Signs and symbols

Signs and symbols

Les chutes de La Puce
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/George Heriot Collection/Acquisition 1989-471-04/c012720

Nature is filled with marvels: precious gems that dazzle and sparkle, scented flowers that come in a multitude of shapes, aromatic and medicinal herbs, and magnificent, tall trees that provide protection. These masterpieces have been admired down through time. Over the centuries, they have been assigned magical powers and perceived as symbols.

Under the general theme of Signs and symbols, this series of chronicles gives you an opportunity to enter the universe of nature and learn about the meanings of the marvels it offers us.

What are the virtues and meanings of trees, flowers, herbs and gems? What astrological links bind you to them? You might just take a completely new look at nature!

Click on a title to access an episode or to close the tab.

First episode
What wood do you heat with?
What wood do you heat with?

Un orme sur le chemin Royal
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/1997-91-9/c004060

Traditional astrology is based on the stars. Since the dawn of time, wise men have been studying the heavens and nature, looking for an explanation of life. For some, astrology is of little importance, but for others it fills an essential role in their lives.

For different peoples, nature gives meaning to life. For example, in the case of the Amerindians, an animal emblem corresponds to a birth date. On the other hand, trees lie at the heart of Celtic culture. Twenty-one symbols, represented by trees, form the basis of Celtic astrology. A person born under a particular sign receives the characteristics and the protection of the corresponding tree.

Do you know what tree corresponds to your birthday and what it means?

What wood do you heat with?

Trees Meanings Corresponding dates
Hornbeam Good taste December 2-11, June 4-13
Fig tree Sensitivity December 12-21, June 14-23
Beech Creation December 22
Apple tree Love December 23 to January 1, June 25 to July 4
Fir Mystery January 2-11, July 5-14
Elm Generosity January 12-24, July 15-25
Jack Pine Faithfulness January 25 to February 3, July 26 to August 4
Poplar Uncertainty February 4-8, May 1-14, August 5-13
Cedar Confidence February 9-18, August 14-23
Pine The individual February 19-29, August 24 to September 2
Weeping Willow Melancholy March 1-10, September 3-12
Linden Doubt March 11-20, September 13-22
Oak Bravery March 21
Hazelnut The extraordinary March 22-31, September 24 to October 3
Cornel tree Daintiness April 1-10, October 4-13
Maple Independence of mind April 11-20, October 14-23
Walnut Passion April 21-30, October 24 to November 11
Chestnut Honesty May 15-24, November 12-21
Ash Ambition May 25 to June 3, November 22 to December 1
Birch Inspiration June 24
Olive tree Wisdom September 23

To learn more about the meanings attributed to natural objects, we invite you to come back on June 12, 2007.

Second episode
For the love of roses
For the love of roses

Roses roses
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/Acquisition 1973-25-16/c094581

Of the thousands of flowers that exist on our planet the rose is certainly the most appreciated and best loved. The word “rose” comes from the Greek “rhodon”, based on the name of the Island of Rhodes where this flower grows abundantly. It was on this island that Venus and Apollo lived in love. It is for this reason that the rose is often associated with love and female beauty.

This remarkable flower is admired for its grace, elegance, delicateness, and exquisite perfume. Known as the queen of flowers, the rose has been cultivated since very ancient times. In the East, roses decorated gardens 5000 years before Jesus Christ.

In the fifth century before our time, the Persians cultivated this flower on a large scale to make rose water. King Cyrus II made the rose the symbol of his power.

In the case of the Greeks, the rose was dedicated to Harpocrates, the god of silence. The Latin expression sub rosa (under the rose) is used to evoke something mysterious and secret.

For the Romans, roses were very luxurious products. During banquets, ceilings were covered with roses to provide a pleasing view for those who lay on sofas below. Rose petals were also strewn on floors to make a pretty carpet. From April to May, the rose was at the heart of the floral games held to honor Flora, the goddess of flowers and gardens.

Throughout the Middle Ages, this flower spread through the West. During this period, interest in ornamental flowers was not widespread, with the exception of the rose, which was grown for its beauty and its perfume, as well as for its healing properties.

Today, the rose is the flower that is given most often as a token of love and friendship. Each rose sends a specific message, depending on its color. If you want to give someone roses, learn their language...

Color Meaning
Burgundy red:   love, respect
Orangey red: courage, passion
Yellow: joy, gaiety, freedom, friendship
Pale pink: sweetness, tenderness, gentleness
Dark pink: gratitude, appreciation
Peach: admiration, sympathy
White: purity, innocence, grace, secrecy
Lavender: enchantment, fairy magic, mystery
Orange: fascination, enthusiasm
Black: life, fecundity, evolution, fertility
Orange/red: confidence in yourself, in others
Red/white: unity, tenacity
Blue: millennium rose

To learn more about signs and symbols, we invite you to come back on June 26, 2007.

