►Metamorphosis, Life-cycles and Seasons:
One of the most important sources when it comes to Greek Mythology is Ovid´s “Metamorphoses”. According to this account, many times the passage from life to death entails a “metamorphosis”. Characters whether gods/goddesses or humans are transformed into “something else”.
Plants (usually flowers or trees) could be examples of this transformation. The same applies to stars, as many characters are converted to stars and placed among stellar constellations . This mostly happens after their death, as tribute, but even as a sort of exoneration; or even as punishment. The main God in charge to do so is, of course, Zeus, the Ruler of Gods.
Metamorphosis is a key element in Greek mythology. Zeus had probably the most changes in Greek mythology, and he used different appearances as a way of courting potential lovers. Zeus often took the form of animals aiming to sleep with his future lovers. For example, Zeus consorted with Mnemosyne in the form of a shepherd. Leda was seduced by Zeus in the form of swan. He even fell for a young man called Ganymede, who was abducted and taken to Olympus by Zeus in the form of an eagle to be his lover and the cupbearer of the gods. But there were cases in which Zeus took other forms. For example, Callisto (a nymph who was in love with Artemis) was deceived by Zeus disguised as Artemis, the goddess of hunting. And in the case of Danae, Zeus turned himself into golden rain, made his way into her chamber, and impregnated her.
Back to flowers and plants, it is worth noting that they go through different stages in their life cycle. Growth is where photosynthesis begins as the leaves collect sunlight and turn it into food for the growing flower. The root system stretches out and develops, and the flower bud begins to form during the growth stage. Within the protection of the bud, a small, complete flower forms. When the plant matures and is ready to reproduce, it develops flowers. All plants begin life as a seed but flowers are unique in their ability to attract pollinating creatures and spread their seeds. Flowers are the special structures involved in pollination and fertilisation, processes which lead to the formation of new seeds.
Seeds, leaves and flowers are basic and indispensable components of the same structures: plants.
Plants and flowers might go through different stages, depending on the season of the year. In Spring, tree buds burst into leaves and flowers blossom. In Summer, trees are in full leaf. During autumn, tree leaves turn yellow, red or brown and fall to the ground, trees start to reproduce and spread their seeds (which lay dormant on the ground throughout winter and start budding around spring). In Winter, trees are bare and fallen leaves begin to decay.
Interestingly enough, as a consequence of what has been described above, a mythological character who had been metamorphosed to a plant would eventually go through many other changes as well. Furthermore, when it comes to life-cycles, seasons and stages of life (birth, childhood, adulthood, old age) have much in common: distinctive characteristics such as development, reproduction, vitality, lethargy could be expressions of both annual phases and periods of a lifetime.
►Myhrra: Myrrh Tree /Adonis: Anemone:
Myrrha’s mother would say that she was even more beautiful than Aphrodite which angered the goddess who cursed Myrrha to fall in love and lust after her father.
She tricked him into sleeping with her and she became pregnant. When her father found out he had been tricked he was so angry that he tried to kill her but the gods took pity on her and turned her into a myrrh tree.
When the child grew he became a very beautiful young man: Adonis.
The dispute between the two goddesses was settled by Zeus, the king of the gods: Adonis was to spend one-third of every year with each goddess and the last third wherever he chose. He chose to spend two-thirds of the year with Aphrodite.
Ares, the god of war, grew jealous because Aphrodite spent so much time with Adonis that she had forgotten about him. As a result, Ares turned into a gigantic wild boar and attacked Adonis. Adonis, having forgotten Aphrodite’s warning, attacked the boar but soon found himself being chased by it.
The boar caught Adonis and castrated him. Adonis died in Aphrodite’s arms, and she sprinkled his blood with nectar from the anemone. It is supposedly Adonis’ blood that turns the Adonis River red, each spring.
The Greek myths lend the Anemone flower dual meanings of the arrival of spring breezes and the loss of a loved one to death, it also represents forsaken and undying love.
Christians later adopted the symbolism of the anemone. For them its red represented the blood shed by Jesus Christ on the cross. Anemones sometimes appear in paintings of the Crucifixion.
►Daphne: Laurel Tree:
Daphne was a nymph,. Her mother was Gaia and her father, the river god Peneus.
Daphne was also a follower of Artemis, the goddess of Hunting, and a divinity never conquered by love. The priestesses devoted to her service were bound to live pure and chaste, and transgressions of their vows of chastity were severely punished.
Apollo made fun about Eros‘s archery. As the latter got angry and wanted revenge, he made two arrows. One arrow was submerged in golden water. This arrow awakened love and passion if stuck into human flesh,whilst the other arrow removed passion and love, under the same circumstances.
