hist-games: Gleadow and flowers
diane_o_donovan at hotmail.com
Fri Apr 18 08:06:49 PDT 2003
I am not sure whether your interest is solely in the use of floral virtues
to inform 'oracles' in card-packs, or whether it is the broader question of
how such assignments came about which interests you: if the former, then the
following will probably be of less relevance.
Gleadow in his Origins of the Zodiac cited the following connections as
having been traditional for the Greeks, in their medicinal practice. I don't
know, of course, what your oracular packs depict. Being not particularly
interested in astrology, I did not follow the matter further.
Aries - Sage and water milfoil
Taurus - Vervain and clover
Gemini - holy vervain (v.supina) and wild gladiolus
Cancer - Comfrey and mandrake (mandragora officinalis)
Leo - cyclamen graecum
Virgo - calaminth
Libra - Scorpion tail and needleplant
Scorpio - Artemesia, houndstongue (cynoglossum)
Sagittarius - Pimpernel
Capricorn - Sorrel and hypericum hircinum, which smells of goat
Aquarius - Edderwort; fennel and buttercup
Pisces - Birthwort
Saturn - Asphodel, white heliotrope, houseleek and frothy poppy
Jupiter - Agrimony, chrysacanthus
Mars - Lambstongue, butterburr and hog's fennel
Sun - sunspurge, chicory
Venus - Vervain, white rose (r.sempervirens), man orchis
Mercury - mullein, cinquefoil
Moon - Paeony; helium
But as usual, the character of those constellations and planets was
conferred on their associated plants, and vice versa.
Gleadow naturally credits his information, which was taken from:
S.C. Atchley, Wild Flowers of Attica, Oxford University Press, 1938.
The majority of the virtues for each flower in these 'oracles' seem to me to
have been derived from Biblical allusions, classical medicine, folk beliefs
and from an understanding that the majority also have (and had) medicinal
On this last, Culpepper is not so trustworthy. I found best and most
thorough (at least in the English corpus) the book which served from the
30's to the period of antibiotics' invention as the English-speaking
pharmacist's standard text:
Grieve, Mrs. M., A Modern Herbal.
My copy is a reprint, issued by Jonathan Cape (1974). It is exceptionally
useful, for in addition to thorough horticultural and pharmacutical
information it provides details of the common, literary and folk names for
each plant, and for the various beliefs about each.
Vervain, to take a random example, has its historical associations with the
'bonded groups and societies' explained.
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