Monday, 29 March 2010
It's been an interest of mine to look at the symbolism of the dandelion - both historically and in a contemporary context. I've noticed that the use of dandelions in contemporary design will almost always only use the seed-head, but hardly ever the flower. Perhaps the flower is considered just too vulgar and common to inspire reproduction (maybe the old belief that touching dandelions will cause bed-wetting doesn't especially help), where as the seed-head is seen as delicate and beautiful: representing time passing - seeds gently floating along on the spring breeze etc...
In folk stories blowing on a dandelion seed-head will determine what time it is, how long you will live, when you will marry (this year, next year, sometime, never) and how many children you'll have etc.
I've seen seed-head designs on t-shirts, greeting cards, coasters, mugs, as stencils for DIY home decorating, on wrapping paper, and on textiles.
I recently received this email form my friend Pat:
Have you seen this design by Royal Copenhagen?
We were in Keswick last weekend in a cafe having lunch. There was a gallery above the cafe and I went upstairs with my friend to have a browse. There was this vase with the dandelion design - £635!! I told my friend and the lady in the shop about your project - she very kindly cut the pages from her catalogue so that i could give it to you. The design is very unusual and what surprises me most is that the flower doesn't feature - just the seed-head and the leaf. Apparently it is quite an old design and has been produced for years.
I have found a dandelion leaf in a design on a Mornflake Superfast Oats packet - only the leaf and not the flower or seed-head (it's in the background along with oats, honesty, ribwort plantain, wild carrot, shepherd's purse, goosegrass, hogweed and a vetch).
Historically the dandelion is St Brigid's flower. Brigid is one of Ireland's earliest recorded saints and along with St Patrick is one of Irelands most famous saints. It is thought she was born sometime between 452 and 456 CE in Faughart near Dundalk in Co. Louth.
It's believed she died on 1st February 524 - so her feast day is celebrated every year on the 1st February. The dandelion is known at St Brigid's flower because it is the first flower of spring.
As it goes, I haven't found an image of St Brigid that shows a dandelion too - i'm still searching.
The dandelion lights its spark
Lest Brigid find the wayside dark.
And Brother Wind comes rollicking
For joy that she has brought the spring.
Young lambs and little furry folk
Seek shelter underneath her cloak.
Winifred Mary Letts (1882 - 1972)
With further searching i've found that the dandelion also symbolises desire, sympathy, affection returned and can mean love me.
Finding out what it symbolises in Japanese culture has proved a little harder, but it seems to mean similar things: faithfulness, happiness and is also known as love's oracle.