Known as pot marigold in old herbals, calendula is still widely used, much loved and quite indispensable around the home. English herbalists called calendula herb-of-the-sun because the flowers close at sunset and open again at sunrise. A twelfth century herbal suggests that simply looking at bright yellow and orange calendula blossoms will “clear the head, improve the eyesight and encourage cheerfulness."
A most wonderful herb for the skin, calendula blossoms are soothing to itches, irritations, wounds or burns - including sunburn. Spotty or greasy skin, pimples, impetigo, eczema, herpes sores and fever blisters respond well to frequent applications of calendula oil or flower infusion used as a wash.
Astringent, antiseptic and antibacterial, calendula’s gentle healing action easily extracts in oil, making it just the thing to soothe diaper rash and children’s scrapes and cuts. Nursing mothers with sore or cracked nipples find great relief from frequent application of calendula ointment.
Calendula oil does wonders for the complexion and is commonly used as a moisturizer. It makes an excellent primary ingredient in any healing salve, hand cream, facial, or aftershave lotion, as well as bath or massage oil. Calendula oil helps stimulate circulation. To relieve varicose veins and phlebitis, I use the oil generously, or make a compress with the infusion or fresh calendula flowers.
The fungicidal properties of calendula blossoms deal successfully with athlete’s foot, jock itch and other fungal infections. I grind dried calendula flowers into a powder, mix with clay, and dust over infected areas to keep them dry and help them heal. When dealing with vaginal yeast overgrowth, wise women dust the outer vaginal area with calendula/clay powder. An infusion made of dried calendula blossoms is helpful used as a sitz bath. Calendula tea or infusion is used as a mouthwash to relieve thrush. The infusion or hydrosol can also be used as a wash or compress for healing conjunctivitis (pink eye).
Maria Treben, a European herbalist and one of my favorites, used calendula infusion for treating stomach ailments, ulcers and inflammation of the intestines, as well as viral infections. She recommends drinking a cup of dried calendula flower infusion, or taking 20 drops of tincture, to help stimulate the flow of bile, ease digestive woes and tone the liver. This is also a valuable remedy for those with gastritis, gastric or duodenal ulcers.
Fiorrancio coltivato, as we call it in Southern Italia, is often cultivated but just as likely to be wildgathered, as it is abundantly distributed and naturalized in cultivated fields, wasteland and along roadsides. The whole plant is valued for its medicinal properties. It is used as a sedative, diaphoretic, vulnerary and for its skin healing actions.
Will warts disappear with repeated application of calendula infused oil or the sap from the stem? When he was a young boy, my son Johnny had a cluster of warts on the side of his foot. We faithfully applied calendula oil to the warts and the surrounding area. Within a month the entire cluster disappeared. Nothing was left but beautiful pink skin! I’ve seen it work to erase warts again and again, sometimes quite dramatically.
Calendula hydrosol is an amazing healing substance for any type of skin condition. Spray liberally to relieve itching, rash, irritations, infections or whatever else ails your skin.
Among calendula’s constituents are saponins, flavonoids, mucilage, essential oil, resin, steroidal compounds, carotenoids (retinol) and a bitter principle.
Flower Essence Calendula flower essence encourages emotional warmth, compassion and receptivity in verbal communications. I’ve used it to cultivate the ability to truly listen to the inner meaning of the words of others and to bring greater consciousness into the healing power of my own words.
Magical Lore Sprinkle calendula petals under the bed to inspire prophetic dreams and for protection while sleeping, or hang on the door to keep negativity from entering.
Culture Calendula prefers rich garden soil and appreciates the addition of some compost. We gather the beautiful crescent-shaped seeds in fall for next year’s crop, but calendula is fond of reseeding itself, so you may have enough volunteers to make replanting unnecessary.
Calendula starts easily from seed and can be planted as soon as the ground is workable in spring, alongside the peas and spinach. The quickly germinating seeds create beautiful beds of light, bright green leaves. Growing to a height of two feet, calendula plants branch out readily if given plenty of room and are soon covered with masses of brilliant yellow and orange blossoms.
