THE WHITE IRIS : A SYMBOL OF POSITIVE THINKING
Fabcaro explains why this title:
The White Iris is the name of a new school of positive thought that started in Rome and has spread through major cities from Rome to Lutecia. Caesar decides this method might have a beneficial effect on the Roman camps around the famous Gaulish village. But its principles also start influencing the villagers themselves… The teaser plate published in December gave a little taste of its effects! I wanted to find a title in the spirit of Goscinny and Uderzo’s albums where the theme is often embodied by an actual object or a character (The Cauldron, The Soothsayer, The Great Divide, The Chieftain’s Shield, The Golden Sickle…) In this case, the iris symbolises goodwill and fulfilment, or at
least that’s what everyone hopes… The famous Gaulish chief Vitalstatistix doesn’t look very happy in this picture… What’s going on in the village? Yes, it’s true we’ve seen him perkier! This method of positivity has quite an impact on our Gaulish friends and it doesn’t make everyone happy. Our chief is one of the unlucky ones and it brings on a personal crisis…
Didier Conrad explains the front cover:
I wanted to showcase the new central character, putting him front and centre. I’ve shown him back-to-back with Asterix to make it clear that our famous Gaul isn’t fooled and is eyeing him sceptically.
In the background I wanted to illustrate the possible effects the White Iris has on characters in the village. For some it casts a sort of spell while others are wary and resist it.
The White Iris : A very distinctive flower
By Laurence Gossart, Doctor of Arts at the Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne
What’s the history of the iris?
The iris first appeared in the Cretaceous period 80 million years ago. It’s a small flower but has been given quite a lot of significance over the years. First of all, it was an Egyptian symbol particularly associated with Horus, the god of sunrise and sunset.
But Iris was also a Greek divinity, a kindly messenger of the gods and Hera’s favourite because she often brought good news. In ancient Greek “iris” means rainbow, and the Greek Iris was said to travel on a rainbow when she came down to earth. The flower reflects her name by incarnating the full palette of colours.
There are many varieties of iris: the yellow flag iris, the iris pallida, the iris siberica, the iris germanica and its subspecies the iris florentina. The florentina, a white iris, seems to have been especially prevalent all around the Mediterranean in ancient times, so ancient Greeks and Romans would have been familiar with it. In the Sixth Century, Clovis King of the Franks used the iris as a symbol that we now know as the fleur-de-lys. The story goes that when Clovis was at war with the Visigoths, a deer crossed the river Vienne, showing his army a safe place to cross where the banks were strengthened by the rhizomes of irises.
How did these societies use the flower and what did it mean to them?
The iris is a truly magical plant with many virtues and several symbolic meanings.
It’s one of the most sought-after plants for its therapeutic effects and its uses in natural remedies. In Greece its flowers were used to decorate tombs in homage to the goddess Iris because one of her tasks was to cut women’s hair after death and then lead them to their final resting place. The Romans saw representations of its petals as symbols of wisdom, loyalty and valour. That’s why it was common practice to plant blue and white irises at temples to Juno.
Goddess, woman and flower then, but for poets the iris is also the incarnation of the beloved woman. It is synonymous with courage and faithfulness, and bestows wisdom and knowledge. It’s a symbol of both ardent emotion and of high intelligence.
As for the white iris specifically… Rainbows diffract white light into an explosion of colours. So the white” “iris incarnates a paradox: it is both colours plural and colour itself. But this apparent paradox doesn’t feature in the language of flowers – here the iris is said to indicate tender love or a union.
And where do our Gaulish friends fit into all this?
Were they intoxicated by the fragrance wafting from drifts of irises in springtime? Did they make baths with their petals to purify themselves and drive away evil spirits (a traditional practice in Japan), did they chew the rhizomes or venerate the iris like the Greeks and Romans? Very possibly. The land that made up the Roman world – and Gaul – was occupied by this little flower long before human inhabitants… As bringers of good news and goodwill, irises lit up valleys and plains with their wisdom before they decorated temples or were boiled in potions.