Friday, December 14, 2012

The Meanings of Herbs at Advent

Herbs, flowers and various plants provide not only beauty, fragrance, medicines and food. For centuries, even millennia, poets, romantics, alchemists and just plain folk have attached symbolic meaning to plants, especially herbs. These meanings have morphed into a specific language called Floriography which developed during the Victorian era and continues today.

In the Christian church, Christmas (or Christ's Mass) is one of the holiest days celebrated (along with Easter). The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “the coming.” The time of Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for the arrival of Christ and his birth into our hearts. With that in mind, I decided to make a "natural" Advent wreath - one made with herbs that had meaning for the Christmas season. Research gave me a long list of herbs but only a few I had in my garden.

Here is a list of herbs and their meanings that could be used in an Advent wreath:

Juniper - life, hope
Myrtle - peace, joy
Rosemary - love, loyalty, remembrance
Thyme - courage, bravery
Rue - purification, virtue
Lavender - devotion, purity, virtue
Sage - virtue, wisdom (the Wise Men)
Amaranth or Boxwood - immortality, long life
Holly - crown of thorns with the red berries symbolizing Christ's blood
Ivy - friendship
Mistletoe - overcome difficulties
Lady's Bedstraw - a manger herb
Pennyroyal - a manger herb
Bay - merit, honor
Horehound - healing
Mint - virtue

The four candles surrounding the wreath are lit in succession during the four weeks of Advent, and the center candle is lit on Christmas Eve, representing Christ.The light of the candles represent the light of Christ.

Here is my interpretation of an Advent Wreath. I have juniper, sage, boxwood, ivy, holly, myrtle and rosemary.

Did you know Rose of Mary or rosemary was named in honor of the Virgin Mary? According to one legend Mary's blue cloak is where rosemary got its' color. The flowers, originally white, turned blue and acquired the sweet scent they have today when Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were fleeing to Egypt, Mary laid her cloak on a rosemary bush and the family hid beneath it. 

From deep in the piney woods of east Texas, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a great New Year!

Garden On!