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MEANINGS & LEGENDS OF FLOWERS (M)
Family: N.O. Magnoliaceae
Common Names: ~CucumberTree~ ~Magnoliae cortex~ ~Blue Magnolia~ ~Swamp Sassafras~ ~Magnolia Tripetata~ ~Chinese Magnolia~ ~Flos Magnoliae~~Magnolia Flower Bud~
Chinese Names: ~Hou Po Hua~ ~Hou Pu~ ~Hsin-I~ ~Shin-I~ ~Xin Yi~ ~Xinyihua~
The first magnolias introduced to Europe came from Virginia. In 1688, Sweet Bay Magnolia virginiana was the first magnolia introduced to Europe. Unaware of Asian names for the species, taxonomists named magnolias to commemorate Pierre Magnol, a professor of botany and medicine and director of the botanic garden at Montpellier, France in the early 18th century.
Magnolias are the oldest flowering plants of the world and lived during the time of the dinosaurs. Magnolia fossils have been found throughout Europe, North America, and Asia, in rocks over 100 million years old. Magnolia flowers are pollinated by beetles of the Nitidulidae family because magnolias evolved before bees and other flying pollinators. The flowers do not have true petals and sepals and do not produce nectar, but attract beetles with fragrant, sugary secretions.
Magnolia denudata, was known as ~Yu-lan~ meaning ~Jade Orchid~ to the ancient Chinese and has been cultivated since the 7th century. The Japanese have grown Magnolia stellata for centuries as potted plants called ~Shidekobushi~
Magnolias are among the 10 most popular flowering trees in the U.S. and are grown for their value as shade trees. Also used for timber and for making large canoes, house interiors and furniture. Flower buds have been used in infusions as a tonic. Animals feed on the seeds and flowers. Chinese use the flower as a remedy for clogged sinus and nasal passages.
Magnolia is both the state flower and state tree of Mississippi. It is also the state flower of Louisiana.
Common Names: ~Mallards~ ~Mauls~ ~Schloss Tea~ ~Althea zebrina~ ~Malva sylvestris zebrina~~French hollyhock~ ~Moe the Enforcer~
The name Malvaceae, is derived from the Greek, ~malake~ meaning ~soft,~ from the special qualities of the Mallows in softening and healing. Malva sylvestris is a relative of the hollyhock, once grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
It is has therapeutic qualities. The glue-like sap from the leaves, called ~mucilage~ can be used for treating bites and stings. The mallow makes a fiber that can be woven. Mallows have been used as a vegetable by the Romans, a dish of marsh mallow was one of their delicacies. The Chinese use mallow in their food, and it was eaten by the Egyptians also. Many of the poorer inhabitants of Syria, especially the Fellahs, Greeks and Armenians, live for weeks on herbs, of which Marsh Mallow is the most common.
According to the Bible in the chapter of Job 4 we read of Mallow being eaten in times of famine. The fruits are greenish in colour, edible, and taste like peanuts.
The flowers were used formerly on May Day by country people for strewing before their doors and weaving into garlands. Musk mallow, was also used to decorate the graves of friends.
Family: N.O. Berberidaceae
Common Names: ~Podophyllum~ ~May Apple~ ~Wild Lemon~ ~Raccoon-Berry~ ~Duck's Foot~ ~Hog Apple~
Native to southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Mandrake has a short stem, long leaves, and extraordinary roots that are very similar in shape to a human figure, which is the reason why Columella named it ~planta semiliominis~ which means ~semi-plant,~ ~semi-human.~ The likeness of its forked root to the human body is the reason Pythagoras to call it ~anthromorphon.~ The Latin name is derived from ~pous,~ ~podos~ (a foot) and ~phyllon~ (a leaf), resembling the foot of web-footed aquatic bird and hence the name - Duck's Foot.
The ancients used Mandrake root to relieve pain and promote sleep, but it was also known to cause madness. The leaves are cooling when used as a poultice. Mandrake, is related to many strange superstitions ans said to promote passion and also sterility. Once used as an aphrodisiac and also as an anaesthetic.
