Flowers have been used to communicate for centuries. Did you know that?
Perhaps as a middle-schooler, you giggled over a girl who received a rose from an admirer, or discussed the various meanings of roses – yellow stands for friendship, red was for romance, pink was for new love — at least, that is what we blushed about…
But, attributing meaning to certain flowers and plants dates at least back to medieval times (and perhaps farther! I’m not an expert, but if you count being very adept at Google searches, then, yes – you may call me an expert) –
Many flowers recognize Mary, the Mother of God – whose Assumption is celebrated by many Catholics and Orthodox believers today.
Here are some common garden flowers (and one bug!) that are named to honor Mary, as cited on the University of Dayton ‘Mary’ page:
Marigold – was originally called “Mary’s Gold”, and braided rings were placed around statues of Mary, in lieu of coins, as an offering.
Violet – Our Lady’s Modesty – associated with humility. Perfect for the small and lowly (yet beautiful!) little violet. *Gather the blossoms of the common lawn violet, steep overnight, and enjoy a floral tea!*
Thistle – Our Lady’s Thistle – yes, even a common and prickly weed is associated with the Mother of God! Have you ever noticed the milky spots of the thistle’s leaves? Medieval believers said that they became that way when drops of milk spilled while Mary was nursing Jesus.
Lily of the Valley – Our Lady’s Tears – this flower is said to have sprung into being when Mary cried as her Son was being crucified.
Ladybugs – we might call them a gardener’s best friend, but some legends tell that they are called Lady Beetles (in Germany, their name is Marienkafer – Mary Beetle). As plagues ravaged the crops of the Middle Ages, prayers were said for Mary’s intercession. Farmers then saw these strange red and black-spotted bugs in their field, and the pests were gone. They noticed seven spots on the beetles back – for Mary’s seven sorrows – and attributed the red color to her cloak or mantle. Check it out here.