We come across myths and folklore a lot when looking into flowers. Flower meanings especially tend to have very strong links to myth and legend, and of course flower festivals such as QiXi, the ‘Chinese Valentine’s Day’, often involve both the giving of flowers and the telling of some truly remarkable stories.
So we’re going to take a wander around some of these amazing stories, and have a look at just how many myths involve flowers that are still garden and cut-flower favourites today. In this way, something as simple as a type of flower can become a strong link to our distant past, binding us across a period of millennia to history.
Today, we’ll pluck a few examples from Greek myths. If you know of any myths and legends which involve flowers, especially flowers which we still know and love, then please do mention them in a comment, and we might even work them into some future blogs!
1. Larkspur: the death of Ajax.
Today we know him mostly as ‘Ajax’, but ‘Aias’ is probably a more authentically Grecian way of spelling this great Homeric hero’s name. Aias was a hero on the Greek side in the Trojan War. He contested Achilles’ claim to the armour of Achilles – but Odysseus was chosen to take the armour instead. Mad with jealousy, Aias threw himself upon his own sword. As he lay dying, the larkspur flower sprung from his pooling blood, with the petals inscribed with the letters ‘ai’ from his name.
2. Crocus: Zeus’ seduction.
Bringing a girl flowers is a good way to show her your affection, but breathing one from the mouth of a bull? That may be going too far. Zeus lusted after the beautiful Phoenician princess Europa. He came to earth in the form of a bull – and then, to lure Europa towards him, he transfixed her by breathing a crocus flower. She came close, following the scent and beauty of the crocus, and he whisked her away.
3. The Bouquet of Persephone.
This story contains a whole range of flowers we still know and love today! The goddess Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, lord of the underworld. What followed is perhaps a little too dark for a family-friendly blog, but then myths have a habit of tackling the darkest subjects as well as the most beautiful. Where this story s revelant to us is that Persephone and her nymphs were gathering flowers when Hades swooped upon her: her arms were full with roses, crocuses, violets, larkspur, irises and lilies.
Like we said, if you know any other great flower myths, join the conversation! More will follow in future blogs.