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Flowers & Religion

Do you know what the Rosary means? The original Rosary was a complex of rose flower images and the golden rose was the highest honor conferred by the Pope.

There are numerous religions practiced around the world, some of which are organized and some are not. The Christian Science Monitor, in 1998, listed the organized religions, some of which are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Bahá´Í Faith, Confucianism, Jainism, and Shintoism. Many of the above mentioned religions have been associated with flowers in one or the other manner.

Flowers And Christianity

The archetypal flower symbolizing purity is the white Madonna lily (Lilium candidum). The association of the flower with the Virgin Mary dates to early Christianity, an apparent legend, according to which her tomb was filled with lilies after her assumption into heaven. Religious commentators, including the Venerable Bede, explained that the white petals represented her spotless body and the golden stamens, her glowing soul. This mystic flower appeared most often in paintings of the Annunciation, representing the moment when the Angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin that she would bear God's son. A white lily was placed in a vase in the foreground of the scene, or held by the Angel, and sometimes a small enclosed garden known as the hortus conclusus reinforced the message of virginity. This type of devotional painting influenced other scenes of the Virgin and Child with saints, also set in gardens with lilies and other flowers. Other white, lily-like flowers reflected this meaning, especially lily-of-the-valley, leucojum and snowdrops, or white flowers with golden centers like roses and daisies.

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The rose flower is used in Italy all through the month of May. Everyone who can secure roses, places them in his oratory or on a table. Both red and white roses have been emblematic of the Virgin since very early times, and were dedicated to Venus before that. When St. Dominic instituted the devotion of the Rosary, he recognized this symbolism and indicated the separate prayers as tiny Roses. May - the Month of May or Madonna's Month - was originally linked to Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and of spring. Further. The five petals of a rose flower are believed to represent Christ´s wounds - white was the color of purity and red, that of his sacrificial blood.

Flowers And Hinduism

Both in worship and in portrayals of the divine, Hindus are infatuated with flowers. The very name of the Hindu worship ritual, puja, can be translated as "the flower act."

The lotus is the foremost symbol of beauty, prosperity and fertility. According to Hinduism, within each human inhabiting the earth there is the spirit of the sacred Lotus. It represents eternity, purity and divinity and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, ever-renewing youth and describes feminine beauty, especially the eyes.

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One of the most common metaphysical analogies compares the Lotus´ perennial rise to faultless beauty from a miry environment to the evolution of man's consciousness - from instinctive impulses to spiritual liberation. In the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text, man is adjured to be like the Lotus - he should work without attachment, dedicating his actions to God, untouched by sin like water on a Lotus leaf and the beautiful flower standing high above the mud and water. In the postures of Hatha Yoga, a major branch of Yoga, the lotus position, padmasana, is adopted by those striving to reach the highest level of consciousness, which itself is found in the thousand-petaled lotus chakra at the top of the head.

Flowers And Islam

Not much religious use of flowers is seen among Muslims except on occasions like marriages and funerals. On the day of the wedding the groom leads his family to the bride's home. Upon arrival at the bride´s place, the bride's sisters welcome the groom&39;s party by playfully hitting them with a stick wrapped around flowers. The groom may wear a special head-dress of flowers for the wedding.

Flowers And Buddhism

For the Buddhists, Lotus symbolizes the most exalted state of man - his head held high, pure and undefiled in the sun, his feet rooted in the world of experience. For the Buddhist, the Lotus flower symbolizes the Buddha. In Bodh Gaya, in Northern India where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment, there is a raised platform, which is a part of the Mahabodhi temple complex. This is called the Jewel Promenade Shrine. This structure marks the place where the Buddha is supposed to have paced to and fro in meditation. Legend has it that wherever he stepped, a Lotus flower (a symbol of knowledge) sprang up and this is depicted through the 18 lotus flowers carved on the platform.

About a mile south of the Mahabodhi Temple, was a dry pond called Mucalinda tank where the Buddha was supposed to have spent his sixth week after enlightenment. It is now a large pond filled with Lotuses. In most of the Buddhist art depictions the lotus flower symbolizes the Buddha.

Flowers And Chinese Religions

In Taoism and such other Chinese folk religions flowers do not just represent beauty, but are also the symbols of life, happiness, and fertility. In Chinese culture, white flowers are the symbol of death and used only in funerals. The meaning of red in Chinese weddings is deep and powerful. Red is the symbol of love, joy, prosperity, happiness and ultimate joy in Chinese culture. The bride's wedding gown, the wedding invitations and wedding gift boxes or envelopes for cash gifts are all in red.

Flowers like Peonies, Orchids, Lotus and Daffodils are widely used in Chinese weddings. For the Chinese, Peony flower is a symbol of spring and renewed life. Orchid is the Chinese symbol of love and fertility, a perfect token for weddings. For the Chinese, the Lotus flower represents four virtues in the Buddhist religion (scent, purity, softness, and loveliness). Narcissus flower symbolizes spring, representing change and end of hibernation, and are perfect for spring weddings. Other common names of this joyful flower are Daffodil and Jonquil.

Use of Flowers in Other Religions

Although there are no specific religious Flowers in most of the other religions, flowers are nevertheless used in various religious ritual performances. Particularly, flowers are common in almost all the wedding ceremonies. Flowers are also used in all the funeral observances except in Judaism. Indeed, there is even evidence indicating the use of flowers during funerals by the Neanderthals who inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia about 230,000 years ago.

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