Posts Tagged ‘Myth’

Christmas Star – Euphorbia pulcherrima

Christmas Star
Christmas Star

Red leafed flower with poignant history
Reminds of life’s passion at Christmas time
Symbolic of seasonal light, glory

 

By Stephanie Eve Kane Arado

 

This plant, indigenous to Mexico is probably the most recognized flower associated with the Christmas season. It was held in such high esteem by Montezuma, the emperor of the ancient Aztecs that he had the plants potted and brought into the mountains where he reigned. The plant did not do well there (it does not tolerate below 50 degrees Fahrenheit), so had to be brought in frequently!

The Poinsettia has been referred to as the Christmas Star because of the resemblance of the bracts that surround the true flowers to stars. The bracts (or leaves) are pointed and circle the center yellow flowers in a radiant pattern. Among the Aztec the flower represented purity.

 

In Mexico there is a sweet story of how the Poinsettia came to be. According to the legend a young girl was on her way to celebrate the Christ child’s birth, but she was too poor to afford a gift. So she picked a bunch of scraggly green plants to present to him. She placed these before the alter and they blossomed with bright crimson star shaped flowers. This was a reminder that the most humble gift, given in love is perfection.

 

Among the Mayan people (at one time) these flowers were considered sacred. The Aztecs used the red bracts to produce a red dye. As a folk medicine it was used to treat skin issues, warts, and toothaches.

 

There is one other myth that needs dispelled. This plant is not a toxic killer…to people or pets!

In 1919 an urban legend was born after a child died after ingestion of the plant. The cause of death was never proven, but it never happened again! The latex of the plant can cause issues for those sensitive to it causing irritation to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes. If sufficient quantity is consumed it can cause nausea and vomiting, but NOT death.

Meadowsweet – Spirea alba var. latifolia

White Meadowsweet
White Meadowsweet

Through grass, through amber’d cornfields, our slow Stream–
Fringed with its flags and reeds and rushes tall,
And Meadowsweet, the chosen of them all
By wandering children….

 

By William Allingham (1824-1889)

 

This perennial shrub of the Rose family is native to Northeastern North America and can be found growing in wet areas such as edges of marshes, bogs and ditches, along streams, and wet prairies. In Kentucky, and Tennessee it is considered Endangered. While in Ohio it is listed as Extripated (locally extinct).  The plant was imported into parts of Europe; Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, United Kingdom. In Belgium and Latvia it is listed as Invasive, and in Lithuania as potentially Invasive!

 

In herbal medicine of the Ojibwa Indians a tea of leaves and flowers was used to ease childbirth. Early settlers used the inner bark as a pain killer, much like other early aspirin like herbs (willow. etc). Unlike willow or poplar, which also contains Salicylates, the properties and strength of the aspirin like effects is consistent from plant to plant. In minute amounts Meadowsweet can also be used on stomach issues. The Blackfoot Indians used a tea as an enema and a vagina douche to treat infections.

 

The leaves smell like almonds and have been used to keep linens fresh and nicely scented. The leaves have also been use in making an astringent skin tonic. The leaves have been dried and used as a China tea substitute, supposedly tasting much the same as the original. The early settlers ate the roots.

 

In magic use this plant and its flowers are used to promote love, balance and harmony. Among the Druids the Meadowsweet, Vervain and Verbena were their three most sacred herbs. The use of fresh flowers on the alter has been frequent when casting a love spell, also use the dried petals in love mixtures. The fresh flowers were often included in wedding bouquets. In Welsh Mythology, Gwydion and Math created a woman out of oak blossom, broom, and meadowsweet and named her Blodeuwedd (“flower face”).

Amaranth – Amaranthus ssp.

Sacred to: Artemis

Myth 1: In Greek mythology, Amaranthus was a hunter of the island of Euboea, a son of King Abas. He was loved by the goddess Artemis and joined her in the hunt. But he insulted Poseidon as worthless, claiming the bounty of the hunt was superior to that of the sea. For this the god sent a giant wave, which washed him into the sea and drowned him. Artemis then turned him into an amaranth-flower, her sacred plant.

Myth 2: According to the Greek mythology, amarantos was a flower hidden by gods. The person who will find it, will become immortal

Other Notes: The flower, sometimes called “amaranth” and sometimes called “amarantine,” is sacred and is a symbol of eternity.

Aesop’s Fables (6th century BC) compares the Rose to the Amaranth to illustrate the difference in fleeting and everlasting beauty.

