Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Friday, June 30, 2006

Flowers & Mummies

Archaeologists find a 3000-year-old flower garland in the Valley of the Kings.


Egyptologist Nadia Lokma points with light inside the sarcophagus.

Photo: Khaled Desouki, for AFP

Flowers are ephemeral, right?

We tended to think so, until this week’s discovery in Egypt. Archaeologists and the press had gathered for the opening of the last sarcophagus in chamber KV63, adjacent to King Tut’s tomb. All were spellbound as Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, opened the coffin. Expecting to find the mummy of Tut’s mother, they were greeted instead with a garland of flowers, 3000 years old.

“A tangle of fabric and rusty-colored dehydrated flowers woven together in laurels that looked likely to crumble to dust if touched,” writes AP’s Alfred de Montesquiou. (We’re glad the hard-working ancient florist is spared this unflattering description.)

Since the chamber was discovered last year and more recently excavated, several archaeologists have suggested that it was a kind of underground funeral home, where royal bodies were embalmed, decorated, and otherwise prepared for formal burial. In addition to the flower garland, pottery and embalming materials—but no mummies—have been found in KV63.

Though perhaps Mr. Hawass was chagrined not to have encountered Mother Tut,  Nadia Lokma, curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, appeared elated. She vouched that the living and the dead of ancient Egypt wore about their shoulders such garlands of flowers, woven with strips of gold. Familiar with drawings of these ornaments, Lokma said, “we’ve never seen this before in real life - it’s magnificent.”

We’re puzzled. For thanks to the equally magnificent Project Gutenberg, which is making fine books freely available online, we found this photograph of a 3000-year-old Egyptian floral collar in Arthur E.B.P. Weigall’s 1912 work, The Treasury of Ancient Egypt. And according to the credit line, this very piece belongs to the Cairo Museum. Perhaps it’s significantly different from the newly discovered garland. We’ll try to contact Prof. Lokma and learn more.


Garland of leaves and flowers (c. 1000 B.C.)

“placed upon the neck of a mummy”—A. Weigall

in the Cairo Museum collection

Photo: Project Gutenberg

If you’d thought the Egyptians were rather stodgy—always standing around in profile—take a look at Weigall’s book. He has quite a lot to say about the ancient Egyptians’ joie de vivre, with special attention to their love of flowers:

“An intense craving for brightness and cheerfulness is to be observed on all sides, and the attempt to cover every action of life with a kind of lustre is perhaps the most apparent characteristic of the race. At all times the Egyptians decked themselves with flowers, and rich and poor alike breathed what they called “the sweet north wind” through a screen of blossoms. At their feasts and festivals each guest was presented with necklaces and crowns of lotus-flowers, and a specially selected bouquet was carried in the hands. Constantly, as the hours passed, fresh flowers were brought to them, and the guests are shown in the tomb paintings in the act of burying their noses in the delicate petals with an air of luxury which even the conventionalities of the draughtsman cannot hide.

“In the women’s hair a flower was pinned which hung down before the forehead; and a cake of ointment, concocted of some sweet-smelling unguent, was so arranged upon the head that, as it slowly melted, it re-perfumed the flower. Complete wreaths of flowers were sometimes worn, and this was the custom as much in the dress of the home as in that of the feast. The common people also arrayed themselves with wreaths of lotuses at all galas and carnivals. The room in which a feast was held was decorated lavishly with flowers. Blossoms crept up the delicate pillars to the roof; garlands twined themselves around the tables and about the jars of wine; and single buds lay in every dish of food. Even the dead were decked in their tombs with a mass of flowers, as though the mourners would hide with the living delights of the earth the misery of the grave.”

With “intense craving for brightness and cheerfulness,” we remember Stan Humphreys (1954-2006).


Posted by Julie on 06/30 at 09:16 AM
Culture & SocietyReligious RitualsSciencePermalink

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

‘Daisy Girl’—The First Attack Ad

Lyndon Johnson’s nuclear daisy game may have clinched the presidency.

imageLBJ’s “Daisy Girl”

aired September 1964

Probably the first political attack ad was painted on a cave wall somewhere in France. But the one we first remember was aired on U.S. television September 7, 1964.

“One, two, free, four…” A tiny girl pulls petals off a daisy. Birds chirp in the distance. Then her count up is muffled by a bellowing countdown. The camera closes in on her dark, innocent eye, where a nuclear bomb blast swells.

