There are over 90 species of crocus, members of the iris family. Two often seen in the spring are crocus vernus (spring crocus) and crocus chrysanthus (snow crocus).
Have you ever wondered how the crocus got his name? There are several Greek myths that attempt to tell the story.
On myth explains that Crocus was a mere mortal who was madly in love with the Greek messenger god Hermes. They were both very athletic, and spent many afternoons together, enjoying the most popular games of the times, including running, jumping , boxing, wrestling and chariot racing. One tragic day, they were throwing discus, when Hermes accidentally hit Crocus in the head, delivering a fatal blow. Hermes was understandably over wrought with grief and turned Crocus into a flower. That’s not quite as understandable. Anyway, a few drops of blood from Crocus’s wound dripped into the center of the flower. If you look closely, you might see them.
Another story, again pairing the mortal Crocus with Hermes the god, has them on a river bank ,so caught up in passionate pleasures that the grassy banks literally exploded with crocus. Wow! From that time forward the delicate spring flowers have been associated with the power to create love. Worth noting: in this version no one died! I love happy endings, and they are rather rare in Greek mythology.
Another tragic ending finds Crocus madly in love with Smilax, a dryad nymph. For those of you who don’t know what a dryad nymph is (I didn’t either, I had to look it up the first time I heard it), it’s the spirit of a tree, disguised as a beautiful young woman. Well, Crocus was smitten, but later heart broken. We’re not sure why.
One explanation is Smilax loved him as well, but since he was a mortal, they couldn’t be together. It’s that age old story of one lover not being good enough for the other. Another version is she rejected him. Either way, he was inconsolable, The gods took pity on him and turned him into a flower so he would no longer suffer from grief.
Another ending involves the messenger god again. This ending states that Hermes was so anguished over the loss of his friend that he joined with Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, to change Crocus into a flower and Smilax into a yew tree.
The motivation for the plant choices isn’t clear. One explanation is Crocus and Smilax were very much in love and they turned them into plants so they could be together for eternity, growing side by side.I’ve never associated yews with crocus. I’ll pay more attention the next time I see them in bloom. Another version is Smilax rejected him, and turning her into a poisonous tree was done as revenge.
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Welcome!! I’m Mikell (pronounced Michael). If you love spicing up your life with herbs, recipes, decorating and crafts, symbolism and rituals like I do, I hope you’ll sign up for my newsletter and free Enhancing Your Life with Herbs e-book!
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