This would be the last reprint of the year - by this time, reprint-wise, I was essentially tying up loose ends, not realizing that we'd some two years hence be reprinting each and every column online.

In the Spring of 1989 I did back to back columns on Floral Folklore. I now elected to combine the two for one definitive online column.

Here in Southern California, as you all well know, we have no seasons.


None whatsoever.

Why, the temperature is always 72 degrees twenty four hours a day, skies uniformly blue, and when a little white cloud appears, we run for our umbrellas (wouldn't get to use 'em at all, otherwise).


Those of you who read this in print and are therefore native to this region may possibly know better. Here in the San Fernando Valley I'm spent the past month alternately frying in record heat and dodging hailstones.

So, yes, Southern California does indeed have weather. It's just a tad more subtle than in most of the rest of the country, which I personally believe is a good thing. I believe we locals have developed much greater sensitivity to the most minute seasonal changes as a result - had to, otherwise how would we know when Christmas was coming?

All inane jest aside, we do have our local seasonal occurrences. One of my favorites is the great blossoming of the State Flower, the California Poppy, which occurs in the deserts to the north of Los Angeles around the middle of April every year. One of my favorite spring rituals is to drive out into said deserts in this season, and to marvel at the miles of fields that, though relatively barren just days ago, are now awash in a veritable ocean of bright orange!

It is an extraordinary experience.


Anyway, this year the poppies were about a month late in blooming, though I am happy to report that they finally have, and in honor of this event I present the following late blooming column.

Floral Folklore


For it is a magic time of year, mid-spring, even if you're not a Baseball fan.

Again the earth renews herself in cloak of green and colors bright, again the flora and fauna of the land emerge from their secret Winter places and dance the dance of rebirth, the dance of the Sun, the dance of Life itself.

We have looked to Nature for help in our own Dance of Life since first we stood erect upon this planet - tens of thousands of years prior to the first written word we were dancing the Animal Dances and worshiping trees, and of course what could be more obviously of divine origin than those flowers and plants that held the powers of life and death over us?

Let us journey back a few years, and see this magical world as our ancestors did.

Most of us at one time or another have knocked on wood for good luck - this custom dates back to the days when guardian spirits lived in trees. Many primitive peoples believed that trees harbored the souls of their own ancestors, and the Druids attributed special magical powers to the Oak and the Rowan.

The Oak gave protection from lightning, and one could cure a toothache by driving a nail into its trunk. Additionally, one could preserve one's youth by keeping an acorn on one's person. The Rowan was a good protection against witchcraft and evil, and rowan twigs tied around a bucket of milk would prevent the milk from going sour.

The old saying "An Apple a day keeps the doctor away" comes from an ancient Viking custom of offering apples to the gods in hopes of prolonging youth and postponing old age. A girl who wished to discover who she would marry had only to peel an apple in one continuous peel, throwing the result over her shoulder. The letter formed by the fallen peel would be the initial of her future husband.

Then we have daisies . . . Mind well the first daisy of the year - it is lucky to step on it, but not to pull it out of the ground, and very bad luck for a small child to even touch it! Should anyone uproot this first daisy, their children would grow up stunted.

Much as apples do, daisies can also reveal to inquiring maids something of their eventual marital status - but whereas the aforementioned fruit would determine the groom's identity, daisies fortell when . . . to wit, a girl need only to pick up a bunch of the flowers with her eyes tightly shut. The number of flowers picked represents the number of years before she will wed.

The common bean has a bit more morbid an aura about it - for the souls of the dead are believed to dwell in bean fields. Beans in general have a historic association with Ghosts and Death. In addition, to sleep overnight in a bean field is to risk going insane! The single good thing associated with beans is that, if you spit a bean at the first witch you see (for those of you who find yourselves continually running into witches), you will be safe from Black Magic for the rest of the day.

Those of you familiar with Simon & Garfunkel will doubtless recall the song "Scarborough Fair", with its refrain of "parsley sage rosemary & thyme" . . . well, there seems to be a rather chilling hidden meaning there, as both parsley and thyme are associated with disaster and death! It is traditional in some areas to throw thyme into a grave, and parsley causes doom if transplanted, given away, or cut by a person in love.

As far as rosemary, all I've discovered is that it is said to grow "only where the woman rules the house", whereas Sage was thought to have magic healing powers, curing leprosy and the common cold.

I am already at work on our web-only June column, and if all goes well I can promise something special . . .

If not, I'll dig up another one from the dusty archives . . .