Christmassy flower.

Last year around this time I held a rose of jericho in my hand; it felt dead, but strangely elastic. The friendly tour guide at Trausnitz Castle in Bavaria, the partly restored Wittelsbach kunstkammer collection that opened to the public in 2004, had us touch a specimen, no doubt trying to keep the children at bay. I remember thinking, what’s the point? After all she didn’t pour water on it to make it blossom.

rose of jerichoBut maybe the opportunity to handle the object is the reason why I still remember everything she told us about it: that it is an African desert plant brought to Europe by the Crusaders; that it opens its dead-looking branches and begins to blossom as soon as it is watered; that it was kept in cabinets of curiosities due to its magical, oracular powers (its failure to open symbolised a person’s imminent death); that, according to its Christian symbolism, it was believed to represent the opening of the womb at childbirth, and that it was therefore supposed to blossom only at Christmas.

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