I’ve long been a fan of flower and plant folklore and tradition. From herbal poultices to aromatherapy, home made toiletries to countryside traditions (I wassailed and I liked it), I think there’s a huge amount of knowledge that has been largely forgotten, but lives on in story form. Here are a few of the naturally-inspired stories and myths that have enthralled me since childhood.
A flower for lovers, the honeysuckle is attached to many romantic myths. Bringing honeysuckle into the house is thought to lead to a wedding within the year (honey has many love associations including, most obviously, honeymoon celebrations so it is no big surprise that honeysuckle is associated with romance.)
Honeysuckle signifies, love, fidelity and affection in the Victorian language of flowers so it’s ideal for bridal bouquets, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Hanging honeysuckle outside a barn is thought to protect cattle from being bewitched (because no one wants to deal with a bewitched cow…).
And if you’ve ever wondered why honeysuckle blossoms for so long, it’s down to Greek lovers, Daphnis (the inventor of Pastoral Poetry) and Chloe. Their long distance love only allowed them to see each other while honeysuckle bloomed (obviously).
In an impressive piece of lateral thinking for a man whose relationship was controlled by a flower, Daphnis asked Eros to extend honeysuckle’s growing season to increase his time with Chloe. And so their love blossomed as Eros decided to let honeysuckle bloom as long as it was warm.
Ivy was apparently once a party girl called Cissos, who rather overdid things at a party hosted by Dionysus.
Being a gracious host, he turned the expired woman into ivy (and if Cissos was as good at getting everywhere as ivy is, it’s a safe bet she went to all the best parties before her demise.)
Another plant with love links, meaning fertility, love and fidelity, putting an ivy leaf under your pillow will apparently make you dream of your lover – but if you dream of ivy, that lover could be an ex soon…
And if you look closely at ivy, you can see the face of a wolf: possibly why it’s seen as the plant of resilience, adaptability and survival (its invasive nature aside).: the perfect office plant for entrepreneurs.
Pollinators love ivy too – and if you watch it closely as it changes over the year, you’ll be surprised by its beauty.
Considered ‘fae’ food, some consider blackberries to be dangerous for people to eat (aside from in blackberry wine form. I don’t get the logic but such is myth on occasion).
Blackberries have also been linked to the devil, and labelled a taboo food, so you can feel particularly anarchic when you have that blackberry and apple pie.
On the plus side, blackberries ward off vampires (something Buffy missed out on but stakes probably look better in fight scenes than jam). Plant it near your house and, apparently, the vampires will be so busy counting the berries, they’ll leave your jugular intact.
And if you have problems with spots, try passing under a bramble bush. It’s apparently a great cure for acne (and hernias).
If you like myth and legend, follow @FolkloreThurs and join #FolkloreThursday each week. There are fascinating stories galore on the hashtag. Just make sure you don’t get too carried away by the fairies. Go for a god instead. At least that way you might get turned into a plant.