Flower Symbolism and Floriography

Folklore, legends and mythology all contribute to the field of floriography, or flower symbolism. Tradition has provided us with many examples of how certain flowers hold various meanings and significance. Some of these traditions originated in the Victorian era, while others date back to antiquity. If you've ever pondered why a red rose is given as a statement of love, or why Easter lilies are presented during Christian celebrations, then you've stumbled onto floriography. Flowers have been used to express sentiments of love, thanks, gratitude, sorrow and remorse for thousands of years. Understanding the language of flowers ensures that the next time you send a bouquet, your gift is a true representation of your heartfelt intentions.

Flower Symbolism in Religion

Much of floriography traces its roots to religious customs, legends and mythology. Flowers were used as symbols in the Hebrew Bible, throughout Hinduism, in the Catholic Church and as a representation for saints, in Buddhism, and in Chinese religions. For example, the white lotus flower has come to be a symbolism for Buddhism and Hinduism. Chinese religions hold flowers such as daffodils, orchids and peonies in high regard and they are often used throughout wedding ceremonies. In the Christian faith, Jesus Christ is referred to as the "Rose of Sharon" and the symbolic image of a red rose representing Christ's pierced heart is seen. The white Madonna lily is a symbol of purity within the Catholic Church. It's important to understand that different flowers hold various cultural meanings. For example, red is the preferred color in China and wedding flowers as well as gowns are red, not white. In China, white flowers are associated with death and are the preferred color used in funeral flowers. The red rose is often symbolic of the crucifixion and the bleeding heart of Christ, but also signifies romantic love. While many flowers have the origins of their symbolism in religion, it wasn't until the Victorian era that flowers began to symbolize emotions that were discouraged from public expression.

Flowers in the Victorian Era

Floriography grew to new heights throughout the Victorian era. The practice of using flowers as ways of sending secret meanings became commonplace. As the Victorians refrained from displaying open physical expressions, flowers could be used to tell a woman that a man fancied her. If a man sent a woman a bouquet of flowers with his calling card, it was a definite show of romantic affection and interest. Dictionaries and books such as "The Language of Flowers" became widespread and everyone was searching for the perfect flower to present in a situation according to its given meaning. Throughout this time, red roses became symbolic of love while white roses signified purity and innocence. Daisies were associated with loyalty, purity and innocence, and peonies signified a happy marriage or prosperity. It's important to keep in mind that time often changes the meaning or symbolism of flowers. For many flowers, however, the symbolism remains the same as they did during the Victorian era.

Other examples of flower symbolism in the Victorian era include the acacia as symbolizing concealed or hidden love, begonia as a warning to beware something, pink carnations as motherly love, daffodils as unrequited love, gardenias as a secret, passionate love, purple hyacinths as a symbol of repentance or apology, marigold as grief or cruelty, and white rosebuds as girlhood or innocence. While those in modern days do not need to rely upon covert messages in flowers to express sentiments, there is no question that flower symbolism continues to hold great importance. Whether choosing a bouquet for an anniversary or birthday or looking for a funeral wreath, the choice of flower selected is an important one. Many agree it would be questionable to send children a dozen red roses with a boxed heart of candy, and would look for something more appropriate and suitable. White roses or daisies with a stuffed animal would be a more suitable choice, as red roses are symbolic of romantic love. It is important to understand cultural meanings and symbolism when choosing flowers for any occasion.

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