Snowdrop – the flower of promise

snowdrop 2In myth the snowdrop symbolises a promise – to break winter’s spell and bring back spring. When these tiny harbingers arrived at the apiary last weekend, they brought as much delight to us as they must bring to the bees.

But another week of howling winds and raging rains, and I wondered if this tiny flower was not working its magic. I’ve always been fond of flower folklore and remembered a book that I picked up in a second-hand bookstore in Cornwall, Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits and Plants by Charles M Skinner.

So I revisited the passage on snowdrops and a couple of pictures taken at the apiary when it had snowed. Here it is, a little snowdrop magic for Sunday…

snowdrop 1


“When the first winter lay white upon the earth, Eve sorely missed the beautiful things of the fields. An angel who pitied her seized a flake of the driving snow and, breathing on it, bade it live, for her delight. It fell to the earth a flower, which Eve caught to her breast with gladness, for not only did it break the spell of winter, but it carried assurance of divine mercy. Hence the flower means consolation and promise. In another legend, Kerma, finding her lover dead, plucked a snowdrop and placed it on his wounds. It did not rouse him, but at the touch his flesh changed to snowdrops, hence the flower is also an emblem of death. Even now in rural England the flower is in ill repute, and it is unlucky to carry the first spray of the season into the house, while it is downright indelicate for a person to give it to one of another sex, since it implies a wish to see the recipient dead. This galanthus nivalis is variously known in England, France, Italy, and Switzerland as virgin flower, snow piercer, winter gallant, firstling, blackbird flower, little snow bell, little white bell, baby bell, spring whiteness, and white violet.”

While not being superstitious, I’m glad the legend discourages bringing snowdrops into the house as they are much more valuable for the bees. And with snowdrops blowing in the fresh February air, let’s hope their promise comes true soon.

Edit: Snowdrops spotted today on Olympic walk from Mile End to Embankment, finally opening…



24 thoughts on “Snowdrop – the flower of promise

  1. The photos of the snowdrop in snow are beautiful. We haven’t had any snow (yet). I have never heard any myths about snowdrops, I was surprised with their association with death. They always bring thoughts of spring for me. Amelia

  2. Sounds like a fascinating book…I’m glad to know that bees like snowdrop flowers, as there is nothing much else flowering in my garden at the moment, apart from a couple of hellebores and a bit of winter aconite. Plus the first signs of pussy willow. Not sure if that is any good to bees? Really beautiful seeing your photos of snowdrops in the snow.

    • Winter aconites are also early forage for bees as are crocus and, a bit early than expected, a crop of tasty daffodils! I think they like willow too. Although not yet seen a single forager – the flowers are out but it’s so windy the bees might not like flying!

  3. Such an interesting post about a lovely little flower. It will be much latter for any sightings of something green in New Hampshire as we have over three feet of snow on the ground so I enjoyed your photos.

  4. Snowdrops are wondrous flowers indeed. I love the way they magically sprout up every year in the coldest of weather. Perhaps their connection with cold is part of the reason for their association with death?

  5. Pingback: Winter to Spring: Snow Cover to Snowdrop Blooms | CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

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