The meaning of the poppy is eternal sleep, oblivion and imagination. Red poppies signify pleasure, while white signifies consolation, and wealth and success for yellow. Poppies represent the loyalty and faith between lovers.
Poppies have a long history. Mesopotamians, ancient Greeks and Egyptians were familiar with its soothing, restorative or euphoric effects. Demeter, goddess of the harvest and seasons, distraught at her daughter Persephone’s abduction, used the poppy to forget her sorrow in sleep.
Blood-red corn poppies sprang up from the battlefields of Waterloo and Flanders amidst the disturbed and blood-saturated soil, connecting death with the promise of resurrection. Immortalized in the famous World War I poem in Flanders Fields by John McCrae, the poppy in the 20th century has come to stand for wartime remembrance.
In the past the whole plant, fruit and leaves, were crushed yielding a substance, mekonion, less potent than opium. It was ingested, combined with wine, water and honey or milk. It was also smoked, used in poultices, eye-washes or made into pellets and suppositories. The ancients knew well the potentially fatal and addictive powers of opium. By the 19th century, tincture of opium (laudanum), a popular remedy, as easily available as aspirin is today, was a common ingredient in many patient medicines. A small dose would stop children crying, stave off hunger pangs, numb pain or sorrow.