by Norma Beredjiklian
O wind, where have you been,
That you blow so sweet?
Among the violets
Which blossom at your feet.
The honeysuckle waits
For Summer and for heat
But violets in the chilly Spring
Make the turf so sweet.
By Cristina Rossetti
(From Sing Song, a nursery rhyme book before 1873)
It's magic Thursday (Violet day) in both the months of February and March, precisely at the bewitching, violet hour of 3 o'clock, when a cool, sweet breeze blows in all four cardinal directions. From the bottom of the garden and in merry procession advance hundreds of garden fairies led by Sachiel, guardian angel of violets. Some carry heavy loads of sweets while others play pipes, shake bells and tambourines. Trotting up and down the path they reach a sacred circle right in the middle of a fragrant violet patch. They have come from far away hidden woodlands and forests to celebrate the yearly festival in honor of the violet, their sacred flower and the symbol of fidelity, remembrance, modesty and simplicity.
The mood is very festive. Winter has just faded way and everyone is suddenly touched by youthful folly, oblivious of the vigilant tree spirits who reside in the giant, tired oaks who are themselves ancient witnesses of similar gatherings held since the beginnings of time. The fairies waste no time and resume their mischievous frolicking among the leaves flying alongside butterflies and playing hide and seek around and under the tiny, shy violet blossoms.
There's also great anticipation in the air. The Sacred Violet Festival is the most important of all fairies' spring celebrations, surpassing even those of the daffodils, primroses, lilies of the valley, daisies and roses. As expected, the Fairy Queen will preside, but right now, the rumor goes, she's still asleep. This is of no surprise to us, or the fairies. We know all about Titania and her sleeping habits because William Shakespeare, our wise friend of long ago told us so in his Midsummer Night's Dream:
Oberon went, unperceived by Titania, to her bower, where she was repairing to go to rest. Her fairy bower was a bank, where grew wild thyme, cowslips, and sweet violets, under a canopy of wood-bine, musk-roses, and eglantine. There Titania always slept some part of the night; her coverlet the enameled skin of a snake, which, though a small mantle, was wide enough to wrap a fairy in… He found Titania giving orders to her fairies, how they were to employ themselves while she slept. "Some of you," said her majesty, "must kill cankers in the musk-rose buds, and some wage war with the bats for their leathern wings, to make my small elves coats; and some of you keep watch that the clamorous owl, that nightly hoots, come not near me: but first sing me to sleep.
In accordance with what is written and recorded in the ancient fairies' annals and chronicles, the ceremonies are about to begin; problem is, everyone hopes the Fairy Queen is awake because no one dares to interrupt her sleep. And no wonder, word of her temper has reached every corner in Fairyland. The fact is that she's supposed to sit on a tulip to await the arrival of the Violet Fairy, the loveliest and kindest of all flower fairies. Violet, together with smaller violet fairies (one to represent each variety) will present the Queen with a garland of sweet blossoms, and of many colors, and will pin on her ample bosom the emblematic and much coveted heart-shaped violet leaf, meant to represent the violets' unselfish heart. This is a great honor and a great event.
(We've just heard that the fairies' playing field is abuzz with word that the Queen is now awake!)
All through the proceedings the mood will be intimate, contrite, and those in attendance will be filled with pure thoughts and melancholy. The fairies will put on serious faces and meditate on the violet's virtues, and what these little flowers really mean to all living things. Then, as a mist of sweet violet essence wraps their individual spaces in violet-colored clouds, everyone will be imbued with comforting and friendly magical powers, followed by feelings of unusual happiness brought upon by troops of butterflies, birds and bees flying high above the fairy crowd in radiant circles' formation.
The Queen Fairy is enthroned on the tulip and the first part of the ceremonies has taken place.
Gold-scripted traditions instruct the Violet Fairy to eagerly remind everyone of the importance of true violet actions: to give violets to those with whom you wish to be friends; to make use of violets as healer plants which must be given to those recovering from a broken heart, and most importantly, to plant little violet gardens in the spirit of remembrance, so that we can keep in our hearts the memories of those loved ones who have now passed on. And because violets are granters of good wishes and notorious fate-turners, to make sure we pick the first violet seen blooming in the early spring, so that special wish will come true, especially when saying:
Luck to me, luck I see,
Here is the wish I wish to be!
(A tip given to us by the Fairy Sophia)
Next, the Violet Fairy will exhort all those around her to embark on the most important task of all, which is to enter, armed with violets, the dream world of the deserving ones. She will remind her audience of how, a long time ago, she helped the cause of little Gerda, the pure-hearted heroine who with great faith took on a long, difficult journey to rescue her friend from the treacherous Snow Queen:
Gerda jumped for joy, and played till the sun set behind the tall cherry-tree; she then had a pretty bed, with a red silken coverlet filled with blue violets. She fell asleep, and had as pleasant dreams as ever a queen on her wedding-day.
Hans Christian Andersen, From The Snow Queen
For it is well and widely known that violets, in the hands of fairies, whether in thought or in flower, have never failed to assure the lucky mortals of restful sleep, sweet memories and the fulfillment of their dreams.
Finally, and because it's during the Sacred Violet Festival that the Queen Fairy embodies the concept of Eve, or the Goddess, or "She, who's the giver of life," the ritual of rejuvenation and blessings unfolds. The Queen sits among the newly arrived violets, willing to enjoy precious moments of peace and tranquility. Mother Nature beckons the Queen Fairy, and the tender violets beckon all living things to give the nourishment that will guide them all toward true purpose and destiny. This is the magical, unique moment when the Fairies' garden becomes sacred all over again.
After the ceremonies, the Queen Fairy, the Violet Fairy and all other guest Flower Fairies join their friends and gather for the great Fairy banquet. Upon a board, a scrumptious fare of
water-cress salad, butter in buttercups, sippets of pollen dipped in dew, wine in blue bottles, and cakes of violets dried with care, among many other delicacies, is ready to be eaten and finished with wild strawberries in cordial wet of elder-juice,
so tells us a poet who witnessed a similar event and returned in one piece to share it with us. Several master chefs placed all over the place work diligently around a big cauldron filled with butter and honey; in it, they dip violet blossoms that come out crunchy and as light as feathers, and are given away to more than impatient and hungry fairies forming long queues to taste this delightful morsel. The guest fairies sit around the table and place their tiny plates on tender violet leaves. Cascades of sweet violet wine fill their tiny crystal cups. Song, dance and much merriment continue under the moon, well into the night, and all through the hours propitious for pranks and magical rituals.
At dawn, a cool air touches upon the revelers. The Queen Fairy is ready to leave for she's eager to put to good use the Violet Fairy's special present to her: a dream pillow filled with herbs and violets. And she's most anxious for sweet dreams. Air-borne, she reaches the end of the garden from where she commits her farewells, lifting her luminous wand to offer one more blessing, truly and kindly meant to inspire us all until next spring:
Our Garden of violets is a paradise
Where the purity of Eve is re-born
Passion and love are restored within me
Let us create a new world with balance and equality.
Let us be free.
(Kindly transmitted by Ishalerner, a fairy)
About the Author Norma Beredjiklian is a freelance writer, violet specialist/consultant residing in Herndon, Virginia. Her home has a garden that includes a forest of 10 old oaks and many fairies in residence. Norma is also the Editor of The Violet Gazette, published by The American Violet Society. She welcomes comments at violetgarden(at)aol.com.
© 2001 Norma Beredjiklian