Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s day! Time to spread some loving!

One of the nicest things about February is not just the fact that March is around the corner and therefore spring is on its way, but that the inner tide is turning, too. Just as the sap is rising in trees, the love juices are also flowing within. It is a time to indulge in courtship and romance, to lavish buckets of romantic gooeyness on your significant other, rekindle an old flame, or perhaps to make an impression on someone that only recently caught your eye.

Who is St. Valentine?

February 14th is Valentine’s Day, a somewhat questionable Saints Day, which has its origin in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a festival of licentiousness. At first, denounced as a lewd pagan rite, it proved too popular to be suppressed. Thus, the old festival of love was dressed in a thin cloak of Christian piety and became the saint’s day of St. Valentine.

This Valentine was a fictitious figure who was said to have been executed just as his beloved received his ‘billet of love’ (a kind of little love letter, which has its modern-day equivalent in the custom of sending Valentine’s cards). This custom was also associated with the Roman festival of Lupercalia.

February – the month of Juno Februata

Incidentally, the word ‘February’ is derived from the name of the Goddess ‘Juno Februata’, to whom this month is dedicated. Her name contains the word ‘febris’ – meaning ‘fever’, which does not refer to a kind of divine flu, but to her fiery passion – the fever of love.

To this day, Valentine’s Day is celebrated as ‘lover’s day’. Here is a look at some of those age-old customs and their underlying significance and some suggestions as to how to stoke the fire of love.

say it with flowers

Say it with flowers

Flowers are still THE most popular Valentine’s gift, but which ones should you choose? Maybe draw some inspiration from the Victorian flower language, a secret lovers’ code that could be used to express very specific kinds of messages, so long as both parties were ‘in’ on the symbolism. If they were not, the message would either be lost or interpreted entirely the wrong way. Seen in this light, even Roses are not a safe bet. It all depends on the specific variety and color you choose. Thus, instead of conveying a message of love, it could mean something like ‘you are a pretty ditz’, or ‘you might be charming, but proud’, and ‘your beauty will not last’. To learn more, see this long list of flowers and their specific meanings, before risking a disastrous mistake!

Chocolate – always desirable

chocolate loveIt might be safer to ‘say it with chocolates’ instead. Chocolate is the other most popular Valentine’s gift. Although perhaps a little less romantic, it might be more enticing and less ambiguous. After all, Cocoa’s reputation as an aphrodisiac dates back to the ancient Aztecs.

Montezuma, the last Aztec emperor, was a veritable cocoa fiend! He regularly downed his golden goblet full of foaming ‘xocoatl’ (=chocolate) brew, to invigorate himself before entering his harem.

Few of us today would find his recipe very tempting as it has little resemblance with our modern idea of what chocolate should taste like. But, it seems to have worked for him.

Incidentally, modern research confirms the ancient claim. Apparently, Cocoa contains a substance that has appropriately been called ‘Anandamide’ – alluding to the Sanskrit word ‘ananda’, which means ‘bliss’. Anandamide has anti-depressant properties that induce a sense of well-being and contentment. Cocoa is also rich in Phenylethylamine, which neurochemistry links to the feeling of euphoria so characteristic of the mental state of ‘being in love’. No wonder everybody LOVES chocolate!

A loving spoonful?

Peter's Chili‘Love goes through the stomach’, so they say. Those who find chocolates and flowers too ordinary might instead seek to impress their loved one with a particularly sexy dish, prepared with love, of course.

On scouring the literature one cannot help but be in awe at the amount of foodstuff deemed to have aphrodisiacs properties. Some of these appear to have gained that reputation on account of their appearance (who says placebos don’t work?), while others have a rather more direct, physiological effect.

In the category of visual aids are things like carrots, parsnips, asparagus, and bananas.

Things like piñon nuts, lady’s fingers, truffle mushrooms, oysters, and pufferfish, on the other hand, would hardly qualify if optics was the only criteria. Various spices, as well as certain herbs, have also long held on to their aphrodisiac reputation. Their volatile oil components are highly stimulating. Among these herbs are lovage, cardamom, saffron, and cinnamon. Garlic and chilies are in a category of their own. While not exactly seductive, they undoubtedly pack a punch. None fits both categories better than the gloriously endowed ‘Peter Chili’ – I mean, really, Mother Nature – was that meant to be a subtle hint?

