This legend, etc, may be told somewhere, but the dogwoods that we in America
are most familiar with, and also the people in Europe, are native to the
Americas, and would not have been found anywhere in Israel at any time.
Other dogwoods, such as Cornus kousa, and the c. siberica, are native to
eastern Asia, and would also have never been found in Israel. It makes a
sweet, if terribly naive legend, however.
<< As for how the dogwood got its name, one explanation is that dog owners once
made a tonic from the bark to wash their pets. A more likely derivation
comes from the Old English term doggerwood, meaning "a stick once used to
I knew about the legend, but does anyone know any other logical explanation for
the name? >>
The tree got its name from its berries, which were called "dogberries" because
they were worthless—"dog" is commonly used among botanists to mean "inferior
quality" or "worthlessness."
#2 seems likely. Especially when you make 'doggerwood',
\Dog"wood`\ (-w[oo^]d`), n. [So named from skewers (dags) being made
of it. Dr. Prior. See Dag, and Dagger.]
Thanks for the input from everyone. I was aware that the legend was only a
legend with no basis in fact. It has charm but no logic. The reference from
Jim certainly supports the daggerwood connection.
That legend reminded me of one I read as a kid 40 years ago. [one of
those brainstorms that just makes forgetting where I parked the car
even more frustrating<g>]
I even checked the source & re-read it. Ernst Seton's "Library of
Pioneering and Woodcraft" Vol V, has a legend of why the Dogwood's
blossoms appear as they do. Seton has the devil sneaking into the
garden of Eden to knock all the blossoms off the Dogwood. [it was
Adam's favorite] Mr. Devil climbed a locust tree to get over the
wall surrounding Eden-- but was foiled when he realized that the
flowers were in the shape of a cross. All he could manage was to bite
a chunk out of each petal.
This little escapade also caused the locust tree to grow thorns so
that the devil couldn't use it to access the Garden again.
Just another example of the haphazardness of memory. I knew what a
locust tree was as we had several on our property & I was all too
familiar with their thorns. I don't think I ever saw a Dogwood,
though, until I moved to VA a dozen years later. But I remembered the
Dogwood part of the legend and not the locust.
Not sure about how it got the name Dogwood, but the history I read
mentioned that the settlers called it "maulwood" because the wood is
so hard, they made mauls out of it. I can attest to the wood being
hard as rocks - when the big dogwood came down in our back yard one
winter, we decided to have it cut up to use in making miniature
dollhouse peices. It was a flaming pain to work with because it was
so hard but, boy, did it make beautiful furniture (including a
miniature Wooten desk!)
The idea of the dogwood flower as symbol of the crucifixion is old in
North America, because the four petals can be imagined as a cross, & the
southern species can be said to be colored with blood. But the specific
story posted here is a modern invention. It was distributed especially in
the 1950s & 1960s through many churches in the form of a post card, and
has within the last five years been reprinted with new designs for further
church use. Similar 1950s church postcards include "Legend of the Sand
Dollar" & "Legend of the Starfish" & "Legend of the Spanish Moss" &
"Legend of the Crucifix Fish (Sail Cat)" -- concocted miniature tales by
the equivalent of anonymous Hallmark Card authors. There is one version
of the postcard that is made out of wood (perhaps out of dogwood; it means
to imply it is at any rate). Other variants were printed for tourist shops
& would be titled "Legend of the Dogwood of Florida" or "Legend of the
Dogwood of North Carolina" depending on where the cards were to be sold.
Postcard collectors can get these old christian church cards through eBay
or Yahoo auctions pretty easily, as even the old ones are very common (for
$1 to $5), & modern reprints can cost as little as 35 cents. The text was
even reworked into a Hallmark style rhyme, very bad doggeral even worse
than the prose vignette, but mainly it is the prose vignette printed
against a dogwood photo or drawing. Here's a typical example, one of many:
These cards have had their texts copied into e-mails & onto the web by
easily impressed religious folks. Once this old vignette reached the web,
it began to be copied & copied from website to website, with fewer & fewer
people knowing where it really came from.
Authentic folklore ends up with many variants rather than such simple
uniformity as seen in the postcard-originated minor literary exercise.
Christian symbology of the Passionflower for instance has many variants &
amendments stacked upon it during the four hundred years it has circulated
first among aboriginal converts in Central America. Dogwood legendry is
actually quite rich, a mix of Native American lore fertilized with
European flower lore. Among southern Native Americas it was a symbol of
protection (possibly because the hard wood made good shields & clubs, and
because dogwood was used medicinally). Cherokee believed a miniature
people lived amidst dogwoods who were a divine race sent to teach the
people to live in harmony with the woods. The dogwood people are extremely
kind and take care of the old and infirm, and protect babies. When
Cherokee came to speak English, they began to call the Dogwood People
brownies. Among white imigrants Dogwood symbolized sacrifice because of
the crucifix form of the flower, & the four-petalled flower became a
common tombstone ornament, a symbol of hope (that death was not eternal).
-paghat the ratgirl
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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