Song of Songs (the plants)

NyaSlottet (The New Castle) Bjärka Säby, Linköping 2007

“I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens. As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his intention toward me was love. Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am faint with love.” 

(Song of Songs 2:1-5)

One of the more poetic books of the Bible, the Song of Songs, is rich in parables and allegories. It is a love story. It tells of the relation between a man and a woman in a sensual, almost erotic manner. In Judaism it has been allegorically interpreted as God’s love for Israel and in Christianity as Jesus Christ’s love for the Church. Christianity also speaks in terms of the bride (the Church) awaiting her bridegroom (the Second Coming of Christ), an allegory that can perhaps easier be understood in relation to the love lyrics. However, the erotic undertones have lead to a questioning of the book as a part of the Bible. In the lyrics of the Song of Songs a number of plants are mentioned; what is interesting is that plants in art often represent eroticism and lust.

At Nya Slottet (The New Castle), Bjärka Säby outside of Linköping, a brother- and sisterhood live together in a Christian ecumenical community. The Bible, also referred to as the Word, holds a key role in the daily prayers. In collaboration with staff from different nurseries in Linköping I reflected upon the types of plants in the Song of Songs, borrowed the mentioned plants and showed them in the castle’s orangery. The question is if it is still possible to discern the Song of Songs and its message through this physically visualised allegory and manifestation of the Word and its parables?