The Wild Pansy (a thought for Trinity Sunday)

At one time an analogy was made between Viola tricolor and the Holy Trinity: God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit.

For as the herba trinitatis (Latin for ‘trinity herb’), as it was called in the Christian context, the wild pansy was adopted as the symbol for Trinity Sunday.

Perhaps, as its Latin species name, tricolor (‘three-coloured’), implies, the wild pansy acquired this sacred symbolism on account of its typical form of colouring.

A less probable, albeit more charming, explanation can be found in a French folktale, according to which, the wild pansy once smelled far sweeter than its sister, the sweet violet (Viola odorata).

Indeed, so irresistible was its scent, that people rushed to gather up armfuls of the flower when in bloom, in the process trampling the crops amid which it grew. As a result, there was next to nothing left to reap at harvest time, causing food shortages and starvation.

Filled with sorrow at the people’s predicament, the compassionate wild pansy consequently prayed to God to banish its scent, thereby losing its perfume, but gaining its sacred name.

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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