Anemones are a group of flowers, or a genus of flowers, that includes a number of different types, yet very similar flowers. Anemones are perennial flowers with anywhere between four and 27 petals. They can be red, purple, white, and a variety of other beautiful, pastel colors. Anemones are famous for their large, dainty petals that can easily float away in the wind. Anemones are very common in subtropical and temperate climates and are sometimes called windflowers. But what is the meaning and symbolism of the anemone flower? When can you use it? What are the best ways to incorporate anemone symbolism into your home and events?
While the anemone looks like a simple, beautiful flower, it carries ill fortune and sad symbolism with it in many cultures.
Where Did the Name Come From?
The anemone flower group was first officially named and documented by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The name comes from the Greek word, anemōnē, which means daughter of the wind. Specifically, anemōnē, is made by combining ánemos, which means ‘wind’, and ṓnē, which means ‘daughter of’.
According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Greek goddess Aphrodite created the flower we know as Anemone.
Aphrodite once had a lover named Adonis. He was a great hunter, the ideal male figure, and the lover of both Aphrodite and Persephone. He was famous for being a mortal who achieved immortality. One day, as he was hunting, a wild boar gored him with its tusk. Aphrodite held him in her arms as he slowly bled to death and died. There are several different stories about why the boar killed Adonis, and most of them say it was revenge for one or several slights by Aphrodite.
Whatever the reason for his death, Aphrodite was distraught and caused Anemone flowers to bloom wherever Adonis’ blood hit the ground. Ovid named the flower Anemone because its large petals can be easily blown away by the wind.
Because of its name, daughter of the wind, the Anemone flower is also known as the windflower.
The Meaning and Symbolism of Anemones
In European and American countries, anemones are associated with love, loss, and the coming of spring. This is due to its origin tied to the death of Adonis in Ovid’s myth. They can be, and have been, incorporated into art and events that are associated with springtime, specifically spring winds, and the passing of loved ones and lost love.
Because its petals are easily blown away, the anemone is also associated with fragile love and delicate beauty. Adonis was seen as the ideal male form, yet he was killed easily. Things we love can be destroyed or taken away from us in a moment. The anemone is a reminder of the impermanence of all things.
In Egyptian and Chinese cultures, some anemone flowers, specifically the white ones, are seen as a sign of impending illness. The Japanese, and other Asian cultures, associate the anemone with bad luck and ill tidings.
Common Uses of Anemones
You can use anemones of any color for an occasion or event that commemorates a death, a big life change, or some kind of memorial. Things like a funeral and the birth of a new baby are both, surprisingly, appropriate occasions to present an anemone.
Incorporating an anemone into a bouquet symbolizes that you believe the event is important, no matter what it is. A first date or a work anniversary are great examples of such important events.
People usually don’t use anemones as flowers to show affection or as a celebration. Events like graduation, marriage, or passing the BAR exam usually don’t include anemones. The undertone of tragedy and ill omen will detract from the gesture if someone is familiar with their meaning.
Incorporating color symbolism
As with all natural symbols, the meaning and symbolism of colors are also very important when using flowers for their symbolic meanings. Keep in mind the meaning different colors have to different cultures, especially as they relate to flowers when presenting one to someone.
For example, the color white usually means purity, holiness, or peace to most Western audiences. However, the same color means death and decay in some Asian cultures. Incorporating white anemones into a funeral arrangement in Asia might mean you are mourning the death and decay, while at a Western funeral it can symbolize the promise of heaven or an angelic destiny.
Red anemones, like other flowers, symbolize deep love. But with its mythological origins, it can also be tied to blood and death.
Blue anemones can symbolize calmness, peace, and relief. It can be a reassuring symbol in the face of overwhelming loss.
The color symbolism continues with each other color. Combine the meaning of the color with the cultural symbolism to strengthen the intention of your gift.
How to Use Anemones
You can give anemones by themselves, either as a bouquet or a single flower, or include them in an arrangement. They are beautiful flowers and look amazing when pinned to a lapel or blouse by themselves. This heightens their symbolism and draws attention to their vibrant color.
If there is any kind of event that involves mourning or death, an anemone is always appropriate. Giving a potted anemone is a fantastic idea, as it will be a reassuring, positive reminder for a long time about the person who has passed, or the tragedy that occurred.
Magical Attributes of Anemones
In magic, there are many uses for the different types of the anemone flower.
One example is the wood anemone. This is a white variety of anemone also known as the moonflower. This might be because it is white and grows in darker areas of forests and under bushes. They are popular for their use in the magic of protection and healing. They are particularly useful in spells to ward off disease.
You can wear a white anemone by itself. Attach it to your clothes, or hat, or incorporate it into a decoration. You could dry out a few to use as incense or infuse them into an oil for rituals or anointing. Or, you can use it in a spell and take advantage of its warding attributes.
Another attribute of the white anemone is tied to the tale of Aphrodite and Adonis, which is a feeling of letting go. The flower represents the sadness and heartbreak of a passing of some kind. When you use the flower in a ritual or carry it with you, it can take on that burden of trauma or sadness, leaving you lighter and less burdened by the trial of the event. It can be a reminder that the sadness is real, but will soon pass.
As with all magic and folk rituals and spells, we recommend you get in touch with local experts or healers. They will be able to point you to where you can find the plants you need, and how to do them properly. It is a rewarding and enlightening journey.
Important disclaimer about anemones
Anemones are toxic flowers. Do not follow any folk medicine or recipes that call for them as an ingredient that is to be ingested or consumed. It can be applied as a perfume or reduced to an oil to be applied to the skin. They are safe to have around the home, but should never be eaten.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/walencienne
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