The Matilija Poppy

(DISCLOSURE WARNING! This article reveals some content (not specifics) that could be spoilers for fans of Zack Tolliver, FBI novels.) 

What does the tiny flower on the cover have to do with the  newest Zack Tolliver, FBI novel, THE CURSE OF MATILIJA? Read on.

In writing THE CURSE OF MATILIJA (muh-TILL-uh-hah), we explored some new roads (cautiously, we hope) while preserving the integrity of the Zack and Eagle Feather mystery that fans expect. What remains unchanged is our use of Native American spirituality, mysticism, and symbolism both historical and current as partners in the plot.

In this novel, it is a Venturaño Chumash legend that enters our pages, one that residents of Ojai know well, the story of Chief Matilija and his beautiful daughter, Amatil, whose lover, the warrior Cocopah, lies dead on the battlefield after attempting to defend their homeland.

Seeing this, the distraught and inconsolable Amatil, whose love was deep and boundless, lay down upon her lover’s body to die and thus be forever joined with him in the next world. As a symbol of the purity and unending nature of their love, a new flower grew in that very spot, a flower with white petals symbolizing the purity of her love around a yellow center representing the everlasting nature of their bond. It is called the Matilija Poppy.

When next you travel to Ojai, if you should happen to spot a Matilija Poppy, remember the legend of Amatil and the warrior Cocopah and the eternal love that created it.  

1981: A wet matilija poppy with one of its petals wrapped around itself in California. (Photo by Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images)

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