When the first Snowdrops appear you know Winter is beginning to end.
Traditional Herbal; The snowdrop has no remedial Herbal tradition – it was not known as a herbal remedy traditionally and it was unknown in the middle ages of middle and west Europe – because of this we don’t have a tradition to use the snowdrop for medical purposes – we just have a truly beautiful flower.
Appearance; The snowdrop grows from a small bulb that sits near the surface of the ground. As soon as the frosty weather disappears and it gets warmer, narrow leaves are looking through the soil. The buds have their own leaves to protect them from cold temperatures. The young sprouts of the snowdrop can produce a little heat to melt the snow in their surroundings. Only few days after the bulbs show up, the Snowdrop starts to blossom. The seeds ripen after the end of the flowering. Ants like to carry the seeds around and thus spread the snowdrop. I seem to always imagine snowdrops being shared between relatives in newspapers.
Modern Herbal; Although there is no ‘traditional herbal’ for Snowdrops there does seem to be some evidence that it may help in the treatment of Dementia.
Folk History; Snowdrops have aquired many folk names over the last few centuries, some reflecting their appearance, some the superstitions associated with them, some their unusual winter flowering habit and some their identity with the spiritual calendar including Candlemas Bells, Christ’s Flower, Death’s Flower, Dew-drops, Dingle-Dangle, Drooping heads. Drooping Lily, Fair Maids of February, French Snowdrop, Mary’s Taper, Naked Maiden, Purification Flower, Snow-bells, Snow-flower , Snow-piercer, White-bells, White-cups, White Ladies, White Purification and White Queen. They are often represented as shy flowers, who are afraid to raise their heads. The real reason is that their dusty pollen must be kept dry and sweet in order to attract the few insects flying in winter. And so – they droop!
Imbolc February 2nd: (Also commonly known as St Brigid’s Day) is the ancient celtic festival of ‘Imbolc’ celebrating the beginning of Spring. The name comes from an even older word ‘oimelc’ meaning the milk of the ewe, therefore associated with the pure colour white. It is a day for physical and spiritual spring cleansing. Later the date was dedicated to St Bride (Brigid, Brighid, Bridget) and four sided crosses known as ‘Brigid’s Crosses were plaited from rushes and kept in the house, crafted it is said, after one made by St Bride herself. The snowdrop is a perfect plant for Imbolc – pure, white and humble and the first gift of Spring.