Tuesday, September 6, 2011


"The heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close;
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look that she turned when he rose."

Sacred to Apollo, this flower turns its face to the sun on his daily journey through the sky. Sunflowers bloom all over Central Italy and can be found in Etruscan art. Tuscany is filled with blooming fields of sunflowers during the summer, so say my cousins.

There are two competing myths about Helianthus, one sadder than the next. In the simple version. Clytie loved Apollo, but he did not return her love. She stared up at him as he journeyed through the sky, pining away for Him. The Gods took pity on her and turned her into the sunflower, who still follows His path.

The second tale comes to us from Ovid with thanks to theoi.com:

"She [the Persian princess Leukothoe] was his [Helios the Sun's] one delight. Not Clymene, not Rhodos now had power to hold his hert, nor Circe's lovely mother, nor the girl, sad Clytie Clytie, who languished for his love, though scorned, and at that moment nursed her wound. All were forgotten for Leucothoe . . .
Clytie was jealous, for she loved Sol [Helios] beyond all measure. Spurred with anger against that paramour, she published wide the tale of shame and, as it spread, made sure her [Leukothoe's] father knew . . . [and through her tattling about the death of the girl.]
But Clytie, although her love might well excuse her grief and grief her tale-baring, the Lord of Light no longer visited; his dalliance was done. She pined and languished, as love and longing stole her wits away. Shunning the Nymphae, beneath the open sky, on the bare ground bare-headed day and night, she sat dishevelled, and for nine long days, with never taste of food or drink, she fed her hunger on her tears and on the dew. There on the ground she stayed; she only gazed upon her god's bright face as he rode by, and turned her head to watch him cross the sky. Her limbs, they say, stuck fast there in the soil; a greenish pallor spread, as part of her changed to a bloodless plant, another part was ruby red, and where her face had been a flower like a violet [i.e. the heliotrope] was seen. Though rooted fast, towards the sun she turns; her shape is changed, but still her passion burns."

I prefer the less depressing version of the story! Ovid liked his dramas. It's always interesting to investigate the politics of the day and compare it to what was being written in terms of mythology at the same time. I digress! What can a sunflower do for us?

On the magical front:
Seeing a sunflower gives us a psychological lift; It is bright and tall and is said to relieve depression and increase fertility if worn or if the petals are eaten
To ward off nightmares plant them in a window box outside your bedroom window
To attract happiness use the petals in a bath.

Just as magical, and wonderfully practical: In Japan sunflowers are being planted to help remove radiation from the soil. And it's working.

Sunflower is also the name of one of the best veg restaurants ever! If you happen to be in northern VA stop by there!

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