Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with exploring the concepts of pronoia (the belief that the universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings), quiety (serenity) and peace – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply delightful-to-me words.
I is for…
ianthine – violet colored.
I’m enchanted by flowers – I can hardly look at them enough, marveling at how they reach for the light, how they unfold their petals, how they produce such beautiful scents, how they invite bees and butterflies to drink deeply of their nectar and dust themselves in pollen. It all seems so magical and proof of the goodness of the universe.
I have a special love for the iantine, the violet-colored flowers. And what finer example than Violet herself? A perfect Spring-time harbinger.
Violets are curious creatures – they produce flowers in both Spring and Autumn, but the flowers are different. In Spring they are fully formed and sweetly scented and this is how we likely picture them. But these flowers are mostly barren. Later in Autumn, they produce very small “insignificant” flowers, quite hidden among their leaves, and these produce lots of seeds. The Violet also propagates itself by sending out runners, and these in turn grow roots and become new plants, without the necessity of seeding at all.
There are two suggestions as to how Violet got her name. The more mundane suggests it derives from Vias, meaning wayside which is where the flowers often appear. But the Latin word viola derives from the Greek name Ione. And it is said that Zeus, wary of Juno’s jealousy, turned his beloved lover Io into a white heifer. Because Io found it unpleasant to have to graze on what was available, Zeus created violets especially for her.
Besides delighting for their appearance and fragrance, violets also have long been important in the herbal arts. They were often thought to cure hangovers, and ancient Romans sometimes wore head wreaths made from violets when hungover. Greeks used the plants to induce sleep, calm anger, and strengthen the heart. With their typically heart-shaped leaves, the doctrine of signatures suggested they were useful in the treatment of heart conditions. Violets also contain a great deal of natural sugar and have earned a strong position in the culinary arts. They’re crystalized, made into syrups and marmalades, and of course simply enjoyed as decorative additions to salads and confections.
In Victorian floriography, the language of flowers, violets connoted modesty, virtue, affection, innocence. As one of the flowers that heralds Spring, I think that’s a lovely association. We tend to think of Spring as bursting with vibrancy, but it’s always a gentle transition into that all-out exuberance, and violets are quiet and genial wayshowers.
It’s not only the flowers I love. Remembering that ianthine means violet-colored, I can’t help but think that in the color spectrum, violet has the shortest wavelength and the highest frequency. There’s something very magical about that. The connection of violet to the spiritual realms and moving from the borders of seen to unseen are pronounced.
Are you a lover of all things ianthine? Have a favorite Spring flower? Do tell – you know I love to hear.