A diminutive flower, the violet has a whole array of meanings, many to do with color, many to do with its gentle size and appearance. Most meanings are pleasant ones, and the fondness people have for the flower has placed it in the calendar as the flower for the month of February and made violets the state flower of Illinois, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Rhode Island. With a history connected to many myths, it isn't surprising that the violet is the flower of Greece.
Folklore says the violet connotes a love that is delicate. The sensibility of delicacy is also associated with the violet from ancient mythology. Roman and Greek myths recount a tragic story of one of the goddess Diana's (Artemis) nymph companions, all of whom had sworn to stay maidens. The nymph was unrelentingly chased by Diana's twin brother, Apollo, so that Diana changed the nymph into a violet to protect her. The modesty of the nymph is attributed to the violet.
Violets, both the flower and the color inspired by it, have much meaning in Christianity. One important meaning associates the violet with Mary and modesty. Indeed, the religious name of Viola odorata is Our Lady's Modesty. Violets also denote spiritual wisdom, humility and faithfulness. These meanings make violets, along with yellow roses, the flower to give for a 50th wedding anniversary. Religious art uses violets in paintings to denote humility.
Inspired by mythology, Victorian floriography—the language of flowers—assigns to the violet a meaning of retiring modesty. The white violet, in the Victorian mind, means candor; innocence, too. It was much the same during the Renaissance, when the meanings of flowers were not just simple assigned values, but reflected an essence that led to an understanding of the Divine. Under the influence of Classical scholarship and religious symbolism, the violet during the Renaissance also meant modesty.
Function in Dreams and Death
In dreams, violets are positive. For instance, according to folklore, dreaming of violets is a sign that a fortune is coming your way. It is also supposed to mean your future spouse will be your junior. The violet does have a more sobering side, though, in that the flower is associated with death--and resurrection. The symbolism likely springs from antiquity, when a number of myths featured violets in the death of heroes and even an Earth God named Attis. Combining this death symbolism with modesty and maidenhood creates a meaning for violet of death too soon. Shakespeare's tragic Ophelia was linked to violets in "Hamlet."
Color Theory and Violet Meaning
The color violet was named after the purple-blue flower. Purple as a color means royalty and power. Following from that, purple also means confidence. Blue means spirituality and, possibly because of its spiritual association, violet also means intuition. The white found in some violets just increases the violet's association with chastity: White means purity and innocence, among other things.