Since the dawn of time humans have been trying to understand the natural world that surrounds us. Endless myths and legends have emerged which seek to explain how the world as we know it came into being. In this book, Ruth Binney has gathered together all the most interesting stories surrounding the plants we know and love and here takes us through the tales of spring flowers.
The Stories of Spring Flowers
Among the world’s most beautiful spring flowers are some long thought to be mortals in disguise. The stories of the ancient past live on in the symbolism of these favourite blooms.
Provided he never saw his own image – as was prophesied by Tiresias the seer – the beautiful Greek boy Narcissus would live a long and happy life. When out hunting one day (having, incidentally, spurned the love of the nymph Echo) he stopped to quench his thirst in a stream. There, Narcissus saw and fell in love with his own reflection. So spellbound that he was unable to move, he pined to death and in time was changed by the gods into his eponymous flower ‘with tufts of white about the button crowned’. Today, psychologists use the term ‘narcissism’ to describe excessive self-admiration.
The fragrantly scented hyacinth sprang, it is said, from the blood of Apollo in his remorse for the death of the boy of the same name. Hyacinth fell victim to the jealous rage of Zephyrus (god of the west wind) who, when Hyacinth was playing quoits with Apollo, blew so powerfully on Apollo’s iron plaything that it struck Hyacinth and killed him. Some scholars believe that the flower of the myth related here may not in fact have been the hyacinth we know today but the red Martagon lily. This theory is bound up with the belief that Hyacinth’s last cry was ‘Ai, ai,’ words that can be seen as marks on the flower’s petals.
Blood shed in death led, it is believed, to the creation of the striking red-petalled pheasant’s eye or Adonis flower. The boy Adonis (who was believed to have been born from a myrrh tree) was loved by Aphrodite. When Adonis was killed by a wild boar the love goddess was so sorrowful that she made a red flower spring from his blood. As a compensation for her loss, the gods agreed to let Adonis spend half the year on earth and half in the underworld, a story that symbolizes, in the temperate regions of the world, the annual dying of vegetation in autumn and its spectacular return in spring.
Plant Lore and Legend, The Wisdom and Wonder of Plants and Flowers Revealed by Ruth Binney, published by Rydon Publishing, www.rydonpublishing.co.uk, RRP £9.99.
LandLove readers can purchase Plant Lore and Legend for £5 when bought with Animal Lore and Legend, which you can also save 10 per cent off, including free p&p. To redeem, simply call 01235 465 577, quoting '45ANIMAL' for Animal Lore and Legend, and '45PLANT' to get Plant Lore and Legend too. Offer expires 31st March.