The Language of Herbs
As you know, your Two Chums love the idea of sitting down and penning a note to convey their feelings but there is another, very fun, way to do exactly that…… through herbs and flowers. We have been talking a lot this week about herbs, how easy they are to grow, the endless ways to use them in the kitchen, and how to store them……but we have not yet talked about how to use herbs to portray a message, in other words, to be used as a “language”. Who knows how this “language” was concocted but in Victorian England especially, and, indeed, long before that era, flowers and herbs were used, in a very serious sense, to convey a message to a loved one.
Of course, flowers and herbs, because of their beauty, have been used to say “I love you”, or “Get well soon”, “Welcome home”, or “Thank you for having us”, by people in all parts of the globe for as long as we can remember. A bouquet of flowers, no matter what types of flowers make up that bouquet, always brings a sense of joy to both the giver and the receiver. BUT, going one step farther, individual flowers and herbs have very specific meanings.
During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), the language of flowers and herbs was known and used by all. Dictionaries of this language were compiled (by who knows who!), and so, this way of communication was very much a part of every day life. Apparently, this “language” was as important to Victorian England as was being “well dressed”. Every person of that era knew the language of herbs and flowers and could communicate by sending a bouquet or posey to someone without ever using words. Individual flowers and herbs conveyed every type of emotion and could pass along messages of love, or the opposite, depending upon which ones were given, or how they were held. A gentleman who might be wary of actually speaking his feelings, could arrive at a young lady’s front door with a bouquet of flowers which would let his inner feelings known. He might have in his bouquet roses, denoting his love for her, along with sage, to let her know that he feels that she would make a wonderful wife, and a few cloves, to tell her that he thinks she is most dignified. She would immediately understand what his bouquet was telling her and give him a response. Apparently, a person could say “yes” by offering a flower or herb with the right hand and if the left hand was used, it would mean “no”.
Today, there are books to be found that tell us all about this language. What a fun activity it is – finding out what all of the different herbs and flowers mean. We have picked just a few “definitions” to share:
If thyme is found in a bouquet, it means activity, sorrel – affection, allspice – compassion, and cloves mean dignity. Domestic virtue would be conveyed by putting sage in your bouquet, and festivity by adding parsley, sweet basil would carry with it good wishes and finally, our favorite, rosemary for remembrance.
Rosemary for remembrance touches my heart as, when I married Dennis, my darling Chum who made my wedding bouquet, suggested that we add rosemary to it. Dennis’ first wife, Kaaren, had passed on a couple of years before we met and, wanting her presence to be felt and acknowledged, I carried Rosemary, to remember Kaaren, in my wedding bouquet….a sweet time full of even sweeter memories!
Our bouquet to you consists of roses (love), wood sorrel (joy), and orange tree (generosity, abundance)!