Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Legends of the Crocus

Inspired by spring and several of my fellow bloggers postings on the humble crocus see Reggie Darling and Acanthus and Acorn, Savoir Faire also has decided to post on this wonderful harbinger of spring. Usually the first to appear after winter in the Northern hemisphere these wonderful little flowers finally let us know that spring and warmer temperatures are on their way.
The crocus is a genus in the iris family comprising of about 80 species. Many are cultivated for their flowers in autumn, winter, or spring and also for saffron. Crocuses are native to woodland, scrub and meadows from sea level to alpine tundra in central and southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to western China

As with many flowers there are several stories in Greek mythology describing the origin of this humble little flower.

The best-known Greek legend about the crocus is the story detailing the tragedy of Crocus and Smilax: The handsome youth Crocus sets out in pursuit of the nymph Smilax in the woods near Athens. During a brief period of idyllic love Smilax is flattered by his amorous advances, but soon is bored by Crocus' attentions. After he continues to pursue her against her wishes, she resorts to bewitching him, transforming Crocus into a saffron crocus flower, with its radiant orange stigmas remaining as a faint symbol of his undying passion for Smilax. The tragedy and the spice would be recalled later by Ovid:

“Crocus and Smilax may be turn'd to flow'rs,
And the Curetes spring from bounteous show'rs
I pass a hundred legends stale, as these,
And with sweet novelty your taste to please”

Another legend states how Krokos was a young youth loved by the god Hermes. However, Krokos was mortal & by their rough play together, Hermes accidentally gave his beloved a mortal wound, some said with a discus, others with a quoit. Wherever the blood of Krokos fell, a crocus flower grew, Its red stems were described as his spilt blood.

Whatever the origin of this little flower that inspires and brings joy to many, we will always admire its pluck and fortitude for being one of the first of spring!

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