The goddess (Flora) comes, crowned with garlands of a thousand flowers. Ovid
Spring approaches in the northern hemisphere with bulbs popping up, hellebores bursting forth and trees beginning their annual bloom cycle. How does mythology view the spirited entities contributed to this time of the year? Spring is the sign of the Goddess and celebrated in many cultures that embrace the awakening of the earth. They encourage flowers to bloom, representing rejuvenation and rebirth of nature. The 5-petaled flowers represent the Goddess. Flowers like columbines, Gaura, buttercups, native geraniums, potentillas, wild roses, and wild strawberries.
The Roman Flower Goddess Flora seems to be the most famous and best documented of the blooming goddesses. She originated out of the area occupied by modern day Rome. Her roots are in the ancient tribes of the Sabines, Samnites, and Oscans where she was called Flusia
She protects early blooming flowers watching over vegetation, keeping them healthy and free from disease until the autumn harvest. Flora is the Goddess of Love, Youthful Pleasure, and Spring. Her ancient title of Goddess of the Flowering Crops for Grains or Fruit-trees meant plant life.
In later times Flora became the goddess of all flowering plants, including ornamental varieties. Her name in Latin floris, means flower. The Romans honored her with the festival Floralia or Florales Ludi, held from late April too early May coinciding with spring blossoms. The festival began around the year 258 BCE and lasted for six days. During this time homes, temples, and animals were decked with flowers. Participants wore floral wreaths in their hair and carried small bouquets. They changed their daily clothing of white to bright colors, imitating the burst of color appearing.
It was the Sabines who named April for Flora. A months named that has survived through multiple calendar changes in history. Flora is represented as a beautiful maiden and wears a garland of flowers in her hair. She was honored with her image imprinted on Roman coins. Roman occupation carried Floralia festivities throughout Europe in what became the Celtic Beltane and May Day celebrations. The Maypole became another symbol of celebrating Flora, flowers and spring. The word flora is used in modern horticultural or botany to describe the plants of a region. (example – Flora of Pacific Northwest, Flora of Australia, Flora of Highlands, Scotland)
Antheia, a nymph of Goddess of Gardens and Blossoms and Flowery Wreaths. She is a minor goddess of the Charites or Graces. They were goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility.
Hegemone, Goddess of Plants, makes them bloom and bear fruit. Her name means mastery.
The Japanese Shinto goddess, Konohanasakuya-hime whose name is translated to princess who blossoms the flowers of the tree. Her nickname, Sakuya, is in sync with cherry tree blossoms where their beauty, rapid blooming cycle reflect life and death. She is a symbol of the delicacy of earthly life.
The Aztecan goddess Xochiquetzal means flower standing upright. She carries a bouquet and wears a floral wreath. She is the goddess of beauty, sexuality, and fertility. Surviving fragments of poetry show that the Aztecs recognized the double symbolism of flowers as representing both life and death.
Xochiquetzal’s name contains two major themes. Xochitl means flower and quetzalli means feather. Feathery blossoms are a symbol of her presence in associated with vegetation and flowers. An alluring and youthful woman, richly attired and followed by a retinue of birds and butterflies. Ichpōchtli is another name for her meaning maiden. Xochiquetzal was celebrated every eight years at harvest time in the festival of Atamalqualiztli. Participants worn masks covered with images of animals and flowers. In this form she is the Goddess of Crafts, Dance, Music, Weaving, Magic and Love Spells. Marigold flowers are sacred to her.
The Celtic goddess Artio, Goddess of Nature and the Bear Goddess, comes from the Gaul area of Central Europe. She awakens in the spring. Statues shown her carrying a bowl in one hand and flowers and fruits in the other sitting under a tree next to a bear. As the Romans moved through Europe, she was absorbed into the Roman goddess Diana and the Greek goddess Artemis. Both who oversaw nature and bears.
Nanna, whose name means daring is the Norse and northern Celtic languages, is the Goddess of flowers and plants. The goddess of romance, joy, and devotional love. She is married to the God Baldr, of Light and Joy. She oversees those flowers that follow the sun in a process known as Heliotropism. Sunflower are a favorite.
Key Nature Goddesses From Around the World. J.J. Lewis, February 2020
The Obscure Goddess Online Directory – Flora, Thalia Took, 2013
The Greek Goddesses, paleothea, 2011
Goddess of the Month: Xochiquetzal (‘Quetzal Flower’), Aztecs at Mexicolore
The murmur of bee, A witchcraft yieldeth me… Emily Dickinson
This last blog in this series of winter reading is meant to be light and fun. I hope this series has presented options for new discoveries or relearning as I often say these days. They are just a peak into the wealth of knowledge and information in developing your sacred space. All the best on your journey.
Starting with Garden Flower Folklore by Laura Martin. A good resource for planting seasonal flower gardens. Laura walks you through seasons, a bit about them and wraps up with a floral calendar.
Garden Witchery, Magic From the Ground Up by Ellen Dugan. This book helps you to understand the magic that resides in your sacred space. From histories, poems, and spells to the Language of the Flowers and crafts. If you are planning a moon garden, Ellen’s chapter on Moon Gardening, Magic, and Astrological Timing is a must.
The Magic of Trees by Tess Whitehurst. Tess brings a current understanding of tree magic mixed with traditional knowledge. Discover why the Aspen talks and what it is telling you. The Manzanita and why it needs fire. The Tulip Tree and the sprite who lived there. Each tree listed has magical components of the ruling element, energy, and planet. You may discover why certain trees speak to you through this book.