Drinks

ChampaignContrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a suitable aphrodisiac. In fact, it is probably the worst thing you could drink if love is on your mind. While a little alcohol undoubtedly reduces inhibitions, too much of it has a desensitizing effect and is most likely to put you to sleep.

A non-alcoholic cocktail is a great, nutritious alternative that provides an energy boost and is very tasty, too.

Or, try a chai tea. This exquisite, richly flavored blend combines a whole range of warming aphrodisiac spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, and black pepper with black tea, milk, and honey.

Victorian Flower Language

Victorian Flower Language

The Victorian flower language, also known as ‘floriography’, was a secret floral code by means of which lovers could exchange messages without the embarrassment of having to indiscreetly ask or tell someone the nature of one’s true heart’s desire. For this purpose, Victorians carried little floral bouquets called ‘tussie-mussies’. But, the meaning of each flower was not universal, and thus, could be confusing at times. Floral dictionaries were published to facilitate this silent form of communication. The craze spread far beyond Victorian England and spread throughout Continental Europe and the US.

Reprinted from:

Collier’s Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge,

compiled by Nugent Robinson. P.F. Collier, 1882

Abatina

Fickleness

Acacia

Friendship

Acacia, Rose or White

Elegance

Acacia, Yellow

Secret love

Acanthus

The fine arts, Artifice

Acalia

Temperance

Achillea Millefolia

War

Aconite (Wolfsbane)

Misanthropy

Aconite, Crowfoot

Luster

Adonis, Flos

Painful recollections

African Marigold

Vulgar minds

Agnus Castus

Coldness, Indifference

Agrimony

Thankfulness, Gratitude

Almond (Common)

Stupidity, Indiscretion

Almond (Flowering)

Hope

Almond, Laurel

Perfidy

Allspice

Compassion

Aloe

Grief, Religious superstition

Althaea Frutex (Syrian Mallow)

Persuasion

Alyssum (Sweet)

Worth beyond beauty,

Amaranth (Globe)

Immortality, Unfading love,

Amaranth (Cockscomb)

Foppery, Affectation,

Amaryllis

Pride, Timidity, Splendid beauty

Ambrosia

Love returned

Cowslip

Divine beauty

Starwort

Welcome to a stranger, Cheerfulness in old age

Anemone (Garden)

Forsaken

Angelica

Inspiration

Apple

Temptation

Apple (Blossom)

Preference, Fame speaks him great and good

Apple, Thorn

Deceitful charms

Apocynum (Dog’s Vane)

Deceit

Arbor Vitae

Unchanging friendship, Live for me

Arum (Wake Robin)

Ardor

Ash-leaved Trumpet Flower

Separation

Ash Tree

Grandeur

Aspen Tree

Lamentation

Aster (China)

Variety, Afterthought

Asphodel

My regrets follow you to the grave

Auricula

Painting

Auricula, Scarlet

Avarice

Austurtium

Splendor

Azalea

Temperance

Bachelor’s Buttons

Celibacy

Balm

Sympathy

Balm, Gentle

Pleasantry

Balm of Gilead

Cure Relief

Balsam, Red

Touch me not, Impatient resolves

Balsam, Yellow

Impatience

Barberry

Sourness of temper

Barberry Tree

Sharpness

Basil

Hatred

Bay Leaf

I change but in death

Bay (Rose) Rhododendron

Danger Beware

Bay Tree

Glory

Bay Wreath

Reward of merit

Bearded Crepis

Protection

Beech Tree

Prosperity

Bee Orchis

Industry

Bee Ophrys

Error

Belladonna

Silence

Bell Flower, Pyramidal

Constancy

Bell Flower (small white)

Gratitude

Belvedere

I declare against you

Betony

Surprise

Bilberry

Treachery

Bindweed, Great

Insinuation

Bindweed, Small

Humility

Birch

Meekness

Birdsfoot, Trefoil

Revenge

Bittersweet; Nightshade

Truth

Black Poplar

Courage

Blackthorn

Difficulty

Bladder Nut Tree

Frivolity, Amusement

Bluebottle (Century)