It was feared as a plant as it's root was said to embody a demon, and that if it was pulled from the ground a terrifying shriek would be heard. Anyone hearing the shriek would die. Hence the custom was developed for dogs to dig up the root by tying the hungry animal near to the plant and placing some meat near to the plant. The idea was that the dog would eventually make a grab for the meat uprooting the plant, and no-one had to witness this. The dog would die when the root was dug up which theoretically was due the shriek, but could it have been from poison. This root has a narcotic effect. Witches used the root of the mandrake to concoct potent wine. The plant is rare in Britain.
Mandrake was supposed to promote conception. According to the Bible, when Reuben brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel said : "Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes." Up to that time Rachel had borne no children. Throughout the east it was used as a narcotic; sometimes as a sleeping-draught. In Shakespeare's play, Cleopatra cries out: "Give me to drink of mandragora that I might sleep out this great gap of time, My Anthony is away."
Mandrake is one of herbs used by the American Indians. The person who owned a mandrake root was considered very fortunate. You had to sell it though before you died and at a price that was lower than the price you gave for it. A person who got it for free could never free himself from the hands of the devil. It was believed that mandrake possessed the magic power to heal many diseases, to induce a feeling of love, affection and happiness. That is why the roots of mandrake used to be as expensive as gold. A Roman physician reported complicated surgical operations having been performed in Alexandria under the anaesthetic effect of mandrake. Arabian physicians also used it for anaesthetic purposes. In 11th and 12th centuries, mandrake was recognized as an effective painkiller by the famous at that time Universities of Bolonia and Salerno.
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Common Names: ~Pot Marjoram~ ~Sweet Marjoram~ ~Knotted Marjoram~ ~Winter Marjoram~ ~Greek Oregano~
The name Origanum is derived from two Greek words, ~oros~ meaning ~mountain~ and ganos meaning ~joy,~ together ~Joy of the Mountain.~
Winter Marjoram O. Heracleoticum is native to Greece.
Pot MarjoramOriganum Onites ,a native of Sicily.
This herb was a favorite of Aphrodite. The goddess Venus is said to have bestowed the plant its fragrance. It is said that annointing oneself with it would cause dreams of a future spouse. Marjoram has been found in the Egyptian mummy garlands dating from the First Century AD and was a common herb in Egyptian gardens. The Ancient Greeks believed that if marjoram grew on a tomb the dead person was happy.
Both the ancient Greeks and Romans would crown bridal couples with wreaths of marjoram to symbolize love, honor and happiness. Marjoram was used medicinally as a remedy to aid digestion. The Greeks used it both internally and externally for fomentations. It was a remedy for narcotic poisons, convulsions and dropsy. Romans believed that marjoram promoted longevity. It is used to allay anxieties and grief.
The ~swete margerome~ was prized before the introduction of perfumes and ~swete bags,~ ~swete powders~ and ~swete washing water~ made from this plant were widely used. Furniture was scoured with its aromatic juices, and it is one of the herbs mentioned by Tusser (1577) as used for strewing chambers.
It also is used to make green dye from the flowers, but the tint is not durable. The flower tops are put into table beer, to give it flavour and preserve it. Goats and sheep eat this herb, but horses are not fond of it, and cattle don't eat it.
Marjoram is a favourite kitchen herb, especially in Italy where it is used to flavour pizzas and spaghetti dishes.
Marjoram can be cooked and also be used for sweet smelling water, pot-pourri and sweet bags. Used in herbal sleep pillows, it is also an effective home insect repellant. Dried flowers are used in flower arranging.
