A Pocket Full of Posies — The Language of Flowers
Beginning in early childhood most of us learn something of humanity’s connection to flowers and plants. From nursery rhymes like “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies….” to phrases like “April showers bring May flowers”, Dandelion seed head wishes, four leaf clovers, and Daisy charms: “They love me, they love me not….” flowers speak to and for us in so many ways.
Magick is generally made of some combination of words, intentions, props, and movement. Whether it stems from or descends into a child’s game, a popular phrase, prayers, or superstition, our magickal link to the Natural world has always played a significant role in how we choose to shape our Rituals and prayers. The Wheel of the Year follows the cycles of Nature. The tools and plant companions towards which we each gravitate often depend upon what is available to us. This year, things are different. We are required to physically separate ourselves from each other and the environment outside our homes, for the safety of all, but we can still visualize and honor what is out there in the Natural world we love, waiting for us to someday return.
Our Ancestors, Tribal Shamans, Druids, White Witches, and, in more recent times, Christian Priests and Clergy, bring the Plant People into Ritual often. In ancient
times, Sacred Groves and Nature divination, or Botanomancy, were the norm. Although for many, those have gone by the wayside, floral crowns known as chaplets, altar decorations, amulets, talismans, charms, incense, powders, roots and flowers, baths and oils still make up much of a Nature Magician’s tools, especially in Spring, when the world is bursting forth with new life. And, to be fair, many covens and solitary practitioners still prefer to hold Rites and meditations out-of-doors whenever possible, grounding on the Earth, honoring the trees and plants with which we share this planet.
Much of Pagan history and lore is passed down, generation to generation, first through oral tradition, then in written form. Some knowledge has historical connection, some can be proven true by modern day research and science, some has meaning lost in time. For example, although multiple sources hypothesize that the popular children’s rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie” alludes to the Black Plague of Europe during the Middle Ages, with “a pocket full of posies” referring to various bundles of herbs that people carried with them to both ward off death and cover the stench of it, other sources point out that the song was not officially documented in writing until the publication of “Mother Goose or The Old Nursery Rhymes” by Kate Greenaway in 1881, meaning that the original rhyme had been undocumented for over 500 years which “antedates even Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and therefore we would have examples of this rhyme in Middle English as well as Modern English forms.” In other words, although a charming children’s dance and song, that rhyme most likely did not come to us directly from the 1300’s.
What about other Spring ritual and magickal plants, though? Among the various plants and flowering or greening trees that are most obvious at this time of year, we often see Bleeding Heart, Bloodroot, Bluebell, Crab Apple, Daffodil, Dandelion, Dogwood,
Ferns, Trillium, Tulip, Violet, and Willow, just to name a few. This beautiful collection of natives, cultivars, weeds, and trees paints our world with color and life as the seasons change. Here are some of the historical, magickal, spiritual, emotional, and mental representations of these Spring flowers. This information is intended for meditative and external magickal and visualization use only. Please DO NOT ingest any of these plants without specific and detailed guidance.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Formosa): The petals of this mid-spring flower are shaped like hearts that have a longer bottom part, which almost looks like a tear or a drop of blood that is dripping from the puffed-heart petal. Some of the properties attributed to this unusual stemmed flower include: unconditional love of others, emotional freedom, being able to speak
from our heart, connecting with our own kindness and compassion. Popular in bouquets and chaplets.
Bloodroot (Sanguiaria cadensis): One of the earliest and most delicate spring flowers with palmate lobed leaves and a single, wax-like, white flower with golden stamens. Native to Europe and North American woodlands, it provides protection from negativity, is used for supporting and blessing the close relationship of marriage and family, and can transform past patterns of negativity, especially generational or genetic trauma or addiction. In this way, it assists us to embody our full potential. Because the flowers are so very fragile, picking them is difficult, but the root is often used in amulets. Harvest with care, as this plant is considered At Risk in many areas.
Bluebell (Scilla nutans and Hyacinthus nonscriptus): Flowering from early April to the end of May, this double bracted plant has small, pendulous, bell-shaped blossoms arranged in long, curving lines. It has a long history as a Faery flower, compelling us to speak our truth, practice humility, constancy, and gratitude, and is often used to comfort the mourning and symbolize rebirth in Rituals for the Dead. Commonly used in chaplets, bouquets, and as altar décor.
Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris): Blooming in late spring and bearing rich pink, heart-shaped flowers, with lighter pink centers touched with white, this dwarf tree promotes cleansing and purity, helping us to resolve inner disharmony and obsessive negative thoughts. It also represents the passage of time and the turning of the Wheel of the Year, from spring blossoms, to ripened summer fruits, to autumn drying, to the bare branches of winter. A tree of the Goddess, its petals are wonderful in Ritual baths and incense.
