For Floriography Friday this week, I thought it might be fun to introduce the flowers of the month. This series will be a once-a-month post about a specified flower. In floriography, each month has a designated flower. Depending on geographical area, the flower of the month is different (which makes sense because different climates will have different blooms at any given time). This month, I’ve chosen to focus on the flower of June in Japan – the iris.
When you look around Central Oregon this month, check the big open fields. In them, you’ll notice our beautiful wild irises. They provide a beautiful splash of color and texture. Featured as the pompous flower in Alice in Wonderland, these beautiful blooms have so many connections to folklore it was a little hard to know where to start.
Irises are rich with history as well as meanings in the language of flowers. In order to understand the meanings of the iris, it’s important to understand the anatomy of this gorgeous bloom.
The iris has three distinctive petals (called falls). Throughout history, it has been associated with kings and rulers because the three falls symbolize faith, wisdom, and valor. Ancient Egyptians placed the iris on the brow of the Sphinx because of the association with power.
In Greek mythology, the goddess Iris is the goddess of the rainbow and is a messenger for Zeus and Hera. She carried messages to and from Earth following the arc of her rainbows. “The Greeks planted irises on the graves of women, because one of the duties of Iris was that of leading the souls of dead women to the Elysian Fields.” (Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees, Ernst and Johanna Lehner, 1960) The flower borrows the goddess’ name in part because of the wide range of colors typical to one single bloom.
The Iris in the Fleur-de-Lis
Perhaps one of the most famous depictions of the iris is the official Emblem of France, the Fleur-de-Lis. In the spirit of full disclosure, some historians disagree with the idea that this is an iris (especially since the name implies it is a lily [lily flower]). It adorned the banner of France officially starting around the time of Charles IV. Some historians believe the name fleur-de-lis is derivative of Löys – which is how the King Louis 1-12 all signed their names. The history of the fleur-de-lis is fascinating and complex and I encourage you to read about it. The symbolism is magnificent!
According to old French lore, “the iris was the flower symbol of Gaul as far back as the 1st century A.D. When Clovis I, King of the Franks, and founder of the Merovingian dynasty, defeated the Alemanni in the Battle of Tolbiac (496 A.D.) his victorious soldiers crowned themselves with irises blooming near the battle-field.” (Lehner, 1960.)
Floriography of the Iris
The history of the iris is rich and I’ve only touched on a portion of it. But what does it mean in the language of flowers?
In floriography, the iris portrays a variety of messages based on the color, geographical location, and the other flowers with which it is paired. As previously mentioned, it does carry connotations of faith, wisdom, and valor; however other interpretations include “hope, light, and power” and “eloquence, message, and promise.”
Because of the previously mentioned association with irises as flower to adorn the victorious in battle, it also can be a “good luck” gift to a man. White irises, like many white flowers, symbolize purity.
As wedding flowers, irises are wonderful to send a message to your future spouse. You could tell them, “you’re the king/queen of my heart” by using purple irises. An iris of any color will enhance a message in a group of flowers with the “eloquence (what’s more eloquent than floriography?), message, and promise” meaning. Alone or as an accent flower, the underused iris is perfect for weddings and provides an unexpected visual treat for your guests.
I think learning the meanings behind the flowers and their legends makes each flower so much more interesting and unique. Don’t you?
Did you learn anything new? Are there any flowers you just love and would love to know more about? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading, lovelies!
Stay safe & sane!