Common Names: ~Mary's Gold~ ~American Marigold~ ~African Marigold~ ~Aztec Marigold~ ~Herb of the Sun~
Marigold is associated with the lion, an animal legendary for its courage and brave heart. It is an herb of the Sun. Marigold was called ~Mary's Gold~ by early Christians who placed the flowers around statues of Mary, offering the blossoms in place of coins. It was told that Mary used the blossoms as coins. A legend says that during the Flight into Egypt the Holy Family was accosted by a band of thieves. They took Mary's purse and when they opened it, marigolds fell out. It represents the golden rays of glory that are often shown round the Mary's Head and is used in all the chief festivals of the Virgin Mary.
It's long association with the sun inspired Shakespeare in A Winter’s Tale. Linnaeus noted that the flowers open from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. The ~Herb of the Sun~ represents passion and creativity.
In the West country of England these flowers are known as ~The Drunkards~ due their reputation for turning people into alcoholics when the flowers are picked or even looked at for any length of time. The Welsh traditionally believed the flower could be used as a weather omen. If the flowers were not open early in the morning a storm was on the way. Used as a love charm, in wedding garlands and posies, it was also believed that rubbing the flower head on a wasp or bee sting would alleviate any pain. In India the flowers are offered to the Hindu gods, Vishnu and Lakshmi specially in the month of December.
Common Names: ~Thistle~ ~Variegated Thistle~ ~Mary Thistle~ ~St. Mary Thistle~~St Mary's Milk Thistle~ ~Marian Thistle~ ~Lady's Thistle~ ~Holy Thistle~ ~Blessed Milk Thistle~ ~Cardo Mariano~ ~Kanger, Kenger~ ~Ku'Ub~ ~Maria-Azami~ ~Meryemanadikeni~
Legend has it that the white mottling of the leaves of milk thistle was caused by a drop of the Virgin Mary's milk. The plant was traditionally used to stimulate milk production. Its scientific name is Silybum marianumwas a name given to some edible thistles in the first century by a Greek physician, and marianum is a reference to the Virgin Mary legend.
The seeds are a favorite food of goldfinches. The flower heads were once boiled and eaten like artichokes. Milk thistle, is the most important plant, medicinally among the members of this genus. Originating in Kashmir, India milk thistle found its way to Europe during the Middle Ages. Milk thistle was cultivated in European gardens as a vegetable until the end of the 19th century. All parts of the plant were consumed.
Family: Labiatae (Mint Family)
Common Names: ~Garden Mint~
The Arabic word for mint is ~Nahnah~ and the French word is ~Menthe.~ Mint has been used in Europe since prehistoric times. In the Middle Ages it was called ~Spere Mynte~ and was used to cure all ills and as a stewing herb, laid on the floors to keep the rooms sweet smelling. In France the liqueur Creme de menthe is widely drunk as a digestive.
There are about 25 species of mint. Spearmint also known as ~Garden Mint~ is the most common. Its leaves are used to flavor sauces and salads, in cooking vegetables and meat dishes. Its also used for making mint tea. Dried mint lasts up to two years.
According to legend, Persephone changed the nymph Minthe into sweet-smelling mint to save her from being raped by Hades. Another legend tells us that Pluto loved his wife Prosperine but was neglecting her as he was in love with the nymph Minte/Menthe. Jealous, filled with envy and revengeful fury, Prosperine changed Minte into the lowliest of plants, to be forever trampled underfoot. Unable to save her, Pluto gave Minte eternal sweetness.
Demeter drank cecyon (kekyon) at Eleusis. This sacred drink of the Eleusine Mysteries was made of wheaten gruel
blended with mint. Female initiates carried vessels of it bound to their heads. The Greeks believed that mint increased love-making. Mint, rosemary and myrtle were used to prepare the dead in ancient Greece. It was strewn about the banquet halls of Greece and Rome. It was also viewed as a symbol of hospitality, and tables were rubbed down with it before the table was prepared for banquets. Pliny advised scholars to wear crowns of mint to aid their concentration. He said that it exhilirates the mind and stimulates the brain.
It is a popular kitchen herb, used fresh or dried. The Arabs made mint tea since ancient times. All parts of the plant yield an aromatic essential oil. Mint repels rodents. Sprinkle dried mint as an ant barrier
Reputed to be able to heal the pain caused by wasp and bee stings. In Ancient Greece the custom was to perfume all parts of the body with a different scent...mint was used for the arms.
