The Spirit of Calendula
Calendula doesn’t just glow – it smolders. Like the sun, Calendula burns with a vibrant, piercing intensity. And though it might be tempting to disarm yourself in the graceful elegance of the flower’s dazzling beauty, take heed – Calendula is no shrinking violet. On the contrary, the flower embodies the essence of fire, and as such, it represents a searing, burning truth that burns both ways.
To provoke you is Calendula’s intention. The flower wants to entice and beckon you to the light of truth and hopes that you do not recoil as you get closer. Within Calendula’s luminous and passionate intensity, it is hard to hide the reality of your emotions, intentions, and desires. The flower aims to expose you to the rawness and realness of the light within you.
The truth can be painful, but Calendula also provides warmth and comfort once we’re ready to face it. Calendula shines a light and lights a fire so that we’re not left alone in the overwhelming cold of the darkness within. Because ultimately, it is the truth within you that protects you from the frigid dark of uncertainty and illusion.
It is also the truth within you that will help you understand the heart of those surrounding you. Calendula wants you to glimpse that same fire in others. This is the fire that roars like an inferno when we are happy and in love. Likewise, that same fire wanes and cools when we are grieving and in despair.
But it is essential to see it, know it, and feel its warmth pierce your skin and enter your soul. Through this understanding, Calendula teaches you the essence of empathy. Only then can you comprehend others’ emotions and provide meaningful comfort and compassion.
Calendula as the “Bride of the Sun”
The Sun’s light can be blindingly brilliant, scorching, and harshly illuminating, yet Calendula does not demure. Its petals follow the Sun devotedly, facing its blistering light without withering away. As the “Bride of the Sun,” this bold flower is one with the Sun and its majestic cycle.
Calendula’s imagery is so inextricable from the Sun that it informs the flower’s symbolism. The flower is an emblem of all that we attribute to the luminary — happiness, joy, vitality, warmth, and illumination.
The light and warmth that the Sun provides are the bedrock upon which joy, happiness, and abundance emerge. The absence of the star would enshroud the world in eternal, somber darkness. This cold, obscuring darkness would dampen the spirit and passion of life on this planet – if life even exists.
There are no seasons without the Sun, so all of the beautiful flowers in the Spring and bountiful crops in the field frankly would not be. Our happiest, most halcyon memories are backlit by sunlight, as the Sun and the vitality it emanates is truly the font of our warmth, satisfaction, and existence.
Consequently, we paint all of these attributes of the Sun onto Calendula, which evokes the daystar’s imagery. In India, it’s customary to gift Calendula flowers to newlyweds in hopes of bestowing these blessings on the union.
Hinduism reveres Calendula as a source of illumination and aid in revelation as well as spiritual insight. As nothing can hide from the light of the Sun, so too is the hope that Calendula shines its light on truth and dispels obscuring illusion.
October Birth Flower: Calendula
October is a time of pumpkins and candy corn. We watch in awe as leaves turn various shades of gold and amber, and fireplaces roar back to life. And what do all these things have one thing in common? Bright orange color.
Candy corn and its iconic orange, yellow and white bands; the bright orange pop of pumpkins at the pumpkin patch find no difficulty grabbing your children’s attention. The leaves in autumn alight the skyline with a tangerine glow, and fireplaces crackle and burst confetti of tiny glowing embers.
With its famous orange blooms, Calendula joins the aforementioned as a symbol of October. Furthermore, it is one of the month’s birth flowers, along with Cosmos. Its fluorescence is known to last well into the Fall season, as other plants start to wither from the cold.
Europeans and early American settlers depended on this “pot marigold” for their nutrition and to protect themselves from the doldrums of the darkest seasons. The sight of such a bright, radiant flower against the din of the winter was uplifting and helped dispel the approaching chill’s dreariness.
When the Sun is making its retreat and we’re entering the Winter court, Calendula acts as a second sun. The flowers provide a beacon to remind us that though dark, cold days are ahead. The Sun and its warmth will come back once more. The flowers symbolize hope and peering past the darkness that surrounds you to glimpse the promise of comfort and light that will certainly return.
Calendula as a Symbol of Death
Due to Shakespeare’s influence on the Victorian Era, specifically the Victorian Language of Flowers, Calendula has become associated with death. In his writings, the prolific playwright references the flower numerous times, referring to Calendula by its other name – marigold. The dramaturge employs the vibrant flower as a conduit to grief, a decorator of tombs, and a blanket for deathbeds.
To understand how Shakespeare’s expression of Calendula became so integral to its symbology, you must first understand the profound impact Shakespeare had on the Victorian Era. Shakespeare’s writings were incredibly influential on the practice of floriography – the secret language of flowers that was culturally popular at the time. There was a near cult-like reverence for Shakespeare during the Victorian Era, with his words treated as prophecy.
And with the playwright mentioning over fifty types of flowers throughout his literature, these flowers took on deeper symbolic and mystical meaning dependent on the traits Shakespeare attributed to them. Calendula is no exception.
The Winter’s Tale and Calendula
The most notable of these mentions comes from The Winter’s Tale, in which Perdita exclaims these words while handing out flowers at a sheep-shearing festival:
“Here’s flowers for you:
Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram,
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’th’ sun,
And with him rises, weeping.”
