Primavera, Flora & Wattle – Celebrate the Beauty of Flowers

Wattle 2

Wattle 2It was 1988 when the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) called Mimosa in Europe, was officially gazetted Australia’s national floral emblem.

Since 1992, Wattle Day has been held nationally on the first official day of Spring (Primavera) September 1, providing everyone with an opportunity to pause for reflection and renewal.

As we transition from Winter into the season of Spring in Australia, the Goddess Flora, the oldest figure in the Roman Pantheon of Gods, reminds us to celebrate the beauty and fertility of all things in nature.

Detail PrimaveraFlora, honoured annually in ancient times with the Floralia festival, is depicted disporting herself in a cool verdant field. She is barely pausing to break a sprig of flowers, which she places in her ample cornucopia or horn of plenty.

Primavera_di_StabiaeThe evocative natural surroundings are represented as much by implication as by statement. The combination of a single flowering shrub set against the sea green background with the addition of small splashes of yellow and violet, suggest it is the light of the spring sun dappling her robes and body.

Her image creates a lasting impression; one that has influenced western art since it was found adorning the walls of a bedroom in the Villa di Arianna, uncovered by archaeologists in the Italian seaside town of Pompeii, covered by ash after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD.

Her graceful movements are conveyed to us through the skill of the painter; the slight bending of her knee and the lower part of her graceful chiton wafting wonderfully in a gentle Spring breeze.

She wears her garments unselfconsciously; the sleeveless chiton slipping to reveal her lovely back and left shoulder, while the practically discarded white outer garment hangs loosely around her lovely torso.

Her back is turned and we just cannot make out her features, left with the thought she may be more beautiful and what has not been revealed to us cannot disappoint.

She expresses that sense of joyful freedom and that she is as one, and in complete harmony with nature. It’s no surprise that she became the most eloquent and direct means of communication as a messenger of the heart.

Jacob Hulsdonck Pomegranate

Jacob van Hulsdonck (1582-1647), Flemish Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and Pomegranate, completed c1620-1640, oil on panel, courtesy of The Getty Center

In ancient times the Punica granatum commonly called the pomegranate, or, apple with many seeds associated with the Goddess Proserpina in mythology, returned every Spring to regenerate the earth.

Ancient Egyptians believed flowers contained a divine power, especially the delicious fragrance of blue water lilies that flourished in copious quantities in artificial ponds in vast court and temple complexes

Peach BlossomFor the Chinese the peach blossom became a symbol of longevity and good fortune and today each Spring they fill their homes with heavily budded branches in the hope that they will bring prosperity for the year ahead.

Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) said man ‘takes pleasure in the odours of flowers’ indicating that he enjoyed the sensory feeling when he engaged with their beauty and scent.

Aristotle studied nature and ‘drafted a hierarchy of living things, which placed plants in that space between inanimate nature, and the world of animals’.

Flowers in a vaseDespite their inability to move he attributed plants as having ‘their own specific type of soul’. His extensive work on the animal kingdom had a formative influence on the perception of others for centuries.

This included naturalist Theophrastus (371-286 BC), a pupil who was in charge of the first known existing botanical garden. He was also the author of two remaining works, including the De Historia plant arum (A History of Plants) containing references to their nature.

He classified all plants now known in western literature with their uses in medicine at this time.

Until his time the knowledge of herbal plant lore and plant life had been transmitted through the spoken tradition.

In the early Christian world flowers held special significance for love and marriage, in customs and festivals flowers were also used as status symbols for the seasons of the year or, as metaphors for much admired human qualities.

Gorgeous FlowersA great deal of information was gathered about the beneficial and detrimental effects of flowers on the human mind and body by plants.

The pomegranate’s many seeds ensured it became a symbol of unity of the many under one authority …and so it became also became Christian symbol of the resurrection.

Ravishing Wattle in Bloom

During the nineteenth century in England when looking back to the ancient past, a whole language of flowers gradually evolved to send a vital message that it was possible to create harmony between the greatest of polarities.

In Australia Spring, the season between winter and summer, really takes place from September 22 or 23 to December 22 or 23, aligned as it is to the vernal equinox, when day and night are in equal length, the Sun exactly above the equator.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

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