hist-games: Flower oracles

Diane O'Donovan diane_o_donovan at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 17 10:04:35 PDT 2003

The assignment of virtues (and hence moral meaning) to plants and flowers 
has a long history, even in the west and of course predates the use of such 
things in fortune-telling per se.

On the roots of the system for assignments, Moldenke's book Plants of the 
Bible (available now in a Dover reprint)is illuminating, but better still 
sermons and moralia of the medieval period. Thus the rose symbolised perfect 
love - the flower of Mary, one of whose epithets was 'Rosa Mundi'. The lily 
as symbol of purity was given as one of her symbols too, and from the older, 
established patterns of associations first sermon-givers and ultimately the 
early modern fortune-tellers gained their ideas.

On antecendents for the relations established between particular plants and 
the signs of the zodiac - a system mainly eviolved from the practical 
observation of plants' optimum times for harvesting and efficacy see the 
handy list in Gleadow's Origin of the Zodiac - an old work but still worth 
reading. Additional to the purely practical matter was of course the time 
according to the religious year when one or another plant bloomed. In some 
cases, the virtue assigned that plant or flower was then that of its Saint 
(St. John's wort, for example).

Hope this of interest.

Diane O'Donovan

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