– The Winter’s Tale, Act 4, Scene 4
In this passage, Perdita refers to Calendula’s habit of following the sun with its petals until the sun sets or “goes to bed.” As the sun rises, the morning dew that collects on the flower’s petals and leaves is akin to the tears of grief shed by a lover missing their beloved. In this passage, Shakespeare uses Perdita to articulate the deep devotion Calendula has for the Sun, to the extent that the flower displays deep despair when separated from the daystar.
Calendula in Pericles
In Pericles, Marina declares:
“No, I will rob Tellus of her weed,
To strew thy green with flowers: the yellows, blues,
The purple violets, and marigolds,
Shall as a carpet hang upon thy grave,
While summer-days do last.”
Tellus is the classical name for Mother Earth, whose “weeds” are her clothing, fashioned from flowers. Marina plans to gather flowers of varying colors to decorate her nurse, Lychorida’s grave. Still, it’s interesting that she mentions both violet and Calendula (marigold) by name. Like Calendula, violets have connections to being used in funeral décor, particularly by the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
Shakespeare’s “Bridal Song” and Calendula
Shakespeare shows a fondness for figuratively adorning graves with Calendula in his poem “Bridal Song.” Shakespeare crafts intricate symbolism for many flowers in this poem, such as roses, daisies, primrose, and larkspur. To typify Calendula, he intonates:
“Oxlips in the cradles growing,
Marigolds on deathbeds blowing.”
It is important to note that oxlips bloom in late spring to early summer but wilt at the first sign of excessive heat. On the other hand, Calendula is known for not only withstanding the harsh summer heat but reveling in it. In these passages from Pericles and “Bridal Song,” Calendula’s purpose seems to be the burial décor that can remain where other flowers cannot, providing consistent company for the dearly departed.
Calendula and the Victorian Language of Flowers
In the Victorian Language of Flowers, Calendula represents the sentiment “my thoughts are with you”. Calendula provides a way to express genuine sympathy and not just idle regard. This is because Calendula helps to illuminate our understanding of the pain another is going through.
Too often, “my thoughts are with you” is something we say without meaning. These words are the basic equivalent of “thoughts and prayers” – empty words without sincerity when we employ them. We unconsciously utter it when a friend or loved one goes through something unimaginable without being willing to place ourselves in their shoes and embrace their pain alongside them.
Calendula provides a delicate, nuanced way of saying: I see your pain and feel it too. I am with you at this moment. The flowers communicate authentic, thoughtful sympathies to someone you care about during their difficult time. As a result, Calendula is a regular and poignant inclusion in funeral floral arrangements.
According to the Victorian Language of Flowers, Calendula also represents “disarming gracefulness.” The flowers symbolize a delicacy and gentle touch need that melts any inclinations toward hostility. It is a way to convey that your intentions come from a place of warmth and well-meaning, without ruse or guile underneath.
Victorian Flower Oracle: Calendula as Sympathy
Calendula appears in the Victorian Flower Oracle as the Sympathy card as its alter ego, marigold. The card depicts the marigold flower – artistically personified as a woman – looking downcast and sullen. Before her stands someone holding the hands of two children – their hair and garb all fashioned from the scabious flower.
It would seem that the marigold is in mourning and her visage communicates an overwhelming sadness. The scabious appears to be there to offer comfort to the grieving marigold. In contrast, the younger scabious flowers provide a focal point for the hope that comes in the future, after the sadness.
The scabious as a vehicle of comfort to the mourning marigold is a curious choice by the artist. Immediately, we notice the dark blue-violet of the scabious is a stark contrast to the luminous yellow marigold. We typically associate darker colors with brooding, woe, and melancholy. Meanwhile, brighter colors and flowers such as marigolds usually represent happiness and joy. But here, the roles are reversed.
Another juxtaposition: Calendula represents sunlight, warmth, and happiness. Meanwhile, in the Language of Flowers, scabious’ dark flowers are an emblem of widowhood and death. An additional role reversal, as in this Flower Oracle Card, the marigold is in mourning, while the scabious brings the warmth.
The scabious gives comfort to the marigold because she feels her pain and knows her pain. The essence of sympathy is to empathize with the pain that others feel because you, too, will most certainly understand that pain one day – if not already.
To Dream of Calendula
The dreamscape and Calendula are intimately connected. Calendula serves as both a vehicle to realize prophetic dreams and a powerful symbol in your reveries. For dreamers and prophets alike, Calendula is a potent tool for unlocking the mysteries of the dream world.
Some Calendula flowers springled under your bed can help unleash oracular dreams while you sleep. Namely, this results in visions that will portend future events. Likewise, Calendula helps to facilitate lucid dreaming, assisting you in retaining your waking awareness while you sleep. Consequently, being more alert and conscious during your dream state helps you recall your dreams easier once you wake up.
Dreaming of Calendula is usually a sign of good things to come. As Calendula has a traditional use in finding one’s true match, a dream where you spot the flower may be signaling that you will meet someone who will become a meaningful partner in some form. This partner could be a business or work associate who truly compliments your work ethic and career goals or love that blooms into a happy marriage.