Delicacy

Bluebell

Constancy

Blue-flowered Greek Valerian

Rupture

Bonus Henricus

Goodness

Borage

Bluntness

Box Tree

Stoicism

Bramble

Lowliness, Envy, Remorse

Branch of Currants

You please all

Branch of Thorns

Severity, Rigor

Bridal Rose

Happy love

Broom

Humility

Buckbean

Calm repose

Bud of White Rose

Heart ignorant of love

Bugloss

Falsehood

Bulrush

Indiscretion, Docility

Bundle of Reeds, with their Panicles

Music

Burdock

Importunity, Touch me not

Buttercup (Kingcup)

Ingratitude, Childishness

Butterfly Orchis

Gaiety

Butterfly Weed

Let me go

Cabbage

Profit

Cacalia

Adulation

Cactus

Warmth

Calla Aethiopica

Magnificent beauty

Calycanthus

Benevolence

Camellia Japonica, Red

Unpretending excellence

Camellia Japonica, White

Perfected loveliness

Camomile

Energy in adversity

Canary Grass

Perseverance

Candytuft

Indifference

Canterbury Bell

Acknowledgment

Cape Jasmine

I’m too happy

Cardamine

Paternal error

Carnation, Deep Red

Alas! for my poor heart

Carnation, Striped

Refusal

Carnation, Yellow

Disdain

Cardinal Flower

Distinction

Catchfly

Snare

Catchfly, Red

Youthful love

Catchfly, White

Betrayed

Cedar

Strength

Cedar of Lebanon

Incorruptible

Cedar Leaf

I live for thee

Celandine (Lesser)

Joys to come

Century

Delicacy

Cereus (Creeping)

Modest genius

Champignon

Suspicion

Chequered Fritillary

Persecution

Cherry Tree

Good education

Cherry Tree, White

Deception

Chestnut Tree

Do me justice, Luxury

Chickweed

Rendezvous

Chicory

Frugality

China Aster

Variety

China Aster, Double

I partake your sentiments

China Aster, Single

I will think of it

China or Indian Pink

Aversion

China Rose

Beauty always new

Chinese Chrysanthemum

Cheerfulness under adversity

Christmas Rose

Relieve my anxiety

Chrysanthemum, Red

I love

Chrysanthemum, White

Truth

Chrysanthemum, Yellow

Slighted love

Cinquefoil

Maternal affection

Circaea

Spell

Cistus, or Rock Rose

Popular favor

Cistus, Gum

I shall die tomorrow

Citron

Ill-natured beauty

Clematis

Mental beauty

Clematis, Evergreen

Poverty

Clotbur

Rudeness Pertinacity

Cloves

Dignity

Clover, Four-leaved

Be mine

Clover, Red

Industry

Clover, White

Think of me

Cobaea

Gossip

Cockscomb Amaranth

Foppery, Affectation, Singularity

Colchicum, or Meadow Saffron

My best days are past

Coltsfoot

Justice shall be done

Columbine

Folly

Columbine, Purple

Resolved to win

Columbine, Red

Anxious and trembling

Convolvulus

Bonds

Convolvulus, Blue (Minor)

Repose, Night

Convolvulus, Major

Extinguished hopes

Convolvulus, Pink

Worth sustained by judicious and tender affection

Corchorus

Impatient of absence

Coreopsis

Always cheerful

Coreopsis Arkansa

Love at first sight

Coriander

Hidden worth

Corn

Riches

Corn, Broken

Quarrel

Corn Straw

Agreement

Corn Bottle

Delicacy

Corn Cockle

Gentility

Cornel Tree

Duration

Coronella

Success crown your wishes

Cowslip

Pensiveness Winning grace

Cowslip, American

Divine beauty You are my divinity

Cranberry

Cure for heartache

Creeping Cereus

Horror

Cress

Stability, Power

Crocus

Abuse not

Crocus, Spring

Youthful, gladness

Crocus, Saffron

Mirth

Crown Imperial

Majesty, Power

Crowsbill

Envy

Crowfoot

Ingratitude

Crowfoot (Aconite-leaved)

Luster

Cocoa Plant

Ardor

Cudweed, American

Unceasing remembrance

Currant

Thy frown will kill me

Cuscuta

Meanness

Cyclamen

Diffidence

Cypress

Death, Mourning

Daffodil

Regard

Dahlia

Instability

Daisy

Innocence

Daisy, Garden

I share your sentiments

Daisy, Michaelmas

Farewell

Daisy, Party-colored

Beauty

Daisy, Wild

I will think of it

Damask Rose

Brilliant complexion

Dandelion

Rustic oracle

Daphne, Odora

Painting the lily

Darnel (Ray grass)