  • FORTIN, Daniel. Roses et rosiers pour le Québec et l’est du Canada, Saint-Laurent, Éditions du Trécarré, 1991, p. 17-39.
  • Rose Drummond, pour les significations.

Third episode
Fine herbs
Fine herbs

Croquis de végétaux
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/George Back Fonds/Acquisition 1995-102-46/c093027

Aromatic herbs have been decorating gardens for a very long time. They are generally cultivated to enhance dishes, treat ills and even to make cosmetics and perfumes.

The oldest western herbariuim, De Materia medica, was written over two thousand years ago. In that work, the Greek physician Dioscorides describes the medicinal properties of hundreds of plants and flowers and aromatic herbs occupy an important place in this work.

From the time of Antiquity, fine herbs have been grown abundantly in gardens. They were grown for their therapeutic value as well as for decoration. Magical powers were often attributed to herbs. Some even served as talismans.

Most of the herbs that are found in our kitchens today were already known in the Middle Ages. The Benedictine monks, who specialized in gardening, honored the growing of aromatic and medicinal herbs. For their part, the apothecaries studied the therapeutic effects, extracting oils from herbs in order to produce salves and scented pomades.

In New France, herbs were harvested and hung from the rafters in the attic to be stored during the winter. Today, thanks to truck farmers and large distributors, a large variety of fresh herbs can be purchased year round.

As in the case of flowers, aromatic herbs are associated with specific symbols. When you stroll through the garden, take in the pleasant odors or pick up a few strands and taste them. Perhaps you’ll enjoy the beneficial effects...

Mint: Wisdom
Tarragon: Calm and rest
Thyme: Strength, courage and bravery
Sage: Immortality and longevity
Basil: Charm
Parsley: Festivity
Coriander:   Good will
Marjory: Happiness
Rosemary: Memory and remembrance
Chives: Vivacity
Savory: Love
Chervil: Resurrection and rejuvenation
Laurel: Victory and glory
Dill: Protection and vitality

To learn more about the meanings given to natural objects, we invite you to return on July 10, 2007.

Fourth episode
A Stone for Every Month
A Stone for Every Month

Water colour on ivory: Queen Victoria
Source: Library and Archives Canada/Lord Strathcona miniatures collection/Acquisition 1959-1-6/c130582

Sometimes you have to dig to find treasures buried in the ground. Forged in the rock over millennia, magnificent precious and fine stones can be extracted from the soil. There are about one hundred fine or semi-precious stones in the world, while only four are classified as precious: the diamond, sapphire, ruby and emerald.

For a very long time, these stones have caught people’s eyes as a result of their brilliance, their transparency and their rarity. As early as 3,000 years B.C., the Sumerians were interested in such stones and developed goldsmithery.

During the Greek and Roman Antiquity, these stones were associated with religions. Each divinity was associated with a telluric power. The Greeks believed that diamonds were fragments of the sky that had fallen to earth. The more mystical referred to them as “tears of the gods”.

In the Middle Ages, angels and saints were associated with stones. Thus, the sapphire was St. Andrew’s stone and jasper was St. Peter’s stone. The origins of these associations remain obscure. Unlike the symbols attached to colors, animals or numbers, goldsmiths paid little attention to the symbols of stones in their religious works. One exception is the amethyst, which is found on the pastoral rings of bishops and cardinals.

On the fringes of medicine, religion and magic, popular beliefs attributed virtues and powers to both simple minerals and precious stones. For example, certain stones have healing powers. They can be placed on the body of ill people to heal them.

A language and a code developed around stones. Today, these symbols are still in effect. There is a stone for every month. Discover your birthstone and its language and combine beauty and virtue... Maybe you’ll learn something about your personality

Month Stone Meaning
January: Garnet Fidelity and constancy
February: Amethyst Perseverance
March: Aquamarine   Youthfulness of heart
April: Diamond  Strength and patience
May: Emerald Maturity, self-control, inner security and abundance
June: Pearl Gentleness and inner stability
July: Ruby Goodness, liberty, authority and dignity
August: Peridot Wisdom and development of mental abilities
September:   Sapphire Happiness (especially in conjugal relations)
October: Opal Amplifies the feminine nature of a being
November: Topaz Wisdom, clarity and life
December: Turquoise Sense of infinity (holiness, purity of heaven, etc.)

This ends our series of chronicles on Signs and symbols.


Concerning or coming from the earth. For example, a telluric current is an electric current that moves underground.
The Sumerians
The Sumerians were a people who lived in lower Mesopotamia 4000 years before Jesus Christ. They created the first city-states and developed the first religious and statuary architecture. They also invented writing.
Pedanius Dioscorides was a Greek physician, born in about 40 BCE, in Anazarbe, in what is now Turkey. His work, entitled De Materia medica, is the principal source of knowledge about medicinal plants used in Antiquity. It was still in use in the 16th century. He died in about 90 BCE.
Cyrus II
King Cyrus II ruled Persia between 556 and 530 BCE. He established his throne in the famous city of Babylon from which he extended his rule over all of western Asia.