Calendula will flower all through the summer, continuing well into fall, as long as you keep gathering the blossoms. Picking calendula is such fun that all my kids used to want to do this job when they were little. I have wonderful memories of being in the herb garden during summer with my children, all of us picking flowers and filling our baskets, our hands sticky with the resinous healing energy of calendula, and our hearts glad - just like the old herbals said!
Calendula’s freshly picked, multi-petaled blossoms are delicious added to salads and soups. Tincture the fresh whole blossoms in alcohol or vinegar or infuse them in oil or honey. Dry the blossoms on screens and place them carefully so they aren’t touching. No need to pull the petals off first – in fact that green bottom has some of the medicine!
“Everything that is in the heavens, on earth and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” Hildegard von Bingen
Xochiquetzal - Calendula is the sacred flower of Xochiquetzal, the Mexican Goddess of beauty, love and marriage. She is the patron of pregnant and nursing mothers,spinners, weavers, painters and magicians. She is beloved by the birds and butterflies. Xochiquetzal is also known as She Who Watches over the Land of the Dead.
“The survival of all species depends on our grasping the significance of what was learned during the Beginning Times. And what we learned was this: that ceremony is life itself. It is the way we do things. It is the way we maintain balance and harmony with all our relations. It is the way we honor our ancestors and protect the earth for the yet unborn generations.” Gkosedtanamoogk Anoqcou, Ceremony is Life Itself
In cultures where a strong tradition of ritual or ceremony is honored and regularly practiced, there is an emphasis on being in the world rather than doing tasks and accomplishing things. There is an emphasis on the process of deepening, rather than on producing and achieving.
The ancient goddess cultures, pastoral for thousands of years, used ceremony to maintain a sense of the sacred in their daily lives. The old women in our village come together at the church every evening to say the rosary, attend mass and receive the Eucharist. Earth honoring people from cultures around the world, ancient times to the present, participate in ceremony to sustain the health and cohesiveness of the individuals as well as the community.
There is much to learn from these people and their ways, for they speak clearly of humans’ true spiritual essence and of our deep connection to Mother Earth. Technological culture places great emphasis on the material level. It puts little value on things of a spiritual nature. Consequently, many of us yearn for deeper meaning in our lives.
Some of us are discovering and cultivating new aspects of ourselves, working with great care to develop and extend a sense of the sacred into our daily lives. Our success relies on our capacity to incorporate the process of sacred psychology into daily activities, as well as to acknowledge the god or goddess in those we meet along the way.
I learned from Jean Houston, humanistic psychologist, philosopher and author of Search for the Beloved, that the need for ceremony is deeply encoded within us and that it insistently demands expression. Houston explains that the reptilian brain needs security and repetition, our old mammalian brain seeks emotional charges and our cognitive neo-cortex needs intellectual stimulation.
If we court all three parts of the brain, our body will listen. In this way we can reorganize our circuitry to receive the subtle, yet powerful messages from both our own deep psyche and the larger universe, thereby embarking on a path of developing sacred psychology.
Ceremony amplifies our natural capacity and desire for experiencing the sacred. It helps restore connection to our deepest selves, to each other, to the earth, to all her creatures and to the ultimate source of all being. And, ceremony gives us access to information that is otherwise unavailable. Earth honoring celebrations synthesize all the essential factors necessary for good health and sense of well-being, not only for the individual but also for the whole community.
Ceremony engages us fully in body, mind and spirit. Ceremony becomes a dynamic expression through which the energy of an event can move us in a personal and/or communal process toward deeper meaning, a new stage of development and a new level of living.
Ceremony is a way of communicating – with our deepest selves, with Mother Earth. It is a way of saying thank you: thank you for this life; thank you for this day; thank you for all of creation.
Ceremony is a way of acknowledging the sacredness of all that is. It gives us opportunity to know this moment as sacred, this piece of earth as sacred, this tree, this bird, this exchange of energy, all are sacred.
Ceremony is a way of showing respect. It allows us to show respect for the changing seasons, respect for the corn that grew, for the tree bark just gathered, respect for a new day, new moon, a new year.
