Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Lily of the Valley

Convallaria magalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
Common Names: ~Ladder to Heaven~ ~Jacob's Tears~ ~May Lily~ ~Convallaria~ ~Our Lady's Tears~ ~Convall-lily~ ~Lily Constancy~ ~Male Lily~

Its scientific name, ~Majalis~ or ~Maialis~ means ~that which belongs to May.~ Old astrological books place the plant under the dominion of Mercury, since Maia, the daughter of Atlas, was the mother of Mercury or Hermes.

A French legend tells of a holy man known as Saint Leonard, a close friend of King Clovis, who lived in the Vienne Valley near Limoges in 559 AD. Saint Leonard, a brave and fearless fighter, wanted to spend his days communing with God. So he took permission from the king to go live the life of a hermit in the woods. In the same woods also dwelled the dragon Temptation. Saint Leonard was at prayer and did not hear the dragon when it demanded that Saint Leonard leave the woods. The evil dragon burned down Saint Leonard's hut with his fiery breath. Much blood was spilled as terrible battles took place between them. Saint Leonard drove the evil dragon further into the woods until the dragon disappeared altogether. Poisonous weeds began to grow where the dragon spilled his blood, but beds of lilies of the valley sprang up wherever the ground was sprinkled with Saint Leonard's blood to mark the places of their battles. These woods, till today are known as St. Leonard's Forest

The lily of the valley signifies the return of happiness. Legend tells of the affection of a lily of the valley for a nightingale that did not come back to the woods until the flower bloomed in May.

It is a symbol of humility in religious painting. Lily of the valley is considered the sign of Christ's second coming. The ~Songs of Solomon~ in the Bible mentions the ~Lily of the Valley.~ According to a Christian legend, Mary's tears turned to ~lily of the valley~ when she cried at the cross and because of this it is also known as ~Mary's Tears.~ The power of men to envision a better world was attributed to the lily of the valley.

Lily of the valley has been used for medicinal purposes. It was believed to strengthen memory, to restore speech and as a liquor smeared on the forehead and the back of the neck, to make one have good common sense. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous, despite it's alleged powers.The leaves yield a green dye, with lime water. 

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