Peonies are garden shrubs with many varieties of colours and petal formations, prized for their bold colourful blooms. The plant was named after Paeon, the Greek god of healing, sometimes known as Asclepius. He was the son of Apollo and carried a staff entwined by a serpent, the symbol of the medical profession today. He was raised by a centaur and taught his medical knowledge by a snake. So successful was he at healing people that the human population increased out of control and Zeus was forced to kill him to restore balance. Members of the peony family were used in traditional oriental medicine and they contain many compounds that could be beneficial to health.
Along with koi fish, peonies are a popular tattoo motif for Japanese men, inspired by the illustrations of the eighteenth century Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi. You can see an example by clicking this link here.
John Keats in his poem “Ode on Melancholy” suggests distracting oneself from dark thoughts with the visual pleasures of peonies and other pretty flowers, you can read the entire poem by clicking here, but I shall tantalize you with an extract:
of the peony.