Part of the buttercup family in the Ranunculaceae genus, anemones are popular for both cut flowers and as container plants.
They have a fragile, understated beauty, which has a lot of meaning attached to them. Some can even contradict each other, depending on the cultural context.
What does ‘Anemone’ Mean?
‘Anemone’ comes from Greek, which translates as ‘daughter of the wind’. In the Roman poet Ovid’s famous poem, the Metamorphoses, which includes over 250 myths of how the world came to be and what’s happened since, featured the anemone’s creation.
The goddess Aphrodite found her lover Adonis dead. As an eternal sign of her grief, she sprinkled nectar over his blood, and from the earth anemones formed, and “the winds deflower it”, as a symbol of his death, which is where the term windflower comes from.
What does an Anemone Flower Represent?
There are a myriad of meanings behind the anemone, not just from Ovid’s tale, which has lasted since Roman times, but throughout other cultures and history as well.
It usually symbolizes protection and warding, to ward off evil and ill fortune, but it can equally embody remembrance, or a lost love.
Like many flowers, the anemone’s petals close when the sun goes in, when the rain is coming, and also when the winds arrive, so to some people, the anemone is not a signal of good fortune or protection, but rather a symbol of bad luck or misfortune.
The symbolism behind the anemone also depends on the color, as it can shape the meaning into something entirely different.
What does a Red Anemone Mean?
Red anemones are symbolic of Adonis’s death, of a severed bond, a love that did not fail because it fizzled out, but because it was brought to an abrupt ending.
What does a White Anemone Signify?
Often, white anemones are used for funerals, so they’re associated with death, remembrance, and bad luck.
What does a Blue Anemone Mean?
Blue anemones represent protection from evil and ill will, although, to some people, they can mean the opposite.
What’s the Cultural Significance Behind an Anemone?
In both China and Egypt, the anemone flower is considered a symbol of coming illness. In Europe, they were believed to ward off disease if the cut flower was carried with them – usually worn on clothing.
They also symbolize a warning which is ignored. Adonis, the god of vegetation who was born from Myrrha, who was turned into a Myrrh tree, goes against Aphrodite’s cryptic warning to avoid wild animals which wouldn’t think twice about attacking him.
In Ovid’s poem, a wild boar kills him, and the flower that springs from his blood, the anemone, is a symbol of their lost love, and ill luck.
In the Victorian language of flowers, they carry a similar meaning of forsaken love. Not really a flower you’d give your lover then!
What does an Anemone Tattoo Mean?
Anemone tattoos represent a similar contradicting mixture of meanings, and it all depends on the cultural lens you’re looking through.
For example, for some, the anemone signifies protection – it’s believed to ward off evil, the nasty intentions of others, and to prevent disease.
In other cultures, you won’t find many people with an anemone tattoo as it’s believed to bring bad luck, as well as representing death and funerals.
It’s often confused with the poppy, as it has a similar appearance of very delicate petals circling a large ‘eye’ in the center.
The poppy is used throughout the world to represent fallen soldiers, and slowly, the anemone can be seen to adopt this meaning through association.
When Should You Give Someone Anemones?
Well, a safe bet is mixing an anemone with other flowers that reinforce the meaning you want to give, so that there’s no room for misunderstanding. You don’t want to accidentally offend someone, especially when you want to do the opposite!
For example, some people believe that anemones ward off disease and bad luck, while others believe these flowers are bad luck, and invite death.
If you were to give these flowers to someone who was ill, they’d either be very well-received or not at all, depending on how superstitious the other person is.
Mixing anemones with, for example, sunflowers or other vibrant blooms will give a cheery get well message, whilst on their own, anemones can be misinterpreted.
Anemones are appropriate flowers to give at funerals, due to the Greek myth and the associated meaning of a sudden end.
Anemones do symbolize change, and enjoying what you have while you have it, as these beautiful flowers are short-lived, with the petals being swept away at the first sign of wind.
Anemones are appropriate flowers for any occasion which will change someone’s life, maybe a big milestone like getting married or starting a family.