The arrow of love reached Apollo’s heart and he desperately loved Daphne. But unfortunately the other arrow into Daphne’s heart. As a result, Daphne always ran away from Apollo, who never stopped chasing her. Finally Apollo captured her. Being in this situation, Daphne asked help from his father, Peneus. As all gods of water posses the ability of transformation, Peneus transformed his daughter into a laurel tree. Since Apollo could no longer take her as his wife, he vowed to tend her as his tree, to raid away all tempted beasts and creatures of the earth, that intended to do her harm, and promised that her leaves would decorate the heads of leaders as crowns. Laurel leaves surrounded the temple of Apollo to cleanse the soul before entering, being related to ambition and success. It’s associated with purification and considered a plant with powers of immortality. Laurel supposedly awakens awareness and past life memories.
►Lotis: Lotus Tree:
According to Ovid´s “Fasti”, the nymph Lotis fell into a drunken slumber at a feast, and Priapus (the son of Aphrodite and Dionysus, who was usually frustrated by his sexual impotence), seized this opportunity to advance upon her. With stealth he approached, and just before he could embrace her, a donkey alerted the party with “raucous braying”. Lotis awoke and pushed Priapus away, but her only true escape would result in being transformed into a lotus tree. The symbolic, broader meaning of lotus flowers is of spiritual purity and chastity. Its meaning also entails eloquence and rebirth.
Furthermore, Lotus-Eater was also one of a tribe encountered by the Greek hero Odysseus during his return from Troy, after a north wind had driven him and his men from Cape Malea (Homer, “Odyssey”, Book IX). The local inhabitants, whose distinctive practice is indicated by their name, invited Odysseus’ scouts to eat of the mysterious plant. Those who did so were overcome by a blissful forgetfulness; they had to be dragged back to the ship and chained to the rowing-benches, or they would never have returned to their duties.
►Agdistis: Almond Tree/ Cybele: Violet:
The story tells that when Cybele, the great mother goddess, Cybele rejected Zeus, he spilled his seed on her. In due course, Cybele gave birth to Agdistis, a hermaphroditic demon so strong and wild the other gods feared him. In their terror they cut off his male sexual organ. From its blood sprang an almond tree. The almond tree represents the promise and the beauty, and it is a symbol of resurrection.
The river Sangarius had a daughter named Nana, who ate the fruit of this almond tree. As a result of having eaten this fruit Nana delivered a boy child nine months later. His name was Attis and, as time went by, he became a young handsome man… So handsome his grandmother, Cybele fell in love with him. In time, Attis saw the king of Pessinus’ beautiful daughter, fell in love, and wished to marry her. The goddess Cybele became insanely jealous and drove Attis mad for revenge. Running crazy through the mountains, Attis killed himself. From Attis’ blood sprang the first violets.
The Greeks believed that violets were sacred to the god Ares and to Io, one of the many human lovers of Zeus. Violet flowers symbolized delicate love, affection, modesty, faith, nobility, intuition and dignity. Later, in Christian symbolism, the violet stood for the virtue of humility, or modesty, and several legends tell of violets springing up on the graves of virgins and saints. European folktales associate violets with death and morning. Besides, almonds trees are mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 30:37, Genesis 43:11, and in Exodus 25:33.
Clytie and her sister, Leucothea, were water nymphs. Early every morning they used to come up from the depths of their river, with other nymphs from neighboring streams and fountains, and dance among the water-plants on its shores. But with the first rays of the rising sun, all the dancers plunged back into the water and disappeared; for that was the law among water-nymphs.
One morning Clytie and Leucothea broke this law. When the sun began to show above the hills, and all the other nymphs rushed back to their streams, these two sat on the bank of their river, and watched for the coming of the sun-god. Then as Apollo drove his horses across the sky, they sat and watched him all day long. When they returned home, Clytie told King Oceanus how Leucothea had broken the law of the water-nymphs, but she did not say that she herself had broken it also. King Oceanus was very angry, and shut Leucothea up in a cave. Clytie felt there was no more competition, as she clearly didn´t want to share her love towards Apollo with her sister. The following day, she remained on the shore all day to watch Apollo, the God of the Sun. For a time the god returned her love, but then he got tired of her. The forlorn Clytie sat, day after day, slowly turning her head to watch Apollo move across the sky in his solar chariot. Eventually, the gods took pity on her and turned her into a flower. In some versions of the myth, she became a heliotrope or a marigold, but most accounts say that Clytie became a sunflower.
Spiritually, sunflowers represent God’s love and humankind seeking unity and connection with a higher power, being linked to lofty thoughts, faith, hope and unity.
►Hyacinth: Homonym Flower:
Hyacinth was a beautiful youth and lover of the god Apollo, though he was also admired by the West Wind, Zephyrus. Apollo´s beauty caused a feud between the two gods. Jealous that Hyacinth preferred the god Apollo, Zephyrus blew Apollo’s discus off course, so as to injure and kill Hyacinth.
When he died, Apollo did not allow Hades, the God of the Underworld, to claim him; rather, he made a flower, the hyacinth– which represents the virtue of constancy sprang from his blood. According to a local Spartan version of the myth, Hyacinth and his sister Polyboea were taken to Elysium by Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis.
