Wayy back 10 years ago in January, I inked 20 4×4″ illustrations of honeybees in traditional Lithuanian clothing, and then painted them in watercolors in March. I called this series “Avilys”, meaning “beehive” in Lithuanian: a meditation on my feelings about being of Lithuanian descent in America. Bees have a special significance in Lithuanian history, and feature prominently in their language and stories. Each bee is unique and depicts an aspect of culture, food, or history!
Avilys 5: Rue (also known as ruta) is a bitter herb with yellow flowers, used in some Lithuanian dishes and even more Lithuanian cultural events and folk songs. Everything from baptisms, first communions, marriages, and funerals involved rue, and it was so strongly associated with purity and the Virgin Mary it was used by Catholics to sprinkle holy water. Ironically, rue was also used as a rudimentary birth control, and most folk songs involving rue use it as a euphemism for losing that virginity (“trampling the rue field“). Brides were allowed to wear rue on their wedding days if they were virgins, either carried or woven into flower crowns.