Monday 2 February 2009

Snowdrops in fable and folklore

Snowdrops are among the best loved flowers of the spring - probably because they are often first to bloom. Snow might still be on the ground, but the diminutive and fragile-looking little snowdrops, with their tiny white buds, can survive the cold and bring cheer to our hearts.

The first sight of snowdrops growing wild represents the passing of sorrow. In various religions, they are a sign from the gods that good times will come once more. According to one Christian tale, an angel turned falling snowflakes into flowers to give Adam and Eve a sign of hope after evicting them from the Garden of Eden.

However, in some folklore, snowdrops are seen as unlucky. The reason for this is perhaps that they often grow in cemeteries and churchyards. Along with other white flowers, superstition says it is courting disaster to bring snowdrops into the house. To do so is to invite death into the home, can mean the parting of a loved one and, in the west country, is thought to cause eggs to turn addled. One should never even pick wild snowdrops, especially from a graveyard.

According to Are You Superstitious?, by Lore Cowan, it is particularly unlucky to bring snowdrops, or "Candlemas bells", into the house on February 2nd, which is Candlemas, or Imbolc, and if you wish to be married within the year you should not bring them into the house on Valentine's Day, 14th February.

Perhaps superstitious discouragement from picking wild flowers is a good thing. Too many of our native plants are in decline and are best left undisturbed. However, snowdrops can be grown indoors in pots although they like cool spots to thrive. I would personally have no qualms about putting a pot of home-grown snowdrops on an altar at Imbolc.

Snowdrops have their use in medicine. The alkaloid Galantamine, which was first isolated from snowdrops, has been used to treat Alzheimer's disease, neuritis and neuralgia. In parts of eastern Europe, rubbing snowdrops on the forehead was at one time a folk remedy used as pain relief.

Note: This is not medical advice. Always consult a qualified expert before taking any remedy. If you are unwell, see your GP.

Are You Superstitious?


Buzzard said...

Wonderful post, thankyou.

Dorset New Yorker said...

Thanks for that, strange thing , went for a walk with husband, February 11 ish , saw bunches of snow drops, took photos and the sadly his nan dies. I wrote a poem for the family, and a watercolor of snow drops. Just went into florist, looking sand asking about snow drops, they told me about " never bring one in the house and the myth ( I'm American) I thought wow, sign of death, then stumbled on your site, Nan had alezimers , I'm sitting here in ️wow. So again thanks Suz