Tag Archives: violas

Herbs for Romance and Love Charms


Through the ages, herbs have furthered affairs of the heart. I’ve provided snippets of historical lore on some of the most significant.

Calendula: One favorite bit of lore is that calendula flowers were used to keep a lover faithful. All one had to do was to dig up some soil where their lover had walked, and use that soil for planting calendulas. From that day forward the lover would forever by faithful. Calendulas are the original English/Scottish Marigold. Though not native, they are widely naturalized from Europe and have been grown in the UK for centuries.

Rosemary: English folklore says if a girl places a plate of flour beneath a rosemary bush on midsummer’s eve, she will find her future husband’s initials written in it. Another bit of lore to discover your true love is to place a sprig of rosemary under your pillow. A dream will reveal their identity. Dried rosemary was laid in bed linen to ensure faithfulness and a bride who gave her groom a sprig of rosemary to hold on their wedding night would ensure his faithfulness.

Another belief regarding dreams: On Saint Agnes’ Eve (January 20), a woman seeking romance would mix thyme with rosemary and pray: “Saint Agnes, that’s to lovers kind, Come, ease the trouble of my mind.” The virgin martyred saint would then send a dream about her true love.

Rosemary came to Britain with the Romans and has centuries old use.

Violets: Gaelic advice: “Anoint thy face with goat’s milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not a young prince on earth who would not be charmed with thy beauty.”

Violets are used in love spells and may be carried as an amulet to increase one’s luck in love. Combine them with lavender for enhanced effect.

Violets grow throughout the UK. But Lavender wasn’t cultivated there until the mid-sixteenth century. No herb smells more wonderful than lavender. I just planted more in the garden.

Wild Pansy (violas): Violas, heartsease, V. tricolor…have a great reputation as a love charm. Its three colors of purple, white, and yellow, each marked with a petal, have given it associations with the Holy Trinity, and the name Herb Trinitas, which figures in old books. The name pansy comes from the French pensée (thought). ‘Love in Idleness’ is another of this beloved flower’s names. In ancient days the plant was much used for its potency in love charms, hence perhaps its name of Heartsease. It is this flower that plays such an important part as a love charm in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The pansy Shakespeare refers to are probably V. tricolor, the wild pansy or viola. ‘In A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Oberon sends Puck to gather “a little western flower” that maidens call “love-in-idleness”. Oberon’s account is that he diverted an arrow from Cupid’s bow aimed at “a fair vestal, throned by the west” (supposedly Queen Elizabeth I) to fall upon the plant “before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound”. The “imperial vot’ress” passes on “fancy-free”, destined never to fall in love. The juice of the heartsease now, claims Oberon, “on sleeping eyelids laid, Will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees.” Equipped with such powers, Oberon and Puck control the fates of various characters in the play to provide Shakespeare’s essential dramatic and comic structure for the play.’

The wild violas, heartsease, grow abundantly throughout Britain.

Vervain: An ancient cure-all, sacred to the Druids, vervain was also thought to be a love charm. According to the Druids, the plant should be collected when neither the sun nor the moon is in the sky. And in exchange for removing such a valuable plant from the earth, honey combs should be left on the ground. It grows wild in England, sparsely in Scotland. However, vervain was grown in herb gardens in the Middle Ages (and later).

The Hawthorne Tree:

“The fair maid who, the first of May

Goes to the fields at break of day

And washes in dew from the Hawthorne tree,

Will ever after handsome be.”

There is also an old belief that cowslip (primrose) flowers hold magic value for the complexion and making one beautiful. Seeking beauty is an age-old pursuit in love.

The wild white yarrow is the variety referred to here and elsewhere in my herbal posts. Yarrow, an ancient widespread herb, is used for medicinal purposes, but also in love charms, and in divining who the lover might be. I’m not certain exactly how, but the rhyme below was thought to be useful.

“Good morrow, good Yarrow, good morrow to thee. Send me this night my true love to see, The clothes that he’ll wear, the colour of his hair. And if he’ll wed me…”  ~Danaher, 1756. (But the saying may be much older.)

Herbs might be worn as amulets or love charms alone, or inside jewelry, like a locket, or in small cloth bags hidden in clothing, woven into a woman’s hair, rubbed over her in an enticing oil… They were brewed into decoctions for her/him to imbibe, or to anoint the object of one’s love in his/her sleep. Herbs were hung overhead, tucked under pillows and in bedding. Women bathed in their essence… I say him or her but this sounds more like something a woman might do. There are many ways people thought herbs furthered romance and kept a lover true. I hope you find these suggestions interesting.

Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment. ~Ellis Peters


Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn. ~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

(Crocus and violas in the garden blooming now)

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze.
~Julian Grenfell

I wonder if the Daffodil
Shrinks from the touch of frost,
And when her veins grow stiff and still
She dreams that life is lost?
Ah, if she does, how sweet a thing
Her resurrection day in spring!
~Emma C. Dowd, “Daffodil and Crocus,” in Country Life in America: A Magazine for the Home-maker, the Vacation-seeker, the Gardener, the Farmer, the Nature-teacher, the Naturalist, April 1902

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

Her fairies climb the bare, brown trees,
And set green caps on every stalk;
Her primroses peep bashfully
From borders of the garden walk,
And in the reddened maple tops
Her blackbird gossips sit and talk.
~Hannah R. Hudson, “April,” The Atlantic Monthly, April 1868

(Grecian wind flowers)

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke

…the sweet wildflower breath of spring… ~Terri Guillemets

I hear the passing echoes of winter and feel the warming spring on my face. ~Terri Guillemets

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
~Emily Dickinson

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. ~Bern Williams

(Snowdrops blooming in the garden)

For the Love of Pansies, Violas, and Violets


“I pray, what flowers are these? The pansy this, O, that’s for lover’s thoughts.” ~George Chapman

vintage violas from seed

It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”William Carlos Williams

“Heart’s ease! One could look for half a day Upon this flower, and shape in fancy out Full twenty different tales of love and sorrow, That gave this gentle name.” ~Mary Howitt

“Who are the violets now

That strew the lap of the new-come spring?”  ~Shakespeare: Richard II

violas

“Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you. “  ~Edward Payson Rod

The modern day pansies are descendants of the wild viola tricolor also called heartsease. There are many nicknames for this plant that include: love-in-idleness, call-me-to-you, three-faces-under-a-hood, godfathers and godmothers, flower o’luce, banwort, jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me. We have always called the smaller violas johnny-jump-ups.

Violas, violets, and pansies are my absolute all-time favorite flowers. Though admittedly, I have many favorites. I often start violas and pansies from seed because I can get more varieties this way, but I also purchase the plants.  I prefer the miniature violas to the larger pansies but love both. To my delight many of the smaller varieties self-seed freely. I’m not surprised they have been used in love potions. An old belief is that if the flowers were placed on the closed eyelids of a sleeping person they would fall in love with the first person they saw upon awakening.

Viola_odorata

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin:

“On the Isle of Skye, whey in which violets had been boiled was given to feverish patients as a cooling drink. Heartsease, also known in Scotland as love-idleness, was used to treat epilepsy, asthma, heart disease and eczema.”

Bog violet was said to be a sacred plant on Skye.

Ancient Gaelic advice: “Anoint thy face with goat’s milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not a young prince on earth who would not be charmed with thy beauty.”

VIOLAS or HEARTSEASE

From A Modern Herbal:

“The flowers (1/4 to 1 1/4 inch across) vary a great deal in colour and size, but are either purple, yellow or white, and most commonly there is a combination of all these colours in each blossom. The upper petals are generally most showy in colour and purple in tint, while the lowest and broadest petal is usually a more or less deep tint of yellow. The base of the lowest petal is elongated into a spur, as in the Violet.

The flower protects itself from rain and dew by drooping its head both at night and in wet weather, and thus the back of the flower and not its face receives the moisture. The Pansy is one of the oldest favourites in the English garden and the affection for it is shown in the many names that were given it. The Anglo-Saxon name was Banwort or Bonewor

Its common name of Pansy (older form ‘Pawnce,’ as in Spenser) is derived from the French pensées, the name which is still used in France. ‘Love in Idleness’ is still in use in Warwickshire. In ancient days the plant was much used for its potency in love charms, hence perhaps its name of Heartsease. It is this flower that plays such an important part as a love-charm in the Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Medicinal Action and Uses: The Pansy has very similar properties to the Violet. It was formerly in much repute as a remedy for epilepsy, asthma and numerous other complaints, and the flowers were considered cordial and good in diseases of the heart, from which may have arisen its popular name of Heartsease as much as from belief in it as a love potion.

violas (2)

From Meanings and Legends of Flowers:

“The monks of the Middle Ages called ~Viola tricolor~ common in Europe, the ~Herb of the Trinity (herba trinitatis) because they saw the symbol of the trinity in their three colors. The name ~Heartsease~ stemmed from its old use as a medicine to treat heart disease. People believed God gave the plant heart-shaped leaves for that use. The name may also come from its ancient use as an aphrodisiac and a love potion. The deep purple ~Viola odorata~ native of the Mediterranean region, is so sweet that an oil from it is used in the perfume industry.”

“Violets are also considered to be funeral flowers. It was thrown in graves for remembrance in rural England. The mourners also carried violets to protect themselves against poisonous exhalations while in the cemetery.”

arrangement of violets in an old lavender bottleInteresting regarding Napoleon Bonaparte and violets: 

Napoleon Bonaparte loved violets. When he married Josephine, she wore violets and on each anniversary Napolean sent her a violet bouquet. Josephine maintained an extensive garden of violets which became the rage in France. In 1814, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine’s tomb, before being exiled to the Island of St. Helena. There he picked the violets that were found in a locket around his neck after he died. The French thus chose the violet as their emblem, and Napoleon was nicknamed Corporal Violet or Le Pere Violet meaning the little flower that returns with spring.

“Heart’s ease of pansy, pleasure or thought, Which would the picture give us of these? Surely the heart that conceived it sought Heart’s ease.” ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.” ~Gertrude S. Wister

Images from our garden.