"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Flowers and Plants

The Mandrake  : The human-shaped mandrake root was believed to have great curative powers and was widely used in sorcerers' potions (it is now known to contain several poisonous hallucinogens). In Hebrew tradition it symbolized fertility and was eaten to aid conception.

The Greeks believed that paradise was carpeted with asphodels. The Chinese imagined that for each woman living in this world, a flower bloomed in the next. These two ancient beliefs exemplify the most common symbolic meanings of the flower: the paradisal state and feminine beauty. The opening of the flower from the bud represents creation (the manifestation of energy moving outward from the centre) and the energy of the sun. Flowers are universal symbols of youth and vitality, but because of their impermanence they also connote fragility.

Plants represent the cycle of life (fertility, death and rebirth) and many were thought to thrive on the life-force (body or blood) of a particular god: the ancient Egyptians believed that wheat grew from the body of Osiris. Many herbs were considered sacred, some because of their medicinal properties and others because their growth habit or appearance suggested a link with the gods or mankind (for example, the mandrake's roots-above- resemble the human body).


Mistletoe was taken to symbolize the female in relation to the maleness of the oak tree in whose branches it grew. Neither a tree nor a shrub, and without roots in the ground, it was held to have a special relationship to the divine, standing for the state beyond earthly limitations.

The Rose

In Christianity, the red rose can symbolize the Virgin Mother or the blood shed by Jesus on the cross. It represents secrecy (confessionals are often adorned with a five-petaled rose). Three roses are a potent masonic symbol, representing light, love and life.

The Garland 

Combining the symbolism of the flower and the ring, the garland represents variously good luck, holiness, fertility and initiation. It also stands for the binding together of this world and the next (a significance still evident today in the funerary wreath).


Like its relative the lily, garlic is a symbol of the higher world, partly because of its association with lightning (its scent is said to be similar to the smell caused by the discharge of lightning). 


Growing in mud at the bottom of a pond, the lotus flower raises itself above the water and reveals its beauty. It thus stands for the soul rising from the confusion of matter into the clarity of enlightenment.

The Garden

A symbol of nature under control and of the human soul which, like the garden, must be cared for and cultivated. The garden also stands for paradise, and the Fields of the Blessed. In India, gardens sometimes take the form of mandalas.


The symbolic meanings of herbs, like those of many other plants, grow out of their individual properties. For example, rue, rosemary and thyme symbolize repentance, remembrance and purity respectively: rue has the bitterness of repentance, rosemary carries a scent which endures like memory, and thyme was thought useful in purifying the taste of food.


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