 

A Rose and an Amaranth blossomed side by side in a garden,

and the Amaranth said to her neighbour,

“How I envy you your beauty and your sweet scent!

No wonder you are such a universal favourite.”

But the Rose replied with a shade of sadness in her voice,

“Ah, my dear friend, I bloom but for a time:

my petals soon wither and fall, and then I die.

But your flowers never fade, even if they are cut;

for they are everlasting.”

Milton’s Paradise Lost, iii. 353:

“Immortal amarant, a flower which once In paradise, fast by the tree of life, Began to bloom; but soon for man’s offence To heaven removed, where first it grew, there grows, And flowers aloft, shading the fount of life, And where the river of bliss through midst of heaven Rolls o’er elysian flowers her amber stream: With these that never fade the spirits elect Bind their resplendent locks.”

 

 
 
Amaranth - Amaranthus_retroflexus
Amaranth – Amaranthus_retroflexus

Illustration Credit: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz1885, Gera, Germany [Image in Public Domain]

 

Pineapple – Ananas comosus

Pineapple
Pineapple

Pineapple, pineapple the elixir of life
Pineapple, pineapple cut open with a knife
Pineapple, pineapple the sensitive fruit
Pineapples are awful cute…

 

By Unknown

 

This herbaceous, perennial plant originates in South America. It is believed to have been first cultivated by the Guarani Indians of northern Paraguay. Well before the Spaniards arrival the natives of southern Paraguay and Brazil had spread the plant through South America, and into the Caribbean. When Columbus hit the Indies in 1493 (his second voyage) he “discovered” Pineapples and returned them to Europe (specifically Spain).

Since then it has spread to Hawaii, the Philippines, Zimbabwe, and Guam. The first commercial plantation was started as early as the 1860’s. These same natives introduced the Spanish, and therefore the Europeans to the use of the Pineapple motif as a symbols of hospitality and friendship. The Caribbeans placed the whole pineapple or the crown of the fruit outside their door; while the Europeans chose to carve it into lintels over doorways, and furniture.

The Spanish found the locals in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico) soaking slices of the pineapple in salt water before they consumed them. This practice is no longer being followed. The fruit of the Pineapple is still enjoyed with relish, it is often eaten fresh with just the crown, rind, and eyes removed. The flesh may be cut and added to salads, in desserts, compotes, cooked in pies, cakes, puddings or as a garnish on ham. It can be made into sauces or preserves. In Malaysia it is added to curry and used to accent meat dishes. While in the Philippines they ferment the fleshy fruit pulp to make nata de pina. The most common way pineapple is found today is canned as slices, chunks, crushed, or as juice.

The fruit, peel and juice have been used in the treatment of corns, tumors and warts. In some areas it was used to induce abort, labor or menstruation. The juice of unripe fruits will cause vomiting, aiding in clearing the system of poisons. The fruit is often used in Mexican healing rituals. It has long been used as an aphrodisiac, and is used in a homeopathic formula for impotence. An easy use for an aphrodisiac is to place a pineapple spear or ring into a rum based drink (this may not work as an aphrodisiac, but it just may relax fear of inadequacies!)

There are many myths and folkloric tales surrounding Pineapple. Folktales relate that sea captains at one time would place a pineapple outside their door upon returning home to signify their return from the sea. Some people had beds with removable pineapples at the ends of the bedposts, when the guest overstayed their welcome the pineapple carving would be unscrewed from the end and removed!

In the Philippines the myth surrounding the origins of Pineapples is to teach children to always obey their parents, but it is also to teach the parents to treat their children with love and to take care in how they handled them. While the Peruvian legend has the dead arising from their graves and eating the fruit of wild Pineapples!

Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica

Sacred to: unknown

 

Myth 1: In Greek mythology Daphnis and Chloe were lovers, but they lived far apart and only could see each other while the honeysuckle bloomed. Daphnis asked the god of love if the plant could bloom longer than a season, so they could be together longer, which is why, according to legend, honeysuckle blooms continually throughout warm weather periods.

 

Myth 2: In some countries, bringing the blooms of honeysuckle into the house means there is going to be a wedding within the year.

 

Myth 3: In Scotland honeysuckle vines were hung on barns to prevent cattle from being bewitched.

