This site is an outcome of the Comenius 2008-2010 multilateral project "European Journey Through Legends".

"Becoming more European does not mean forgetting our national cultural heritage, but sharing it with other European nation".

The legend of Violet - the flower

Few flowers have symbolized the renewal of spring, and the triumphs and tribulations of love, as much as the violet. Blooming in the shade, these beautiful innocent bystanders of nature’s woodland paths hold a history of their own for their uses in medicine and popular culture.

Scientific name: Viola odorata
Family: Violaceae
Common Names: Hearts Ease~ ~Bird's Eye~ ~Bullweed~ ~Pink-eyed John~ ~Pink-of-my-Joan~ ~Godfathers~ ~Godmothers~ ~Wild Pansy~ ~Love-lies-bleeding~ ~Love-in idleness~ ~Love Idol~ ~Cuddle Me~ ~Call-me-to-you~ ~Meet-me-in-the-entry~ ~Kit-run-in-the-fields~ ~Three-faces-under-a-hood~ ~Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me~ ~Kiss-me-at-the-garden-gate~ ~Kiss-her-in-the-buttery~

Violas have over 200 common names, a large number of them relating to sex and love. The name Violet is said to be from "Vias"  meaning wayside.


According to one legend it was Venus who made the violet blue. She had been disputing with her son Cupid as to which was more beautiful... herself or a bevy of girls, and Cupid, with no fear of his mother, declared for the girls. This sent Venus into such a rage that she beat her rivals till they turned blue and turned into violets.

Called the "Flower of Modesty" because it hides its flowers in the heart-shaped leaves. Also called "Our Lady's Modesty" because it was said to have blossomed when Mary said to the Angel Gabriel, who had come to tell her she was to bear the Son of God, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord." The monks of the Middle Ages called "Viola tricolor," common in Europe, the "Herb of the Trinity" ("herba trinitatis" )  because they saw the symbol of the trinity in their three colors. The name "Heartsease" stemmed from its old use as a medicine to treat heart disease. People believed God gave the plant heart-shaped leaves for that use. The name may also come from its ancient use as an aphrodisiac and a love potion. The deep purple"Viola odorata" native of the Mediterranean region, is so sweet that an oil from it is used in the perfume industry.

The Role of Violets in the Ancient World

In ancient Greece, the playwright Aristophanes referred to Athens as the “Violet-Crowned City,” because Ion, the legendary founder of Athens who was crowned there, was an exact match of “ion,” the Greek word for violet. According to legend, Ion was leading his people to Attica and was welcomed by water nymphs, who gave him violets as signs of their good wishes. Thus violets became the city's emblem, and no Athenian home, altar or wedding was complete without them. Persephone, the daughter of the Earth Mother Demeter, was picking violets when Pluto kidnapped her to live with him in the underworld. Violets grew where Orpheus slept, and it was Venus who made violets blue. Disputing with her son Cupid over who was more beautiful, herself or a group of young maidens, Cupid favored the maidens. Venus flew into such a rage that she beat her competitors till they turned blue and became violets. Their connection to Venus made violets a popular love potion and aphrodisiac.

Both Greeks and Romans associated violets with funerals and death. Violets were routinely scattered around tombs, and, as symbols of innocence and modesty, children’s graves were routinely so blanketed with violets that the grave was completely covered.

White Violet
The Ancients' name for violets was “Iona”; they believed that Zeus, the king of the gods, originated violets in the meadows where Io used to wander. Zeus had fallen in love with the lovely nymph, Io, and changed her into a white heifer to protect her from his wife’s wrath. When Lo wept over the taste of the coarse grass she was forced to eat, Zeus changed her tears into sweet-smelling violets that only she was permitted to eat. The Athenians revered the violet, decorated their houses with it, and wore crowns of violets at their feasts and on festive occasions.
Persians and Greeks used the plants to help induce sleep, to calm anger, and to heal the heart and the head. Violet flowers steeped in hot water helped to ease a broken heart.

Romans made wine from violet blossoms, and decorated banquet tables with them believing that the flowers could prevent drunkenness. On the mornings after their festivities, Romans wore violet wreaths to relieve hangovers. Pliny documented the medicinal properties of violets, prescribing them for gout and spleen disorders.

Sentiment & Symbolism

Greek legend tells of a nymph named Io, who was beloved by Zeus. To hide her from Hera, his wife, Zeus changed Io into a white cow. When Io wept over the taste and texture of the coarse grass, Zeus changed her tears into dainty, sweet-smelling violets only she was permitted to eat. Roman myth tells a different story, one of lovely maids of antiquity who became the victims of Venus' wrath when Cupid judged them more beautiful than her. In her jealous fury, Venus beat the maidens until they became blue, and thus turned into violets.

In Christian art, the violet symbolizes the Virgin Mary’s humility. One ancient tale states that violets were in fact white until Mary was filled with anguish from watching her son, Christ, suffer upon the Cross. At this moment all the white violets turned purple to echo her mourning. Perhaps this is a reason why purple remains a color associated with mourning. In Renaissance paintings, Mary, while holding the baby Jesus, is often depicted with violets to symbolize her humility or perhaps as a premonition of Jesus’ death, as in this early painting "Madonna Benois", or "Madonna and Child with Flowers" (c. 1475-1478) by Leonardo da Vinci. And the viewer can make out tiny violets in the foreground of this painting by Sienese artist Giovanni Paolo aptly named "Madonna of Humility"(1435).

To dream of violets is a promise of advancement in life. It is said that a garland of violets worn about the head prevents dizziness. They are considered a good luck gift to any woman in any season, but where violets bloom in autumn, epidemics will follow within the year.

The Middle Ages

Violets were awarded as prizes to French troubadours in poetry contests. In Germany, folk dancers celebrated the first violets of Spring. A 10th Century English herbal claimed that violet blossoms could repel evil spirits and Britons and Celts used the flowers in salves and beauty lotions. Monks called violets the Herb of the Trinity because they saw the symbol of the holy trinity in its three leaves. Medieval Christians believed violets were once strong, upright flowers until the day of the crucifixion, when the shadow of the cross fell upon them, causing them to bow their heads in shame for Christ’s persecution.

From the 16th Century, the violet's use as a pain reliever was extensive, since it is among the few plants to contain salicylic acid, the chief ingredient in aspirin.

Color Messages

Violets are a symbol of faithfulness, a symbol of purity and charm against evil. Blue violets says "I'll always be true" and signify constancy; white violets depict modesty, or the desire to "take a chance on happiness"; and yellow violets convey modest worth, and the White violets - depict modesty and the desire to "take a chance on happiness" 

Corporal Violet

Legend has it that while Napoleon was in exile on the island of Elba, he confided to his partisans that he would return to France with the appearance of the violets in the spring, earning him the code name Corporal Violet. To determine a loyal supporter, a stranger was asked, “Do you like violets?” If the reply was “Yes” (Oui) or “No” (Non), it revealed one who did not know of the plot. If the answer was “Eh bien,” it confirmed the person’s loyalty.

Viorica - Romanian Violet

Once upon of time there was a girl called Violet. Her step mother didn’t like her, so one day she decided to get rid of the little girl. She took her over the forest and left her  there in the cold winter.  Not knowing how to get out of the forest in short time she fell  asleep and froze to death.

But she didn’t die. She mannaged to transform herself into a little violet flower which we call Viorica (Violet). And from that moment on, Violets blossum in spring before the snow melts.

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