It is the deep of winter wishing on Spring this St. Valentine's Day at Tea at Tympani Lane Records. It has been snow and snow, the limbs of the trees outside my
window are covered in snow against the pale white sky. Working on the editing of poetry manuscripts for clients and also my own projects. Currently writing
The Holy Spirit Way about the background paradigm governing life on earth put in place by the Creator and also writing The Way of the Artist. Poetry is writing.
Some thoughts on the language of flowers and traditions of St. Valentine's Days past . . .
“To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.”
- Ophelia singing in Hamlet Act IV, Scene V
by William Shakespeare
“a rose, is a rose, is a rose”
- Gertrude Stein (Writer)
“After women, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world.”
- Christian Dior (Fashion Designer)
“I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.”
- Georgia O’Keefe (Artist)
St. Valentine’s Day, a celebration of the feast day of St. Valentine, a priest who would secretly marry people in ancient Rome, when marriage ceremonies had been forbidden. The holiday, the celebration of lovers is often marked by the exchange of letters, chocolate, gifts and flowers.
Flowers in their beauty, have traditionally been present at most Western celebrations, religious fetes, Easter, Christmas, weddings, funerals and are often given as gifts. Love of the beauty of flowers in a culture of symbolism gave rise to the language of flowers, human emotions were attributed as the meanings of flowers and flowers became the language of love. Since early ancient cultures, Greek and Rome flowers have been given meaning, the goddess Aphrodite and later Venus, the goddesses of love were often associated with the rose and myrtle. As well as in the West, flowers are important part of rituals in other countries including India and China. The language of flowers flourished amongst the Renaissance, the pre-Raphaelites and the court of Constantinople in Ottoman, Turkey which inspired the cultural rite in Victorian England. For 500 years before the 20th century the symbolism of flowers was part of Western culture but with the upheaval in the social economy and industrialization the language of flowers became largely lost. The language of flowers has existed in the Western culture in art, music and letters, a celebration of God’s creation since ancient civilizations. In the Bible, particularly Song of Songs, plants and flowers are symbols and can also be seen in the stained glass of churches and religious art. In writings, flower symbolism was used by the Renaissance Poets; Petrarch, Ronsard, Daniel von Lohenstein, Thomas Carew and in the plays by William Shakespeare. In Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Ophelia laments:
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray,
Love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.
There’s fennel for you, and columbines: there’s rue
for you; and here’s some for me: we may call it
herb-grace o’ Sundays: O you must wear your rue with . . . “
There is a 17th century nursery rhyme “Lavender’s Blue” and in the 18th century writings by Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Brontee there is flower symbolism. Also, in opera, “Pirro e Demetrio” (1694) by Scarlatti, features an oratorio by the hero addressing some violet flowers growing in the garden. Puccini wrote a work of chamber music “Crisantemi” (Chrysanthemums) inspired by the death of the Duke of Savoy. There are Medieval English Christmas carols using flower symbolism, “There is no rose” in which the Virgin Mary is compared to a rose in a song by Giulio Caccini, “Amarelli mia bella” is about the flowering amaryllis plant. The Edwardian artist John Singer Sargent used flower symbolism in his paintings.
A language of lovers was conceived through the gifts of flowers, it was a covert language telling a story conveying meaning through symbolism. In this way young lovers could have a secret courtship (letters could be interrupted, speech overheard) without speaking, in front of their chaperones. Before going on a date, the young man would choose a flower to present to his love interest. If the flower was given by the head, it was the true meaning, if it was given by the stem it was the opposite of the true meaning. Then on their next meeting, the young girl would present the young man with a flower, her response to his flower gift. And as the courtship progressed, the relationship was sometimes terminated or perhaps ended in marriage.
It was important that there was a shared meaning for the flower symbol, these were often determined by culture and there were dictionaries of meanings. In it’s heyday in Victorian England, people exchanged plants and flowers as gifts regularly with attention to symbolism. There were dictionaries, often the interpretation of the flower symbol depended on the writer of the dictionary and on the culture, interpretations may have been different for the United States, France and England. However, there began to be a consensus for most flowers:
Red Rose – romantic love
Pink Rose – a lesser love/affection
White Rose – virtue, chastity
Yellow Rose – friendship, or your love is not returned
Black Rose – death and dark magic
Mimosa – chastity
Fleur-de-lis – passion, I burn for thee
Jasmine – sensuality, grace and elegance
Orange blossoms – your purity equals your loveliness
Orchids – beauty
Rosemary – remembrance
Tulip – love
Violet – faithfulness
Willow – mourning
Hawthorn – hope
Clematis – mental beauty
In such a violent and disaffected world, love is the universal healer. If God had wanted us to be whores, karmically impure, queers, celibates or unhappy He would not have sent a Starcrossed Lover or more suited lover on a Sign from God. In my experience a Starcrossed Lover or more suited Lover is always of the opposite sex. In the New Economy, the love and peace economy, everyone is happily married in covenant to their Starcrossed Lover or more suited Lover contributing to the Community on callings from the Creator. All God asks of us is to follow your calling for love, follow your calling for work and not hurt each other. This new society cast in the true light of the Holy Spirit, is a safe and non-violent community, not prone to too much suffering. For a primer on mentoring and discernment for longterm happy marriage, including psychological compatibility, soul colour suitability, Holy Spirit considerations and an idea of culture/politics please see World Peace Newsletter, Christmas, 2011. For healing after a broken marriage, please see World Peace Newsletter mid-November 2011. In the gift of flowers and the language of flowers romance is not dead, there is hope and freedom in happy longterm love. The Way of Peace.
Happy St. Valentine's Day!