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Iris spp./ Iris florentina

Orris root powder derives from the much loved ornamental garden flower known as Iris. The French call it 'fleur-de-lys', which long ago became stylised and adopted as an emblem of the French monarchy. Its ancient origins are rather mystical. The story goes that an Iris was used at the crowning of King Clovis I or, alternatively, that God himself had sent a vial of oil directly from heaven to anoint the sacred king. The Iris soon became associated with Mary and the Virgin, and served as a symbol of purity. Conversely, according to another legend it had sprung from Eve's tears of sorrow after her and Adam had been expelled from the Garden of Eden. Another legend attributes Iris to Hera, the wife of Jupiter, although the name clearly links her to Iris, Goddess of the rainbow. It seems that this beautiful and regal flower symbolised archetypal purity and sanctity and thus became associated with many different female deities.

Orris root powder is no longer used in herbal medicine, but was once popular as a purgative and for treating colds and coughs. An essential oil is distilled from the root which is used in perfumery as a base substance from which artificial violet fragrance is distilled. The root is highly acrid when fresh and only develops its fragrance over time. The powdered root is used as a fixative in potpourris, incense and in natural cosmetics.

Orris root is popular in love charms and used in sachets, powders or amulets designed to attract the opposite sex. In Japan, it was used to ward off evil spirits. In incense blends it can be used to invoke the Goddess Iris, who helps the souls of the departed on their journey across the rainbow bridge to the land of the blessed.