5 Flowers in Famous Legends and Myths
Whether in tales of providence, tragedy, redemption, and true love, flowers are an important part of storytelling around the world, over different eras. These lovely blooms enrich stories with their vigor and create striking images with their beauty.
More than providing embellishments, though, the flowers in these stories have influenced many cultural traditions and ways of life. The tales passed on from generation to generation affect the meanings we associate with different flowers, which we then use for different occasions: to celebrate, to commemorate, and to console.
The main reason why they’re so valuable is because the symbolism of these flowers excite, inspire, and teach us lessons in life.
That’s why today, we’re going to share with you five fascinating myths and legends around the world which feature distinct flowers with powerful meanings. Take a look at this list to see your favorite flowers in a completely different light!
If you’re interested in a formal course or would like to get certified as an expert on all things about flowers, we recommend checking out 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 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!
In 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 ignored her godly responsibilities and even her own appearance.
One day, he went hunting and stabbed 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 raced to be by his side, holding him as he bled to death.
Grieving the loss of her mortal lover, the goddess sowed nectar on his blood, where dark red anemones later rose up 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 represent 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 treasure every single moment with our loved ones.
While the chrysanthemum features more prominently in Eastern mythology, specifically in Japanese culture, this bright and joyous flower has a really special 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 home. Curious, they opened the door to find a quivering beggar who was turning blue from the unforgiving winter.
They brought him inside right away 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 removed 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 departed. 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 honor Christ. While this is a rich cultural custom, the call to be charitable and compassionate even through hard times rings true for every person.
A gorgeous flower that flourishes in full bloom from murky waters, the lotus is seen as a symbol of purity, rebirth, and inner strength. This belief is shared by many cultures, but its earliest date reaches back to Ancient Egyptian mythology.
The god Nefertum was believed to have been brought forth from a lotus flower, rising from the waters at the beginning of time. Known as the sun god, he stayed heavily linked to the lotus in several Egyptian myths.
In particular, he has 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 carry a particularly significant and inspiring meaning. Like the sun that rises and falls every day, the lotus opens its buds at daytime and closes them at nighttime, representing the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
In addition, Nefertum was also worshipped as the god of healing and beauty, affirming his connection with the marvels of life: not only with its beginnings and endings but with sustaining and enriching it.
There’s a reason why the term “narcissist” is named after the mythological origin of this flower. Narcissist usually describes someone who is so vain and self-absorbed that they lose sight of the world around them, just like the hunter called Narcissus in Greek mythology.
While loved by many for his striking looks, Narcissus showed great disdain for anyone who became smitten 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 rejected her and fled from her. The distressed 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, decided to punish Narcissus for his heartlessness. Dooming him to love what he cannot have, she led him to a stream where he fell in love with his own reflection.
He stayed 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 perils of treating others with spite and putting ourselves before everyone else.
Arguably the world’s most famous flower, the rose has been a consistent image in folklore and mythology throughout various cultures. But one universal symbolism they have is that of true, passionate, undying love.
This is never clearer than in the romantic tale of Cupid and Psyche. The youngest of three princesses, Psyche was a girl of astounding beauty, loved and marveled at by many people. Their adoration reached a point where they abandoned worshipping Venus, the goddess of beauty.
Overcome with envy, Venus enlisted the service of her son, Cupid, in her quest for revenge. But upon setting out for his mission, he fell in love with Psyche.
The smitten Cupid escaped with her to his isolated palace but warned her never to look at him. However, Psyche’s jealous sisters found her and tricked her into gazing at him. Enraged, Cupid deserted her.
Mourning the loss of her lover, Psyche became a servant for Venus. The goddess subjected her to many trials and torments, all of which she endured for the sake of love.
Cupid then freed Psyche and appealed to Jupiter, king of the gods, to marry her. Jupiter was greatly moved by their love and instantly expressed his favor.
Their wedding was a grandiose celebration in the heavens, attended by all gods. Jupiter called for his daughters to shower the most beautiful, radiant roses all over the lands below to honor their union.
At the heart of this fascinating story is the age-old but undeniably true message: true love conquers all. It can withstand all challenges and hardships because reaping the rewards of being with the people we love is more than enough to keep us strong.