Ceremony is all inclusive. It is not the sole property or right of any one group or culture. Ceremony belongs to all people. In our wild hearts we can all trace our roots back to the Beginning Times, when humans drummed and danced, sang and prayed around a common fire. Respect the ceremonies of other cultures by not mimicking them. Instead, create your own. I encourage you to retrace the threads of your own sacred relationship to the earth and to your ancestral traditions.
They are deeply encoded within you. Find a place you love enough to defend, and then commit to it completely. Protect all the natural beings who share that space with you. Live there with grace, respect and gratitude for the privilege of having found a true home. You needn’t own the place, just love it. Create simple ceremony there. Invite the seven directions (east, south, west, north, above, below, within) to join you there. This is how to create a sacred site.
If you stay with your special place long enough, the land itself will begin to teach you. Special spots will make themselves known to you. I have heard it said that those who have lived long enough to master the art of deep listening, hear the spirits of a place. They will help you create, practice or reestablish ceremonies that nourish and heal that particular part of the planet.
Get to know the natural beings of your area personally. The trees, plants and animals that share your space are living entities of great energy, intelligence and spirit. Observe their activities and changes. Meditate on your place amongst them. Relate to them as your friends and teachers. Dedicate yourself to their care and preservation.
Make up simple prayers and songs and share them in your circle of friends. Invite others to share theirs. Say grace before your meals. Drop corn meal, compost, or songs of praise around your garden in spring as a ceremony of nourishment. Do the same before gathering plants to express your gratitude. During harvest season, show your appreciation for the generosity of the earth by parading around the corn patch. Help your kids hang donuts in the trees for May Day. Have a regular Sunday dinner.
These are all simple ways that you can begin to bring ceremony into daily life and into the lives of your family and friends. It is important to be spontaneous and have fun. What might your ancestors have done at harvest season? What prayers might they have offered as a way of giving thanks? What foods did they eat? Celebrate the sacred in some small way every day. This is the wise and wild hearted way of opening our wild hearts to resonate with Mother Earth and all of creation.
Ceremony opens the doorway to spirit. Spirit is a real dimension of self. We become close to spirit through dreams, myths, ritual, ceremony, visions, intuition, hunches and feelings. Our spiritual experience is our ability to celebrate life and love. It enriches and sustains our family, our community, the world at large and ourselves. Personal growth depends on our ability to touch spirit deeply and to remember our true nature. Our survival as spiritual beings depends upon our ability to open our wild hearts in love and resonance with all of nature.
Allow the natural cycles of the planet to help set the rhythm for your ceremonies. Good times for ceremony are sunrise and sunset, new and full moon, equinox and solstice. Invite your family, friends and other beings to participate.
Opening Prayer - Mother of the Aztecs, Mother of the Mayans, Mother of the Mexican, South and Central American peoples. Mother of the Holy Sun, mother of the vibrant color orange, mother of lightning and thunder. Mother who lights up the sky. Mother who watches over the dead. We honor you. We ask for your blessing.
This week we celebrate Saint Hildegard and the concept of Viriditas. The greening power of the earth. Saint Hildegard, as I’m certain you know, is the patroness of all herbalists. She was a 12th century nun, and a great healer, musician, artist, teacher and visionary. She likened the greening power of the earth to the power of life itself and said it was responsible not only for all life but also all healing. She thought very highly of calendula for its healing properties, so much so that she named it Mary’s Gold…and employed it as medicine for many of the issues we described in the reading today.
Friday, September 17, is her feast day. And so, as an herbalist, a lover of health and healing plants and prayer, I encourage you to plan a simple ceremony of honoring Saint Hildegard and her concept of viriditas. Let this ceremony be an act of giving back to the earth, something sweet, something meaningful, something blessed. Share your ceremony with us on the forum if you’d like.
An ending prayer for us today, inspired by Saint Hildegard:
The earth is our mother,
She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is alive, all that has ever been alive.
Earth is the mother of seeds, trees and stars.
The earth contains all moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power.
It is in so many ways fruitful. All creation comes from it.
May we be entirely nourished and wholly blessed by our mother the earth.
May we be made holy by her. Amen
© 2022, Gail Faith Edwards