Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, October 03, 2005

Immortelles, Not Quite

Does this Mediterranean flower combat the effects of age?


(helichrysum angustifolium)

The blooms of helichrysum angustifolium are rather humble-looking, not exactly our first guess as the source of eternal youth and beauty. Yet one online paper from the Philippines claims just that: as these simple yellow flowers “retain their form and color  even after they have been picked,” an extract made from the blooms, some say, can help a lady look young and fresh after she, too, has been “picked,” as it were.

Ever the global beauty experts, the French call these flowers “immortelles,” which caused us a mite of confusion, as xeranthemum annuum, also go by that name. We’re pretty convinced, though that the lumpy looking yellow flowers helichrysum are the ticket.  One herbal beauty site claims that the plant is “anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent” and what’s more “it promotes new cell growth and also has good antioxidant qualities.” Does it by any chance vacuum dog hair out of the car?

Except, of course, for the companies that sell the extract, we couldn’t find too many testimonials. One customer admitted, quite delightfully, “As for anti-aging I’m not very sure how well it works, as I don’t have problems of wrinkles or fine lines.” Kiss my crow’s feet!

A reasonable-sounding writer submits that, though the species also goes by the name “curry plant,” “it is not used in curry. I believe that it is widely cultivated in the U.K., and is used there mostly in salads, or mixed with cream-cheese.” Secret of eternal youth, mixed with cream-cheese: same difference. This source volunteers that helichrysum when crushed underfoot smells like honey, and was “used by ancient Romans to repel moths.” Perhaps that’s where the anti-aging claims originated.


Immortelles (at left), next to Gray Santolina

Photo: Barn Owl Nursery

Excuse the sarcasm (we are reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and feel a bit skeptical of stopping time). We welcome skeptics and believers both to let us know how immortelles have changed—or maintained—you. Meanwhile, we commend Barn Owl Nursery for putting helichrysum angustifolium to beautiful use not around the eyes but in a raised bed.

Posted by Julie on 10/03 at 10:42 AM
CookingCulture & SocietyMedicinePermalink

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Flowers to Cleanse—Bali

Bombs exploded last evening in Bali, killing at least 25 people; already, family members have arrived with flower petals, to purify the scene.


An offering, Ubud, Bali

Photo: Cary Miller

For the second time, suicide bombers have attacked the island of Bali. Last evening’s attacks killed diners in several restaurants, at the resort in Jimbaran Bay and in the city of Kuta, where terrorists murdered more than 250 people three years ago, on October 12, 2002.

The Daily Telegraph’s report of last night’s killings conveys that the bereaved have already begun rites to purify the deadly scenes. “The aunt of local waitress Wayan Ani, 30, who was killed while working at the Kalang Anyar restaurant, held a small cleansing ‘Mulapin’ ceremony for her niece’s spirit, laying small flower offerings inside the restaurant.”

imageWreaths left in Kuta, Oct. 2002

Photo: Klub Kokos

After the attacks in 2002, thousands of Balinese performed ceremonial rites, as well as leaving floral memorials at the scene of destruction.  According to Balinese Hindu belief, the actual place of bloodshed must be restored with blessings. Petitions come in the form of offerings:  prayer, fruit, holy water, and flower petals. One source calls these rituals to purify the stained earth “Pemerayasita Durmanggala.”

A website operated by a Balinese tourist business contains helpful commentary for non-Indonesian readers. From the December 2002 newsletter—“The whole concept of a global terrorist movement was far beyond the understanding of the average people here. Why was this done? What had the Balinese done wrong to deserve this? How could this have happened?

“The Balinese generally blamed themselves that such a thing could happen. Being such a spiritually oriented people, they searched for answers from the religious leaders and scriptures. Within days of the bombing special ceremonies were performed at the bomb site to try to exorcise the evil that had invaded the area, while on November 15th a huge cleansing ceremony was held in Kuta, combined with an island-wide ceremony.” The BBC reported with these photos.

imageWomen prepare for purification rite

Kuta, Bali, Sept. 2003

Photo: Tamara Dean, for The Age

In the fall of 2003, another cleansing rite took place in Kuta, as priests asked for sacred permission to rebuild at the bomb site.  (Controversy in New York over the Freedom Center proposed for Ground Zero proves these concerns cross cultural boundaries.)

We have learned that offerings of flower petals and leaves, usually in simple baskets, are part of everyday life in Bali, too. Photographer Cary Miller of Sacramento, a traveler to Bali, writes, “Women make these by hand daily, and set them in personally significant places such as the kitchen, the storefront or even the dashboard of the family car.” Miller found the offering pictured above “in the middle of an alleyway, next to a wood sculptor’s shop in Ubud….a small tray made of banana leaves, containing rice, flowers and incense.”

Here are excerpts from the 2002 purification ceremony, a Balinese ritual that, sadly, is in order once again…


Continue Reading

Posted by Julie on 10/02 at 09:34 AM
Culture & SocietyReligious RitualsPermalink

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Oktoberfest—Get Your Tracht On

Munich’s grand harvest festival and folk-costume party brings out the flowers.


Girls in Bavarian “Tracht”

Munich’s Oktoberfest Parade, Sept. 18, 2005

When is a woman a vase? At Munich’s grand event, Oktoberfest, the biggest festival in the world, now winding down as October begins.

This year’s hullabaloo will attract about 6 million visitors. The first festival was considerably smaller. It took place in 1810, to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. All Bavaria was invited to the party in a big field just outside Munich, a spot dubbed Theresienwiese (Theresa’s fields) in honor of the new Princess.

While swallowing 5 million litres of beer is the major business of the 16-day festival, the array of German folk costumes (trachten) is eye-beverage, beautiful, more interesting, and just as refreshing. The big parade of Wies’n, as Oktoberfest is known locally, took place September 18, but the wearing of local costumes decorates the whole event, a harkening back to 19th century Germany, when both work and domestic life were more agrarian and regional customs strong.

imageIn the trachten parade, Munich 2005

Photo: Oktoberfest

There are bejeweled headdresses, fez-like accessories, and of course—for men—short pants and little suede hats with feathers. But the prevailing tracht (or costume) for women is the traditional clothing of Miesbach.

“For ladies, Festtracht (festival costume) consists of a black Trachtenmieder worn over a white blouse; full, green pleated skirt; and matching white satin brocade shawl and apron.  Flowers, usually carnations, are tucked into the Mieder, which is laced in the front with a silver coloured chain, this chain is looped and pinned to the top of the Mieder.

“A white slip, pettipants, and stockings are worn under the skirt and the ensemble is completed by a green velour hat with white feather and the lady’s necklace.  Black dancing shoes, of course, are worn; we have chosen a style similar to mary-janes.”

Contemporary tracht, as we know, is bombastic, featuring surgical enhancement and plunging necklines; the Miesbach ladies drew attention to their breasts a bit more subtly, with an uplifting black bodice and red flowers at the cleavage. Fraulein as vase.


Photo: Gtev-Trauntal

A look through these picture galleries of Oktoberfest shows flowers in abundance, adorning horsedrawn wagons, in men’s caps, and, of course, garlanding gigantic kegs. But for us, the floral trachten carry the day.

For awhile, Mary Janes on the feet and flowers at the bustline may catapult everyone over a Reich or two or three, back two hundred years. And if trachten can’t make you forget that sorry chapter of human history—20th Century Deutschland—how about 5 million litres of beer?

Posted by Julie on 10/01 at 09:38 AM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsTravelPermalink
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