Loving The Legends Of Plants
Plants have played an integral part in every ancient civilization throughout history. There are many legends and myths regarding them and while the stories vary from culture to culture, land to land, the properties contained and symbols they represent often remain constant.
As an Aromatherapist, I found this fascinating. That long before satellites, planes, cell-phones and TV, somehow these different peoples, in opposite ends of the world, were writing and telling similar stories about the same plants. This infatuation and curiosity led me to investigate more legends and myths of plants, comparing them with science and develop a body-care line to combine the best of both worlds bringing these gifts back into our lives. PlantLegendsBodycare was born! Here is an abbreviated list and small sample of the many plant legends.
Meet The Mighty Cypress Tree
A native to the Mediterranean, the cypress tree has been in existence since the Pliocene (Tertiary era.)Cupressus sempervirens is Cypress’s botanical name. The word ‘sempervirens’ means ‘ever lasting.’ Cypress has long been associated with death, and is also known as the ‘Tree of Death.’ The Cypress tree represents the sacred flame of life, the unchangeable, eternal essence. It is associated with the immortality of the soul. Cypress trees are planted in cemeteries throughout the Mediterranean, they are the companions to the survivors of the dead, hovering over existence and death and remaining the last loyal companions of the dead.
The Egyptians associated cypress with death also. In addition, connected cypress to the Egyptian beliefs of the afterlife. They also used cypress for its preservative properties, and in mummification and ascensions processes. Cypress was mentioned in an Assyrian text that is over 3,500 years old.
Interestingly, on the North American continent, where cypress is not a native plant, but its very close relative cedar is, the Cherokee have a legend whereby the Creator placed the spirits of the dead into a newly created tree. The a-tsi-na tlu-gv (ah-see-na loo-guh) or - cedar tree. It is said when you smell the aroma of the cedar tree or gaze upon it standing in the forest, remember that you are looking upon your ancestor.
Lavender is one of the sacred herbs of midsummer. The Virgin Mary is said to have dried her newborn's swaddling clothes by spreading them on a bed of wild lavender.
Traditionally, sprigs of lavender were placed in the hands of women in labor. Squeezing the fragrant bundles was said to give them strength and courage during childbirth. Lavender posies were given to newly-married couples to bring good luck and sprinkling dried lavender flowers in the home is said to bring peacefulness.
Hyssop was used as a cleansing herb. Moses used this herb to free and protect his people from all harm. Solomon in his songs and proverbs praised the Hyssop that ~springeth out of the wall.~ Christ, on the cross was given Hyssop and vinegar.
It was known as the holy herb by the Greeks and used for purifying temples and cleansing lepers. Today researchers discovered that the mold that produces penicillin grows on its leaf. Benedictine monks in the 1st century AD used it to flavor their liqueurs.
Tibetan priests offered Hyssop to their deities during sacred services, and Persians used a concoction of Hyssop as a lotion to help give a fine color to the skin. Pliny remarked on its effect on one's mind and taste, and the Indians used it to benefit cavities and the tissues of the body while alleviating bruises and soothing cuts and wounds.
Ancient legend tells us that the geranium first grew when the Prophet Mohammed hung his shirt on a mallow plant to dry in the sun. Mohammed was so pleased by how well the plant held his shirt up to the sun, he covered the plant with velvety blossoms that filled the air with a fragrance.
Basil supposedly derives its name from the terrifying basilisk -- a half-lizard, half-dragon creature with a fatal piercing stare according to Greek mythology. The medicinal application of a basil leaf was considered to be a magical cure against the look, breath or even the bite of the basilisk. Although this story moved into the realm of fable, basil was still considered a medicinal cure for venomous bites.
Also note that Jesus reportedly said, ". . . For there are five trees in Paradise for you; they do not change, summer or winter, and their leaves do not fall. Whoever knows them will not taste death." Could one or both of those trees be the Cypress or the Cedar whom the ancients speak of? Maybe. But once again an aura of death/the everlasting potentially attributed to a similar tree. Why?
And finally for you science lovers, know that recently there was a study published regarding the oil of the Cypress tree. Within it, it states. . . "Cupressus sempervirens ssp.pyramidalis leaf oil (Cypress Oil) exerted the highest cytotoxic activity. (it was killing cancer cells) . .This study provided evidence on how cytotoxic activity of the oils is not always related to their major constituents (so independent of the chemicals within the oil, for some reason, this oil was killing these cells), , . . . This opens a new field of investigation to discover mechanisms responsible for the observed activity." (Bottom line, they can't figure it out!) - Pubmed - 2008 Dec;41(6):1002-12. Anti-proliferative effects of essential oils and their major constituents in human renal adenocarcinoma and amelanotic melanoma cells
Of course that was only one independent study, but interesting all the same regarding the topic of conversation here.
Note that while there are many legends associated with plants, below is simply a small sampling.
There are two types of chamomile grown and used medicinally. German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). The name chamomile is derived from the Greek word ‘khamaimelon’, which means ‘earth apple’, or ‘ground apple’ due to the fresh herb’s scent being reminiscent of apples. The genus name, Matricaria, given to the German chamomile species means ‘matrix’ (womb), and this was the nature that the herb was used by the ancients; as a woman’s herb for relieving female conditions and aiding childbirth.
The Egyptians used chamomile as a cure for a condition called ‘agu’, which is a form of malaria. They dedicated chamomile to their sun gods since the flower reminded them of the sun. For them, chamomile was associated with the god Ra for its healing powers. When the body of King Ramesses II was displayed in Paris, permission was obtained to take skin tissue for analysis. One of the findings was that the body and abdominal cavity of the king had been anointed with chamomile oil. It is believed that the chamomile oil was used in the mummification process potentially for its insect repelling qualities.