This pretty annual reminds me of being a little girl, when my job was to make sure the planters on the deck were watered thoroughly every day… I didn’t enjoy it very much then.
Marigold are mentioned specifically enough my traditions customs for me to be curious about them and their use during the summer, beyond that vibrant colour that is so appropriate for summer sabbats and sun-fire-centric celebrations. They were one of the annuals I experimented with in growing as seedlings indoors, under compact fluorescents.
What are Marigold?
This question isn’t as simple as I thought it would be, as it seems to be applied to a few golden coloured flowers. What I have grown appears to be French Marigold, tagetes patula (though it wasn’t labelled as such on the hardware store seed packet.) The tagetes genus looks very different from the calendula genus.
The Wikipedia entry for Marigold makes me wonder if some other flowers I am growing aren’t actually calendula… I’ll need to ask Uma about that.
That said, the vibrant tagetes patula has mixed yellow and red colours. The leaves are dense and striped, and have a very pleasant plant smell, that I can only describe as “green”.
Marigolds are annuals, which means they grow from a seed and will die at the end of the season. Their seeds are just under their flower heads. Harold Roth writes in “The Witching Herbs: 13 Essential Plants and Herbs for Your Magical Garden” that annuals are bursting with a dynamic, solar energy that is very different from biennials and perennials. I have written it before, but I love Roth’s principle about plants and sun, moon and saturn energies. I would love to read and write more about earth magic as a dance of these influences.
Marigold seedlings sprout very quickly, within days, though it’s important to manage damping off. Crowding doesn’t seem to be a problem. I had seven seeds sprout in one peat pellet, and today they are gorgeous and bushy. (That said, I don’t necessarily recommend peat pellets for them.)
The ones I started earlier in the season, in March, have done the best this summer, as they were nice and mature when I brought them to the outdoors in late May. It did require I repot them more while indoors. They did well enough under artificial lighting, and communicated well when they were thirsty by drooping. They really flourished once they started getting real sunlight, regular fertilizing, and deadheading the flowers.
In exploring more about gardening, I learned that marigold were used to ward off certain insect pests. When I was indoor gardening, the plants closest to my marigold, a datura inoxia and some mandrake, were free from insects. Some plants further away did have some very minor pest issues.
I’ve seen some gardens strategically plant marigold in their beds for this reason. This is called companion planting, strategically grouping plants together that are beneficial to each other. I think close proximity is required. I now have them growing next to my tobacco rustica, as well as my tomato and basil plants.
Marigolds in Magickal Work:
With their sunny colour, and being annuals, I have enjoyed using them in conjunction with work related to solar and sacrificial Gods. I will continue to use them them especially at Summer Solstice and Lammas.
Due to their speed and hardiness, I also think they’re especially suited to sympathetic magic – planting in the name of someone, or baptising the plant in the name of someone, for their wellness. I think it is important to factor into the working that all annuals die, so that it doesn’t negatively affect but instead contributes to the working. This is something I tried this year and we’ll see how it goes. I am especially appreciating collecting seeds from that particular plant to regrow.
I would like to grow more of them to serve as companions to my mandrake and other nightshades. Next year, I will grow significantly more, including preparing some plants as gifts.
I feel Marigold offers lessons in being of service and of community, and creating space for others to flourish. It is such a common flower, but it is beautiful all the same, and has a special contribution to make to our gardens. I am reminded of all the things that I can do as part of a priveledged majority to make sure others enjoy the very benefits I take for granted.