Columbines


“I am that flower, — That mint, — That columbine.”

William Shakespeare — Loves Labour Lost Act V, Scene 2

The ‘columbine’ holds significance- in pantomime, a ‘columbine’ refers to the sweetheart of Harlequin. The term ‘columbine’ is derived from its Latin source – ‘columba’ which means ‘ a dove’. In fact, closely related to the religious connotation of the flower ‘columbine’, the term ‘columbarium’ (derived from it) signifies a ‘dovecot’ or a ‘niche for a sepulchral urn’.

Columbine is the symbol of foolishness, based on the flower’s resemblance to a jester’s cap and bells. It was considered bad luck to give this flower to a woman. Fallen spurs of the columbine looked like the Virgin Mary’s Shoes and received that name. They were said to have sprung up where Mary’s feet touched the earth when she was on her way to visit Elizabeth. The spurred flowers resembled the tiny doves and came to represent the Holy Spirit. The flower also symbolized the innocence of Mary. The petals of the Columbine symbolize the gifts of the Spirit.

Skirting the rocks at the forest edge
With a running flame from ledge to ledge,
Or swaying deeper in shadowy glooms,
A smoldering fire in her dusky blooms;
Bronzed and molded by wind and sun,
Maddening, gladdening every one
With a gypsy beauty full and fine,—
A health to the crimson columbine!

Elaine Goodale, Columbine.