Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Spider Lily-Higan Bana

These are spider lilies.

I've always loved them. They shoot up seemingly overnight right around the autumnal equinox. This, I suppose, is why they are called higan bana in Japanese. Higan meaning the equinox and bana, flower.

My husband hates them, says they creep him out. He's like that about butterflies too. He explains that butterflies are too "powdery". But he never had such a good (*cough*cough*) explanation for the flower-hatred, so I did a bit of reading and asking around.

First, I found a handful of other names the Japanese have for this beauty. Here they are: Hell Flower, Ghost Flower, Razor Flower, Fox Flower, and Flower of the Dead. There is said to be up to nine hundred different monikers for the higan bana. Since they are pretty much believed to be bad luck, I imagine none of those other names are the Flower of Positive Thinking or the You-Have-a-Good-Day Flower.

They are also supposed to be packed full of poison. I was told they used to be planted around rice fields and houses to keep away rats, moles, and the like. Now they just grow wild.

The autumnal equinox is a time to visit family grave sites. So in a very general way ohigan is associated with death. There was some sort of joke ages ago that stated the reason the flower was called higan bana was not because it bloomed during the equinox but because if you ate it, all you had to look forward too was...ohigan, or death.

I went out taking pictures last weekend, hoping to give the blooms a little positive PR. How could anyone dislike a flower, I thought.

It was probably the exact moment that thought flittered through my mind that I snagged my foot on a root while maneuvering the slippery river bank and took a spill, a camera in one hand and a dog leash in the other. I'll admit Cha Cha Maru was most likely just trying to save his own life from a fast and tumbling Me, but his running full speed in the other direction truly mitigated what could have been a very wet fall.

Flower of the Dead indeed! Humph.