In the language of flowers mint stands for Virtue and symbolizes Love, passion, humble virtue and enhances sexuality.
Family: N.O. Loranthaceae
Common Names: ~All heal~ ~Birdlime~ ~Devil's Fuge~ ~Donnerbesen~ ~Golden Bough~ ~Holy wood~ ~Ligname sactae crucis~ ~Mistle~ ~Thuderbesem~ ~Witches' Broom~ ~Wood of the Cross~ ~Herbe de la Croix~ ~Mystyldene~ ~Lignum Crucis~
Mistletoe is a partial parasite. The Greeks believed it had mystical powers and through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. Considered masculine, it is associated with the sun, the element of air, and the Gods Apollo, Freya, Frigga, Venus, and Odin. The French claim that it was once a tree, but when it was used to make Christs' cross, it was cursed thereafter, denied a place on earth, and so became a parasite to live. Mistle is imbued with the powers of protection, love, hunting, fertility, health, and exorcism.
The common name is derived from the ancient belief that mistletoe was propagated from bird droppings. This belief was related to the then-accepted fact that life could spring spontaneously from dung. Mistletoe would often appear on a branch or twig where birds had left droppings. ~Mistel~ is the Anglo-Saxon word for ~dung,~ and ~ tan~ is the word for ~twig.~ So, mistletoe means ~dung-on-a-twig.~
According to another meaning, the English name is said to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon ~Misteltan,~ ~tan~ signifying ~twig,~ and ~mistel~ from ~mist,~ which in old Dutch meant ~birdlime;~ thus, according to Professor Skeat, Mistletoe means ~birdlime twig,~ a reference to the fact that the berries have been used for making birdlime. Dr. Prior, however derives the word from tan, ~a twig,~ and ~mistl,~ meaning different, from its being unlike the tree it grows on. In the fourteenth century it was termed ~Mystyldene~ and also ~Lignum crucis.~ The Latin name of the genus, Viscum, signifying ~sticky,~ was assigned to it from the glutinous juice of its berries.
In Brittany, the plant is called Herbe de la Croix, because, according to an old legend, the Cross was made from its wood, on account of which it was degraded to be a parasite.
Mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. To the Romans, Celts and Germanic peoples of the 4th century B.C., Mistletoe was known as the ~Golden Bough.~ In the Celtic language mistletoe means ~all-heal.~ It not only cured diseases, but could also render poisons harmless, make humans and animals prolific, keep one safe from witchcraft, protect the house from ghosts and even make them speak. It was thought to bring good luck to anyone who had it.
The Celts hung sprigs of Mistletoe in their homes to welcome the new year and to ward off evil. They positioned pieces of the plant above a baby's cradle to protect the newborn from fairy theft. They also considered the plant to be a cure for several types of disease.
Held sacred by the Druids when growing on Valonia Oak. They believed it would make barren animals fertile if drunk. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor.
Mistletoe was regarded as both a sexual symbol and the ~soul~ of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. Mistletoe is still ceremonially plucked on mid-summer eve in some Celtic and Scandinavian countries.
Norse myth about mistletoe
Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death which alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end. In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. But Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it , striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother.
It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that whoever stood under the humble mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love.
In the Middle Ages, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. In parts of England and Wales farmers would give the Christmas bunch of mistletoe to the first cow that calved in the New Year. This was thought to bring good luck to the entire herd.
Mistletoe was believed to have the power of bestowing fertility, and the dung from which the mistletoe was thought to arise was also said to have ~life-giving~ power.
Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. In the eighteenth-century, English credited mistletoe with a certain magical appeal called a kissing ball. During Christmas a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed, she couldn't expect to marry the following year.
In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry. A man should pluck a berry when he kisses a woman under the mistletoe, and when the last berry is gone, there should be no more kissing.
