language may be talked with these;
To work out choicest sentences
No blossoms can be meeter;
And, such being used in Eastern bowers,
Young maids may wonder if the flowers
Or meanings be the sweeter.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This is one of my favorite books! The first one third of
the book is a well referenced, comprehensive history of
tussie-mussies or 'talking bouquets' or 'word poesies'
going back to the ancients and their origins in myth and
everyday life and death. The language of flowers spans
the ancient world from Greece, Egypt, and Turkey to the
Aztecs of South and Central America. Celtic lore is
rampant with the symbolism of herbs and rituals. Flower
languages evolved from pagan symbolism and rituals to
Christian symbols. Today we are fortunate, having an
understanding of both and the ability to trace their
origins through time.
European references to the language of flowers and herbs
go back to the fourteen and fifteen hundreds of England,
France and Germany. Shakespeare carried the language of
flowers to a fine science in his writings and
presentations of his work had much meaning to those who
understood and thrived on herbal symbolism of the day.
But, it wasn't until Queen Victoria's time that the
language of flowers reached its prime. Every noble and
wealthy young lady of the time learned the symbolism of
flowers and how to make tussie-mussies and nosegays for
all occasions. Gentleman communicated feelings for a
lady by sending private and intimate messages by means
of a special bouquet. The young lady might spend hours
researching the identification of the flower or herb and
then the meaning of the message. Her suitor might not
know that his expressions of love were reciprocal until
he saw her wearing the tussie over her heart.
During Victoria's time the study of botany and the
discovery of new plants from all over the world brought
new and exciting ideas to the game of flower language.
It was a diversion and a game but tussie-mussies had
real use too. Any proper person would carry a sweet
smelling bouquet to ward off the stench coming from the
streets, unwashed bodies, sickness, and decay after
death. The favored bouquet was one of sweet smelling
violets and they were so popular that street vendors
sold them everywhere. Some felt that certain
combinations of scents would ward off illness and even
the deadly plague.
Although the word 'tuzzy mussy' is defined in the Oxford
English Dictionary as "a bunch or spray of flowers,
a nosegay, a garland of flowers," the root word
thus suggests a relationship to tussock, while mussie, a
rhyme on tussie, refers to the damp moss pressed around
the stems to keep them fresh.
Most modern books of this nature are simply plagiarisms
of the Flora's Dictionary by Mrs. Elizabeth Gambel Wirt
(1829) and I have many of them in my reference library.
Geraldine Laufer did much of her research funded by a
generous grant from the Herb Society of America, which
lends credibility to this work.
The author revives the idea of herbal symbology in a
modern way showing you how to make a tussie-mussie using
modern florist supplies and with herbs and flowers
readily available at florist supply and florists in most
locations or fresh from your garden. The book is
beautifully illustrated and organized with photos and
herbal poetry expressing everything from Holidays and
Festive Occasions, Good Health and Recovery, Friendship
and Romance, Celebrating Special People, to New
Beginnings and Congratulations.
The back of the book has an alphabetical listing of the
flowers with their symbolisms and then a reverse listing
with the sentiments with their symbolic flower. I highly
recommend this book. All you need is the desire; this
book leads you to a new way of expression using the
language of flowers. Your friends and those you care
about will be overwhelmed with the personal and intimate
touch you place on your gift giving when you make your
own tussie-mussies and give them from the heart.