Vice

Dead Leaves

Sadness

Dew Plant

A serenade

Dittany of Crete

Birth

Dittany of Crete, White

Passion

Dock

Patience

Dodder of Thyme

Baseness

Dogsbane

Deceit, Falsehood

Dogwood

Durability

Dragon Plant

Snare

Dried Flax

Utility

Ebony Tree

Blackness

Eglantine (Sweetbrier)

Poetry, I wound to heal

Elder

Zealousness

Elm

Dignity

Enchanter’s Nightshade

Witchcraft, Sorcery

Endive

Frugality

Eupatorium

Delay

Everflowering Candytuft

Indifference

Evergreen Clematis

Poverty

Evergreen Thorn

Solace in adversity

Everlasting

Never-ceasing remembrance

Everlasting Pea

Lasting pleasure

Fennel

Worthy of all praise, Strength

Fern

Fascination

Ficoides, Ice Plant

Your looks freeze me

Fig

Argument

Fig Marigold

Idleness

Fig Tree

Prolific

Filbert

Reconciliation

Fir

Time

Fir Tree

Elevation

Flax

Domestic industry, Fate, I feel your kindness

Flax-leaved Goldy-locks

Tardyness

Fleur-de-Lis

Flame, I burn

Fleur-de-Luce

Fire

Flowering Fern

Reverie

Flowering Reed

Confidence in Heaven

Flower-of-an-Hour

Delicate beauty

Fly Orchis

Error

Flytrap

Deceit

Fool’s Parsley

Silliness

Forget Me Not

True love, Forget me not

Foxglove

Insincerity

Foxtail Grass

Sporting

French Honeysuckle

Rustic beauty

French Marigold

Jealousy

French Willow

Bravery and humanity

Frog Ophrys

Disgust

Fuller’s Teasel

Misanthropy

Fumitory

Spleen

Fuschia, Scarlet

Taste

Garden Anemone

Forsaken

Garden Chervil

Sincerity

Garden Daisy

I partake your sentiments

Garden Marigold

Uneasiness

Garden Ranunculus

You are rich in attractions

Garden Sage

Esteem

Garland of Roses

Reward of virtue

Germander Speedwell

Facility

Geranium, Dark

Melancholy

Geranium, Ivy

Bridal favor

Geranium, Lemon

Unexpected meeting

Geranium, Nutmeg

Expected meeting

Geranium, Oak-leaved

True friendship

Geranium, Penciled

Ingenuity

Geranium, Rose-scented

Preference

Geranium, Scarlet

Comforting stupidity

Geranium, Silver-leaved

Recall

Geranium, wild

Steadfast piety

Gilliflower

Bonds of affection

Glory Flower

Glorious beauty

Goat’s Rue

Reason

Golden Rod

Precaution

Gooseberry

Anticipation

Gourd

Extent, Bulk

Grape, Wild

Charity

Grass

Submission, Utility

Guelder Rose

Winter, Age

Hand Flower Tree

Warning

Harebell

Submission, Grief

Hawkweed

Quicksightedness

Hawthorn

Hope

Hazel

Reconciliation

Heath

Solitude

Helenium

Tears

Heliotrope

Devotion, Faithfulness

Hellebore

Scandal, Calumny

Helmet Flower (Monkshood)

Knight-errantry

Hemlock

You will be my death

Hemp

Fate

Henbane

Imperfection

Hepatica

Confidence

Hibiscus

Delicate beauty

Holly

Foresight

Holly Herb

Enchantment

Hollyhock

Ambition, Fecundity

Honesty

Honesty, Fascination

Honey Flower

Love, sweet and secret

Honeysuckle

Generous and devoted affection

Honeysuckle (Coral)

The color of my fate

Honeysuckle (French)

Rustic beauty

Hop

Injustice

Hornbean

Ornament

Horse Chestnut

Luxury

Hortensia

You are cold

Houseleek

Vivacity, Domestic industry

Houstonia

Content

Hoya

Sculpture

Humble Plant

Despondency

Hundred-leaved Rose

Dignity of mind

Hyacinth

Sport, Game, Play

Hyacinth, White

Unobtrusive loveliness

Hydrangea

A boaster, Heartlessness

Hyssop

Cleanliness

Iceland Moss

Health

Ice Plant

Your looks freeze me

Imperial Montague

Power

Indian Cress

Warlike trophy

Indian Jasmine (Ipomoea)

