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See that bulb? Two bulbs! Ever so slowly opening? Finally! The angelica I bought three years ago shows signs of blooming. When that happens the garden will smell like paradise. A gift.

I planted angelica years ago and it thrived — once. I could never get it to grow again. Perhaps because we were sliding into a decades-long drought. Like me, maybe it just hated the drydry heat. This spring, like the last, has been deliciously wet. Perfect conditions.

Angelica (Angelica Archangelica) is named for St. Michael the Archangel and is said to bloom every year on May 8, his feast day. But there are myriad pre-Christian rituals around the blossoming of Angelica, whose fragrance is so strong and pleasant, it was said to ward off evil and at the very least warded off the stink of livestock, when it was spread across the floors of farmhouses (where residents included pigs, cows, chickens, nose to nose with the humans).

In the Middle Ages, the juice of angelica root was called Carmelite water, considered a “sovereign remedy” that protects against poisons and — predictably — the spells of witches. A concoction of nutmeg, treacle and angelica water heated over a fire would cure the plague. Not to say rabies, colic, pleurisy, coughs and many diseases of the lungs. Native Americans used it against consumption and tuberculosis. They also drank its tonic to build up strength after illness. It is a digestive aid and was thought to improve eyesight and hearing. As late as 1934, British pharmacopoeia listed angelica as a cure for flatulence.

In Your Essential Nature, Nita Morrow Hill describes angelica as speaking to “clearing the mind, rootedness and groundedness…openness of the wisdom of non-action….Also, use in small amounts.”

Beautiful to look at. Beautiful aroma. Transcendent. How could this not be the Herb of Archangels?

And Happy Beltane! Glorious May Day!

Welcome May-time.
Fair season. Perfect aspect.
The sweet o’ the year….

Welcome ardor and sap …
The green field echoes.
Ah, mad ardor of the iris and the lark.

–Irish, unknown, 9th century