Use Your Daisies!

(Bellis perennis)

The common name ‘daisy’ is a contraction of its old name, Day’s Eye (Old English daeges eage), as it looks like a little sun that only opens in the day and closes its petals at night.  It is not surprising that it is associated with sun gods and goddesses, such as the Baltic sun goddess Saule; anything round and rayed suggests the sun.[1]

It starts to flower around Easter (or the Spring Equinox); indeed, in France, children attending the Easter mass might be given eggs painted with daisies.  [2] Custom has it that spring has not arrived until you can put your foot on twelve daisies (others say seven or nine).  [3] In southwest Ireland, children celebrated the coming of spring and the first daisies of the year by picking them and exchanging them for pennies.  [4]

They are associated with maiden goddesses of spring and blossoming.  The botanical name bellis comes from the Latin bellus which means ‘pretty’.  In Classical myth the daisy is said to have been created when the nymph Belidis changed herself into a daisy to avoid the amorous attentions of the orchard god Vertumnus or when Boreas, god of the north wind, tried to get the attention of Flora, goddess of flowers, and sent a gust of snowflakes into the flowering meadows.  Flora just laughed and turned each snowflake into a tiny daisy.

Just as the year is young and innocent in the spring, the daisy is symbol of innocence and purity, virtue and sweet youth.  In Christian lore it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the flower of all flowers that never fades, hence the folk name ‘Mary’s Flower’. In Christian lore, daisies are said to have sprung from the Virgin Mary’s tears as the holy family fled to Egypt, while in medieval paintings the daisy stood for the purity and innocence of the Christ child.

It is a flower very much associated with children, especially the new-born, specifically for their protection.  The folk name of bairnswort is thought to originate in Scotland and refers to the childhood pastime of making daisy chains, the stems split with the thumbnail and the next flower threaded through, made and worn by children for protection, a custom that continues, though the original meaning has been lost.  Daisy chains were placed beneath a child’s pillow to shield them from disease. 

The protective power of daisies was also employed by adults.  On St John’s Day (Midsummer’s Day) it was the custom to gather daises before dawn and put on the roof as a protection against lightening.  [5] They were called John’s Flowers in Switzerland.  In Bavaria, it was believed that if you are going on an important journey, you should pick daisies between 12 and 1 o’clock and wrap them in paper and carry them for luck and protection.  [6] To protect against plague, daisies dug up on St John’s Day were preserved and kept as a protective charm. 

Daisies are also a symbol of faithful love; in the thirteenth century the daisy was called Flos amoris or ‘love flower’.  [7] If a knight was promised love, he was allowed to depict a daisy on his armour.  If the damsel in question was considering his proposal, she wore a garland of daisies on her head.  [8] In Chaucer’s The Legende of Goode Women, Queen Alceste is transformed into a daisy because, according to Chaucer, her virtues outnumbered the flower’s petals.  This was a retelling of an ancient Greek myth in which Alcestis was the daughter of Pelias.  Her betrothed, Admetus, became fatally ill.  Apollo appealed to the Fates to spare him, but they would only do so on condition that another person should consent to die in his place.  Alcestis agreed to do this and was restored to earth in the form of a daisy, a reward for her selfless and faithful love.

Daises were employed in love spells and love divination.  Who has not played the game “He loves me, he loves me not” with a petal plucked off at each chant, and the final petal deciding the issue? One American version runs:

One I love, two I love, three I love I say,

Four I love, with all my hearth,

And five I cast away,

Six he loves, seven she loves, eight they both love,

Nine he comes, ten he tarries,

Eleven he courts and twelve he marries.  [9]

A similar custom is simply to count the petals to see if your love is returned – if there is an even number then it is not, but an odd number means it is. Actually, the petals are usually odd numbered and if you start with ‘he loves me’ then you usually get the required answer.  Or sit in a flowering meadow, close your eyes and pull up a handful of grass – the number of daisies in the handful are the number of unmarried years remaining to you.  If you want to attract love, wear a daisy.  If you want to dream of an absent lover, daisy roots should be placed under your pillow.  [10]

The common phrase ‘pushing up daises’ means to be dead and buried.  An old superstition was that if you put your foot on a daisy in spring, they would be growing over you (or someone close) by autumn.  [11] In Germany, it was said that if many daisies flower in the spring, then many infants will die in the autumn, and the hay crop will be bad.  [12]

They have long been used medicinally, mentioned by the Roman Pliny the Elder, and the English herbalist Gerard (c.  1545–1612) said that daisies “mitigated all pains”, and that the crushed leaves cured bruises and swellings, hence another of its folk names, bruisewort.  [13] The daisy was used in ancient times, sometimes in combination with yarrow, to counter the shock of battle injuries.  Its Latin name Bellis means beautiful, so Bellis perennis could translate as perennial beauty.  Bellis could also stem from bellum, meaning war, maybe because daisies grew in fields of battle and military doctors of the Roman Empire would soak bandages in their juice to bind soldiers’ wounds. 

According to the doctrine of signatures, the daisy opens and closes like an eye, suggesting that it can ease infection or inflammation of the eye.  Because it is called ‘day’s eye’ and looks like an open eye, it was thought a good remedy for eye complaints.  In Ireland, an infusion of daisy was used as an eyewash.  [14] It was a common folk cure for toothache.

MAGICAL USES

The daisy is a perfect symbol of spring, the strengthening Sun, blossoming, and the youthful year, which can be utilised in your Ostara celebrations.  We use daisies to decorate the altar, and the ritual cup, floating them in the wine.  The dried flowers and leaves can be added to incenses.

Daises represent innocence and purity, particularly of women.  They may be used to greet the arrival of a baby or to garland a young girl celebrating the rite of passage at menstruation.

They are plants of protection for children. Place a posy of daisies or a daisy chain in a child’s bedroom.

In the Northern tradition daisies are sacred to Freya, and may be used in rituals concerning the goddess, in an incense or strewn around the boundary of the circle, to decorate the altar or as a garland for the invoking priestess.

Daisies are sacred to sun gods and goddesses. They may be employed in rituals of the sun and solar deities, especially at Midsummer, the zenith of the sun’s power.

Daisies picked between noon and one o’clock have special magical qualities.  They bring success in any venture when they are dried and carried. 

USE YOUR LAWN DAISIES!

The young leaves of lawn daises (Bellis Perennis) contain high amounts of vitamin C and can be added raw to salads. They have a mild, slightly sour, flavour.  In the past, they were popularly cooked as a vegetable and served with meat, and can be added to soups, stews and sandwiches.  Daisy flowers make great decorative additions to salads and cocktails.  The young, closed flower buds can be pickled in vinegar and used as caper substitutes. 

Daisy Tea

Pour 250 ml/ 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried or 2 tsp of fresh flowers and leaves and infuse for 10 minutes.  Strain and allow to cool slightly before drinking. Daisy Tea has a slight lemony taste and is uplifting and refreshing. 

Bellis Perennis has been used for centuries for cosmetics dating back to Ancient Egypt, and is still used in commercial products like creams, gels, lotions and makeup.  Daisy has a unique combination of polyphenols which naturally suppress melanin production, which helps reduce the appearance of dark spots on the skin and lightens and brightens the complexion naturally.  Use a Macerated Daisy Oil or daisy cream on age spots and uneven skin tone. 

Macerated Daisy Oil

To make a cold macerated oil cut up the daisies, pack into a glass jar and cover with vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, almond etc.).  Put on the lid.  Leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks, shaking daily.  Strain into a clean jar.  This will keep in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

The daisy carries a high concentration of exfoliating acids and is very high in malic and tartaric acids, which aid in natural cell turnover.  Add dried daisy petals to exfoliating preparations or use Daisy Tea (see above) and a rough washcloth to remove dead cells from the surface of your skin, leaving it looking brighten and glowing. 

Put the flowers in a muslin bag and add to the bath to refresh dull skin.

 

Daisies are one of our most common plants and the fresh or dried flowers and leaves may be used medicinally both internally and externally.  They contain saponins, essential oil, resin, mucilage, bitters, vitamin C, tannin and inulin.  [15] Daisies are astringent, and stem bleeding.  They can be used for treating wounds in the form of a wash or poultice.   It contains antibacterial agents used was once used on the battlefield for treating wounded soldiers.  Daisy is helpful in healing sores, fresh wounds and scratches.  Use Daisy Tea as a wash or apply Daisy Salve.

Daisy Salve

225 gm/ 8 oz daisy flowers and leaves

225 gm/ 8 oz petroleum jelly

14 gm/ ½ oz beeswax or soy wax

Melt the petroleum jelly and wax in a bowl over boiling water.  Add the flowers and leaves.  Simmer for two hours, then strain into a pot.

A traditional name for the plant is bruisewort from its traditional use in treating bruises.  Apply Daisy Salve to the affected area or apply a poultice of the crushed leaves. 

Daisy Tea is antitussive, anti-inflammatory and expectorant and can help catarrh and coughs, bronchitis, colds and sinusitis. 

For sore eyes use an eyebath of Daisy Tea. 

Chew the fresh leaves to relieve the pain of mouth ulcers.  Daisy Tea may be used as a mouthwash or gargle to aid sore throat and mouth inflammation.

The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of Daisy Tea may help relieve arthritis, and sore muscles.  For stiff necks, lumbago and general aches and pains, make a Daisy Decoction, strain and dab on the skin, or add to a warm bath and soak.  Daisy Salve may be rubbed on to inflamed joints and sore muscles. 

Daisy Decoction

50 gm/ 2 oz flowers and leaves

500 ml/ 1 pt.  water

Boil together for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Strain after 10 minutes.

As a mild diuretic Daisy Tea aids the excretion of toxins via the kidneys, which may be useful in treating gout, arthritis and skin problems including acne and boils. 

Daisy promotes sweating and contributes to lowering fevers.  Use as a compress on forehead or drink Daisy Tea.

CAUTION:

Daisies are generally considered safe, and there are no known side effects.  It is wise to avoid medicinal amount during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  However, some people are allergic to the daisy, or Asteraceae family, so use with caution if there is any risk of a reaction.

© Anna Franklin 2022 


[1] Sheena McGrath, The Sun Goddess, Blandford, London, 1997

[2] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[3] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[4] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

[5] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[6] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

[7] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

[8] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

[9] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[10] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[11] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[12] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

[13] Gerard, John, Gerard’s Herbal, Senate, London, 1994

[14] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[15] The Secret World of Herbs, part work, 1985

Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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