Forget-me-not flowers – Art imitates life on #floweringfriday

 

Potted up a wee clump of forget-me-not flowers in my great-grandmother’s forget-me-not teacup.

Thinking this will make a lovely yearly tradition. And, it’s nice to get the teacups out of the china cabinet once in a while. Maybe an actual cup of tea in one of them would be a good idea, too!

True blue forget-me-not flowers and related folklore

Forget-me-not flowers, from Les Fleurs Animées,  by J.J. Grandville (1803-1847)

The dainty, true-blue Forget-me-not flower, or Myosotis, is a European native now naturalized throughout much of North America, including spots in my garden.

The name comes from the Ancient Greek μυοσωτίς “mouse’s ear”, which the foliage is thought to resemble.

This harbinger of spring and member of the Borage family, prefers moist habitats and spreads prolifically in partial shade along the edge of a woodland.

Once planted, they’ll likely always be there! They self-seed readily, but they’re easily removed if one feels they’re starting to take over the garden, tho’ I can’t imagine anyone feeling that way.

Rogelio de Egusquiza, Tristán e Iseo (La vida) 1912

Medieval folklore tells us the tale of a knight errant and his lady-faire who walked along a river.

That gentleman bent down to pluck a bouquet of these flowers for his lady-love, only to lose  his footing on slippery rocks. He fell into the river and the weight of his armour was too much. It pulled him underneath the watery depths.

It’s said that his last words cried out to his damsel, before being claimed by the depths was, “Forget-me-not”!

In a similar tale, a young couple, on the eve of being married, walked along the banks of the Danube. The bride-to-be saw one of these lovely flowers floating on the waves, which seemed ready to carry it away. She spoke of her admiration for the beautiful flower and her regret for its destiny.

Her husband-to-be, induced by love (and probably wanting to impress), gallantly stepped into the water to retrieve the coveted blue flower.

He grasped the flower but unfortunately he sank into the watery depths, but made one last effort to throw the flower upon the shore at the moment of disappearing for ever, where he exclaimed, “Virgils mich nicht” since which time this flower has been made emblematical, and taken the name of Forget-me-not.”

Because of this, it’s fairly obvious why one of the main meanings for the forget-me-not in Victorian floral language concerns ‘Love in absence’.

To this day, the forget-me-not is given to someone who you hope will keep you in their thoughts. A lovely little reminder for us all.

 “That name it speaks in accents dear
Of love, and hope, and joy, and fear;
It softly tells an absent friend
That links of love should never end;
Its whispers waft a swelling breeze
O’er hill and dale, by land and seas,
– Forget-me-not”

 


Sources

  1.  The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe; Fitter, Fitter, Blamey; Collins; 3rd edition 1978
  2. USDA, NRCS (n.d.). “Myosotis sylvatica”. The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team.
  3. The Language of flowers. Publication date 1834, Osborn & Buckingham, New York
  4. Harper Douglas, “Etymology of forget-me-not,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed April 24, 2022,
  5. NBN Gateway.Myosotis sylvatica Ehrh. ex Hoffm. [Wood Forget-me-not], NBN Gateway. Retrieved 24/04/22
  6. The sentiment of flowers; or, Language of flora, by Tyas, Robert, 1811-1879, Publication date: 1869

 

 

Magical Circles and Ancient Incantations from Mythology

A magic circle is a sacred space marked out by some practitioners of ritual magic.

These circles are believed to contain energy that forms a sacred space to provide protection for the practice of magic spells and invocation of gods and spirits.

This ancient practice took place in ancient Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian Period, at least three thousand years ago.

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The form of a circle was sprinkled with salt, flour, chalk, water, or just visualized by a magical practitoner. Ancient Sumerians called their ritual circles Zisurrû.

The Zisurrû, derived from Sumerian, was a defensive measure drawn on the ground around clay figurines.  Using flour as part of a Babylonian ritual to thwart evil spirits, this circle was also drawn around a sick person’s bed to protect them against ghosts, demons, or curses.

Einkorn wheat

The choice of flour was crucial to the purpose of the ritual. Some types of wheat flour could repel ghosts. Other types were for rituals invoking personal gods, and barley flour was used to encircle beds of the sick to counter disease-carrying demons.

A ritual tablet of the Maqlû  contained a series of incantations that offered instructions on how to do this: “Thereafter, you encircle the bed with flour-paste and recite the incantation “sag ba sag ba” and the incantation “tummu bītu”, meaning “Adjured is the house”. 

The religion of Babylonia and Assyria – 1908

The incantations are divided into three sequences. During the first of these rites, figurines of the sorcerer were burned, drowned in black liquid, and finally placed face down on the ground and crushed while the first four tablets were recited.


