“There’s gold in them thar fleece!”

Jason returns with the Golden Fleece, shown on an Apulian red-figure calyx krater, ca. 340–330 BC

The California gold rush began on January 24, 1848 with the accidental discovery of gold in the water during the construction of Sutter’s sawmill. When President Polk announced the discovery later that year, it caused a national and international sensation and the “Forty-Niners” swooped down to begin sifting and panning for gold in the streams and rivers of California.

Gold has been associated with wealth and opulence throughout history. It is especially associated with gods and divinity and royalty. Gold coins protect people from hunger and poverty. Gold coins in the Tarot (Pentacles) deal with earthly, daily experiences related to work and endeavors that support our emotional and physical well-being.

Gold is mentioned in Greek mythology for examples as varied as King Midas, the Golden Fleece stolen by Jason which possessed the power of resurrection, and the Golden Apples of Hesperides. The Golden Apples bestowed immortality on whoever ate them. Gold has always been associated with the eternal, the unending, incorruptible and embracing powers of the divine. The color and shining quality of gold continues to be associated with the sun and the sacred masculine.

There is a fascinating connection between the Golden Fleece and the California gold rush. A widespread interpretation relates the myth of the Golden Fleece to a method of washing gold from streams, which was well attested from c. 5th century BC in the region of Georgia to the east of the Black Sea. (The myths of the Golden Fleece say that the Fleece was kept in Colchis, i.e. the modern Georgia in Eastern Europe.) Sheep fleeces, sometimes stretched over a wood frame, would be submerged in the stream and gold flecks borne down from upstream would collect in them. The fleeces would be hung in trees to dry before the gold was shaken or combed out. Collecting gold flecks from the rivers was what the Forty-Niners would do in California, often using pie pans to swirl the water in and then pour through filters–the same idea as the sheep fleeces.

Gold represents the best in us but also brings out the worst in people. Legends of Aztec and Inca gold drove the Conquistadores to seize the Native American empires. Jealousy and Greed, simmering beneath the surface of our emotions, are brought out into the open when we see someone else has something–such as gold–that we want for ourselves.

Click here to read more about folklore associated with gold.

The Fool, one of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, shows a golden sky that the pilgrim is stepping off into. He trusts that the universe will protect and shield him from exterior evil as well as from his own worst instincts.

April Daisies

Daisy, the flower of April, is associated with the planet Venus and the deities Freya, Artemis (Diana), and Thor.

“April showers bring May flowers,” they say. But its nearly April and April flowers are pretty important as well.

Daisy was said to have sprung from the tears of Mary Magdalen and associated with April whose “showers are sweet with fruit” according to Geoffrey Chaucer. Daisy is a “feminine” flower whose element is water (according to the alchemists). According to an old saying, spring has not fully arrived until you can step on 12 daisies. Daisy can be used in magic to promote lust and love. Thor used daisy-chains when he disguised himself as Freya to fool the giant  Thrymer, who wanted Freya as his wife.

When you were little, do you remember plucking the petals of a daisy while reciting, “S/he loves, s/he loves me not?” I remember my aunt plucking a daisy from my grandparents’ garden and asking the flower this question about her fiancé. This repetitive questioning will reveal the true feelings of a potential lover. Picking the first daisy of the season will make you an uncontrolled flirt and sleeping with a daisy under your pillow will bring an absent lover back to you.

Daisy can be eaten to relieve stomach ulcers (as Henry VIII did). King Henry’s family came from Wales, where daisy was used to cure insanity, treat smallpox, tumors, jaundice and skin diseases. According to an ancient Celtic legend, daisies came from the spirits of children who died at birth; therefore daisies are also associated with innocence.

Spring and innocence and love all go together, right? Pluck a daisy and hold all three in your hand. Gather a vaseful of April daisies and attract spring and innocence and love to your house.

Christmas in July?

Map of Bones Cvr

Shrine of the Three Magi, Cologne cathedral, Germany

Shrine of the Three Magi, Cologne cathedral, Germany

Shrine of the Three Magi, Cologne cathedral, Germany (another view).

Shrine of the Three Magi, Cologne cathedral, Germany
(another view).

Although the Magi are most often associated with Christmas and Epiphany on December 25 and January 6 each year, they are also associated with July 23, the day their bodies (relics) arrived in Cologne, Germany in 1164.

The relics of the Magi were taken from Milan by Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa and given to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel in 1164. The Three Kings have since attracted a constant stream of pilgrims to Cologne. Parts of the shrine were designed by the famous medieval goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun, who began work on it in 1180 or 1181. It has elaborate gold sculptures of the prophets and apostles, and scenes from the life of Christ. The shrine was completed circa 1225.

Around 1199, King Otto gave three golden crowns made for the three wise men as a present to the church of Cologne. Because of the importance of the shrine and the cathedral for the later development of the city, the Coat of Arms of Cologne still shows these three crowns symbolizing the Three Kings.

Construction of the present Cologne Cathedral was begun in 1248 to house these important relics. The cathedral took 632 years to complete and is now the largest Gothic church in northern Europe.

Map of Bones, a great sci-fi thriller by James Rollins, begins with the celebration of the bones of the Magi in the Cologne cathedral.

A mystery, “The Bishop and the Three Kings” by Andrew Greeley, is about the theft of the shrine.

Read more about the shrine of the Magi in Cologne here.