Year 5 – Politics, Theory and Research
Lesson 4 – Flowers of “Our Lady”
In this lesson we will be looking at several plants that are quite unique. All of these plants have properties that make them popular, but do not relate to healing! I’m sure you are all very aware by now that plants aren’t all about healing, but these plants are very particular in their uses while not being utilized for remedial purposes. Another fact which is connected to all the plants in today’s lesson is that they have all been associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus, as honoured in both Christian and Islamic holy books. She is sometimes called the Flower of Flowers. The earth itself is often viewed as feminine, with several cultures using the terms “Mother Earth” and “Mother Nature.” Now, would everyone please walk with me into Greenhouse Two and take a seat at the tables inside. Great. Once we are there, we can get on with the mysteries in today’s lesson.
Lily of the Valley / Mary’s Tears
First, let’s discuss the plant on your immediate right on the table, in the clear vase. The Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) plant has the appearance of tears when viewed from a distance. This plant has a very strong, sweet fragrance, akin to roses. Some perfumes use Lily of the Valley for its scent, so you may have seen it listed as an ingredient in a perfume potion. It grows in temperate climates and should only be planted in November and December. Please put on your dragonhide gloves so we can examine the flower.
This plant is poisonous, which is why you are wearing your gloves now. If one of you touched this plant and then “forgot” to wash your hands before eating, you could get sick. Take some time to examine the shape of the flower and the leaves, as well as the colouring.
It is much easier to grow this plant outdoors. In order to grow these ones indoors, it was necessary to take a flowering pip (rootstock/flower) and soak it in warm water before cutting an inch off the roots and planting it in the soil. In the next week you are going to be replanting the Lily of the Valley plants that are by the windows outside. The soil needs to drain well, so we are all going to take buckets of water outside of the greenhouse and pour it on the ground to see if there are any puddles. If there are puddles in five hours’ time, it is not a good spot to plant the Lily of the Valley. You are going to have to check up on the puddle-status on your own, and repeat the process if you did not find a good spot over the next couple of days until you find a spot that works. Instructions for planting will be found in the today’s assignment.
Before we get into the properties of this plant, it is useful to go over where Lily of the Valley gets its nickname, Mary’s Tears. It is not just because the flowers can look like tears from a distance, as I mentioned earlier. The plant is associated with tears since when Mary was crying at the cross her tears fell to the ground and grew into the Lily of the Valley plant. (Other accounts have this as when Mary was filled with sorrow because of how others treated her during her pregnancy). Remembering this story may help you remember the magical properties of the Lily of the Valley plant!
The Lily of the Valley falls under a special category of magical plant called Dormant Magical. This means that the plant acts as a non-magical plant most of the time, that is, until the magic within is awakened. The categories were put forward by a Muggleborn child of geologists and are generally accepted within the community (to be voted on at next Herbologist’s Meeting). Each category is based upon the states of volcanos. Active Magical is the category for all plants which are obviously magical, such as Gillyweed, Devil’s Snare, and Angelusprout. Dormant Magical is for plants which, for the most part, do not seem to exhibit signs of magic, but we have confirmed magical abilities within them. An example of this that you would be familiar with is the Dandelion. Finally, there is simply Non Magical, which is the category for all plants from which we have not observed magic. Some plants in this category may be Dormant Magical and we just do not know it yet!
So, now that you understand that the Lily of the Valley plant is a magical plant that acts like a non magical plant for most of the time, I am sure many of you are wondering what magic the plant possesses and when it is observable. I want all of you to think back to your third year of Hogwarts, when you were sitting through your seventh Charms lesson. In that class you learned about emotion affecting magic, and more specifically the cheering charm, Exhilaratus. When you squeeze the flower of a Lily of the Valley, the plant releases magic into the air akin to the magic of a cheering charm. When in bloom, you may notice a lot of Lily of the Valley plants in hospitals, churches, and funeral homes. If you are feeling down,squeezing the flower will give the experience of relief that one often feels after finishing crying (hence the link to the nickname Mary’s Tears). If you are already happy, squeezing the flower will increase your general cheer, and can produce feelings of euphoria as well.
Fleur de Lis/ Madonna Lily
There is another plant in the “Lily” family that is attributed to Mary. Although I’m sure by now some of you may have noticed I am showing a slight favouritism to my own namesake with plants called Lilies! What you may not know, however, is that the Fleur de Lis is actually an Iris and not a Lily (Latin name: Iris pseudacorus). The flower is usually yellow but at Hogwarts we grow a white and a purple variety of it. To grow the plant we use lots of water and a soil with a low pH level. Please examine the purple variety laying on the table in front of you.
This flower’s magic is quite unique. It has the ability to move its location overnight, rather like it apparates! We have not yet been able to figure out how it moves. The current popular theories are that it moves like an Angelusprout or can fly with the wind. For all we can tell, maybe the flower can apparate. What we do have conclusive evidence on is why it moves. When a Herbologist has spent their life caring for a Fleur de Lis plant, after the Herbologist dies, the plant may choose to move itself to grow over the Herbologist’s grave. This is rather a touching tribute from the plant, and is often used by Herbologist clubs as a symbol of the connection between plants and people. An interesting fact is that the plant only ever seems to move and replant itself for Wizardkind, and has only done so once for a Muggle.
