Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Folklore of May Flowers

Garden lore is a colorful component of folklore. Around the world people hold beliefs and have customs that are directly related to the vegetation around them. Whether or not the flora produces nourishing edibles, it still helps them to better understand the world they live in. For example, fruit tree blossoms often indicate that spring is on the way and falling harvest leaves serve as a reminder that its time to prepare for the coming of winter.
Each season, each month, comes with its own bouquet, so to speak. In May which marks both spring and summer and has long been associated with fertility and birth in the northern hemisphere, there are many community beliefs and traditions that revolve around flowers and trees:
  • Lily of the Valley - According to Christian legend, the Lily was a yellowish color until the Virgin Mary stooped to pick one. The Lily turned white and came to represent purity, chastity, and innocence.
  • Narcissus - According to Greek mythology, a young man named Narcissus was so in love with his appearance that he stared at his reflection in a pool of water for so long that he died, and eventually bloomed into his namesake flower, Narcissus. 
  • Peonies- Named after Paeon, the Greek god of medicine. Traditional folk medicine claims the Peony root is a cure for menstrual cramps The Chinese call this flower the King of Flowers or the Flower Fairy, and the Qing Dynasty officially named it China’s national flower in 1903.    
  • May pole - During medieval days, May was often celebrated by young men and women dancing on the village green around a specially-decorated tree.  The trees’ branches were replaced by colorful ribbons that dancers held while celebrating.
  • Fir tree – In Germany tradition a fir tree was cut down on May Eve by young unmarried men. The removed branches were decorated and placed in the village square during festivities. The tree was guarded all night to prevent it being stolen by the men of a neighboring village.
  • Oak tree – Oak Apple Day is England is celebrated on May 29th is remembrance of King Charles the II, who hid in an oak tree from Cromwell’s solders. 
Other flora folkloric connections involve lavender as a romantic lure for young French maidens seeking to attract a suitor and flower garden dew that young British girls would wash their face with to enhance a beautiful complexion. Herbal remedies have long played a part in a community’s overall well-being, too.
Folk beliefs about the connections between the natural world and a society’s survival can be seen in its garden lore. Flowers and trees have found their way into important life passages like births, weddings, and funerals because they have come to represent a community’s hopes for rebirth and renewal.

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