5 Flowers in Famous Legends and Myths
Whether in tales of caution, tragedy, rebirth, and true love, flowers are an important part of storytelling around the world, across different eras. These lovely blooms enrich tales with their vigor and create striking images with their beauty.
Beyond providing embellishments, though, the flowers in these tales have influenced many cultural practices and ways of life. The myths passed on from generation to generation affect the meanings we link to different flowers, which we then use for different occasions: to celebrate, to commemorate, and to comfort. The reason why they’re so important is because the symbolisms of these flowers touch, inspire, and teach us lessons in life.
That’s why today, we’re going to share with you five intriguing myths and legends all over the world which feature distinct flowers with powerful meanings. Take a look at this list to see your favorite flowers in a totally 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.
These bewitching red blooms are said to have been borne of the tragic love story of Adonis and Aphrodite. Now you may know Adonis as the pinnacle of macho beauty in mythology, often compared to swoon-worthy men – and you’re right!
As a matter of fact, he was so handsome that he swept Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love herself, off her feet. She was so madly in love that she disregarded her godly responsibilities 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 chased after him and plowed him with its tusks. Aphrodite heard his wails and ran to be by his side, holding him as he bled to death.
Mourning the loss of her mortal lover, the goddess sowed nectar on his blood, where dark red anemones later arose as a symbol of her grief. In other versions of this tale, the flowers grew from Aphrodite’s tears mixed with Adonis’ blood.
Anemones still signify death, grief, and forsaken love to this day. But to put a more positive spin on this, these flowers remind us that life is fleeting, so we must appreciate every moment with our loved ones.
While the chrysanthemum features more heavily in Eastern folklore, particularly in Japanese culture, this brilliant and joyous flower has a really memorable meaning in a famous German legend.
On a deathly cold Christmas eve, a poor family gathered around their table to share a measly meal. Their quiet night was interrupted by loud, repeated sobs from outside their house. Curious, they opened the door to find a trembling pauper who was turning blue from the unforgiving winter.
They led him inside right away and wrapped him in blankets to warm him up. They offered what little food they had for him to eat and be satisfied.
The man then took off the blankets to show his beaming 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 observe 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 difficult times rings true for every person.
A lovely flower that flourishes in full bloom from murky waters, the lotus is considered a symbol of purity, rebirth, and inner strength. This view is shared by many cultures, but its earliest date goes back to Ancient Egyptian mythology.
The god Nefertum was believed to have been born from a lotus flower, rising from the waters at the beginning of time. Regarded as the sun god, he was 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 likened to the vast sky.
The similarities of the sun and the lotus possess a particularly significant and uplifting meaning. Like the sun that rises and falls each day, the lotus opens its buds at daytime and closes them at night, 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 association with the marvels of life: not only with its beginnings and endings, but with sustaining and enriching it.
There’s a good reason why the term “narcissist” is named after the mythological origin of this flower. Narcissist usually pertains to someone who is so vain and self-absorbed that they ignore the world around them, much like the hunter called Narcissus in Greek mythology.
While loved by many for his striking looks, Narcissus showed great scorn for anyone who became smitten with him.
One day, the mountain nymph Echo caught a glimpse of him, instantly fell in love, and trailed after him. But he eventually caught on and demanded to meet her. Echo revealed herself, throwing her arms around him in delight.
Narcissus viciously rejected her and ran away from her. The distressed Echo hid in great shame for the remainder 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 stream where he fell in love with his own reflection.
He remained by the water looking at himself until he wilted away from thirst and starvation. A white flower with a yellow heart later bloomed where he died, warning us about the pitfalls of treating others with malice and putting ourselves before everyone else.
Arguably the world’s most famous flower, the rose has been a constant image in folklore and mythology across several 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 extraordinary 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 deserted her.
Grieving the loss of her lover, Psyche eventually became a servant for Venus. The goddess subjected her to many tests and torments, all of which she endured for love.
Cupid then rescued Psyche and appealed to Jupiter, king of the gods, to marry her. Jupiter was deeply moved by their love and immediately expressed his favor.
Their wedding was a marvelous celebration in the heavens, enjoyed by all gods. Jupiter told his daughters to shower the most gorgeous, glowing roses all over the lands below to honor their union.
At the heart of this lovely story is the age-old but unquestionably true message: true love conquers all. It can survive all difficulties and troubles, because reaping the rewards of being with the people we love is more than enough to keep us going.