FlowerMuse: Snapdragons (Theresa May)

Mrs May, ever the Vicar’s daughter, seemingly wants to deliver us unto us.  And she seems to aim to do so with strength and graciousness. Like a snapdragon. Upright, tall and strong.  The flower with power and jaws and a snout. Believed to protect, restore, and strengthen…

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Mrs May, despite, or because of, her tired eyes, seems more than ever determined to show us her energy and strength. She could do well then to fill her election campaign with antirrhinum (the snapdragon’s botanical name – derived from the Greek “anti,” meaning like, and “rhin,” meaning nose).   And so called for the ‘snap’ they make when squeezed.  And children love them (she may be well-advised to know)
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Snapdragons, Van Gogh (1886)
Thought to have originated as wildflowers in Spain and Italy; snapdragons came to symbolise protection and strength during ancient times. The Romans and Greeks believed in their power to protect from witchcraft. Descorides, the Greek physician wrote that protection would be given to the person that wore snapdragons around their neck. Later in the Middle Ages, snapdragons were planted near the castle gates for their protective properties. In Germany, they were hung above a baby’s bed to ward off evil spirits (and witches). All very useful to know then, when you’ve Labour and the Lib Dems (and others) snapping at your door.
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1410-20, unknown artist, Städel Museum, Frankfurt a. M.
Snapdragons also symbolize grace under pressure or inner strength in trying circumstances (in Russia oil was once made from the seeds and used like butter to boost energy). Support then for her dealings with the EU. And if she feels she’s flagging at the polls, she should try hiding a snapdragon in her clothing –  once thought to make a person fascinating and alluring.
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Red Snapdragons, Georgia O’Keefe (1923)
But if the flower’s symbolism fails to rub off then perhaps she should appreciate their beauty qualities. Statuesque and sculptural, they tend dominate, but their petals belie a delicacy and intricacy. Women of olden times knew this –  boiling them and applying them to their faces – early masks and re-engerizers for the face.
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The ‘face‘ of a snapdragon (seed)
She should be aware though, like the skull-like seeds, there’s a darker side to the snapdragon. Some say they represent deception (perhaps related to the concealment in clothes) and denial (they were worn in the hair by Victorian women to ward off ‘unwanted’ advances).
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Posh gardens favour nicotianas or – even better – cleomes; disdaining snapdragons as uncool, too cottage-gardeny, too much like a maiden aunt.  A bit middling, a bit mediocre? The real reason, perhaps, snapdragons are a perfect fit for Mrs May…

Featured image: Artist Wu Xiaoli with clay figure of Theresa May to mark the 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China.  (Daily Telegraph)


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