Daffodil (Narcissus spp.): Another early spring flower with characteristic, upright, rich yellow, belled flowers, they are considered a representation of new life and fertility, spiritual love, visualization, and luck. They are often used in bouquets, chaplets, and as altar decor.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): A very common flowering plant occurring in all parts of northern temperate zones, its characteristic single, golden yellow flowers are actually made up of hundreds of tiny tubules each containing a copious supply of nectar. A favorite of bees and other nectar gathering insects, these flowers are very weather sensitive, and will close completely on cold, windy, rainy days. Known as a rustic Oracle, amulets and talismans made from the root are said to aid in divination and visualization. The delicate composition of these flowers, coupled with the absolute tenacity of their roots, brings us effortless energy balanced with inner ease and helps us to find strength and aid in our ability to overcome inner adversity. A favorite of children of all ages in chaplets, bouquets, and chain-like altar decorations.
Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii): A mid-sized tree with surprisingly strong, twisted branches, and white four-petaled flowers tinged red around the edges, often associated with rebirth and resurrection, and more recently, Christianity. Also known to represent durability, harmony and grace, it carries the energy of a Guardian of the Sacred Books. Used to make wands, sprigs, and incense.
Fern (N.O. Filices -Aspidium spp., Asplenium spp., Polypodium spp.): One of the most ancient plants on Earth, 100 million year old fossils have been found worldwide. In the language of Flowers it brings to us the energies of fascination, privacy, divination, protection, and physical love. Most commonly used as sprinklers and fans, ground cover and decoration on altars and in sweat lodges by many cultures over the millennia.
Trillium (Trillium spp.): Native to North America and Asia, its whorl of three leaves topped by a solitary three-petaled flower combine in perfect symmetry, and reflect the three facets of consciousness, embodiment, and mutuality. This simple flower, found in woodland settings, brings forth modest beauty, selfless service, and inner purity. As this is considered an At Risk plant in some areas, it is best to meditate with it in its natural environment, rather than pick it to use in your magickal workings.
Tulip (Tulipa spp.): originally from Turkey and Persia, this well-know spring flower was in cultivation by 1000 C.E. Its soft petals and gentle fragrance make it perfect for Ritual baths and oils, as well as wonderful altar décor and abundant bouquets. It has a long history world-wide, with different attributes being ascribed depending upon color including: peace, love, beauty, empathy, inner truth and guidance, and personal purification. Only needing to be planted once, it is also a symbol of renewal and resurrection.
Violet (Viola spp.): Another early spring flower, blooming from February to the end of April, with slightly downy, heart-shaped leaves and a single, 3 petaled, pansy-like flower, usually deep purple. Energies include faithfulness, watchfulness, modesty, perceptive sensitivity, and elevated spiritual perspective. It reminds us to release and allow, to share with others while remaining true to our self, and brings comfort to the hearts of those left behind. Many applications are documented through history including Ritual baths and fragrant oils, bouquets, amulets, altar décor, chaplets, and Ritual foods and drink. (Note: if you have a wild yard like Bronwyn, they are all over the yard blooming in late March with the ramson and make a fabulous jelly.)
Willow (Salix alba): Traditionally a tree of Spring, as it begins to resurrect its well identified lance shaped leaves and branchlets, it symbolizes bravery, freedom, dreaming, the Divine Feminine, acceptance, forgiveness, and the flow of all life. Representative of immortality and protection, it offers access to and release of deep emotional sadness, and safe passage to the next life for departed souls. Its fragrant branches are used to make wands, talismans, chaplets, sprinklers, brooms, and incense.
The above is but a small representation of the mass abundance of plants and flowers available to the Nature Magician or White Witch as we progress through the Spring season. Although it is difficult to fully connect physically with the outer world during this year of change, make time to reach out and meditate, in your own way, with your chosen magickal guides, and remember to include some whimsy and joy with your pocket full of posies.
Ms. Teri “Cricket” Owens RN, BSN, MS, received her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing in 1987, from Loyola University in Chicago, and worked as an ICU/ER RN for almost 30 years. She began studying health, wellness, and the herbal healing arts in 1995 and earned a Masters’ Equivalent Degree in Herbal and Chinese Medicine, from the Chicago College of Healing Arts, in 2004. Over the decades, Ms. Owens has enjoyed teaching health, wellness, and herbal learning classes to all ages. Subjects include wellness, hands-on cooking and medicine making, medicinal and edible plant ID walks, herbal first aid, and magickal herbalism for ritual, meditation, and everyday use.
Ms. Owens teaches in the home, at Community centers and area grammar schools, local nature centers and spiritual and meditation retreats, and in the field. She is the founder of EcoKids, a kids’ learning program focusing on herbal fact and lore, medicine making, and Earth ecology; co-founder of Laughing Lady Bug Botanicals, an herbal products web-based company; and one of the founding Organizers of the Midwest Herb Fest, a yearly weekend herbal learning event. She has published several articles in local journals and online.
Ms. Owens is mother to three grown children, who are off on their own adventures. She currently lives in southern Indiana and travels with her partner and lab manager, alchemist, speaker/teacher, and author, Timothy “KC” Wilkerson, on their groovy blue Skoolie, Rhonda.