Attachment

Indian Pink (Double)

Always lovely

Indian Plum

Privation

Iris

Message

Iris German

Flame

Ivy

Fidelity, Marriage

Ivy, Sprig of, with tendrils

Assiduous to please

Jacob’s Ladder

Come down

Japan Rose

Beauty is your only attraction

Jasmine

Amiability

Jasmine, Cape

Transport of joy

Jasmine, Carolina

Separation

Jasmine, Indian

I attach myself to you

Jasmine, Spanish

Sensuality

Jasmine, Yellow

Grace and elegance

Jonquil

I desire a return of affection

Judas Tree

Unbelief, Betrayal

Juniper

Succor, Protection

Justicia

The perfection of female loveliness

Kennedia

Mental beauty

King-cups

Desire of riches

Laburnum

Forsaken, Pensive beauty

Lady’s Slipper

Capricious beauty, Win me and wear me

Lagerstraemia, Indian

Eloquence

Lantana

Rigor

Larch

Audacity, Boldness

Larkspur

Lightness, Levity

Larkspur, Pink

Fickleness

Larkspur, Purple

Haughtiness

Laurel

Glory

Laurel Common, in flower

Perfidy

Laurel, Ground

Perseverance

Laurel, Mountain

Ambition

Laurel-leaved Magnolia

Dignity

Laurestina

A token, I die if neglected

Lavender

Distrust

Leaves (dead)

Melancholy

Lemon

Zest

Lemon Blossoms

Fidelity in love

Lettuce

Cold-heartedness

Lichen

Dejection, Solitude

Lilac, Field

Humility

Lilac, Purple

First emotions of love

Lilac, White

Youthful innocence

Lily, Day

Coquetry

Lily, Imperial

Majesty

Lily, White

Youthful innocence

Lily, Yellow

Falsehood, Gaiety

Lily of the Valley

Return of happiness

Linden or Lime Trees

Conjugal love

Lint

I feel my obligation

Live Oak

Liberty

Liverwort

Confidence

Licorice, Wild

I declare against you

Lobelia

Malevolence

Locust Tree

Elegance

Locust Tree (green)

Affection beyond the grave

London Pride

Frivolity

Lote Tree

Concord

Lotus

Eloquence

Lotus Flower

Estranged love

Lotus Leaf

Recantation

Love in a Mist

Perplexity

Love lies Bleeding

Hopeless, not heartless

Lucern

Life

Lupine

Voraciousness, Imagination

Madder

Calumny

Magnolia

Love of nature

Magnolia, Swamp

Perseverance

Mallow

Mildness

Mallow, Marsh

Beneficence

Mallow, Syrian

Consumed by love

Mallow, Venetian

Delicate beauty

Manchineal Tree

Falsehood

Mandrake

Horror

Maple

Reserve

Marigold

Grief

Marigold, African

Vulgar minds

Marigold, French

Jealousy

Marigold, Prophetic

Prediction

Marigold and Cypress

Despair

Marjoram

Blushes

Marvel of Peru

Timidity

Meadow Lychnis

Wit

Meadow Saffron

My best days are past

Meadowsweet

Uselessness

Mercury

Goodness

Mesembryanthemum

Idleness

Mezereon

Desire to please

Michaelmas Daisy

Afterthought

Mignionette

Your qualities surpass your charms

Milfoil

War

Milkvetch

Your presence softens my pains

Milkwort

Hermitage

Mimosa (Sensitive Plant)

Sensitiveness

Mint

Virtue

Mistletoe

I surmount difficulties

Mock Orange

Counterfeit

Monkshood (Helmet Flower)

Chivalry Knight-errantry

Moonwort

Forgetfulness

Morning Glory

Affectation

Moschatel

Weakness

Moss

Maternal love

Mosses

Ennui

Mossy Saxifrage

Affection

Motherwort

Concealed love

Mountain Ash

Prudence

Mourning Bride

Unfortunate attachment, I have lost all

Mouse-eared Chickweed

Ingenuous simplicity

Mouse-eared Scorpion Grass

Forget me not

Moving Plant

Agitation

Mudwort

Tranquility

Mugwort

Happiness

Mulberry Tree (Black)

