Welcome to guest blogger Patricia Hall, who shares some fascinating tidbits about flowers and the meanings they have in different cultures and religions. Does your favorite flower have a hidden meaning that adds to its beauty and mystery? EHC
Flowers carry meaning for the world
Flowers carry a wealth of meanings. As cultural symbols with a rich history, flowers have been used to convey messages of apology, friendship and romance. Enthusiasts in Victorian England developed an entire coded language using flowers. But flowers have meaning beyond the human world; in the natural realm, they serve a vital role in plant reproduction. In this arena too, flowers can be seen as a form of communication; they are a way that plants entice bees and other pollinators to come in close.
The Language of Flowers
Flowers have been used symbolically in art and religion for thousands of years. In Eastern traditions, the lotus flower holds a position of great respect and significance. The lotus symbolizes enlightenment, peace and the creative power of the Divine. In Hindu art, many deities are portrayed standing within the petals of a lotus blossom. In the Buddhist tradition, the lotus serves as a symbol of humanity’s power to transcend the world; the lotus has its roots in the dark mud but rises up above to float serenely on the water.
Flowers play a less central role in the Christian tradition but still have some significance. For example, lilies are often placed on church altars for Easter. The white petals of the lily symbolize the purity of Christ and the triumph of His resurrection.
Within secular Western culture, flowers have taken on many, intricate meanings based on their colors, shapes and smells. The Victorians refined these associations into a high art. By sending bouquets of flowers, they could communicate complex messages without speaking them aloud. If a woman sent a man an arrangement of lemon blossom, red carnations and celandine, this would mean that she loved him deeply but needed to keep their romance discrete for the time being.
These codes could be adapted for use today. Sending a bouquet of meaningful flowers is an alternative and inventive way of signaling growing feelings of affection. There is also much potential for the use of flowers in spiritual practice. Living or cut flowers can be incorporated into altars and ceremonies; images of flowers can also be used in these ways.
Flowers exist because plants use them to reproduce. The open, cupped shape of a flower creates a space where pollen can meet and mix with ovules. This mixture results in seeds, which become the next generation of flowering plants.
Many plants require some form of outside intervention in order to spread their pollen. Some plants make use of natural forces, such as wind and water. But the majority of flowers rely on pollinators. These include bees, moths, birds, and even bats.
Flowers have evolved a range of mechanisms to attract pollinators. One of the most important is nectar. This sweet liquid is created by plants in order to attract hungry insects and birds. Many of the attributes of flowers serve to signal pollinators of the existence of nectar. For example, flowers are brightly colored in order to stand out and draw the attention of birds and bees. The strong scents of flowers also serve this function.
Humans, of course, enjoy the brilliant displays of color and the intoxicating smells too. But some of the attractive features of flowers are invisible to the human eye. Nectar guides are trails of color which lead insects to the location of the flower’s nectar. Many nectar guides can only be seen in ultraviolet light.
Some people use the beauty of flowers to connect more deeply with their own experience of sensory pleasure. Flowers can also be a gateway to appreciating the creative power, wisdom and grace offered by the natural world. To explore this potential, a person simply has to open his or her eyes. Many people walk by flowers every day without noticing them. How might the world be different if more people stopped to ask themselves what flowers might mean, what messages they could bring humanity from the realm of nature?
Flowers can be seen as gifts of beauty from the world. As gifts they are offered freely, asking nothing in return save acknowledgment. Those who take the time to appreciate flowers–including wild flowers like dandelions–may find their relationship to nature growing deeper and fuller.
About the Author
Patricia Hall works part-time for Serenata Flowers UK, an online florist, and loves to surround herself with flowers at any given point of time. Even in her free time she loves to involve herself with everything flora and fauna.
“To me there is nothing more beautiful and global as the language of flowers – it is the easiest to understand all around the world in the same way. That is one reason why I truly admire flowers for what they represent in some ways – unity of all mankind!”