A Traditional Tussie Mussie was a Posy of Flowers between Lovers
A Traditional Tussie Mussie was a Posy of Flowers between Lovers

Today’s post is a little different to the usual things I write about but I thought that it was an interesting topic to feature! It takes me back to simpler times of my childhood and the wonders of the garden and flowers. Grow these aromatic flowers to make your own tussie mussie; or make one for a friend’s wedding, birthday, or Valentine’s day. Read on to learn more!

The Origins of the Tussie Mussie

Originally, tussie mussies were small, aromatic posies used to eliminate unpleasant odors. The aromatic scents of a tussie mussie were both pleasant and a means of repelling infectious diseases. In Medieval England, scented herbs and flowers, such as lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), sage (Salvia officinalis) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), were used in tussie mussies to prevent the spread of disease.

The Meaning of the Name Tussie Mussie

The name tussie mussie may have a number of derivations; in the fifteenth century, tussie mussies were recorded as a “tumose of flowrys or other herbys.” Other records indicate that the name may originally have been spelled tuzzy muzzy; tuzzy is an olde English word meaning a knot of flowers, and muzzy may have referred to the damp moss which was wrapped around the flower stems to keep them moist.

The Elizabethan Tussie Mussie

During the English Elizabethan era, tussie mussies were frequently exchanged between lovers. Many Elizabethan tussie mussies included thyme (Thymus vulgaris), marjoram (Origanum marjorana), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and the mints (Mentha spp.). Tussie mussies soon became a secret code between lovers, as different flowers began to carry different meanings.

The Victorian Tussie Mussie

The Victorians made it extremely fashionable to exchange tussie mussies. The Victorians considered a young lady to be cultured if she understood the study of flowers; the study of flowers included creating flower arrangements, drawing and painting flowers, pressing flowers and growing flowers. The language of love was conveyed through flowers and every educated young lady and gentlemen knew the meaning of each flower presented in a tussie mussie. Tussie mussies were exchanged between Victorian sweethearts expressing secret love messages.

The Meaning of the Flowers in a Tussie Mussie

The language of flowers was taken very seriously by the Victorians, although historians find it difficult to attach one particular meaning to a flower; flower meanings seem to vary widely between different book publications. However, it is believed that the Victorian tussie mussie flower language derived from Le Langage des Fleurs by Charlotte de la Tour (Louise Cortambert), published in Paris, France in 1818 and later translated into English.

Some flower meanings include the following:

  • Lavender – luck, forgiveness

  • Marjoram – blushes

  • Rosemary – remembrance

  • Lilac – love’s first emotion

  • Orange blossom (neroli) – chastity

  • Carnation – pure love

  • Rose (white) – innocent love

  • Rose ( red) – passion

  • Rose ( pink) – romantic love

  • Star-of-Bethlehem – reconciliation

  • Witch hazel – a spell

  • Sweet pea – delicate pleasures

  • Tansy – I declare war

  • Ivy – wedded love

  • Holly – domestic happiness.

The Edwardian Tussie Mussie

Traditionally, tussie mussies were backed by paper or lace doilies. Edwardian ladies carried tussie mussies in silver-filigree posy holders; these posy holders had a ring attached which enabled ladies to hold the tussie mussie when dancing. The gift of flowers was more popular than jewelery in some instances.

Making a Tussie Mussie

Fresh tussie mussies are easy to make by binding together the flower and herb stems with raffia. The chosen center flower is encircled with different layers of leaves and flowers and finished in bound raffia.

Certain aromatic scents can influence how the receiver of the tussie mussie will react too, so it is useful to know the botany of the flowers used – and have a little understanding of aromatherapy!

Tussie mussies were a popular gift between historic lovers. Today, tussie mussies can be given for any special or romantic occasion including weddings, birthdays and Valentine’s day. What will your tussie mussie say about you?

Learn More About Aromatherapy and Aromatic Plants with Sedona Aromatherapie

If you would like to learn more about the study of aromatherapy and the plants used in aromatherapy, consider the Sedona Aromatherapie Linguistics of AromaticsTM program!

References:

  • Lawless, Julia 2001 The Aromatherapy Garden London, UK: Kyle Cathie Ltd

  • Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry, a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, a consultant, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.

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