Lavender Flowers: Meanings, Symbolism, and Ancient Folklore

Only a handful of plants have gained worldwide recognition and acclaim for their distinctive color and fragrance, and lavender (Lavandula) is undoubtedly one of them. Lavender varieties stand out with purple-hued blooms and relaxing scents, which have been featured in mythological stories, spirituality, and floral symbolism through the ages. Join me as I explore the richly symbolic meaning of lavender and its cultural significance worldwide.

Ultimate Guide to Lavender Flowers Meaning and Symbolism

Etymology

This plant’s name comes from the Latin lavare, which means “to wash.” Some believe the Romans named it after lividus, which means bluish and livid and refers to the flowers’ appearance.

Lavender Symbolism in Floriography

In floriography, or the language of flowers, lavender flowers hold significant meaning. To the Victorians, it was most commonly associated with purity, silence, devotion, caution, serenity, grace, and calmness. The tranquil and soothing nature of lavender, both in color and fragrance, contributes to its symbolic meanings.

Lavender in Ancient Times

Lavender Flowers meaning and symbolism

In ancient times, the symbolism and use of lavender were quite diverse and varied across different cultures:

Ancient Egypt:

Lavender was used in mummification because of its fragrance and preservative qualities. The Egyptians also used it for perfuming themselves and their surroundings.

Ancient Greece:

The Greeks called lavender “nardus” or “nard”, after the Syrian city Naarda. It was highly valued for its medicinal properties. The Greeks used lavender to fight insomnia and backaches and also as a perfume.

Ancient Rome:

Romans valued lavender for its scent, using it in baths, beds, clothes, and hair to keep them smelling fresh. They also believed in its therapeutic properties to soothe the body and mind. The name “lavender” is derived from the Latin verb “lavare,” which means “to wash,” indicating its frequent use in bathing rituals.

Biblical References:

Lavender, often referred to as spikenard in the Bible, was recognized for its value and was one of the plants used to prepare holy essence. It also symbolized cleanliness and purity.

Mythological Stories About Lavender

Lavender is intertwined with Greek mythology, particularly in the tale of Hades and Persephone. According to one version of the myth, Hades, the god of the underworld, fell in love with Persephone, the daughter of Zeus, and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility. Hades is said to have used the captivating scent of lavender in the underworld to lure her.

Another connection between lavender and Greek mythology is through the story of the nymph Nephele. Nephele, whose name means “cloud” in Greek, was created in the image of Hera, the queen of the gods, out of a cloud by Zeus. Lavender is sometimes associated with Nephele because of its light, airy scent and the purplish hue of its flowers, reminiscent of clouds at dawn or dusk.

Lavender Colors and Their Meanings

Most flowers come in varied colors, but lavenders are one of the peculiar ones. Unlike the popular rose, carnations, or other highly prized flowering plants that present many color options, you often see lavender in different hues of the color purple, sometimes in cream, pink, or blue-violet.

This lavender color represents royalty, elegance, luxury, nobility, and refinement because of its purple color. This color likewise relates lavenders to the Seventh Chakra, known as the Crown Chakra. Lavenders also have spiritual meaning in some parts of the world. Thus, the flowers usually play a part in spiritual and religious rites.

Regardless of the limited color options, this beautiful flower still makes an excellent gift flower for any occasion. With their alluring beauty and relaxing scent, lavenders are a perfect way to express care, love, and thoughtfulness to someone.

Spirituality and Lavender

Lavender is used in various spiritual practices and rituals across different cultures and traditions. Here are some specific examples:

  1. Smudging and Incense: Lavender is often used in smudging rituals, similar to sage, to cleanse a space of negative energy. Dried lavender can be burned as incense during spiritual practices to purify the environment, invite peace, and enhance spiritual awareness.
  2. Aromatherapy and Meditation: Lavender oil is widely used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and reduce stress. In spiritual meditation, the scent of lavender can help deepen meditation by calming the mind, facilitating focus, and creating a serene atmosphere.
  3. Healing Rituals: In energy healing practices such as Reiki, lavender is often used to balance and open the crown chakra, which is associated with spiritual connection and consciousness. Lavender’s calming properties are believed to aid in healing emotional and spiritual wounds.
  4. Bath Rituals: Spiritual bath rituals often incorporate lavender, either in essential oil form or as dried flowers, for its cleansing and protective properties. These baths are used to purify, release negative energies, and promote inner peace.
  5. Dream Pillows and Sachets: Lavender is commonly placed in pillows or sachets to promote restful sleep and encourage dream recall. In spiritual practices, it’s believed that lavender can enhance dream work and facilitate messages from the divine or subconscious mind.
  6. Protection Charms and Amulets: Dried lavender is sometimes included in charms or amulets as a protective agent against negative energies. It’s believed to safeguard the individual’s spiritual journey and personal space.
  7. Spiritual Ceremonies and Offerings: Lavender is used in various spiritual ceremonies as an offering to deities, spirits, or the universe. Its pleasant fragrance and healing properties make it an appropriate symbol of love, peace, and devotion.
  8. Chakra Work: Lavender is associated with the crown chakra, the center for higher consciousness and spiritual connection. It’s used in practices to balance this chakra to enhance spiritual clarity and enlightenment.

Suitable Gifting Occasions

Lavender is a thoughtful and versatile gift I find suitable for a wide range of occasions, as it embodies peace, tranquility, and well-being. I often choose it for housewarmings and new beginnings to symbolize a warm welcome and stability and personal celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries to convey love, devotion, and the wish for harmony. Its calming properties also make it an ideal way for me to express care during someone’s recuperation or as a gesture of sympathy, offering comfort and solace during challenging times.

I consider lavender a unique and serene alternative to traditional gifts for festive occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. It represents pride in achievements and best wishes for a peaceful journey ahead, making it perfect for graduation and retirement as well.

Depending on the recipient’s preferences and the message I wish to convey, I choose lavender in various forms, whether as a live plant, in dried bouquets, or infused in products, to bring a sense of calm and care to their lives.

Geographic Regions Famous for Lavender

Provence, in France, is renowned worldwide for its vast and picturesque lavender fields, making lavender one of its most emblematic symbols. While not an official emblem, lavender is deeply ingrained in the region’s cultural identity, tourism, and economy. The lavender fields of Provence attract visitors from all over the globe, especially during the blooming season in summer.

Sequim, in Washington, USA, is often called the “Lavender Capital of North America” and hosts an annual lavender festival celebrating the flower and its products. The town’s association with lavender is strong, and it plays a significant role in Sequim’s identity and community events.

Wrap Up

Lavender flowers continue to gain popularity in floristry, culinary, cosmetics, and aromatherapy because of their beauty and intoxicating scent. They present countless types and varieties that make it difficult for anyone to pick just one favorite.

They may not offer a broad range of colors, but lavender flowers’ meaning and symbolism make these plants a definite must-have. You can find lavender flowers almost anywhere, and you can undoubtedly grow one in your home or garden.

Further reading: Discover the best types of lavender to grow at home.

Contributing Editor | madison@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.

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