“Cempasuchitl” – Ghenda
“Cempasuchitl” in Nahuatl, and Marigolds in English, despite its being often called African marigold. It is native to Mexico; which means it has been growing wild there for thousands of years, and every year, the flowers are ready to harvest at the end of October. It has a strong scent and bright yellow-orange color that brightens your soul! Maybe that is the reason why all the indigenous people of Meso-America including the Aztecs used them to honor their ancestors, they believe the scent and the color will guide their ancestors home.
As written in the Florentine Codex. Written by the Spanish Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, describes the Aztecs’ sophisticated medicinal use of various flowers and plants, noting the important role marigolds played in both medicines and celebrations.
The Legend of The Cempasuchitl.
According to the legend, the lovers Xótchitl and Huitzilin would often hike to the top of a mountain to leave flower offerings for the sun-god Tonatiuh, and to swear their love and commitment to one another. When Huitzilin is tragically killed in battle, a distraught Xóchitl prays to the sun-god to reunite them on earth. Tonatiuh, moved by her prayers and offerings, grants her wish by sending a ray of sun that transforms her into a Cempasuchitl flower as golden as the sun itself, and reincarnates her lover as a hummingbird. When the Huitzilin the hummingbird approaches Xóchitl the flower with his beak, her twenty petals bloom, filling the air with cempasúchitl’s distinctive and powerful scent. [Photo credit: https://projectpulso.org/2019/10/23/muertos-flower/]
On a personal note. This year, my granddaughters wanted to make an altar to remember their grandparents who have passed and are no longer with us, and we could not find Cempasuchitl flowers, and we are very grateful to our best friend Clarita for shipping them from California. They arrived in perfect shape and will be part of our “Dia de Los Muertos” Altar. But I already ordered the seeds to plant in my garden for next year. That will be our next post.
Questions people asks about Cempasuchitl – Marigolds -Ghenda
Q -Are Marigolds from India?
A – No. In the sixteenth century, Spanish and Portuguese explorers transported these new world Cempasuchitl flowers to Europe and India. In Hindi are called “Ghenda – गेंदा,” and they have become an important flower in Indian culture and religion, they are used in almost every celebration including Deepawali . You might add Cempasuchitl a.k.a. Marigolds to the other fruits and vegetables Mexico gave to the world during the Columbus Exchange.
Q – Are Cempasuchitl- Marigolds the same as “Calendula”
No.According to Juliet Blankespoor founder and instructor of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, “Garden marigold (Tagetes sp.) -“Cempasuchitl”- is not the same plant as pot marigold ((Calendula officinalis, Asteraceae) )” Calendula was used by Romans for medicinal purposes.