The Symbolism and Meanings of Common Flowers

In the early 19th century, the Dictionnaire du language des fleurs was published by Joseph Hammer-Purgstall. This was the first published list that explained the language of flowers. It were the Greek and Armenian women who helped him understand the language of flowers. Although the symbolic use of flowers dates back several centuries, floriography became formal in the 19th century.

Floriography is also called the ‘language of flowers’. The inspiration for this language came from the women of the Ottoman Empire. They conveyed messages using flowers, as they couldn’t say those things aloud. Later, floriography became immensely popular across Europe.

They also helped him translate traditional Turkish sayings into the French language. When Louise Cortambert came up with Le langage des Fleurs in 1819, flower symbolism became more elaborate. Le langage des Fleurs was a dictionary on the language of flowers.

Romantic era was at its peak during these times. This is why there was a rapid increase in flower symbolism. Nature was seen as a symbol of beauty, while people were heavily influenced by their own emotions. Now, let’s take a look at some common flowers and their symbolism and meanings:

1. Rose

In the ancient times, Romans used to hang roses from the ceilings of halls. The term ‘sub rosa’ comes from those times. It literally translates as ‘under the rose’. People see roses commonly as symbols of love and romance. In the Middle Ages, one could find them hanging from the ceilings of meeting rooms. This was owing to the belief that those under the roses were sworn to secrecy.

One can also find these flowers on four tarot cards. They are the Magician, the Fool, the Death, and the Strength cards. On the Fool card, the white rose is a symbol of purity. It is also a reminder to cleanse one’s mind. On the Strength card, the rose symbolizes balance. The rose on the Magician card is a sign of unfolding wisdom. On the Death card, it is a reminder of clarity, purity, and transparency of intent.

2. Daisy

In the Norse mythology, Freya is the goddess of beauty, love, and fertility. Her sacred flower is daisy. According to an old Celtic legend, God sprinkled daisies over the earth upon the death of an infant. This was to cheer up the parents. Thus, daisies came to symbolize motherhood, childbirth, and new beginnings. Sometimes, people present daisies to new mothers in order to congratulate them.

These flowers are also the symbols of chastity and transformation. This originates from the Roman myth of Vertumnus and Belides. In the Roman mythology, Vertumnus became enamored with the nymph, Belides. He pursued her constantly and she transformed herself into a daisy to escape Vertumnus’s affections. This story is also the basis for giving daisy its scientific name, Bellis.

Daisies are composite flowers, which means that they’re two flowers in one. Their inner section is ‘disc floret’. The outer section of petals is ‘ray floret’. As these flowers are two flowers in one, they’re also the symbols of true love.

3. Orchid

Orchids have always been the symbols of love, elegance, and fertility. This was mostly common across various cultures since the ancient times. One of the major variety of orchids is Paphiopedilum. This name comes from the name of the temple, Paphos, where the Greek goddess Aphrodite was worshiped. In the Greek mythology, she is the goddess of love.

There was a widespread practice of parents eating the tubers of orchids in ancient Greece. It stemmed from the belief that they could choose the gender of their child by doing so. If the mother ate small and thin tubers, the child would be a female. The Aztecs created an elixir for power and strength with the help of orchids. They mixed a type of orchid with vanilla and chocolate for this purpose.

One could come across orchids only in the tropics and they were extremely rare during the Victorian era. People, therefore, would collect these exotic orchids as symbols of refined taste and luxury. In the Chinese culture, orchids are the symbols of elegance, integrity, and friendship.

4. Aster

Aster has a special place in Greek mythology. It’s said that the flower was the creation of Astraea’s tears. According to the Greek mythology, Astraea is a goddess. One day, she was upset by the fewer number of stars in the dark sky. She began to cry thinking about it.

As she cried, her tears fell on the earth and turned into Aster flowers. The flower thus got the name of the goddess. There’s another story behind the creation of Aster. In the story, these flowers were formed when stardust was scattered by Virgo over the Earth. The aster flowers bloomed where the stardust had settled.

Aster is also an emblem of the goddess of love, Venus. The flower carries a variety of meanings. However, it’s generally seen as a symbol of faith, love, and wisdom. During the Victorian era, aster flowers represented patience, charm, and daintiness.

5. Lilac

The history of Lilacs originates in the ancient Greek mythology. According to the story, Pan fell hopelessly in love with Syringa, a nymph. In the Greek mythology, Pan is the god of forests and fields. One day, Syringa turned herself into a lilac shrub when Pan was pursuing her through a forest. Pan was surprised that he couldn’t find her, but neither did he find the shrub.

A lilac shrub consists of reeds that are hollow. So, he cut the reeds and made the first pan pipe. Syringa Vulgaris is the scientific name for lilac. It is derived from ‘syrinks’, which is a Greek word meaning pipe. The name ‘lilac’ was borrowed from the Spanish and French words. The Arabic word for lilac is ‘lilak’. Over the ages, the meaning of the lilac flower diversified.

The origin of these flowers can be traced to Southeastern Europe. Lilacs are also a popular part of the culture in the Mediterranean region. They’re often associated with the Easter holiday as the festivities take place during their peak blooming period. The Celtics regarded this flower as ‘magical’ owing to their intoxicating fragrance. During the Victorian era, lilacs were presented as reminders of old love.

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