Blue Passion Flower

(Passiflora caerulea) A South American plant that was introduced into England in 1629 (Gordon. 1988). It eventually became the ecclesiastical symbol for Holy Rood Day, whether it was the spring celebration of the festival, 3 May, or the autumn day, 14 September, for this is the flower that stood for the emblem of Christ's Passion. It is said that when the Spaniards, obviously gifted with extraordinary imagination, first saw it in the New World, they took it as an omen that the Indians would be converted to Christianity. The descriptions vary somewhat. One of them is that the three styles represent the three nails, and the ovary is a sponge soaked in vinegar. The stamens are the wounds of Christ, and the crown (located above the petals) stands for the Crown of Thorns. The petals and sepals indicate the Apostles (Bianchini & Corbetta). Another description has it that the ten white petals show the Lord's innocence; the outer circlet of purple filaments symbolise his countless disciples; the inner brown circlets the Crown of Thorns; the ovary is either the chalice he used at the Last Supper or the column to which he was tied, or the head of the hammer that drove in the nails; the five anthers are his wounds; the three divisons of the stigma the nails with which he was fastened to the Cross, and the tendrils are the lashes of the scourging, just as the leaves are the hands of those who reached out to crucify him (Whittle & Cook). The difficulty is that virtually every description of the symbolism is different.

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