Floral Arrangements: The Story of the Iris

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The nickname of the Goddess Iris (who gave her name to the flower) was Podenemus (with feet, fast as the wind or fast footed) She was also called ‘the Heavenly Iris’ and was the daughter of the Titan Thaumas and the oceanide Electra. Her husband was Zephyrus, the south wind, her children the love Gods Eros and Pothos.

Iris was the messenger of the Gods and also the Keeper of the Rainbow. Many Greek legends of Iris have come down to us in the form of myths that were old even in Homer’s time.

The ancients believed that Iris guarded the souls of dead women on their way to the Elysian Fields, and as a token to her the Greeks planted purple Irises on their graves.

In statues and reliefs Iris is depicted with golden wings and feathered feet. The Greeks called her ‘The Source of Water from Above’. If the Gods lied or argued, Iris would get water from the river Styx and with this water they must pledge the truth. If they lied, they lost their immortality.

One of the first mentions of the actual Iris flower comes from ancient Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmosis III (1504-1450) BC. Pharaoh celebrated the conquest of a large part of Asia Minor by having a garden made to display the plants he had brought back from his campaign. He enjoyed them so much that he had their likeness carved in stone on the great wall of his temple at Anon. The Iris was one of those flowers.

In modern times the Iris is most famous as the national symbol of France. Though Fleur-de-lis means Lily, the name actually refers to the Iris pseudacorus which grew in large numbers around the river Luts in the Netherlands where the first French Kings lived. The Iris is not purple but brilliant, golden yellow and is thought that it was for that reason it was chosen as the symbol of monarchy, but there are two legends to make the story more interesting.

In 496 AD when faced with an intimidating army of the Alamonni, (the Germanic tribe who were invading his kingdom) King Clovis made his Christian Queen Clotilde a promise. The Queen had long tried to convert her heathen husband so she was delighted when he promised that if he won the imminent battle he would admit that her God was the strongest and would be baptised. He won the battle of Tolbiac and was baptised a Catholic at a small church on or near the site of the Cathedral of Rheims where most of the future Kings of France would be crowned and the three toads on his banner disappeared in favor of the Fleur de-lis.

The second episode occurred when Louis VII of France had a dream before setting out on his ill fated crusade in 1147 that persuaded him to adopt the Iris as the symbol on his banner. Thus the Fleur de-lis became the emblem on the banner of France for the next 600 years.

Iris are available in a wide variety of colors, from white to yellow ad including purple and blue.

Use Iris to complete a cool blue color scheme or to complete a French theme. The Goddess of the rainbow will never let you down.

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