The linden, in the fervors of July,
Hums with a louder concert. When the wind
Sweeps the broad forest in its summer prime,
As when some master-hand exulting sweeps
The keys of some great organ, ye give forth
The music of the woodland depths, a hymn
Of gladness and of thanks.
— William Cullen Bryant, Among the Trees
The first day of every month is sacred to Hestia (known in Rome as Vesta), the Goddess of the Hearth. Hestia was always honored first, before all others, and was so pervasive to the practices and daily life of the ancients, She rarely appeared in art, but was simply known by the hearth flame in every home and temple. Her Priestesses were, of course, the Vestals, whose ceremonies remain a Mystery to this day.
July is named for Julius Caesar, who reformed the Western calendar in 45 B.C.E. From Roman times through the Middle Ages, this day was called the Kalends of July. It was said that if rain came on this day, the next four weeks would be rainy too.
July’s flower is the larkspur (Delphinium spp.). Its meaning in the Victorian language of flowers is “passionate, ardent attachment.” In Europe, larkspurs have been externally used for a variety of medical uses including to help close wounds. A member of the buttercup family of flowers, the plant is very toxic, with only locoweed killing more cattle in the American West. The main use of the plant has long been to kill human parasites, especially lice and their nits (eggs). It was used by Wellington’s troops at Waterloo and by Union soldiers during the American Civil War.
The spur of the plant reminds one of the “larkspur,” “lark’s heel,” and “lark’s claw,” all common names by which it may be known. Its botanical name, Delphinium, is from the Greek, meaning “dolphin,” so-called because the nectary resembles the figure of a dolphin; and ajacis is named for the Greek hero, Ajax.
According to Greek legend, Achilles‘ mother requested that her son’s armor be given to the most heroic Greek warrior during the Battle of Troy. To the dismay of the great warrior Ajax, the armor was awarded to Ulysses. In despair, Ajax threw himself on his sword, and small blue delphiniums sprang from the blood that fell to the ground, hence the Latin name – Delphinium ajacis. Delphinium petals are marked with the Greek symbols for AI, the Greek cry of mourning.
On a lighter note, July is shared by the astrological signs of Cancer the Crab and Leo the Lion, and is sacred to the Goddesses Apet, Athena, Sothis, and Spider Grandmother. Appropriate magic for this month includes blessings of the fields and flowers, ecstatic love, health and money spells, and any other matters which you wish to see grow in positive power.
More about the magical lore of July after tomorrow’s card of the week.