Johnson’s voice runs over the image of a mushroom cloud. These are the stakes! To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.

Follow this link to watch it yourself.

People were appalled by the ad, which never aired again. But it drove home the idea that Johnson’s Republican opponent for the presidency, Barry Goldwater, was trigger happy, and in an age of hideous weaponry could bring world holocaust. In our view, the use of the simple daisy game is what makes this such powerful propaganda. A childhood custom so simple it seems born of Nature is blown apart by technologies of hate. 

Daisies have been associated with women and children for many centuries. By the “logic” of the ad, a vote for LBJ was an act of sanity first, but also of chivalry. “I think LBJ would have won without it. It probably didn’t win or lose him any states,” says Sean Wilentz, “but it was a real moment in advertising history.”

Here are a number of commentaries about both the original ad and a new version, created by MoveOn in 2003 to oppose George W.  Bush’s reelection.  This article suggests that the TV attack ad has had its day (and certainly the failed MoveOn experiment suggests that’s so).

If you’d like to watch a bunch more political ads and snippets, including Bush Senior’s appallingly effective “Willie Horton” commercial, have at it.


Posted by Julie on 06/28 at 12:48 PM
Art & MediaPoliticsPermalink

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

She Stoops to Five Dozen, to Conquer

Sandra Bulloch tried floral deception and, unfortunately, it worked.


Sandra Bullock, overwrought in earlier days

Photo: Sandra Bullock Photo Gallery

“I have no problem talking about a very shallow, needy time in my life,” says movie star Sandra Bullock.

And since the last brunette in film is willing to tell on herself, we can pass the word. Bullock admits to having sent herself five dozen long stemmed roses, with cards too, to get a man’s attention.

“I knew he was coming by to drop off some keys,” Bullock explained, so she had the bouquets on view. “He left and I got a call from him right away! That’s what depressed me - it worked!”

Bullock goes on to say “We ended up dating for a very long time,” so we’re thinking she’s referring to a local Austin Guitarzan, but who knows? A year ago she married somebody else, and had a Wyoming florist decorate with wildflowers. You’ve come a long way, Sandy.

We suspect that Bullock didn’t invent this trick of seduction. So now, Needy, I mean, Gentle Readers, please tell us about your floral lies. What do think of this come on? It strikes us wiser than most—maybe better if it doesn’t work. All those flowers are hors d’oeuvres for a hungry heart.

Posted by Julie on 06/27 at 11:00 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyPermalink

Monday, June 26, 2006

Midsommar in Wisconsin

Swedish heritage comes full circle with a Midsummer wreath.


Ingrid’s birthday crown, June 2006

Photo: courtesy of Moonfoolish

We’re not certain whether our friend Moonfoolish is Swedish, but if she’s not, she sure does act the part.

Her family celebrated Midsummer over the weekend as is traditional in much of Scandinavia. Close to the solstice, it’s observed “the eve of the Saturday between June 20- 26.” In more southerly parts of Europe, May Day is the big floral holiday, but this far north, “spring” flowers don’t come into full bloom until late June. Last year, we wrote about the glorious majstang (May pole), but with inspiration from Moonfoolish we concentrate this year on the MidsommÃ¥r wreath.

The Old World custom seems to reserve the making and wearing of wreaths for youngsters. The “girl who goes out in the meadow and, under unbroken silence, picks seven different kinds of flowers and tucks them under her pillow, will dream of the man she will marry.”


Midsummer, celebrated near Janesville, Wisconsin, June 24, 2006

Photo: courtesy of Moonfoolish

Moonfoolish and her family took tradition into their own hands, and made a gorgeous floral crown to honor sister Ingrid on her 60th birthday. Our friend writes, “We had a wonderful day.  We went on a garden tour in Janesville in the afternoon, came home to a dinner of Swedish meatballs and all the fixings and plenty of birthday cake.  Then we decorated the ‘Majstang’ and celebrated Midsummer in a very satisfying way.”

Check this site, for more on the Swedish settlement of Wisconsin.  Attracted by the Wisconsin topsoil, “the first Swedish colony was established by Gustav Unonius in New Upsala,” 1841. Several bad harvests in a row convinced a wave of Swedish farmers to emigrate in the 1850s.

Thank you so much, M., for sharing with us how your family is living out these floral customs. Ingrid, here’s hoping that wreath conjured delicious dreams. Happy birthday to you.



Posted by Julie on 06/26 at 11:22 AM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink
Page 1 of 7 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›