My Favorite Flowers: A Brief History

December 20, 2016

I’m not sure if it’s because this is my first winter in California, but I’ve been feeling inspired by the sight of flowers and budding trees on my bike rides to and from work. I decided to do a little research (because I freaking love researching) and delve deeper into the meaning and symbolism behind flowers, as I was sure that there are many ancient meanings or holistic traditions surrounding our practice of adoring ourselves, our homes or giving flowers as acts of love or thanks.

I also wanted an excuse to make a pretty post.

Here are some of my favorite flowers and their symbolic meaning:

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Sunflowers have always been my favorite. To me, they are always happy, stretching themselves as tall as they can to touch the sunshine. In many cultures, the sunflower is a symbol of unwavering faith, adoration, and longevity. In Christianity, for example, the sunflower is a symbol of God’s love and the faith that guides souls to a higher place, as the sunflower is facing the life-giving rays of the sun.

Another symbol I found particularly interesting was in Greek Mythology, where the sunflower represents Clytie, a water nymph. She was a lover to Helios, the sun god until he decided to pursue a love affair with Leucotha, daughter of Orchamus, instead. Upset, Clytie told  Orchamus about the affair. Orchamus sentenced his daughter to die, by burying her alive. Clytie thought that Helios would love her once again, however, he didn’t think of her anymore. Clytie ends up laying on a rock, naked, for nine days without food or water. Simply staring at the sun. On the ninth day, she is transformed into a flower, a sunflower, which turns towards the direction of the sun.

I love the tragedies of Greek Mythology, and find, the often carelessness, of people with their bodies in an act of love, grief or longing, romantic and dramatic. As an English major, I have read my share of myths, however, it has always been a subject I would like to get more familiar with.

The color of sunflowers is quite important to their history, as yellow is associated with vitality, intelligence, and fertility. Native American culture saw the sunflowers as signs of a bountiful harvest in their late summer festivals. It can also represent certain energies. According to whats-your-sign.com 

As a yellow flower, the sunflower can be compared to the solar-plexus chakra (Manipura). This chakra and its color governs intellect, and is a central force of perception as well as self-awareness and personal evolution.

Yellow is mind expanding and spiritually enriching. As I mentioned, I associate these flowers with happiness and sunshine, but I loved learning that there are so many other ways to view the beauty of the sunflower.

 

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I have been loving red roses lately. To me, they are whimsical, romantic and feminine. I put a picture of these flowers as the background to my phone and it fills me with joy every time I look at it. Most know roses symbolize romance, love, and affection, given on Valentine’s Day or anniversaries. However, it is more than just love they represent, but eternal love. Even after death.

In mythology, red roses are associated with Aphrodite, goddess of love, as she is often portrayed with roses around her head, feet and or neck. This is because, according to the legend, after Aphrodite’s love, Adonis, was slain, a rose bush grew within the pool of his spilled blood. Because of this, we have the tradition of roses tied to everlasting love.

Images of Christ within Christianity, as often depicted with red roses are well as the sacrifice of his own blood to save our souls is the portrait of the ultimate sacrifice for love.

To me, a red rose is the most beautiful plant nature has produced.

 

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Daisies are wild and free.  I love seeing them grow, untamed, in fields, out of place and without order, sprouting their roots where ever they want.

In most cultures, they are a symbol of purity, cleanliness or chastity. Just like the cliche “fresh as a daisy” implies. The name daisy actually comes from an Old English word meaning “day’s eye” because the flower “only opened during the daytime, ” according to flowermeaning.com.

In Roman Mythology,

In the west, the daisy is a symbol of simplicity, chastity and transformation. We see these meanings sussed out in the Roman myth of Vertumnus vs. Belides. As the story goes, Vertumnus, Roman god of seasons, agriculture and gardens, became utterly enchanted by the dainty nymph, Belides. Vertumnus was so beguiled and infatuated with Belides – like a creepy stalker – he became obsessed, and would not cease pestering Belides with his unwanted affections. Being the sweet nymph she was, Belides transformed herself into a field of daisies rather than hurt Vertumnus’ feelings.

Youth and new beginnings are also associate with this bright and lively flower.

 

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Lilacs are my mother’s favorite flower and I will forever associate these with her. I have many memories of their fresh and pungent smell wafting throughout my childhood home, symbolizing the beginning of Spring.

Lilacs have many different meaning, depending on the culture. They are most commonly associated with romance, specifically a new romance. According to ftd.com,

During the Victorian Age, the giving of a lilac was meant to be a reminder of an old love. In fact, widows were often seen wearing lilacs during this period.

Lilacs are some of the shortest blooming flowers, only lasting about three weeks.

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When I think of the jasmine flower, I think of jasmine tea. I love tea and find it extremely comforting, especially the floral essence of jasmine in the afternoon. However, contrary to popular belief, jasmine tea isn’t really made from jasmine. According to flowermeanings.com,

The tea is brewed from green tea, and then infused with the fragrance of jasmine. To make the tea, jasmine buds are gathered during the day and added to the brewed tea at night, as the buds begin to open and release their fragrance. It can take up to six hours to infuse the tea with the scent of jasmine. It is important to note that jasmine flowers and foliage are not edible and should not be brewed for tea.

While jasmine is another romance flower (can you see a pattern here), it also represents beauty and sensuality.

I also learned that jasmine is the national flower of Pakistan, adorning brides on their wedding day and decorating garlands during burials, as a final goodbye.

 

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Last, but not least, the hibiscus flower reminds me of a phase in my adolescences where I was obsessed with all things Hawaiian. My bedspread was covered in hibiscus as I dreamed of laying on tropical beaches, eating coconut. I still have this dream and hope to someday achieve it.

Hibiscus represents beauty, specifically young, feminine beauty. According to Cherie Roe Dirksen’s research on her blog,

The Hibiscus is known to help women to reclaim their sexuality, vitality and authenticity and has aided many women who have been sexually traumatized (through the use of Hibiscus essence).

Hibiscus petals can also be made into a tea that can holistically aid in the healing of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Now that I know this beautiful flower represents femininity and female sexuality, I am interested in researching further and seeing what else I find. In the mean time, I will most likely find ways to adorn myself with this flower in an effort to harness more of my female vitality and authenticity.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little research project of mine. If there is anything else you would be interested in learning the symbolic meaning of, please comment down below! I would love your input.

Where flowers bloom so does hope” – Lady Bird Johnson

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