The story of Queen Disa
The Pride of Table Mountain
The Disa orchid, also known as The Pride of Table Mountain, is the flower featured all around our property. The Disa orchid is the namesake of our Disa spa. It is also the inspiration for the name of our restaurant, The Green Orchid, which gets its name from the green Disa, as seen on our logo.
This flower comes in a variety of colours and can be found all over the Eastern and Western Cape. The orchid was named by Swedish botanist, Peter Jonas Bergius, in 1767, and was inspired by Swedish mythology.
In the original story, Disa was the heroine of a legendary Swedish saga, documented in 1555, by Olaus Magnus. According to legend, Disa was incredibly wise and she used her wit to thwart a democide.
The story describes god-king Freyr, who ruled Sweden. It was a peaceful time and the population of the country grew and grew until the country, which was struck with famine, could no longer support all its people.
Peter Jonas Bergius (1730-1790) porträtterad av Johan Joachim Streng
Disa Riding a Goat. Illustrations from the 1939 edition of Atland Eller Manheim... Olaus Rudbecks Atlantica are in the public domain.
Disa uniflora (as syn. Disa grandiflora), a hand-coloured engraving after a drawing by Miss S. A. Drake (fl. 1820s-1840s), pl. 49 from John Lindley's (1799-1865): "Sertum Orchidaceum" (1838-1841)
Freyr and his chieftains decided that the only solution to overpopulation was to cull all the elderly, sickly and handicapped people in the kingdom – they would be sacrificed to Odin.
Disa did not agree with this decision, and as she was the daughter of the chieftain Sigsten of Venngam, she decided to mock the king and his chieftains, saying she had a better plan. When he heard this, the Freyr gave Disa a challenge.
He would listen to her advice, only if she could complete her journey to him neither by foot, by horse, in a wagon, nor in a boat. She could not visit him either dressed or undressed, and not within a year, nor within a month, nor during daytime or nighttime; and not when the moon was waxing or waning.
Of course, Disa was a smart woman, and she passed the test. She reached the King with her one leg over a goat and the other on a sled. The sled was pulled by two young men. She wore nothing but a net as clothing, and she arrived during the full moon at dusk on the third day after Yule. All the months had 30 days and the last month was coming to an end, as well as the year.
The King cancelled the culling, and the new queen Disa declared that lots would be drawn to decide which parts of the population would be leaving Sweden.
The botanist, Carl Peter Thunberg, derived the name of the Disa genus of orchids from this legend. The dorsal sepal of some of the Disa orchids is reminiscent of the fishnet that Disa wore before King Freyhr.
You can see this stunning and elusive wild orchid for yourself, during a guided hike close to our hotel, between December and March.