The mightiest of emperors got weak in the knees at the sight of beautiful flowers and got seduced by the fragrance of the floral oil extracts… Flowers have the potential of doing this and much more since time immemorial. Let’s go down the alleys of history to experience the charm created and fragrance emitted by the vibrant, aromatic flowers, which still rules the memories of many.With the following points The 5 ancient uses of flowers that you would want to know are explained.
Language and Symbols
Flowers have been actively used to represent unexpressed emotions and convey the unspoken words in many parts of the world throughout history – one of the prime ancient uses of flowers. However, it was in the Victorian era that the language of flowers was best used to communicate indirectly, yet effectively. Flowers were considered as active symbols of expression – friendship, love, peace after war and respect and affection for the dead. For instance, Lavender symbolized romantic association and presenting lavender to someone lead to blooming of a love relationship between the two. Rose, the queen of flowers, was considered as the symbol of love, passion and desire. While the red rose stood for love, friendship and passion, and white for peace, the yellow rose symbolized infidelity.
Similarly, the Romans too, used flowers as a symbol of expression. They used flowers like Violets to show love, respect and gratitude for those loved ones who have died. They thought that the soothing colour and mild fragrance of Violets would bring peace in their afterlife. The large and vibrant blooms of White Poppies traditionally marked the end of wars and beginning of peace – white stands for peace, remember?
In ancient China, flowers were specifically picked up to symbolize various aspects of life – the flowers of Bamboo, Peach and Pear connoted longevity, while Pomegranate, Orchids and Tiger Lily symbolized fertility.
In India, flowers are considered to be the symbol of purity and attributed immense importance in places like temples and religious ceremonies. Flowers like Rose, Jasmine, Marigold, and Lotus are often considered to be synonymous with gods and deities. In the ancient Indian Hindu text Kama Sutra, Padmini or the Lotus Woman was inspired by the Lotus. ‘Padma’ means Lotus – the flower which grows in the mud and marsh, yet becomes the most beautiful, the most fragrant and the most celebrated flower, untouched by the murkiness around.
Flowers made precious pieces of adornments – be it the crown, neckpiece, bracelet or anklet, flowers occupied a supreme position in women’s dressing room during ancient times. Victorians, armed with floral dictionaries, often exchanged ‘talking bouquets’, which were worn as fashion accessory.
Adorning one’s head with leaves and flowers has a rich history dating back to the ancient world. In Rome, the laurel wreath was considered to be the symbol of victory and honor. While in ancient Greece, wreaths were awarded to the athletes of the ancient Olympics and other victors. Made by interlocking the leaves and petals of aromatic flowers like violets, roses, parsley and myrtle, these wreaths form a circular or horse-shoe shape to adorn the head perfectly. Besides being the symbol of victory, flower crowns were also used extensively during festivities, celebrations and weddings. If you see the paintings or pictures from the Greek civilization, Greek men can be seen wearing wreaths. It is because they believed that tying a fillet tight around their head could ease their drunkenness. Bizarre!
Talking about Indian history or mythology, queens, apsaras and deities such as Shakuntala, Menaka and Sita have been pictured adorning floral accessories in their hair, neck, wrists, waist and ankles. Adorning floral accessories made from fresh flowers like Rose, Jasmine or Marigold highlighted the beauty, grace and royalty of women in olden times.
Cure and Heal
Shrubs, leaves and barks have medicinal properties, and it’s known to us. But did you know that flowers too, have potential properties to cure and heal? People in ancient China – followers of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism extensively used flowers as medicines. In ancient Egypt over 800 flowers and plants are listed as medicines, which helped in healing and curing.
When it comes to ancient use of flowers as medicines, how can we ignore India, the country with a rich history of Ayurveda, an alternative medicine, which started during the Vedic period and now has spread its wings to other parts of the world? Talking about the medicinal properties of the flowers, Calendula is the first that comes to one’s mind – the bright, yellow petals of the flowers are mixed with other substances to make an effective ointment for skin treatment; or take Rose Periwinkle for that matter. Did you ever think that cancer can have a remedy? Yes, Rose Periwinkle, which is being used as tea for treating hypertension and diabetes, have recently been declared to have beneficial properties towards leukemia, other types of cancers and Hodgkin’s diseases.
We must have come across many scenes in mythological stories or films from the depths of history wherein the hosts create a shower and carpet of flower petals to welcome the guests or paintings of the females of a royal family bathing in a bath tub with floating flower petals. The idea is basically based on the practice of flower alchemy that was popular during the ancient times. In simple terms, flower alchemy is the art and the practice of receiving and embodying the nourishing properties of plants. Besides inhaling the fragrance of these flowers that freshens up your mind and uplifts your mood, flower alchemy is about taking pure flower essences suspended in water to rejuvenate and revitalize your body. In fact, the therapy since olden times has been considered to be a great stress-buster and body pain reliever.