There were different grasses and herbs to choose from the fields to line the Christmas Creche . All the sweet smelling mints were dedicated to the Blessed Mother and found their way into the Christmas cradle. They were called Our Lady’s Mints. But there was the humble little yellow button flowers of tansy that was given the name Jesus-wort. Our Lady’s Bedstraw, better known as common Cleavers, was also included among the Holy Hays. Umbilicus rupestrus better known as Navelwort was given the name Our Lady’s Navel.
Verbascum thapsis, (Great Mullien) was dipped in tallow and used for religious processions as torches. It bore the name Our Lady’s Candle or sometimes referred as Our Lady’s Taper. But in some circles it was still referred to as Witches Candles and used in ancient ceremonies long before the coming of Christianity.
The soft mossy mounds of Saxifraga hyppnoides bore the name Our Ladies Cushion. But Meadow Saxifrage (Samifraga granulata) was named Our Lady’s Featherbeds. You can begin to see that many of the wild herbs and flowers of Europe became part of the Sacred Flora that supported the Christmas Nativity.
My first trip to Europe was in 1995. I had come to Italy for a pilgrimage. The two years before this trip I had been studying all the Sacred Flora of Europe. Every flower had a symbolic meaning and for those who knew this encoded language, the plants left messages behind in their great works of art. Master Painters and Craftsmen used this symbolism to speak the truth of hidden knowledge that had been condemned by the Church inquisition.
I remember being in the mountains of Northern Italy in October. The wild cyclamen were blooming on the forest floor. Cyclamen was the Medieval name for Our Lady’s Ladle, since the flower looks like a soup Ladle. I was like a child discovering all the plants I had studied and read about over the last few years in their Native Environment. I sat down after my stroll through the woods and looked out at the Retie Valley below. My heart was open to the happiness of finding the flower friends I had only read about in books or seen as potted plants. My expression took flight and I wrote the following verse:
Holy Spirit Sacred Flower
Holy Spirit Sacred Power
There are pathways from heaven
here on Earth. Sacred Flower show me your worth.