“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” - Percy Bysshe Shelley
The anemone, Anemone coronaria, is the flower assigned to the birthdays falling on this day. The generic name for the plant is derived from the Greek anemos = “wind”, referring to the growth of the flower on high, windswept places. Windflower and granny’s bonnet are alternative names for the plant. Classical legend attributes the origin of the flower to another of the passionate, soap-opera type of mythological tales the Greeks and Romans were excessively fond of:
Anemone was a beautiful young woman, a handmaiden of Chloris, the goddess of vegetation. Chloris’s husband, Zephyr the West Wind, fell in love with Anemone, who returned his feelings. Chloris was furious when she found out and banished Anemone to a distant place, where she pined away and died. Zephyr asked Aphrodite, goddess of Beauty and Love, to transform Anemone’s body to a flower so that he could caress her petals. Aphrodite obliged but fickle male that Zephyr was, he lost interest in poor Anemone soon after. Boreas the North Wind then tried to win Anemone’s affections, but constant female that she was, she would not surrender. Ever since then, anemones have been blown by the fierce North winds on high hills but they hold on tenaciously and do not yield:
The wind forbids the flowers to flourish long,
Which owe to winds their name in Grecian song.
The flower was thought to be an ill omen, no doubt because of the sad story of its origin, but in medieval times, anemones acquired supernatural powers and could be used as talismans. The first spring blooms were picked by someone who said: “I gather thee for remedy against disease”, and the flowers then placed in a red cloth until required. They would then be tied around the neck of the sufferer:
The first spring-bloom anemone she in his doublet wove,
To keep him safe from pestilence where’er he should rove.
The anemone symbolises sickness, sorrow and brevity, the ancient Egyptians firstly using the anemone as such a symbol. In Christian tradition, the anemones are said to have sprung up on Calvary as the Virgin Mary wept and her tears dropped on the ground. Astrologically, the plant is under the dominion of Mars.
The wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is used as a weather oracle. It flowers at the end of March or the beginning of April and closes its petals at the approach of rain. This is useful in these months when sudden showers are very common.