Of course, the story of this one Muggle is quite curious, and provides the link with the plant’s magic and association with Mary (I do love plants that help with memorization tricks; they were always my favourite when I was studying for OWLs myself). A muggle monk (Brother Andre) in the 1300s took care of the Fleur de Lis flowers grown outside of the church. The flowers had been planted a long time before because people felt that the flowers resembled Mary and was known as a symbol of the Annunciation. This monk had a strong devotion to Mary, but a bad memory, so when he prayed all he said was “Ave Maria” repeatedly. The other monks made fun of him for this. After a life of looking after the Fleur de Lis while praying (remembering to water them better than his remembering words to prayers), the monk died and was buried in the monastery’s cemetery. The day after he was buried, the monks noticed that the Fleur de Lis plant was missing from the church. However, there was no sign that the plant had ever been there at all (the earth was covered in grass rather than looking like someone had dug it up). The monks then found the plant growing on top of the dead brother’s grave.
Columbine / Mary’s Shoes
The Aquilegia vulgaris, commonly known as the Columbine flower, has one of the most beautiful blooms in this greenhouse. It flowers in blue, purple, pink, and white. Please examine the four cuttings I have placed in front of you. (Leave your dragonhide gloves on)!
This plant likes to grow in diverse environments, so you may find it on mountains, in meadows, and in woodlands. It can be grown in any pH level of soil, but does require that the soil drains well (as with Lily of the Valley) and that it is not too dry. In colder areas, grow the plant in full sunlight. In warmer areas, the heat can be too much for the plant, so grow it in partial shade instead. Columbine will grow well from a seed so plant it directly into the soil. You do not even need to cover the seed with soil as the light will help them open up and grow! Water often while growing, and then once a week after the plant has firmly established itself in the environment. There are no animals that eat this plant because all the parts of it, including the seeds, are poisonous. The Columbine flower attracts hummingbirds.
Like the Lily of the Valley and the Fleur de Lis, the Columbine flower is a Dormant Magical plant. Its hidden magic is a light within the flower, which is able to guide lost witches and wizards home if they are stranded in a field. With miscalculations apparating, do not underestimate how often this has happened in history! In order for the light to appear one needs to speak the words “guide me.” This can be done in any sentence or context (or language), and the flower seems to respond no matter what. There is clearly some magical awareness in this flower but Herbologists have not yet figured out how this happens.
I would like all of you to pick up one of the flower cuttings in front of you. On the count of three, I want you all together to say the words guide me, and watch as the flower lights up and beams in the direction that you wish to go. One, two, three!
Excellent, excellent. Isn’t it a beautiful flower? Once the flower is picked or cut to use its magic, you have about seven hours to get it in a vase or it shall be too weak to light itself. Please put your flowers back down on the table, as that is the other way to stop them from shining their light. They do need to be held for them to know which way to point.
The association between the plant and Mary comes through a folklore legend that wherever Mary walked on her way to visit her cousin Elizabeth during her pregnancy, the Columbine flower grew. I like to think of it as the “footsteps plant.”
The plants in today’s lesson all had a sort of hidden power: a magic that came to light under certain situations and understandings. For today’s review point I would like us to look at what plants say about us and what is our relationship to plants.
In our second lesson of Year One we discussed how plants are individuals, and each have unique characteristics that makes each one different from another. Recognizing the individuality of plants is necessary for appreciating Herbology as well as utilizing plants to the fullest of their capabilities within other disciplines. In that same lesson we also talked about how Herbology is also about discovering yourself through your plants. Sometimes (a lot of the time) we as humans like to over complicate life. We work, we worry, we plan, and we become stressed. When we take the time to connect ourselves to the world and nature we also take a step towards connecting with the deeper questions about life, like “what is good” and “why am I here.”
One way we can connect with plants to learn about ourselves is looking at the roots of the different theories and care techniques. Two years ago, we discussed the Theory of Loving in our midterm lesson. This theory connects to plants and to people, and connects plants to people! Why don’t we start by reviewing what the theory is all about? First of all it is important to remember that the Theory of Loving does not detract from the need to care for a physical ailment. If someone has a cut on their arm, a hug is not going to heal it. However, a hug may still be helpful. When someone is injured or ill, there is also emotional stress on the body and mind. The Theory of Loving is a response to the emotional needs of people and plants, stating that giving love to plants (and people) improves the healing process. One example that illustrates this is a recent occasion in Greenhouse Four. Two young Vile Pluma were next to each other (about to repot themselves but arguing over identical soil spots) and one of them whacked the other off of the table. The Vile Pluma on the floor began trying to hit the table legs but was injured in the fall so it could not move its leaves. Of course, this only upset the young Vile Pluma more.
Thankfully I was nearby and able to come scoop the Vile Pluma off the floor. It was so upset its whole form was shaking. I soothed it with some singing, and took it to pick out a whole new pot and soil I should put in it. The attention calmed it down, and I was able to apply some dittany to the Vile Pluma’s leaves. By showing the Vile Pluma how much I cared about its feelings, I was able to bond with my plant and help it grow, rather than simply applying a healing technique and leaving the Vile Pluma to simmer in anger, resentment, and fear.
Here are some symptoms of emotional distress in plants to watch out for:
One way to remember and think about the Theory of Loving is the following phrase: “Plants heal, love heals.” Live by it! When caring for plants, there are a couple key ways to show love. Singing, feeding, and talking to plants are a universal way to show them that they are loved. With indoor plants regularly dusting them, washing the pot, and showing them off to visitors are great ways to express love to them. Extra ways of expressing love to outdoor plants include shielding them from heavy rain, deweeding, and putting out birdseed near the flowers to attract (welcome) visitors.
Anyways, it is getting late and I have clean up the greenhouse for the next class. How about I let you out early? It might be good to get some fresh air. It’s probably the Lily of the Valley doing the talking here.
As always, photos are posted on the Herbology page https://www.facebook.com/pg/hogwartsishereherbology/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1327181167349707 . I’m looking forward to hearing how your planting went next week!