Viriditas is a Latin word with origins that go back to ancient times. This writeup explores some of the past and present uses of the word.


The dictionary perspective

The Oxford Latin Dictionary associates viriditas with Cicero, Pliny and Apuleius who used it to mean green vegetation, verdure and greenery.

Webster's 1913 Dictionary's reports that viriditas is the Latin form of viridity. It provides two definitions of viridity:

  1. Greenness; verdure; the color of grass and foliage.
  2. Freshness; soundness.

Hildegard von Bingen's Viriditas

About 900 years ago, Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) used viriditas to describe the principle of greenness or vitality in all of nature. Although this could be interpreted to mean the process of life in a natural sense, Hildegard meant it to encompass the spiritual perspective as well. In this sense, viriditas refers to the power or influence of God over life and nature.

Hildegard von Bingen is credited with composing a number of Gregorian chants including "O nobilissima viriditas" (O most noble greening power) and "O viriditas digiti Dei" (O Life-green finger of God) which explore the concept of viriditas in nature and in theology respectively.


Kim Stanley Robinson's use of Viriditas

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson (1952-) used viriditas in his Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars) to refer to the greening process which is transforming Mars into a planet teeming with life. It is is primarily associated with Hiroko, a very influential personality within the Greens.
The Reds and the Greens of Mars
One of the key conflicts in the trilogy is between the Reds who believe that Mars should be preserved in as pristine a condition as possible and the Greens who believe that Mars should be transformed into planet supporting life in all its forms (including human life without the need for artificial life support systems).

In a really well managed juxtaposition that runs throughout the trilogy, the Reds of Mars act a lot like the most extreme environmentalists or preservationists on Earth today (the term "Mars huggers" comes to mind) and the Greens of Mars are the exact opposite - i.e. willing to accept and encourage all manner of disruption to the planet in order to further their cause of greening Mars.


Coryphaeschna viriditas

Coryphaeschna viriditas or Mangrove Darner is a species of dragonfly which is found in the very southeast tip of the U.S. State of Florida. It is in the Aeshnidae family within the order Odanata. The species was first described by Calvert in 1952.

For the trivia fans out there, the other three members of the Coryphaeschna genus are Coryphaeschna Adnexa, Coryphaeschna Ingens and Coryphaeschna Luteipennis.

A photograph of a Coryphaeschna viriditas can be found at http://www.ups.edu/biology/museum/Corvirphoto.html (last accessed 2002/09/28).


Sources:

  • the untitled web page located at http://www.wu-wien.ac.at/earlym-l/logfiles/earlym-l.log9608b (last accessed 2002/09/29)
  • the books Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • the web page "Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata) of the United States" at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/insects/dfly/usa/163.htm (last accessed 2002/09/28)
  • the untitled web page located at http://www.natureserve.org/datasets_zoo/docs/dragus.htm (last accessed 2002/09/28)
  • various places on the 'net (way too many to enumerate)

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