Symbols - What does heaven look like

Wisteria

Wisteria is a woody vine which is part of the plant family Fabaceae (pea family), it is native to Japan.   

Wisteria takes its symbolism from its colour, its perfume which can be very heady, and its long strands of flowers which look like raindrops falling from above.

Thus at its simplest level, wisteria represents spiritual input - heavenly input such as wisdom or inspiration, in the same way that rain and perfume are also symbolic of spiritual input.  The colour purple and blue helping to reinforce the heavenly nature of the input received.

But the spiritual input most often deemed to be being received is divine love, in effect, Wisteria is the symbol for Divine Love.

There is some shared symbolism with the weeping willow as a symbol of sadness, loneliness and to a certain extent isolation, but this is the sadness of one who has been cut off from the spiritual world and forced to live in the mundane.  It represents the longing of the mystic and spiritual traveller for ‘paradise lost’.

The drooping blooms are symbolic of this form of sorrow in many cultures. However, it is also an incredibly durable vine, able to live (even flourish) through mistreatment and harsh conditions, as such there is implied positive symbolism that the person is able to weather the sadness caused by separation from the divine.

Floral records indicate wisteria has been known to live up to 100 years and even older (there is a 1200 year old wisteria tree in Japan) thus its long-life bestows the symbolic meaning of immortality. 

Thus we can add that the Wisteria may symbolise Divine love being sent by the gods – the immortals – and in cases where it applies to a person, it can represent a particularly auspicious mystic, seer or wise one sent to earth as an act of Divine Love.

Wisteria around the world


Japan - Wisteria is used extensively as a symbol in Japanese art, poetry and culture. It is the subject of poetry in the anthology of Man’yoshu.  Wisteria is also used as a pattern in kimono prints and illustrated in Eiga Monogatari and Genji Monogatari. A number of Japanese family crests (kamon) incorporate the symbol. 

Wisteria is also extensively planted in Japan and the viewing of wisteria in blossom developed into its own special hanami (flower viewing ceremony), especially after wisteria had become a symbol of the ruling Fujiwara clan in Heian era (794–1192 AD).

One of the most famous Kabuki dances is centred around wisteria blossoms. The 1820s kabuki drama Fuji Musume (Wisteria Maiden) is itself symbolic. The Wisteria Maiden [immortal soul/Higher spirit] is depicted in a painting holding a wisteria branch, until one day she becomes smitten with a young man [the soul] and steps out of the painting in an effort to capture his attention – the desire for spiritual union.

In Buddhism, the Jodo Shinshu Shin Buddist sect’s symbol has two conjoined wisteria racemes.  The growth of Wisteria forms a spiral pattern and the spiral is itself symbolic, in this case a spiralling unfolding of the consciousness reaching out to the divine.

In Europe  - families mark the ages of generations passing with the growth of this vine, “as fathers and grandfathers tell their sons of stolen kisses beneath the same wisteria that grew during the day of their great grandfathers”.

Feng Shui -  Practitioners of Feng Shui are encouraged to plant wisteria in quadrants where a person is able to sit and enjoy quiet moments of contemplation.  The very shape of the blossom seems to indicate prayer and thoughtful humility. The branches and blossoms seem to lower their head in gentle supplication. And remind us of the need to make time for peace, quiet, and the honouring of the divine.

Wisteria reminds us that the journey into our conscious evolution is vital to our own blossoming. However left unchecked, or practiced without foundational discipline, it may cause unsavoury results”.

Observations

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