The legend of the Lilac
Wise Old 'Possum Woman speaks of the celebration of Lilac Day on May 3rd in the Old Country:
On the last day of April, according to the ancient calendar, a girl was born unto a noble House. Her skin was porcelain and her hair shone darkly as only a Raven's feather could. On her Naming Day, the third of May, many came from throughout the countryside bearing gifts.
The last presentation of the day was the most special one. The child's Godmother lifted her up before the packed Great Hall and announced, “This is Syri I give her this gift of a Lilac that will be planted outside of her bedroom window. This Lilac, when well loved and cared for, will blossom without ceasing. Syri's sweet nature will reflect the sweet fragrance of the Lilac's flowers. Syri's voice will be as musical as a cool breeze ruffling the Lilac's heart-shaped leaves. Syri's strength will match the Lilac's branches, bending when necessary but never breaking. Syri's suitors will be counted as many as the trunks that spring from the Lilac's roots.”
As foretold, Syri grew into womanhood both bright and beautiful. During the year of her 18th Naming Day, many suitors arrived at the Great Hall. During the day, the young men took part in games of sport and skill. Syri and her friends cheered the winners and consoled the losers. In the evenings there was feasting and dancing to the delight of all.
As the busy days passed, no one took notice that although the skies were grey and no sun shone in the sky, it did not rain. The land was soon parched and through out all of the countryside the plants began to shrivel and die. Even the prized Lilac was not spared.
Now the gardener's son, who by coincidence was born the same year as Syri, was in charge of tending to the Lilac. He loved Syri, but because he was not of noble birth, the only way he could express his feelings for her was to pour his love out onto the Lilac. And did he so, year after year. And that was why the Lilac had thrived.
But the gardener's son was not among those who were invited to the festivities. Since he did not care to watch from afar, he stayed inside his tool shed, sitting on the dirt floor. With eyes closed and head leaning back against the rough wood of the shed wall, he imagined what his life could have been, if only he had been born a Lord's son.
And so, with no sun, no water, and no love, the Lilac withered. The leaves turned brown and curled at the edges. The blossoms started to fall one by one, like snow, to the parched ground. As the last dry flower drifted slowly down and touched the ground, the dancers in the Great Hall halted and let out a gasp. Syri had fainted and mirroring that last blossom, had delicately drifted to the floor. No manner of salts, cold water, or beseeches could rouse her.
She was put to bed, and a dozen healers were summoned. None could revive Syri. The Wise Women knew not what medicines to give Sryi because they did not know what was wrong with her. Day after day passed and hope started to fade. Word went out to all of the relatives of the House to come and say their farewells to the young maiden.
When Godmother heard of the news, she flew to the Great Hall as swiftly as she could. She pushed passed the crowds in the Great Hall and ran to Syri's side. She placed her hand on her Godchild's forehead and bowed her own. After a moment she looked up and her eyes turned to the window nearest the bed. Within the frame of the velvet drapes, she could see the bare branches and sere leaves of the Lilac.
Without explanation, Godmother dashed from the room and did not slow down until she stood outside the small door of the tool shed. Her one knock on the door was quickly answered. She whispered into the gardener's son's ear. Without so much as a word of response, he grabbed a bucket and some shears. On his way to the dying Lilac, he stopped only long enough to fill the bucket at the well. First he deeply watered the roots of the tree. Then he cut all of the new growth away leaving only five of the oldest branches. From the most slender of the five, he cut a section, placed it in a bowl of water and handed it to Godmother who brought it to Syri's bedside. Then from the next branch he cut a piece of wood about a foot in length. He took out his knife and carved the Lilac wood into a small flute.
The Gardener's son sat beneath Syri's window playing softly on the Lilac flute and tending to the tree. Godmother sat by Syri's bed tending to both the maiden and the cut branch. On the second day, buds appeared on the branch by the bedside and on the branches of the tree outside the window. On the third day, the buds on the tree unfurled into leaves and the buds on the branch in the bowl by Syri's side burst forth into blossoms. As the sweet fragrance filled the room, Syri's eyes opened.
You know the rest of the story. The gardener's son, whose name, by the way was Panta, was allowed to court Syri because he had demonstrated his love for her. In the 20th year of their Naming Day, Syri and Panta married. Their children numbered as many as the trunks of the Lilac. And each child had his or her own Lilac tree planted outside their bedroom window.
That is why, to this day, Lilacs bloom in the spring and only on the old wood. And you can still find flutes made from the Lilac's wood.
Lilac Day is celebrated on the Third of May. Following tradition, a young man cuts branches of Lilac buds, places them in a clear bowl of water and gives it to the gentle lady that he wishes to court. Each evening for three days, he serenades her by playing a flute under her window. On the third night, if the lady is agreeable to his request, she places the blooming Lilac flowers in her window and slowly descends the stairs to meet him at the front door.
The Legend of the Lilac Part 1: