Marigold Flower Meaning, Symbolism, and Folklore

Commonly referred to as the ‘herb of the sun,’ the marigold flower’s fiery yellow, orange, and red hues carry meanings of warmth, happiness, joy, optimism, and good luck. Yet, marigold symbolism also carries darker emotions, such as jealousy, grief, despair, and mourning. Interestingly, many cultures also associate marigold flowers with resurrection and the practices of remembrance and honoring the dead. Join me as I explore the fascinating meaning and symbolism behind marigold flowers and their cultural and spiritual heritage worldwide.

Marigold Flowers in Bloom

Etymology:

Given the flower’s common name and two separate genera, marigolds also have an interesting etymological history.

Latin for “little clock,” the name calendula refers to the clock-shaped face of blooming marigolds in the Calendula genus. Tagetes, the other genus of marigolds, gets its name from Tages, a prophet who is recognized for founding the ancient Etruscan religion.

Marigold, the common name for these flowers, comes from Marygolde, the conjoining of two words in old English: mary and golde. The gold-colored blooms might have earned this name because they were presented to the Virgin Mary when a person did not have actual gold coins to give as a prayer offering.

Day of the Dead Celebrations in Mexico

Marigolds belong to an ancient tradition in Mexico that extends back to the Aztec people who believed the blossoms to be sacred. Today, marigolds play an essential role in Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. The flowers believed to draw in spirits with their fragrance and bright colors, decorate gravesites, altars, and shrines erected to honor and remember the dead.

Marigolds in Buddhism

A small buddhist statue with marigold petals and a person pouring a glass of water across the lap of the statue

In Buddhism, garlands of yellow and golden marigolds are strung together and used as offerings and adornments in temples, at altars, and near statues of the Buddha. Marigolds are used in conjunction with lotus flowers to worship Buddha.

Marigolds in Hinduism

In Hinduism, people associate marigolds with the Sun. They symbolize auspiciousness, brightness, and positive energy. They’re also associated with the ideal couple, the Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu, as represented in Hinduism. As a result, marigolds are often used in Hindu marriage celebrations.

Marigolds in Christianity

Christian traditions strongly associate marigolds (Mary’s gold) with the Virgin Mary. They’re planted in Bible gardens everywhere, and Christians like to think of the golden marigolds growing around the world as Mary’s golden crown surrounding the Earth.

Marigolds in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece

In ancient Egypt and Greece, marigolds symbolized healing and restoration because both ancient cultures valued marigolds for their healing properties. They used them to soothe pain, heal sores, and to treat wounds. They also added them to their foods and drinks for additional flavor and color. Today, marigolds are still prized for their medicinal properties.

The Symbolism of Marigolds in Floriography

In the tradition of Victorian flower language, marigolds were a symbol of grief, despair, and mourning. Similar to the marigold’s part in The Day of the Dead, marigolds were also used as a remembrance flower during the Victorian era.

Marigolds in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, both men and women carried marigolds in the hope that the flowers would connect them with a new love interest.

Marigold Flowers and Astrology

Marigold flowers are the official Zodiac flower of Sagittarius because of their ability to thrive in various growing conditions. This is a fitting representation of Sagittarius, who are known for their strength and independence.

The calendula is also a symbol of good communication, a trait that Sagittarius is known for. Many say this is one of the most emotionally intelligent zodiac signs, a trait that contributes to successful communication in relationships. 

Marigold Tattoos

A person holding a coffee cup with arms displayed with various floral-themed tattoos

Generally, marigold tattoos inked in yellow or orange represent grief, cruelty, or jealousy. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s story behind their own tattoo will vary and symbolic meaning can change depending on the person’s story or their culture. So, you shouldn’t automatically assume that a marigold tattoo has a negative connotation for every person who chooses to get one.

Color Symbolism

Since marigolds are varied and have spread to all different parts of the world, marigold flower meanings have become equally varied with respect to marigold colors and the cultures that incorporate marigold flowers into their traditions. Here are 4 of the most popular marigold colors and what they mean:

1. Red Marigold Flowers

A red marigold flower in bloom

Until recently, marigolds that bloom on the red end of the spectrum have been elusive. However, a few intentionally cultivated varieties have achieved this fiery hue. The symbolic history of red marigolds isn’t as long as that of other colors. However, like other red flowers, red marigolds symbolize romantic love.

2. Orange Marigold Flowers

Orange marigold flowers in bloom

In the language of flowers, the color orange conveys passion and deep feelings. When paired with cheerful marigolds, orange indicates strong, positive emotions.

3. Orange-Red Marigold Flowers

Orange Red Marigold Flowers in bloom

Marigolds that aren’t a true red tend to have orange-tipped petals. These marigolds combine the meaning of the two colors to signify passionate feelings of deep love and romance.

4. Yellow or Gold Marigold Flowers

Yellow Marigold Flower in bloom

The color of the Sun, yellow and golden hues are associated with positive energy, happiness, warmth, joy, and other good feelings. Most varieties of marigolds bloom in this sunny color and can be used to encourage optimism, good luck, and generally happy thoughts.

Marigold Flowers in Art and Literature

Marigold flowers have been referenced in art and literature for centuries, symbolizing various themes such as beauty, the cycle of life, and the human experience. Here are some notable references:

  1. Shakespeare’s Works: William Shakespeare mentioned marigolds in several of his plays, using them to symbolize grief, despair, jealousy, beauty of nature and the transience of life. For instance, in “The Winter’s Tale,” he writes, “The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun, And with him rises weeping…”
  2. Pre-Raphaelite Art: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters, poets, and critics founded in 1848, frequently included floral imagery in their works, and marigolds were no exception. Their art often imbued flowers with symbolic meaning, and marigolds were used to represent both the beauty and brevity of life.
  3. Indian Literature and Art: In Indian culture, marigolds are a symbol of auspiciousness and are used in religious and wedding ceremonies. Literature and art from the Indian subcontinent often feature marigolds, reflecting their integral role in Indian traditions and celebrations.
  4. Frida Kahlo’s Paintings: The renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo included marigolds in some of her paintings. Her use of vivid colors and symbolic elements often incorporated flora native to Mexico, including marigolds, to express her identity, personal struggles, and cultural heritage.
  5. Contemporary Literature and Poetry: Marigolds continue to appear in modern literature and poetry as symbols of growth, resilience, and the ability to thrive in adversity. Their presence in contemporary works underscores the enduring nature of floral symbolism in artistic expression.

Suitable Gifting Occasions

An ornate metal vase filled with orange and yellow marigold flowers

1. October Birthdays and Anniversaries

The official birth flower for October, marigolds make a great gift for celebrating an October birthday or another special October occasion like an anniversary. Whether you give your loved one a cheerful container full of blossoming marigolds or a packet of seeds to plant the following spring, this gift will bring hope, joy, and wishes for good luck.

2. Get Well or Thinking of You

Whether your friend is under the weather or simply going through a difficult time, marigolds make a great pick-me-up. With marigolds, you’ll send your loved one positive energy and let them know they have your support – no matter what sort of challenges they face.

3. Sympathy or Remembrance

While marigolds hold positive symbolic meanings, they still carry a long history of acting as remembrance flowers. So, they still make an appropriate sympathy gift or tribute to a lost loved one. Whether you’re remembering your loved one on Dia de los Muertos or marking another significant day of their life, marigolds will help you remember the happy times you had and celebrate their life.

4. Weddings

You’re guaranteed to find marigolds at a Hindu wedding celebration. These blossoms make a great gift for acknowledging a friend or loved one’s recent nuptials. With their cheerful colors and auspicious symbolic meaning, you can share in their joy and send positive energy for a successful union at the same time.

5. Romantic Gestures

If you’re falling or have already fallen passionately in love with someone, then you can show your special someone how you feel with red marigolds. Look for the red petals that remind you of your beating heart.


Marigold Meaning FAQs:

What is Marigold good for?

Marigold flowers are revered for their medicinal properties and are frequently used to treat rashes, burns, and wounds. Many skin care products contain calendula extract, and various marigold-based products are available.

Are marigolds good luck?

Historically, Marigolds in many cultures and religions have been used as a protection to ward off evil spirits and have a deep association with fortune, prosperity, and good luck. 

What color are marigolds?

Marigolds most commonly cover a spectrum of warm colors, including deep reds, oranges, coppers, yellows, golds, and orange-red hues. 

Where do marigolds originate from?

The native region of Tagetes flowers is well known. Marigolds grow naturally in the Southwestern United States, Central America, and South America. The ancient Aztecs from this region actively cultivated marigolds for religious ceremonies and medicinal treatments. Tagetes seeds eventually made their way to Spain and the rest of the world via Spanish explorers in the 1500s.

Wrap Up

Associated with the Sun and positive energy, marigolds can even symbolize the spiritual power of resurrection. They also have symbolic meanings that connect them to darker ideas like, death, and despair. Dew collects in marigold flower petals overnight, and the flowers often weep in the morning as the moisture drips from the blossoms. As a result, marigolds are sometimes called the flowers of grief.

Editorial Director | andrew@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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