican tradition hold calendula as a flower associated with death. There it is believed to have grown 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 a calendula flower would develop a weakness for strong drink.
There is a manner in which it is said calendula could be picked. The flower must be taken only when the moon is in the sign of the virgin, never when jupiter is ascended 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 (of the calendula) a vision of anyone who has robbed him. Happily, I am not of this belief and I pluck calendula flowers in the morning just after the dew is gone.
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 quite infatuated 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, for 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 calendula whose petals open with the sunrise and close with its setting.
Now I use calendula in my salves because it is fantastic for skin. I created a lovely soft salve of calendula for my relative that was at the time battling cancer. Her doctor had recommended a calendula salve for the burns caused by her treatment. It worked beautifully and she healed much quicker than was usual.
As a tea Calendula has been used for inflammation of the throat and mucosal tissues. I would blend it with other herbs that were also good for the throat and would blend nicely to create a great flavor tea. Because flavor is key to getting it in a body, lol. If it tastes awful, no one wants to gag it down. They are just going to head straight for the cold and flu section of the local grocery.
Calendula makes a great wash for wounds that are being incredibly stubborn about healing. Every time the bandage gets changed give it a rinse with calendula tea made strong, along with whatever other protocol has been advised by your health care provider.
Reid, Marilyn. Mythical Flower Stories. United Kingdom: Lipstick Publishing, 2005. Print.