‘The Snow-drop, Winter’s timid child
Awakes to life, bedew’d with tears’
Mary Robinson (1758-1800)
The Snowdrop, Galanthus Nivalis, was probably introduced into Britain in the late middle ages by Christian travellers. It can now be found widely cultivated by gardeners and growing wild in all manner of locations, including shady areas of woodland and on riverbanks throughout the UK.
Its small flowers appear, as the days lengthen, heralding that spring is on its way. After Eve was expelled from the Garden of Eden the snowdrop became a symbol, to her, that hope can endure even the darkest night; it remains steeped in story and myth.
Long used as a folk remedy, for pain and neurological conditions, it is also a likely candidate for the herb ‘Moly’, given to Odysseus by Hermes in Homer’s Odyssey to counter the enchantress Circe’s potion. Such notions found a more scientific basis when, in the latter part of the 20th century, galanthamine was extracted from the humble Snowdrop and was used to inhibit the neurotransmitter acetylcholinesterase to treat poliomyelitis. More recently it has been used to help treat the symtoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.
This small, solitary, milk-white flower reminds us that hope can be found in the unlikeliest of times and places. In this show, Laura M R Harrison reflects on this quiet hope and urges us to find solace in the small things.
A message could be modified by the manner in which it was presented. If the flower was placed backward or upside down, the opposite meaning was intended. A question or proposal was answered affirmatively by touching the flower to the lips, signifying yes, but stripping off a petal and dropping it meant no.