Notes from Diane's Garden

Or The Curious Lore and Magical Property of Plants
By Diane Fenster

June 1987: Lilies

June has come to the garden at Mt. Bubba. The roses have blooming since April and some varieties are through for the year. The blue garden seems almost ultraviolet in the noonday sun Renfield the cat spends his days chasing damselflies. An important observation was made while at the beach in Pacifica... the average length of a cormorant's dive is 40 seconds.

Working in the garden puts me in touch with the spirit of those wise women of the past who kept alive the ancient secrets of herbcraft. (Some call them witches.) When the woods and fields were in bloom, they were out seeking the plants that they needed for their potions. There were traditions as to which day and hour were best to gather the plants. The Summer Solstice is of course one of those days. When it was taken over by the Church, it became St. John's Day, June 24th. An old plant spell for gathering on this day uses the initial letters of herbs that spell Johannes (John). It goes:
Jarum (possibly Carum carvi which is Caraway)
Origanum (Marjoram)
Herb benedictu (a Valerian)
Allium (onion or chives)
Nigella (Nigella sativa, a fennel flower)
Nebelkraut (fog -cabbage [Nebel "fog" + Kraut "cabbage"]--thanks, Arden)
Esstrementa (ditto)
Succisa(a Scabiosa or pin cushion flower)

The lilies are coming into their own this time of year, just as the glorious peak of the roses winds on down. Since I think of them as symbolic companions, lilies will be the topic this month, especially the Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum).

The lily is seen to represent the Virgin aspect of the Triple Goddess. It was the flower of Lilith, the Sumero- Babylonian goddess of creation. Virgin because of an early belief in the self-fertilizing power of the yoni, reflected in the myth of Juno, who conceived her son Mars with her own magic lily without any male help. The drops of milk that fell to the ground from Hera's breasts became lilies. The milk that stayed in the sky became the Milky Way.

In Crete, the Lily-Scepter was the symbol for the goddess and queen. The church also took this symbol over and also gave it to Gabriel to hold when he wasn't holding just a lily.(see below)

Our friends in the early catholic church also used the lily to symbolize the impregnation of the Virgin Mary because of its earlier pagan associations with virgin motherhood. It was claimed by some ecclesiastical authorities that the lily in Gabriel's hand (pictured in early paintings of the Annunciation) filtered God's semen which entered Mary's body through her ear. Those church folks took the fun out of everything!

The Easter lily was the Medieval pas-flower (from the Latin passus to step or pass over). The lily was also called the passion flower. This came from the pagan representation of the spring passion of the god in a love-death union with the goddess. (The Great Rite again--can't stay away from it!)

In the days when the scents of flowers were thought to be cures for various ailments, the scent of the lily was actually thought to be injurious to ones health. Grave accidents and even death were reported to have resulted from individuals having been exposed to the emanations of lilies during the night. (Great plot for a murder mystery here!)

During the time of the Plague, people avoided the scent of lilies. But contrary to this is an old Roumanian superstition which says "Show me a house where lilies grow and you'll show me a house where the Plague cannot go."

The Madonna Lily was always found growing in the cloistered herb gardens of Medieval monasteries. (I plan to put these lilies in the Mt. Bubba herb garden this fall) It was believed to be a cure for dropsy, dull ears, faint heart, "Byles, Fellons and Unecomes (whatever that is)" and much more of a like serious and alarming nature. The root was the part usually made use of and it was mixed with rosewater or honey. The seeds and flowers were sometimes used. Madonna lilies are supposed to keep ghosts from the house and will only grow for a good woman. (What's my chances of being able to grow this?) In the language of flowers, the white lily represents purity. Its message is "I kiss your fingertips." The tiger lily represents passion and its message is "My love knows no bounds."

"The bond between woman and plant can be followed through all the stages of human symbolism. The psyche as flower, as lotus, lily, and rose, the virgin as flower in Eleusis, symbolize the flowerlike unfolding of the highest psychic and spiritual developments. Thus birth from the female blossom is an archetypal form of divine birth, whether we think of Ra or Nefertem in Egypt, of the Buddhist 'divine treasure in the lotus' or in China and the modern West, of the birth of the self in the Golden Flower."
-- Erich Neumann, The Great Mother.


The Prime Mover of the Universe