►Narcissus: Homonym Flower:
Echo was a beautiful nymph, fond of the woods, where she devoted herself to woodland sports. She was a favorite of Artemis, and attended her in the chase. But Echo had one failing; she was fond of talking, and whether in chat or argument, would have the last word.
One day, Hera was seeking her husband, who, she had reason to fear, was amusing himself among the nymphs. Echo by her talk contrived to detain the goddess until the nymphs managed to escape. When Hera discovered it, she passed sentence upon Echo in these words: “You shall forfeit the use of that tongue with which you have cheated me, except for that one purpose you are so fond of—reply. You shall still have the last word, but no power to speak first”.
This nymph saw Narcissus, a beautiful youth, as he pursued the chase upon the mountains. She liked him and followed his footsteps, but her attempts to talk to Narcissus were vain. e left her, and she went to hide her blushes in the recesses of the woods.
Narcissus came upon a clear spring, Narcissus stooped down to drink, and saw his own image in the water; he thought it was some beautiful water-spirit living in the fountain. The spell of Artemis had totally mesmerized him, and for hours he sprawled by the spring, until at last he recognized himself. Unable to stand the inability of consummating love, Narcissus plunged a dagger in his heart and died.
When Narcissus died, wasting away before his own reflection, consumed by a love that could not be, Echo mourned over his body. As he was looking one last time into the pool uttered, “Oh marvellous boy, I loved you in vain, farewell”, Echo too chorused, “Farewell.”
The myth tells that where his blood soaked the earth sprung up the white narcissus flower with its red corollary, forever growing at the water’s edge, its head inclined towards the water. No wonder why Narcissus flowers Symbolize love, rebirth and new beginnings.
►Poppies, Symbols of Demeter (and also of Hypnos, Thanatos and Morpheus):
The Greeks associated poppies with Hypnos, god of sleep, his twin brother, Thanatos, god of death, and Morpheus, god of dreams. This was because a type of poppy native to the Mediterranean region yields a substance called opium, a drug that was used in the ancient world to ease pain and bring on sleep.
In Greek mythology, Demeter was the goddess of agriculture who presented humankind with the secrets to grain-farming (a craft which she first revealed to the demi-god Triptolemus). Her emblem was the red poppy growing among the barley. The myth says that Demeter created the poppy so she could sleep, whilst wandering about in search of her daughter for nine days. This was after the loss of her daughter, Persephone, who had been abducted by Hades and taken to the Underworld. As a result of her daughter´s abduction, a grief-stricken and wrathful Demeter commanded the earth to become infertile until her daughter was returned to her (this would, in turn, induce autumn, and then winter). Upon seeing the starvation of the mortals due to Demeter’s curse on the earth, Zeus was forced to order Hades to return Persephone to her mother. Hades complied with his brother’s wish, but before Persephone was taken back up by Hermes (the only god who can go freely to the Underworld), Hades gave her a pomegranate, and persuaded her to eat six seeds. Hence, Persephone has to stay within the Underworld for six months out of the year. The theme of sleep is carried through the myth as Persephone’s cyclical excursions to the underworld were timed with the seasons. She would leave her mother Demeter in the winter to join her husband, Hades. Her absence marked the winter, her submersion in the underworld signifies a kind of “closing the shutters” and slumber in the cycle of life.
By and large, poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death: Sleep because the opium extracted from them is a sedative, and death because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolize eternal sleep.
♠Poetry: Robert Frost´s “Nothing Gold Can Stay”.
Analysis at Poetic Parfait with Christy Birmingham:
This section of the post is mostly a recommendation, consisting of an analysis of Robert Frost´s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, posted by Christy Birmingham.
To sum up how it all started, Christy has mentioned it as one of her favorite poems in an interview. So I was curious about it and told her that I would read it and tell her my thoughts. Soon after the first approaches, we concluded that such great poem should be analyzed in depth.
Personally, I loved this poem and I was thrilled by Frost´s poetic proficiency. The poem is brief (it only has six lines) and yet, it is so deep, and its ideas and metaphors are remarkably well intertwined, mainly given the “cyclical nature” of the poem… As a result of the discussion, Christy wrote an excellent post on her blog, which you can´t miss… So, without further ado, please take a closer look at “Nothing Gold Can Stay” on Poetic Parfait.
►Analysis of the Poem ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ by Robert Frost (Excerpt From Poetic Parfait):
In a recent author interview, I explained that one of my favorite poems is “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost. Shortly after the interview published, my friend and fellow blogger Aquileana of La Audacia de Aquiles commented to me that she had not heard of this particular poem… As we I chatted about the poem, it became clear that there was a lot to discuss, from the imagery within the brilliant lines to Robert Frost’s use of rhyme and meter. Below is our collaborative analysis of “Nothing Gold Can Stay”… Read More.
►🌟About Christy Birmingham🌟:
Christy is a Canadian freelance writer, poet and author. She is the author of two books. The poetry collection “Pathways to Illumination” (2013). And another poetry book, “Versions of the Self” (2015). Besides, she hosts two blogs: Poetic Parfait and When Women Inspire. You can also connect with Christy on Twitter.