Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The power of flowers

Humans have been using flowers for a variety of purposes from the dawn of time.  From food, to medicine, beauty to communication, flowers have always been a part of our lives and probably always will be.

There are as many different ways to use flowers in your practice as there are flowers in the world, which is to say that the possibilities are endless!  This gives us an extreme amount of flexibility in how we may choose to incorporate flowers into our work.

There are many systems already in place, that we can study, to learn about different meanings of different flowers.  One very common system is that of the doctrine of signatures, or more simply put:  things that look like other things can help them.  So, eyebright, which was thought to look like your eyes was used for remedies to help eye issues.  Many plants were named after what they were thought to be good for (like Lungwort or Liverwort).  But it wasn't just the shape of plants that drew these associations, they could be connected to things based on where they grew (wet environments helped with wet diseases), color (red flowers to help with blood issues), texture (hairy/furry plants to help ward off colds), scent (strong scented plants to ward off evil).  Even the types of animals they resemble or that eat them can be an association.

Along these same lines you find the Bach flower remedies, a set of tinctures derived from flowers that seek to remedy negative emotions and thus heal a person.  One interesting thing about Bach flower remedies is that they are often felt to be able to used symbolically, so you don't even need the actual tincture to use their energy, you can visualize the flower and call up it's energy to enact your healing.

Of course, there are tons of medicinal uses of flowers, and a walk down the herbal supplement isle of your grocery store will give you a good starting point for looking into flowers that are safe to ingest.  Another great place to look for edible flowers is the tea section.  Teas are an age old medicine, not only for the body but for the soul as well.  Many teas and supplements now are clearly labeled with the healing properties they grant, whether those are bodily (things that might help with digestion for example) or emotional (teas to calm nerves). 

Like many things, flowers can mean different things to different people.  We build up strong associations with flowers just through our everyday lives, and sometimes the reactions we have to a specific flower might surprise you.  I have always both loved and pulled away from roses, because I think they are beautiful, they smell lovely and rich, they are so soft to touch...but my middle name is Rose, and they are such a romantic stereotype, I didn't always like admitting I liked them.  Many people think of dandelions as a nuisance or weed, but they remind me of the simple joys of childhood (because by far and beyond they were the most common flower around..they were everywhere!  And who doesn't like blowing dandelion puffs???).

The language of flowers, or floriography, was a secret way of communicating by sending bouquets of flowers, where each flower had a specific meaning.  While it was used in many areas of the world, the most codified system is probably from Victorian England, where it was considered a civilized way to say things that might not otherwise be said.  I was fascinated with this idea when I was little, I loved the idea that you could gather up a selection of flowers and send someone a secret message.

We still use flowers to communicate, though not in quite such a detailed manner.  The type of flowers you might bring a date say a lot about what you feel towards them.  We give flowers when someone is sick, or to express mourning at a funeral.  Some flowers have developed strong associations based on how they are used, like the poppy flower, which has become a symbol for remembering military personnel who have died in war.  I have a stone that I painted with white, red and purple poppies for Memorial day (red for the soldiers, white for innocent casualties and purple for animals, all who died due to war), that cycles onto my altar.

Flowers can be used fresh or preserved.  One of the simplest ways to preserve a flower is to hang it upside down, and let it dry.  The petals can be removed, and used in all manner of things (be aware, if you are planning on ingesting them in any way, make sure the flower wasn't exposed to dangerous pesticides!), from tinctures to incense or simply used in spell work.  Flower petals can be crushed into a paste and turned into beads (roses work especially well for these, as the oils in the petals linger in the dried beads).  You can also add flower petals (fresh or dried) into salt dough to make seasonal sculptures or offering stones.

One of the things that I like best about flowers is that you can find them everywhere.  Even if you live in a crowded city, if you watch the cracks in the sidewalk or those little patches of dirt that are scattered here and there, you will find flowers.  They can be tiny, almost lost in the leaves, or they can dominate a field.  Many trees will be covered with flowers before they even start to grow leaves. 

Flowers are a simple and easy way to bring color and beauty into our homes.  We can keep cut flowers in a vase or cup on ourcounter top and bring a bit of freshness and nature into our indoor environment.  They hold strong emotional ties, and may remind us of simple delights, romantic encounters or pure love.

Play with flowers, and see the ways in which they speak to you.  Explore their world, and watch them open before your eyes.  Seek the wonder they hold, and uncover the magic of flowers.

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