In these beautiful days of Spring, we continue our journey with the Graces, particularly noting the gifts of the Grace, Thalia. She is the giver of mirth, growth, and flowering.
In Greek mythology, Iris is the messenger Goddess who is cloaked in a robe of dewdrops that reflects the stars. She communicates messages from Goddesses and Gods to one another, and from Mt. Olympus to the world of mortals. This done via the rainbow, the bridge between heaven and earth. So the iris is the symbol of communication and the name itself means “rainbow.”
The Greeks planted iris flowers at gravesites, possibly because the Goddess Iris was believed to guide the souls of dead women to the underworld, just as Hermes conducted the souls of men.
Irises are sometimes called flag, sweet flag, or sword flag. This recalls, not only their obvious shape, but their ancient association as symbols of heraldry and royalty.
The iris was a royal symbol used by the ancient kings of Babylon and Assyria. The Egyptians placed iris on the brow of the Sphinx and on the scepters of their Pharaohs.
The famed Fleur de Lys, also known as the “Lily of France,” is interchangeably the lily or the iris. Its earliest association may date back to the Merovingian King Clovis, who reportedly wore an iris flower in his helmet as he rode to victory in battle. It became the custom among the ancient Franks to proclaim their new king by elevating him upon a shield and placing in his hand a reed of iris before giving him the scepter.
Standard heraldic histories of the Fleur de Lys as we know it today claim it became fully established as a symbol of sovereignty in the tenth century, and was later officially adopted as the emblem of French King Louis the VII. Its triple sepals and petals are said to symbolize Mary and the Holy Trinity. But in other interpretations, the triad shape represents faith, wisdom and valor.
More about the beautiful, regal iris tomorrow!