Folklore in My Garden: the Daisy

Every June, our gardens come alive with the flowers and herbs we’ve planted, and also with hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers – wild daisies. This humble flower has long been associated with innocence, freshness, and love. Perhaps the best-known daisy custom is the plucking of its petals while chanting, “Loves me, loves me not.” This harmless superstition was popularized in the early 1800’s by Goethe’s play, in which the naive Marguerite tries to determine the devil-assisted Faust’s feelings for her. Perhaps that is why the daisy is sometimes also known as marguerite. Similarly, saying “This year, next year, sometime, never,” predicted when marriage would occur.

In magical circles, daisies are associated with the planet Venus, their element is water, and they are considered feminine. They are sacred to St John, and are an important part of the decorations for Midsummer’s Night festivities. In keeping with its love motif, it was once said that whoever picked the first daisy of the season was filled with romantic desire. It was also believed you increased the chances of a wayward lover’s return if you slept with a daisy root under your pillow.
But the daisy has powers in other realms too. In Celtic legend, the white blooms spring from the spirits of children who died at birth. Dreaming of daisies is supposed to bring good luck in spring, but bad in winter. In Victorian times, it was said that if you stepped on seven daisies at one time, you knew that summer had arrived. Making daisy chains used to be a common past-time, and it was believed that wearing such a chain would protect children from abduction by fairies. This little flower was also thought to have the power to ward off lightening.

The daisy has a host of other nicknames, including Bruisewort, Goldens, Balder’s brow, Dutch morgan, Dog blow, Priest’s collar, Bachelor’s Buttons, Bull’s-eye Daisy, Butter Daisy, Dutch-curse, Dutch-cuss, Herb Margaret, Horse Daisy, Maudlin Daisy, Maudlinwort, Moonflower, Moon-penny, Poverty-weed, Rhode Island Clover, Sheriff-pink, and Whiteman’s-weed, for example. I just call them daisies.

In the Rape of Lucerne, Shakespeare writes, “Without the bed her other faire hand was/ On the green coverlet; whose perfect white/ Showed like an April daisy in the grass. . .”

And Chaucer:

“Of all the flowers in the meadow,
I love these red and white flowers the most,
Such as men call daisies in our town,
For them, I have great affection,
When May comes, Before dawn,
I am up and walking in the meadow,
To see this flower again
That blissful sight chases away all my sorrow.”


2 thoughts on “Folklore in My Garden: the Daisy

  1. This is exactly the sort of post I like writing myself, and you’ve just prompted me to add you to my Technorati faves.

    Daisies always struck me as one of those flowers that signified youth and innocence. I remember hearing somewhere that the reason the hippy movement of the sixties/seventies absorbed the daisy into their aesthetic style (the daisy behind the ear, etc) was in part to do with their symbolism of simpler times past.

    Anyway, love your work and I’ll definitely be back!!

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