Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Heliotrope, and blaming the other woman

Yet another flower that saves me from using colors like "hooker green" or "hot pink."

Heliotrope is both a color and a flower, in a nice deep shade of purple. The name literally means "turn after the sun," which is what this flower tends to do (much like a lot of other plants). If anyone, I can most definitely relate to trying to follow the sun's heat. In fact, I have been seriously debating about installing a heat lamp over a large rock instead of a couch in my living room.

The myth of the heliotrope comes from Greece. It tells us about Klytia, an Oceanid (ocean nymph) who fell in love with Helios, the sun god. He returned her feelings for a while, but then quickly grew bored (as gods do) and moved on to another sea goddess, Leukothea. Klytia, mad with jealousy, told Leukothea's father, who took revenge on his promiscuous daughter and buried her alive (talk about blaming the other woman). Klytia probably thought that taking out the competition would get her back into Helios' bed, which was not the case (it really never is). Instead, she was all alone and abandoned, so she just sat on the sun-warmed rocks on the beach, following Helios with her eyes as he passed across the sky for several days. In the end, she transformed into a purple flower that still favors sunlit rocks, and still turns after the Sun.

In many translations of the myth, heliotrope is translated as "sunflower." This is, however, false, since ancient Greeks did not know sunflowers, which are a much later import from the Americas. Some version of the myth actually specifies the purple color of the heliotrope.

Read more about this story and the language of flowers here.


Sophie Duncan said...

I did not know that myth - but I think that little ocean nymph deserved to be alone!
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Natasha Duncan-Drake said...

Why do the women always end up with the short end of the stick? Why didn't Leukothea's father go after Helios? And why didn't Klytia for a start? Of course if Helios hadn't been an arse no one would have had a problem.
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Aditi said...

I almost did Helio but couldn't put it into a convincing fiction piece! Great story! I am loving this colour connection our posts have! ;)

Beloo Mehra said...

Beautiful colour, beautiful flower, and beautiful story - a perfect recipe for a beautiful reading in the late afternoon!

mmshaunakelley said...

I was not familiar with the myth behind this flower. Very, very cool!

Mary Garrett said...

Wisdom in that story -- and beauty in the flower. Thanks!

Elizabeth Cardamone said...

Thank you for educating me on this myth and flower. Lovely.

Best regards,

PS: Visiting from the A to Z Challenge

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Beautiful flower - sad story. Perhaps it would have been better had Klytia merely trashed Helios' pick-up truck, a la Carrie Underwood. (!)

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

Oh God. I want to make that story happen. Jealous ocean nymph slashes the Chariot of the Sun.

Donna K. Fitch said...

Such beautiful flowers and a fascinating myth!

Sara C. Snider said...

A sad and kind of beautiful story, in its own way (once you get past the whole burying-someone-alive-who-didn't-do-anything-wrong). Poor Leukothea.

Michelle Wallace said...

Beautiful colour and a fascinating name!