In the religion and mythology of every ancient nation, the garden, fragrant with the varied sights and smells of beautiful flowers, is portrayed as the natural habitat of gods. Often sacred meaning is endowed upon certain flowers. Prominent among these is the columbine.
The columbine (A. vulgaris) is a plant of the Ranunculaceous genus Aquilegia, with coloured sepals and spurred petals, giving the appearance of a bunch of pigeons. The generic name of Aquilegia is derived from the Latin aquila (an eagle), the spurs of the flowers being considered to resemble an eagle's talons. Formerly the columbine was known as Culverwort, the Saxon word culfre meaning a pigeon. In fact, literally, columbine is derived from the Latin word columba which means like a dove or dove-coloured, though in the secret language of flowers, the columbine often represents folly, from the mythological perspective, its petals symbolize the seven gifts of the spirit. The wild columbine has only five petals. The leaves are dark and bluish green on the upper surface and greyish beneath. The Columbine may be distinguished from all other flowers, by having each of its five petals terminated in an incurved, hornlike spur. The petals are tubular and dilated at the other extremity. Interestingly, the flowers are perfumed like hay.
The flower is referred to in Shakespeares Hamlet and in one of Ben Jonson's poems:
The columbine holds yet another 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. Thus, the natural and beauty of the flower is enriched by the multi-layered significance attached to it.