⇒“Metamorphoses” by Ovid:
“Metamorphoses” is a narrative poem in fifteen books by the Roman poet Ovid, completed in 8 CE.
It is a “mock-epic” poem, written in dactylic hexameter, the form of the great epic poems of the ancient tradition, such as “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.
This poem describes the creation and history of the world, incorporating many classical myths.
Besides, in my last post, I introduced the subject of metamorphoses as it appears in Greek Myths, stating that it is generally defined as the origin of one or more transformations which most times occur as a result of death (tribute), but also as a way exoneration; or punishment.
⇒“Flowers and Plants in some Greek Myths II”:
►Minthe: A naiad, fond of Hades/ Mint Plant:
Minthe was a naiad or water nymph associated with the Underworld river Cocytus. This river (also known as the River of Wailing) was one of the five rivers that encircled the realm of Hades, alongside rivers Phlegethon, Acheron, Lethe and Styx- .
Hades could not reverse the spell so he made Minthe smell good when she walked on, making it so Minthe would always be noticed and never be taken for granted.
The story also makes sense in a Greco-Roman context as mint was used in funerary rites to disguise the scent of decay. Besides, in Greece, the herb was also a main ingredient in the fermented barley drink called kykeon, which seemingly was the principal potable associated with the Eleusinian mysteries. It seems like this beverage included some really strange psychoactive ingredients, mint among them.
►Crocus, friend of Hermes/Crocus Plant:
Crocus was a friend of Hermes, the messenger of the Gods and god of travellers, liars, thieves, all who cross boundaries.
One day, while they were throwing the disc to each other, Hermes hit Crocus on the head and wounded him fatally.
As the young man collapsed and was dying, three drops from his blood fell on the centre of a flower thus becoming the three stigmata of the flower named after him.
Etymologically, the word crocus has its origin from the Greek “kroki” which means weft, the thread used for weaving on a loom.
As a medicinal and dyeing substance, crocus has been known in ancient Greece for its aroma, vibrant colour and aphrodisiac properties, thus making it one of the most desired and expensive spices.
Another use in ancient Greece was that of perfumery also using it to perfume the water while bathing. Frescoes in the palaces of Knossos (16th century b.C.) clearly depict a young girl gathering crocus flowers as well as in the archeological site of Akrotiri, in Santorini and Homer, in his writings calls dawn “a crocus veil”.
►Paean, Asclepius´pupil/ Peony, Plant of Healing:
The flower myth related, says that Paean was a student of Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing.
Asclepius excelled as a doctor, partly because serpents helped him to discover the healing properties of certain herbs.
Unfortunately, Asclepius became so skilled that he was able to revive the dead. Angry that the son of Apollo had interfered with nature and human mortality, Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at Asclepius, killing him. However, while they understood that interfering with natural death was wrong, humans continued to worship Asclepius as the founder of medicine.
Back to Asclepius´pupil, Paean, he was once instructed by Leto (Apollo‘s mother and goddess of fertility) to obtain a magical root growing on Mount Olympus that would soothe the pain of women in childbirth.
Asclepius became jealous and threatened to kill his pupil. Zeus saved Paean from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower.
►Cyparissus/ Cypress tree:
Cyparissus was a handsome young man from the island of Kea, the son of Telefus and grand son of Hercules.
He was god Apollo‘s protege as well as of god Zephiros (god of the wind). He asked the heavens for a favour; that his tears would roll down eternally. The favorite companion of Cyparissus was a tamed stag, which he accidentally killed with his hunting javelin as it lay sleeping in the woods. The gods turned him into a cypress tree, whose sap forms droplets like tears on the trunk. Therefore, the cypress tree became the tree of sorrow, and a classical symbol of mourning.
►Phyllis, Demophon´s wife/Almond Tree:
Phyllis was a daughter of a Thracian king.
She married Demophon, King of Athens and son of Theseus, while he stopped in Thrace on his journey home from the Trojan War.
Demophon, duty bound to Greece, returns home to help his father, leaving Phyllis behind. She sends him away with a casket, telling him that it contained a sacrament of Rhea and asking him to open it only if he has given up hope of returning to her. From here, the story diverges. In one version, Phyllis realizes that he will not return and commits suicide by hanging herself from a tree. Where she is buried, an almond tree grows, which blossoms when Demophon returns to he
A daughter of king Sithon, in Thrace, fell in love with Demophon on his return from Troy to Greece. Demophon promised her, by a certain day, to come back from Athens and marry her, and as he was prevented from keeping his word, Phyllis hung herself, but was metamorphosed into an almond-tree, which is a symbol of hope and rebirth.
In my previous post, I also made reference to another myth featuring an almond tree, which I will summarize here again.
Afraid of such creature, Cybele cut off his male sexual organ and from its blood sprang an almond tree.
When its fruit was ripe, Nana, who was a daughter of the river-god Sangarius, picked an almond and laid it in her bosom.
The almond disappeared, and she became pregnant.
Soon after the baby (named Attis) was born, Nana abandoned him, but a couple took care of him.
When he was a young man, the foster parents of Attis sent him to Pessinos, where he was to wed the king’s daughter.
Just as the marriage had started, Cybele appeared in her transcendent power, as she was jealous because she had fallen in love with Attis (his grandson).
Attis went mad, cut off his genitals and died. From Attis’ blood sprang the first violets.
►Rose, created by the goddess of flowers, Chloris, from a dead Nymph:
In Greek mythology, the rose was created by the goddess of flowers, Chloris (Roman equivalent: Flora).
One day, Chloris found the lifeless body of a nymph in the forest and she turned her into a flower.
Aphrodite gave the flower beauty as her gift and Dionysus added nectar to give it a sweet fragrance. Zephiros, god of the West Wind, blew the clouds away so Apollo, the sun-god, could shine and make the flower bloom. That is how the rose was created and rightfully crowned “Queen of Flowers”.
►Orchis (son of a nymph and a satyr)/Orchid Plant:
In Greek mythology, Orchis was the son of a nymph (a female nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform) and a satyr (a rustic fertility spirits of the countryside and wilds).
During a celebratory feast for Dionysus, Orchis committed the sacrilege of attempting to rape a priestess.
His punishment was to being torn apart by wild beasts. From his death arose Orchids which are a testament to the male reproductive organs (the testis). Today, the orchid means refinement as well as beauty. The origin of the plant name comes from the word orkhis, a word to describe part of the male genitalia, because of the shape of the bulbous roots.