Origin & History
The name "sunflower" originates from the Greek helios meaning "sun" and anthos meaning "flower," since these flowers always turn towards the sun. Sunflowers actually come from Central and South America, not Greece, and were grown for more for their usefulness than their beauty. In 1532 Francisco Pizarro fought his way into Peru, where he found a giant sunflower being worshipped as a sacred image of a sun-god by the natives of the Inca empire.
Sentiment & Symbolism
Legend tells that the Greek sun-god Helios was drowned by his uncles, the Titans, and then raised to the sky, where he became the sun. He was beloved by a mortal named Clytie, who died of her love for him. Clytie was "rooted" in her grief, and thus followed Helios' daily journey through the sky.
The sunflower's turning as it follows the sun symbolizes deep loyalty and constancy. It is said that if a girl puts three sunflower seeds down her back, she will marry the first boy she meets. The Chinese hold the sunflower as a symbol of longevity. Incan priestesses wore large sunflower disks made of gold on their garments. In the Andes mountains, images of sunflowers were hammered into gold and placed in temples. Sunflower seeds were a sacred food to the Plains Indians in the prairie regions of North America. They placed bowls filled with sunflower seeds on the graves of their dead to nourish them on the long journey to the "Happy Hunting Grounds."
A sunflower's meaning differs from culture to culture. To some, the sunflower promises power, warmth, and nourishment — all the attributes of the sun itself. Others, however, maintain that the sunflower's regal appearance denotes haughtiness and false appearances, or unhappy love. A gift of a Dwarf Sunflower signifies "a devout admirer."
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