Sena Grows Peonies!

Sena has a peony shrub growing dazzling red blossoms. The red ones are said to symbolize love, respect, and honor. The peony genus classification is Paeonia, which is taken from the Greek word Paean. At least a couple of flower web sites say the origin of the name peony comes from a Greek myth involving a deity called Paean (pronounced “Bud”).

According to the flower web sites version of the myth, Paean was the physician of the gods. He was a student of Aesculapius or Asclepius, whose friends just called him “Bud.”

Paean used a peony root to heal Pluto, which was the Roman name of the deity Hades. I don’t know what was ailing Pluto. Maybe it was the gout. Anyway, Aesculapius got wind of Paean’s treatment, and became really jealous. He tried to kill him, but Zeus wasn’t having any of that baloney, intervened and turned Paean into a peony.

I couldn’t find this version in any scholarly source of Greek mythology. In fact, Edith Hamilton, a Greek scholar who wrote a book entitled simply, Mythology, says Paean was just another name for Apollo or Aesculapius, also known as Asclepius—or “Bud.”

In fact, a paean is a song of thanksgiving or triumph addressed to Apollo.

Hamilton’s version is kind of a soap opera. Greek gods always seemed to be having torrid affairs with humans, often leading to drama involving the transformation of humans into various plants, animals and whatnot—and maybe even destroying them.

This is what happened to a human female named Coronis, who had a fling with Apollo who got her pregnant. She snubbed him for a human guy, which annoyed Apollo so he killed her. However, he saved his baby by tearing Coronis open and plucking him out right out of the womb—really extreme.

Apollo than adopts the kid out to an old fart of a Centaur named Chiron. Apollo ordered Chiron to name the child Aesculapius, or Asclepius, “Bud” for short. He was never named Paean, according to Hamilton.

Chiron was pretty slick with healing arts and taught Bud everything he knew. Then Bud got too big for his britches and brought a guy back from the dead. I can’t recall exactly who got resurrected; it was either Hippolytus or Elvis. Gods got mad about it because making zombies is their business, not Bud’s.

Consequently, Zeus killed Bud by slinging a thunderbolt at him. Contrary to flower shop lore, Zeus never even considered turning him into a peony. In his opinion, you had to teach these pups a lesson.

How do you think Apollo felt about this? How would you feel? What would you do? Apollo got on the phone with his lawyer, and before you could say “peony,” he got a court order authorizing Apollo to kill the Cyclops who were manufacturing all of Zeus’s thunderbolts.

If you think it ended there, you’re wrong. Zeus, not to be outdone, sued Apollo, who lost big time and was sentenced to slavery to King Admetus for one to nine years in solitary confinement.

Bud, on the other hand, even though he was slain, was honored by thousands for hundreds of years. Those who came to his temples were invariably healed of various ailments including but not limited to the gout. Snakes were involved in the treatments, though, and some preferred to live with the gout, so declined to sign the informed consent forms.

Hamilton and other scholars don’t ever mention Bud getting turned into a peony. But Sena’s peonies are still beautiful.

Reference: Edith Hamilton, Mythology, Little, Brown and Company, 1942.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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