I knew it would come to me if I was patient and didn’t think about it too much.
And that’s just what happened this morning as I was piecing together my Shibori Hankie Quilt. I had the idea that a flower should be growing from my Mother Mary’s praying hands. But which flower? That was the question running just under the surface of my consciousness.
Then it popped into my head, Indian Paintbrush. Perfect because of the paintbrush reference connecting Mother Mary to Sue Silverstein’s art room.
I stopped what I was doing and googled Indian Paintbrush finding its proper name to be Castilleja. Then I dug deeper having a feeling that the name “Indian Paintbrush” like the name “Wandering Jew” for the spiderwort houseplant, was derogatory.
(Jon recently bought me an Inch Plant, which I knew from my childhood as a Wandering Jew. I had the same feeling about the name of that plant when I said it out loud to Jon. When Jon researched it he found its origins were anti-Semitic ).
I found a bunch of different myths telling the story of how Indian Paintbrush got its name, but none of the writing seemed to be by Native Americans. Then I came across a blog post on Broken Walls and Narratives addressing the racism of certain plants and flowers. “Indian Paintbrush” and “Wandering Jew” were both there as well as some other plants I was unfamiliar with.
The author, (whose name I couldn’t find) wrote….
“…it could easily be called Paintbrush plant. Using the word “Indian” invokes something wild, mythical, or even something silly (such as literally using the plant as a paintbrush). It reduces Native Americans into an idea about something primitive, whimsical, or even non-existent rather than actual, living people, with actual uses for plants.”
“There is also a colonizing tone to these names, as these are not the names that Native Americans themselves gave the plants but imagined names from colonizers and their descendants.”
This makes sense to me, it’s just the kind of thing I had been thinking without knowing the origins of the name. And not something I want to propagate.
So I decided flowers weren’t necessary. Instead, my Mother Mary will simply be holding a bouquet of paintbrushes.