It’s party time again!!!This month’s blog party host is Elizabeth Marsh at ApotheblogaryEnjoy…

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the sight of the first Snowdrop uplifting – the first sign that we’ve just about made it to Spring. There is a patch I can see from my back window and I look for it every morning from just a bout Christmas onwards. They were late this year – or have they been early the past few years? I saw them in the last week of January this year and I think that’s about right as they are historically associated with Candlemas which falls at the start of February. This is a church festival which marks the purification of the Virgin Mary and presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple 40 days after his birth. It is perhaps because of this association that Snowdrops have a reputation as a symbol of purity and innocence. In the Victorian Language of Flowers, however, they symbolise hope and, sometimes, consolation.

This quote really resonates with me because it is Hope that lifts my heart when I see the first flower – Hope that the worst of Winter is over and Spring is just around the corner.

null The Language of Flowers: The Floral Offering by Henrietta Dumont (1863)

Consolation is also apt, however, because there is indeed more Winter still to come. As this quote so poetically puts it:

nullThe Language of Flowers, or, Floral Emblems of Thoughts, Feelings, and Sentiments by Robert Tyas (1869)

James and Mary Ann
Were these snowdrops planted to symbolise the Purity and Innocence of poor James who died in 1849 aged only 6 years? Or to offer consolation to his Father who also lost a Daughter two years later aged 20?

In Richard Mabey’s Flora Britannica, many of the anecdotes centre around Churchyards and Abbeys. It seems that, as an introduced species, they may have originally been planted in the ancient Churchyards of Britain. In fact, the snowdrops I eagerly await sight of from my back window are in an ancient churchyard. Does that bring us back to the church symbolism of purity? Well, possibly, but it is notable that many of these institutions had Physic Gardens attached to them so it does bring us round to the medicinal applications.

I’m not aware any widespread use of Snowdrops in modern Herbal Medicine but Julian Barker reports that the crushed bulbs have been used in case of frostbite. Appropriate given the time of year they appear! There is also ethnobotanical evidence that, in Bulgaria, they have been used in the treatment of poliomyelitis. It was partly this evidence which led to the isolation of the alkaloid galantamine, a drug that is now used in the treatment of the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease. Which brings us back to Hope…

Emerging from Winter
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One thought on “Emerging from Winter

  • 20th February 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Wonderful post Claire 🙂 I’ve just today seen my first snowdrops and the daffodils poking through the ground leaving me feeling like Spring is in the air, despite the patches of snow that surrounded these little brave early spring beauties. Now when I see the snowdrop I’ll see her as a bringer of hope.

    D x


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