Pure oven, inside whom the fire of the grave is flaring, inside whom the valiant fire-god has taken up residence, flames have reached the sky, burn, set alight, incinerate my witch! May my warlock’s and witch’s life swiftly, quickly come to an end!

— Maqlû, Tablet II, 219–224


It’s exciting to me that we have the actual wording used by the ancient Babylonians for their incantations. 

In any case, some of these incantations took the form of destructive rites to thwart the source of evil. Later in the same exercise, these rites were replaced by purification & protection rites for the said victim. 

This involved fumigating the house, massaging the body, and washing out the mouth of the patient. One tablet line to be read out loud while performing those actions states:

“May their spells be peeled away like garlic!”

In the wee hours of the morning, one of the remaining incantations was recited, while again, washing the patient. This time, the god Nusku was invoked by the patient themselves, who held aloft a bowl of pure water while stating: “You are my reflection – You are mine, & I am yours – May nobody know you, may no evil approach you!”

I’ve noted comparisons in similar, but much later exercises by pre-Christian Europeans. By stating that “nobody knows you”, meant one’s name was not to be said aloud, (or a different name was to be used), because the logic was that a demon can’t find you if they don’t know your real name.) But I digress!

Kudurru of Gula-Eresh, showing a lamp (centre) as a symbol of Nusku.
Via the British Museum.

Invoking Nuska, chief vizier to the chief Sumerian god Enlil, also a scribe & a boatman to god Enlil to his wife, goddess Ninlil, became later, in Babylonian & Assyrian mythology, himself a god, one who represented fire & light, hence the early morning incantations of his name, which it was felt by the magical practioner, that that time of day held more power because the night was fading and the sun, like power, was rising in the sky.

In additon to Nuska’s association with fire & light, he played a crucial role in protection from other types of evil. He was invoked as a guardian of the night, and it’s said he protected sleeping people by offering them happy dreams, & preventing any nightmares.

The Witches of Warboyse, A Compleat History of Magick, Sorcery and Witchcraft, Vol. 1, ca 1715. Public Domain

To tie all of this together, humans, (as servants to the gods, according to ancient Sumerians), would have nothing, not even existence, if it weren’t for the gods. So, those same humans demanded to be taken care of by those gods who gave them life. This was done by invoking them with spells & incantations in sacred, protected circles.


Sources:

https://www.academia.edu/23733257/Dedicating_magic_Neo_Assyrian_apotropaic_figurines_and_the_protection_of_Assur

http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/nuska/

https://archive.org/details/reportsofmagicia00thomuoft/page/n5/mode/2up?view=theater

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zisurr%C3%BB

https://cdli.ucla.edu/search/archival_view.php?ObjectID=P369026

Flowers of the Sun – Sunflower Symbolism and Ukraine

The sunflower, a favourite subject of painters, is also a favourite plant in many gardens.

As a symbol it represents optimism, longevity, and peace. It is the national flower of Ukraine.

The symbolism of the sunflower takes us to a deeper level since Russia invaded Ukraine.

It has become an emblem uniting the world against unprovoked Russian aggression.

All flowers face the sky, seeking their daily dose of daylight, but the sunflower does it best, loyally following the sun’s path across the sky on a daily basis, not unlike one of Apollo’s mythical & loyal lovers.

Apollo guards the flock

Apollo, known by many as the sun god of ancient Greece & Rome, is also the god who wards off evil. How fitting too, that he is also a patron and protector of refugees.

Right now, artists around the world are sharing their sunflower art. That’s my painting contribution above.

Artists like me are also using the hashtag #sunflowersforukraine & #IStandWithUkraine, in an effort to offer a sense of solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are far away, from me at least, where I sit here in Canada, watching events unfolding, with horror in my heart.

Essentially, when one feels helpless to act, but feels strongly enough about the travesty Russia is imposing on Ukraine, artists of any genre can in some small way, take a stand against a greedy dictator like Vladimir Putin and his land-grabbing, senseless war.

So, let the sunflower continue to shine a harsh light on Russia, or any country & ruler who thinks its okay to invade a neighbour without provocation, or act aggressively towards another for the sake of personal gain and ego gratification.

A bully is a bully is a bully.

Let the sunflower be a beacon of light for the Ukrainian people, where darkness turns to the light, just as a sunflower follows the sun.


In closing, to the woman who stood up to Russian soldiers by putting sunflower seeds in their pockets, you are my hero. 🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone is Irish, today!

May you live as long as you want,

And never want as long as you live.

– Old Irish proverb

#HappyStPatricksDay