A well-trodden path, Marigold connects us to our ancestors.
Marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are a powerful symbol for many people in the world. The plant is native to Mexico, even though it is often referred to as African Marigold. They grow wild on the hillsides in Central and Southern Mexico where they become much bigger and taller than in Europe.
Apparently, the Spanish took marigold from South America to Europe and then eventually to Africa where it adapted really well and naturalized. The English name ‘marigold’ comes from the Virgin Mary (Mary’s gold). It is not to be confused with the pot marigolds that are more precisely named calendula (Calendula officinalis). The scientific name Tagetes was given by Carl Linneaus and refers to the Etruscan god Tages.
In Mexico it is a sacred flower known as Cempazúchitl (twenty-flowered) and also by its traditional folklore name of ‘Flor de muerto’ or Flower of the Dead. It was the Aztecs’ flower of the goddess Cihualcoatl-Quilaztli (snake woman), a mother and fertility goddess. Chualcoatl-Quilaztli was a midwife but also very fierce, a bit like the Hindu goddess Kali.
“…she is more often shown as a fierce skull-faced old woman carrying the spears and shield of a warrior. Childbirth was sometimes compared to warfare and the women who died in childbirth were honored as fallen warriors. Their spirits, the Cihuateteo, were depicted with skeletal faces like Cihuacōātl. Like her, the Cihuateteo were thought to haunt crossroads at night to steal children.” (1)
One of the Aztec folk tales that connects the marigold and the day of the dead is about two young Aztecs called Xóchitl and Huitzilin. The two lovers had known each other from a young age, when they used to play together and have adventures. As they grew older, their love for each other deepened. They would go up to the top of their nearby mountain and offer marigolds to the Sun god Tonatiuh. One day at the top of the mountain, they promised ever-lasting love to each other. Sadly, war broke out and Huitzilin was called to fight, the lovers were separated for the first time. One day, Xóchitl had news that Huitzlin had died. Her heart and soul were broken. She walked back up to their favorite mountain and pleaded with the sun God Tonatiuh to somehow bring them back together again. He felt her grief and sent a ray of sunlight down. As the ray of light touched her cheek, she instantly turned into the most beautiful yellow/orange marigold flower. At that moment, a hummingbird caressed her cheek with so much love and tenderness. It was her Huitzlin, reborn as a beautiful hummingbird. She opened her twenty petals and filled the mountain air with her exquisite scent. They were once more together.
The marigold is supposed to attract the dead back to earth during the ‘Dia de los Muertos’ or Day of the Dead on the 1st/2nd November every year. The marigold’s pungent smell and bright color leads the dead to the festivities. Deceased family members’ favorite foods are prepared and placed on special altars called ofrendas, because it is believed that the dead eat with their sense of smell. The smell along with the light is what is drawing them in and directing them. The bright yellows and oranges of the petals are like the sun. This light adorns the altars and pathways so that the dead can find their way to the festivities.
Marigold essential oil connects us to the ancestors by illuminating the path between the visible and non-visible, the living and the dead. The path is well trodden because when a plant has been used by humans for so long, it has deeply imprinted the way humans need it and responds accordingly.
Its sun-like, vibrant energy can help stave off any unwanted forces, keeping us safe as we enter the liminal space where we can meet with the ancestors. It is important to undertake any journeying to meet ancestors safely. I advise you to take some classes in ancestral healing before heading off into that realm alone. Remember that there are wounded dead out there, most probably in your own lineages. It is not recommended to call them in. It is the healthy ancestral guides you want to work with. Making intentions and getting guidance from a practitioner are highly recommended to begin with.
I am practiced with this work and have done many journeys into the ancestral realms. I am well connected to and guided by the ancestral representative from my motherline. I have transformed the traumas I was carrying from this line into a victorious story in this lifetime, liberating my ancestors, myself and my children. I still use marigold essential oil when I have questions to ask my ancestors, things I still want to know, guidance I feel I need.
Smelling the oil and seeing the glow of the golden path of my motherline, I go deeper and I can make out the face of an ancestor with my inner eye. I know instantly who it is. I have been wanting to see her face forever. She is beautiful and young and it is clear in her expression that she is healed and we are connected.
That is all I need this time. The connection with that special ancestor has been made, but this time through our love and our lineage not through our trauma. I will reconnect next time, open to this beautiful resonance.
- In Memoires de quelques Papyrus du Louvres ed. M Maspero Paris 1875. Quoted in E.A.W Budge, Egyptian magic. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1979 p 185