International Symbolisms of the Marigold

Sacred. Medicinal. “Mary’s gold”. After attending a wedding in India, so many new rituals and symbolisms inspired me to study these provocative traditions. The marigold leis (and other garlands) used in the Indian wedding we attended peaked my curiosity when I looked at my photos, off and on. Like many international symbols and rituals, several cultures share similar features and concepts. Nomadic exploration introduced and cultivated certain traditions from land to land.

As I wrote in another blog regarding the Baraat ceremony, “When we reached the meeting point of both families, approximately 45 minutes later, the bride’s procession was just as moving and spine-tingling as the groom’s procession. Garlands were draped on the bride and groom. The groom is given the marigold garland (like a lei) as are some of the family members. The marigold garland, reminiscent of a Hawaiian lei, (which is also presented at times of welcome), is a symbol associated with the vibrancy of the sun. The marigold is also referred to as the “herb of the sun” representing passion and creativity. In terms of the wedding celebration, the marigold is used as a love charm and a sign of a new beginning. It is also considered a sign of purity in Hindu festivals and worship ceremonies. When it’s presented as a welcome gesture at homes or hotels, (as it was to us whenever we arrived to each hotel) it is used as a sign of respect and honor. I felt this symbol of honor when I saw the marigold leis bestowed upon the families joining together in the wedding ceremony as the Baraat procession was completing and entering into another ceremony.” Since the Indian marigold garlands reminded me of the Hawaiian lei, I started to explore this connection. I learned that there are many international symbolisms having to do with the marigold and that one explanation stated that the Portuguese introduced marigolds into India. Marigolds are referred to as “Mary’s gold” which was derived from the practice of early Christians placing flowers (as an offering) on Mary’s altar instead of gold coins. Marigolds are used in various festivities that honor Mary. The marigold is referred to as the “herb of the sun” for various reasons and one of them is because the flower petals are open when the sun is out.

The marigold is also used as “love charms”. It was believed that the water from the marigold was rubbed on peoples’ eyes to supplicate psychic visions of fairies. The Aztecs treated the marigold as a sacred floral and used it in ceremonies, medicinally. They believed the marigold treated the hiccups and that it was a cure for people who were struck by lightning.  In the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), marigolds were used to commemorate the lives of the deceased. The Mexicans believed the souls of the deceased visit the living, so marigolds served as a way to guide them towards the altar. Apparently, the pungent scent of the marigold attracted the dead. The latter is why burial sites are often adorned with these flowers.

As often as I have had these flowers planted in various gardens over the years, I simply didn’t appreciate (or know) their historic symbolisms. Had it not been for traveling to India and attending such an unforgettable, extraordinary wedding, I would not have become interested in the marigold flower and its symbolisms. Now, a simple flower has the words “sacred” and “medicinal” attached to it. It opened up my eyes like the marigold’s petals open to the sun!

photos by Gina

Stories like this can be found in the book, A Magic Carpet Ride on link below.

Part 1 (The Baraat ceremony and the processions involving marigold leis), etc. is found on the blog below.)

India- Exotic Land of Ceremonies

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