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5 Flowers in Popular Legends and Myths

Floral Tales
5 Flowers in Popular Legends and Myths

Whether in tales of caution, tragedy, redemption, and true love, flowers are an essential part of storytelling all over the world, across different eras. These extraordinary blooms enrich stories with their vigor and create striking images with their beauty.

More than just providing embellishments, however, the flowers in these stories have influenced many cultural traditions and ways of life. The stories passed on from generation to generation affect the meanings we relate to different flowers, which we then use for different occasions: to celebrate, to commemorate, and to comfort.The reason why they’re so valuable is because the symbolisms of these flowers move, inspire, and teach us lessons in life.

That’s why today, we’re going to share with you five fascinating myths and legends all over the world which feature particular flowers with powerful meanings. Have a look at this list to see your favorite flowers in a completely different light!

If you’re interested in a formal course or wish to get certified as an expert on all things about flowers, we recommend exploring professional bodies and colleges in gardening and floristry such as the American Institute of Floral Designers of the AIFD (www.aifd.org), the American Floral Endowment (www.endowment.org), and other similar organizations offering programs specializing in floristry.

 

Anemone (Greek)

These charming red blooms are said to have been borne of the harrowing love story of Adonis and Aphrodite. Now you may know Adonis as the pinnacle of macho beauty in mythology, frequently compared to swoon-worthy men – and you’re right!

As a matter of fact, he was so attractive that he swept Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love herself, off her feet. She was so madly in love that she neglected her godly duties and even her own appearance.

One day, he went hunting and struck a wild boar with his spear. Much to his surprise, the boar suddenly charged after him and plowed him with its tusks. Aphrodite heard his wails and dashed to be by his side, holding him as he bled to death.

Grieving the loss of her mortal lover, the goddess scattered nectar on his blood, where deep red anemones later arose as a symbol of her grief. In other versions of this story, the flowers sprang from Aphrodite’s tears mixed with Adonis’ blood.

Anemones continue to represent death, grief, and forsaken love to this day. But to put a more positive spin on this, these blossoms remind us that life is fleeting, so we must appreciate every moment with our loved ones.

 

Chrysanthemum (German)

While the chrysanthemum features more heavily in Eastern folklore, specifically in Japanese culture, this brilliant and joyous flower has a really special meaning in a famed German legend.

On a deathly cold Christmas eve, a poor family gathered around their table to share a measly meal. Their peaceful night was disrupted by loud, repeated cries from outside their home. Curious, they opened the door to find a trembling pauper who was turning blue from the cruel winter.

They led him inside instantly and wrapped him in blankets to warm him up. They offered what scarce food they had for him to eat and be satisfied.

The man then took off the blankets to show his bright white clothes and a halo on his head. Lo and behold, he was the Christ Child in flesh.

Upon revealing himself, he left. The only thing that was left of him was two chrysanthemums where he had stood.

Until today, Germans keep the tradition of bringing chrysanthemums into their home every Christmas eve to commemorate Christ. While this is a rich cultural custom, the call to be generous and compassionate even through hard times rings true for every person.

 

Lotus (Egyptian)

A gorgeous flower that flourishes in full bloom from murky waters, the lotus is seen as a symbol of purity, rebirth, and resilience. This view is shared by many cultures, but its earliest date reaches back to Ancient Egyptian mythology.

The god Nefertum was thought to have been birthed from a lotus flower, rising from the waters at the beginning of time. Regarded as the sun god, he stayed heavily linked to the lotus in several Egyptian myths.

In particular, he was connected with the blue lotus: its golden center was reminiscent of the sun’s shining rays, while its vibrant blue petals were compared to the vast sky.

The similarities of the sun and the lotus have a notably significant and inspiring meaning. Like the sun that rises and falls each day, the lotus opens its buds at daytime and closes them at nighttime, embodying the cycle of life, of death and rebirth.

In addition, Nefertum was also worshipped as the god of healing and beauty, attesting to his connection with the marvels of life: not only with its beginnings and endings, but with sustaining and enriching it.

 

Narcissus (Greek)

There’s a reason why the term “narcissist” is named after the mythological origin of this flower. Narcissist usually describes someone who is so egotistic and self-absorbed that they forget the world around them, just like the hunter called Narcissus in Greek mythology.

While adored by many for his handsome looks, Narcissus showed great contempt for anyone who became taken with him.

One day, the mountain nymph Echo caught sight of him, instantly fell in love, and went after him. But he soon caught on and demanded to meet her. Echo revealed herself, throwing her arms around him in joy.

Narcissus viciously refused her and broke away from her. The disgraced Echo hid in great shame for the rest of her days, never to be seen again, with only an echo of her voice left lingering.

Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, was determined to punish Narcissus for his callousness. Dooming him to love what he cannot have, she led him to a river where he fell in love with his own reflection.

He remained by the water staring at himself until he wasted away from thirst and starvation. A white flower with a yellow heart later blossomed where he died, warning us about the perils of treating others with cruelty and putting ourselves above everyone else.

 

Rose (Roman)

Arguably the world’s most famous flower, the rose has been a constant image in folklore and mythology throughout various cultures. But one universal symbolism they carry is that of true, inspiring, boundless love.

This is never more clear than in the romantic tale of Cupid and Psyche. The youngest of three princesses, Psyche was a girl of astounding beauty, loved and admired by many people. Their ardor reached a point where they abandoned worshipping Venus, the goddess of beauty.

Overcome with envy, Venus enlisted the help of her son, Cupid, in her quest for vengeance. But upon setting out for his task, he fell in love with Psyche.

The smitten Cupid escaped with her to his private palace, but warned her never to look at him. However, Psyche’s envious sisters found her and fooled her into gazing at him. Enraged, Cupid fled from her.

Lamenting the loss of her lover, Psyche eventually became a servant for Venus. The goddess subjected her to many trials and torments, all of which she endured for love. Cupid then freed Psyche and pled to Jupiter, king of the gods, to marry her. Jupiter was strongly moved by their love and promptly expressed his approval.

Their wedding was a marvelous celebration in the heavens, enjoyed by all gods. Jupiter asked his daughters to shower the most gorgeous, breathtaking roses all over the earth below to honor their union.

At the heart of this lovely story is the age-old but undeniably true message: true love conquers all. It can withstand all challenges and troubles, because reaping the rewards of being with the people we love is more than enough to keep us going.