hist-games: Flower oracles

alexandra nagel xnagel at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 17 21:57:02 PDT 2003

Thanks Diane. 

I didn’t know of the works you refer to, but have read about symbolic meanings of the rose, lily, and other flowers in, among a few others, the extensive (Dutch) "Compendium van Rituele Planten in Europa" by Marcel De Cleene & Marie-Claire Lejeune (1999). I’ll keep your info (esp. the zodiac connection) in mind though.


Diane O'Donovan <diane_o_donovan at hotmail.com> wrote:
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 evolved 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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