In France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year's Day: ~Au gui l'An neuf~ (Mistletoe for the New Year). Today, kisses can be exchanged under the mistletoe any time during the holiday season.
Medical research has found substances in mistletoe that can slow down tumour growth. The sprigs of this plant are regarded as a symbol of hospitality.
Family: N.O. Primulaceae
Common Names: ~Herb Tuppence~ ~Herb Twopence~ ~Twopenny Grass~ ~String of Sovereigns~ ~Wandering Jenny~ ~Wandering Tailor~ ~Wandering Sally~ ~Creeping Charlie~ ~Creeping John~ ~Creeping Jenny~ ~Creeping Joan~ ~Money Plant~ ~Honesty~ ~Bolbonac~ ~Silver Dollar~ ~Penny Flower~ ~Moonwort~ ~Running Jenny~ ~Meadow Runagates~ ~Two Penigrasse~ ~Serpentaria~
The name, nummularia, is from the Latin ~nummulus~ meaning ~money.~
Said to have been discovered by King Lysimachus of Thrace, Moneywort was supposed to stop yoked oxen from quarreling when laid across their shoulders. Smoke from the burning plant was believed to drive snakes away.
Moneywort in olden days was reputed to have many virtues. It is said that this herb was not only used by man, but that if serpents hurt or wounded themselves, they turned to this plant for healing, and due to this it was sometimes called ~Serpentaria.~
The bruised fresh leaves were used as an application to wounds. A decoction of the fresh herb was taken as a drink in wine or water, and also applied outwardly as a wash or cold compress to both wounds and inveterate sores. An ointment was made also for application to wounds.
In the Language of Flowers it means Release from strife and symbolizes Peacemaking
Common Names: ~Aconite~ ~Officinal Aconite~ ~Wolf's Bane~ ~English Monkshood~ ~Common Monkshood~ ~Turk's Cap~ ~Friar's Cap~ ~Soldier's Cap~ ~Bear's Foot~ ~Helmet Flower~ ~Hecates
Monk's Hood is a member of the Buttercup family and related to the Delphinium. The name comes from the Greek, ~akon~ meaning ~a dart,~ as arrowheads were dipped in the poison. It got it's name Wolf's Bane from the time when wolves were common in Europe and meat poisoned with it's juices was used as a bait for them. The English name, derives from the shape of the flowers which resemble a monk's hood or helmet. The genus name Aconitum comes from the Greek term ~en akonias,~ which means ~growing on bare rocks.~
Monkshood was used to poison enemy water supplies during times of war in ancient Europe and Asia. Hunters used its sap to poison spears, arrowheads & trap baits.
Hecate, Goddess of Witches, was one of the first to use wolf's bane. Arachne hanged herself in mortification for having dared to challenge Athene to a weaving contest, then losing. The goddess sprinkled her with aconite juice to turn her into a spider.
Medea used wolfbane to prepare a poison cup for Theseus.
Druids held wolfbane sacred.
Wolfbane was associated with the witch cult in medieval times. Aconite, legend says, sprung up where the saliva of Cereberus, the three-headed dog, fell when Hercules dragged him from the Underworld as his twelfth Labor. It is known as the ~Witch flower~ has been used as an external painkiller in folk medicine.
Known as Fu-Tzu, in traditional Chinese medicine it is considered an effective stimulant for the spleen and kidneys.
Supposedly the ~quintessential plant of the occult,~ it was used to make a flying ointment, and an ointment of the imagination, that allowed witches to contact the other side. The roots are very poisonous but have been used medicinally. It contains the deadly poison aconitine, which slows heart rate, decreases blood pressure, and numbs pain.
It is a long lasting flower when cut. In the language of Flowers it means Misanthropy, Chivalry and Knight-errantry. It is used for protection, invisibility and fighting werewolves and also used in flying ointments by witches in Thessaly. It gives the sensation of being off the ground.
Copyright © Pinkie D'Cruz 1998
Friday, January 16, 1998