Magical Gardens, Cultivating Soil & Spirit by Patricia Monaghan. One of my much-loved books. Each chapter walks you through developing your vision of a sacred space. You will understand building a relationship to the earth, give yourself permission to dream and create your own style of sacred space. You may want start at the last chapter where lovely descriptions of different sacred spaces are described. See which ones draw you in.
How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino. The title says it all. Get your coffee, go out into your sacred space and let the laughter roll over you as you attempt to share your space with the gnomes.
A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because some one expended effort on them. Liberty Hyde Bailey
In Philip Dorf, Liberty Hyde Bailey: An Informal Biography: a Pioneer Educator in Horticulture (1956), 83.
I’m going to be lazy in this blog. Partially after a week of being cold, howling winds, limited sleep and two papers to finish. This collection of titles speaks for themselves and can assist in winter planning. They are part of my technical hard-core section of my library. This collection reminds me there is always something to learn, sometimes relearn or re-acquaintance myself with or just explore. The first 3 books are solid reference books on plants, their behavior and what they can do for you. I feel the titles tell you what the books are all about.
The last book covers soil in urban tree management. A 21st century understanding of what it takes on planting street trees, approaching soil requirements and general concepts of overall management of them. James Urban maintains a website with resources to understand the delicate balance and wisdom needed when planting trees. If you are engaged in tree city programs and policies, this is a good reference to have handy.
“The old men say the earth only endures you spoke truly you are right,” Teton Sioux*
This quote is from a song that speaks to the relationship nature, agricultural, and humans. It speaks to the earth and human roles as keepers and stewards. Sacred spaces are a place where we can find peace and learned to be stewards.
In this next collection of books, these are ideas on learning the ways of stewardship or guardianship while helping you, the individual become one with your sacred space. All of these books cover aspects of scents in a sacred space. Something I always try to incorporate as I help individuals create their sacred spaces.
Garden Retreats, Creating an Outdoor Sanctuary by Barbara Blossom Ashmun. If you can only get one book on building your sacred space, make it this one. All components are covered from the ground up to integrating color options, textures, and plants to your space. Reading this book will help the beginner to the experience reconnect with nature and their own vision.
Gardening for Seniors by Patty Cassidy is a great introduction into developing sacred space and deciphering tools, positions, and different types of gardening. She presents step-by-step techniques and projects for the aging body that still desire to be in nature. Garden types that included soil management to suggestions of plants, and safety precautions.
Spiritual Gardening, Creating Sacred Space Outdoors, by Peg Streep. A delightful book helping to develop a sacred space with fragrance, style and structure. Peg covers many styles, Celtic, Gia, and Zen etc… The focus is design, spirituality and healing. Now go make that mini labyrinth.
The Fragrant Path by Louise Beebe Wilder is a classic in building year-round fragrance to your sacred space. I have 2 copies of this book, one to lent out to clients and the other for my reference. Louise walks you through the seasons, so if you are only in a 2-season area, options are presented. And just not flowers, bulbs, shrubs, and trees are discussed. Even those weird and wacky scents that have nothing to do with the human nose such as hawthorns, Herb Robert, and Stapelia (carrion cactus). This is a great book to read during the winter when the snow is several inches high and you long for the breeze to bring in joy.
The Holistic Garden by Karen York. Sacred spaces are about healing. As I have stated before, it does not matter the size or object. The objective is always an attunement to nature. This delightful book reflects that. It’s a book of kindness. It starts with the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson from his work Nature. “He who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the plants, the waters, the heavens, and how to come at these enchantments, is the rich and royal man.” The book offers ideas moving from herbal, trees, naturalizing plants and the peaceful development of the individual.
Note: * The full title of this piece is The Earth Only Endures: On Reconnecting with Nature and Our Place in it, by Jules Pretty. Earthscan, James & James Science Publisher, London.
“Literacy is critical in understanding your sacred space.” D. MacPherson
Winter is a great time to read. Those marked articles, digital or hard copy books sitting near your sofa. Those lists followed by “I’ll get to them this winter”. I’ve been asked what books I use for my research and writings. My library is close to 300 books ranging from the technical view of tree growth, soil management to building senior gardens to the mystical aspect of elementals, fairies, and plants themselves. Over the next few blogs, I will share some of them.
The first group is quite fun. Plants are the foundation in making spirits and today some of the oldies are coming back. Amy Stewart in The Drunken Botanist shares the recipe for a Manhattan, made with rye. A grass first used in American whiskey and distilled by George Washington.
Agatha Christie is well known for her delicious mysteries and the excitement in working the intrigue to the end. Her plant and chemical knowledge were fantastic. A is for Arsenic, The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup is an excellent compilation of those plants and chemicals used in the mysteries. It will answer the question of scent. Is that cyanide or arsenic?
And for Shakespeare fans. Botanical Shakespeare took 20 years to complete, which gives me hope for my recent book that is on year four. Beautifully illustrated with their corresponding reference to the Bard’s plays. This book is a feast for the eyes. Wonderfully noted is that until Linnaeus created the first botanical taxonomy, plants had many names based on area and language. A challenge to any researcher. So, if you pursue taxonomy always ask what language and where did the name of this plant begin. It’s a fantasying study in travel, culture and life.
In one of my first graduate classes, my professor always said read the Foreword, Acknowledgements, or the Introduction. I encourage you to do the same. These sections are really the foundation of the content. The authors of this book really bring in the botanical knowledge of Shakespeare’s time. Did you know that under Elizabeth I, a horticultural bloom occurred? Men and women wrote extensively on their observations, experiences, and designs. Literacy was common and strongly encouraged.
Put your feet up, make a concoction and enjoy the wealth of knowledge these books present.