Traditions09 May 2024

The snowdrop - signs of life and death in the realm of legends

The tenderness of a flower that heralds the transition from the season of cold and darkness to the season of light, of warmth and resurrection

The snowdrop

The snowdrop

Tradition has it that man is bound to leave, after his life on this Earth, some traces of his passage. In other words, a sign. The snowdrop is a sign of spring and these very days we're getting a fair share of this delicate flower that heralds the transition from the season of cold and darkness to the season of light, of warmth and resurrection. There is, on the other side, this wonderful Romanian legend of the snowdrop that spurs man to leave good traces behind him.

Thus, as the story goes, the snowdrop would have originally been a man (the Romanian etiological legends have a particular charm inasmuch as they suggest an ''explanation'' – a miraculous one, obviously – for every single animal, being, plant or flower – ), who became a widower with eight children to raise. The man remarries, yet the stepmother persecutes the children and, eventually, chases them away from home.

The children, desperately missing their father, would each become a flower (a superb metaphorical relationship between the flower and the longing). The father keeps looking for them but eventually, not being able to find them and feeling heartsick, he also turns into a flower. But the popular moral is implacable in this respect: it is only good people who can leave good traces, while bad people can't.

Another legend actually reverses the data and even though we knew that the snowdrop comes out of the snow, borrowing its white color (the French name is ''perce-neige'', meaning ''snow-piercer''), in this Romanian version of its birth things are completely opposite. Snow is good and it offers protection and warmth to the whole of nature, therefore it is invited by God to pick its own color from a flower that

He endowed nature with. Snow goes in turn to every flower, to the rose, to the sunflower, to the sweet violet. None of these wonderful flowers want to lend their own color to snow. The pristine, white and innocent snowdrop then tells the snow: ''If you like my white color, then I'll gladly share it with you!" And there it was, snow has ever since been white as the snowdrop, or is it that the snowdrop is white and innocent just like the soul of good people? Who could know?

The Christian significance of this flower is present as well; so simple, yet so impressive through its purity: hope, humbleness, devoutness. A number of reasons for which this delicate symbol of spring was also named ''Key of the Virgin Mary''  

Gheorghe Sechesan




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