“Star of the mead! sweet daughter of the day
Whose opening flower invites the morning ray”
– Dr Leyden
The daisy, such a beautiful flower, such innocence and childlike joy is summoned when we think of them.
I have a personal love for the daisy beyond the flower itself, my granma’s name was daisy. She was a lovely, kind and gentle woman who I miss a lot. I would love to have known her as an adult (she died when I was a teenager).
Anyway, back to the flower. Their botanical name, bellis perennis, means pretty pearl and their English name comes from the Saxon “days eye” as it opens early in the morning. These sweet little flowers are symbols of gentleness and purity, the innocence of the first moments of the day. However, they are also quite powerful! A daisy chain was placed on a child’s head to keep faeries away and prevent the baby from being kidnapped.
Children and daisies are seen in other beliefs. It was said a child who stood on daisies would grow up stunted. Another idea was that daisies were the spirits of babies who had died at birth.
Belying it’s sweet appearance, the daisy has has astringent properties. Medicinally, the daisy has been used to treat bruises, to treat cuts and for gastrointestinal and respiratory complaints. They have also been eaten, although younger leaves are better tasting and you can make daisy whiskey apparently!
The daisy has also been used in medieval times to be worn by ladies and knights when they were at a tournament. And perhaps most commonly, the picking of their petals as a love divination.
They appear in early spring and it is perhaps in part this which ties them symbolically to the innocence and childishness of the season. They are the flower of April and are dedicated to Aphrodite and Venus, both goddesses of love.
In mythology, we see a few characters turning themselves into daisies to avoid the pursuit of unwanted lovers. Their transformation in a sense protected them from being defiled and maintained their innocence and virginity. They kept their childlike status, their purity. On a similar note, Christianity has adopted the daisy as a symbol of the virgin mary to highlight her chastity and grace.
Comparing the daisy and the dandelion, we see an interesting contradiction. Both are invasive species but our attitudes towards them tend to be very different. We enjoy the delicate daisy and vent our frustrations at the sturdier dandelion. This puts me in mind of the virgin-whore dichotomy. Our attitudes towards each other can be echoed in these two flowers. One is pretty and sweet and so we ignore the fact that it is invasive. The other is bold, brash and confident and so we berate its very existence.