Most of us think of hearts and flowers when we think of romance and Valentine’s Day, but there are other symbols of love in folk lore and cultures around the world and through the ages. In fact, Valentine’s Day itself is believed to have been an adoption of a Roman festival called Lupercalia – a festival of rather different traditions involving sacrificing a goat and chasing the maidens around the village with strips of the goat’s hide to gently slap them with! All in the name of fertility and romance. How times change.
We might not have continued the traditions of Lupercalia, but we do still hold on to many symbols of love, which can be found in art and decoration around the world. Sticking to my interest in nature, I’ve chosen a few of the symbols that have been taken from nature. Here they are, with their meaning – maybe you’ll find something a little different for a Valentine’s gift as a result.
Apple: the apple is a symbol of desire, abundance and love. In Greek mythology Gaia (a goddess who personified the Earth) gave Zeus and Hera a golden apple at their wedding to symbolise everlasting love.
Doves: A depiction of two doves symbolises eternal love. In both Greek and Roman mythology the goddess of love was often depicted as having doves fluttering nearby.
Shell: shells were associated with Aphrodite and are a symbol of protective love, represented by the hardness of the shell protecting the delicate insides, and sometimes even a precious pearl.
Maple leaf: This is an ancient symbol of love, especially in Japan and China. The leaves represent the sweetness and wonder of love in everyday life.
Jasmine: The jasmine flower is a powerful symbol of love in some cultures, especially Hindu ones. Hindu goddesses are often shown wearing garlands of jasmine
Rose: Ancient Greek and Roman cultures associated roses with their goddesses of love – Aphrodite and Venus. The meaning of the rose can depend upon the colour, with different colour roses represent these different types of love:
· Yellow – joyful love
· Red – passionate love
· Pink – true love
· White – innocent and pure love
Apple blossom: in China, apple blossom can represent adoration.
So, Valentine’s Day doesn’t only mean hearts. Other symbols of love add a special something which spans the centuries. I'm currently looking to include more of these in my jewellery designs - at the moment I have hearts a-plenty and a fine silver shell. So which symbol might you prefer – either to give, or receive?