 

Other Notes: Honeysuckle is the symbol of love. In the language of flowers it stands for the bond of love, devoted love and fidelity, probably because of the Greek legend of Daphnis and Chloe. The fragrance is supposed to induce dreams of passion

Japanese Honeysuckle

Japanese Honeysuckle

Soybeans – Glycine max

Soybeans
Soybeans

“Corn and soybeans,” he says,
“because of the give and take
of nitrogen, that’s why we
switch it out. Everything is
give and take, you know?”

I nod. I know.

By Giaco Furino 

For over 5,000 years the Soybean has been cultivated in the Far East. It has been a dietary staple and was declared one of 5 sacred grains along with along with barley, wheat, millet and rice. During the Chou Dynasty fermentation was discovered which allowed the soybean to be used for something other than a nitrogen fixing product in agriculture. Since the invention of fermentation soy is now used as tempeh, miso, tamari, soy sauce and tofu.

In cooking here in the west soybeans play an important part in the diet of many vegetarians due to its high protein content. Due to the protein level present it can make a good meat substitute with other protein sources added (like cheese or eggs, if a lacto-ovo diet is followed). For people who are lactose intolerant soybeans make a good milk substitute, as well. Dried soybeans are ground to make soy flour that can be found included in Spanish sausages (chorizo, salchichon, and mortadella). Soy flour is also found in doughnuts, and soup stock cubes. The green immature beans is becoming increasingly popular. A dried type is used as a snack, and fresh, frozen, or canned Edamame are finding their way to more and more grocer’s shelves.

In Chinese Traditional Medicine the soybean was used for the proper functioning of the bowels, heart, kidney, liver, and stomach. The root is treated as astringent. Flour of the beans is used in foods prepared for the diabetic in China! The fermented seed is used in the treatment of colds, fevers and headaches, insomnia, irritability and a stuffy sensation in the chest. The flowers used to treat blindness and the white, opacity of the cornea.

According to ancient Japanese mythology soybeans are a gift from the gods. One day Ukemochi met the moon God Tsukiyomi, he asked her for food. She vomited great quantities of food…The moon god was offended and killed her. From her body sprang a wide variety of vegetables…rice, and beans, millet, wheat and soybeans, also a cow and horse!

Yearly in the spring during the Setsubun festival (demon cleaning day) many people throw roasted soybeans outside their homes, often at a person wearing a demon mask, and yell  “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (“Oni go out! Blessings come in!”)

Taro – Colocasia esculenta

Taro
Taro

The potato of the tropics or coco yam are alternate names for this root that is a staple of many people of the tropics. It was one of the earliest cultivated plants in Malaysia where it is believed to have originated in the wetlands. It can be found growing along wetland fringes of ditches, streams, canal, and lakes. It is an herbaceous perennial that produces large ‘elephant’ like leaves above ground and edible roots below ground.

 

In Deni Brown’s book, Aroids Plants of the Arum Family, he writes,

“The oldest cultivated crop in the world is an aroid: taro (Colocasia esculenta).  It has been grown in parts of tropical and subtropical Asia for more than 10,000 years (Cable 1984). The ancient irrigation systems of  terrace paddies seen today may well have been constructed originally for taro long before rice came on the scene, and rice may have first come to notice as a weed in the flooded taro patches (Plucknett 1976).” 

 

Even though this plant is poisonous in all its parts, the leaves and roots are eaten daily in some parts of the world. Edoe (yet another name) contains calcium oxalate in all its parts, which contains needle-like crystals (called raphids) that produce the toxic response. The sap on the skin is a major irritant, and taken internally it will produce sensations of burning in the mouth and throat, swelling, and choking. Even with this response in mammals it can be rendered edible with proper cooking procedures!

 

To make Taro edible it must be cooked, in any fashion you would like. From roasting, boiling, or frying; you can slice, grate or mash them…as long as they are cooked you are safe! When cooked it has a mealy texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Many people compare them to the potato. Poi, a standard food in Hawaii, is made of Taro, and is a starchy paste like food that is fermented!

 

In Hawaii it has a history of use in local medicine. Only the uncooked corms are used in medicine. The scraped corm was used mixed into a formula to act as a purgative (causing vomiting). The leaves and sap can be applied to a cut to stop bleeding (styptic), and start the healing process.

 

In Hawaii the plant is considered sacred. It is considered to have the greatest life force of any food stuff. Taro grew from the body of the stillborn son of Wakea (sky father) and Papa (earth mother). This plant came with the earliest Hawaiian settlers in their canoes, and was considered a staple and the staff of life for centuries. The Hawaiians still refer to the plant as the “elder brother”.