I shall not survive you

Mulberry Tree (White)

Wisdom

Mushroom

Suspicion

Musk Plant

Weakness

Mustard Seed

Indifference

Myrobalan

Privation

Myrrh

Gladness

Myrtle

Love

Narcissus

Egotism

Nasturtium

Patriotism

Nettle Burning

Slander

Nettle Tree

Concert

Night-blooming Cereus

Transient beauty

Night Convolvulus

Night

Nightshade

Truth

Oak Leaves

Bravery

Oak Tree

Hospitality

Oak (White)

Independence

Oats

The witching soul of music

Oleander

Beware

Olive

Peace

Orange Blossoms

Your purity equals your loveliness

Orange Tree

Generosity

Orchis

A Belle

Osier

Frankness

Osmunda

Dreams

Ox Eye

Patience

Palm

Victory

Pansy

Thoughts

Parsley

Festivity

Pasque Flower

You have no claims

Passion Flower

Religious superstition

Patience Dock

Patience

Pea, Everlasting

An appointed meeting, Lasting pleasure

Pea, Sweet

Departure

Peach

Your qualities, like your charms, are unequaled

Peach Blossom

I am your captive

Pear

Affection

Pear Tree

Comfort

Pennyroyal

Flee away

Peony

Shame, Bashfulness

Peppermint

Warmth of feeling

Periwinkle, Blue

Early friendship

Periwinkle, White

Pleasures of memory

Persicaria

Restoration

Persimon

Bury me amid nature’s beauties

Peruvian Heliotrope

Devotion

Pheasant’s Eye

Remembrance

Phlox

Unanimity

Pigeon Berry

Indifference

Pimpernell

Change, Assignation

Pine

Pity

Pine-apple

You are perfect

Pine, Pitch

Philosophy

Pine, Spruce

Hope in adversity

Pink

Boldness

Pink, Carnation

Woman’s love

Pink, Indian, Double

Always lovely

Pink, Indian, Single

Aversion

Pink, Mountain

Aspiring

Pink, Red, Double

Pure and ardent love

Pink, Single

Pure love

Pink, Variegated

Refusal

Pink, White

Ingeniousness, Talent

Plane Tree

Genius

Plum, Indian

Privation

Plum Tree

Fidelity

Plum, Wild

Independence

Polyanthus

Pride of riches

Polyanthus, Crimson

The heart’s mystery

Polyanthus, Lilac

Confidence

Pomegranate Flower

Mature elegance

Poplar, Black

Courage

Poplar, White

Time

Poppy, Red

Consolation

Poppy, Scarlet

Fantastic extravagance

Poppy, White

Sleep, My bane, My antidote

Potato

Benevolence

Prickly Pear

Satire

Pride of China

Dissension

Primrose

Early youth

Primrose, Evening

Inconstancy

Primrose, Red

Unpatronized merit

Privet

Prohibition

Purple, Clover

Provident

Pyrus Japonica

Fairies’ fire

Quaking-Grass

Agitation

Quamoclit

Busybody

Queen’s Rocket

You are the queen of coquettes, Fashion

Quince

Temptation

Ragged Robin

Wit

Ranunculus

You are radiant with charms

Ranunculus, Garden

You are rich in attractions

Ranunculus, Wild

Ingratitude

Raspberry

Remorse

Ray Grass

Vice

Red Catchfly

Youthful love

Reed

Complaisance Music

Reed, Split

Indiscretion

Rhododendron (Rosebay)

Danger Beware

Rhubarb

Advice

Rocket

Rivalry

Rose

Love

Rose, Austrian

Thou art all that is lovely

Rose, Bridal

Happy love

Rose, Burgundy

Unconscious beauty

Rose, Cabbage

Ambassador of love

Rose, Campion

Only deserve my love

Rose, Carolina

Love is dangerous

Rose, China

Beauty always new

Rose Christmas

Tranquilize my anxiety

Rose, Daily

Thy smile I aspire to

Rose, Damask

Brilliant complexion

Rose, Deep Red

Bashful shame

Rose, Dog

Pleasure and pain

Rose, Guelder

Winter, Age

Rose, Hundred-leaved

Pride

Rose, Japan

Beauty is your only attraction

Rose, Maiden Blush

If you love me, you will find it out

Rose, Multiflora

Grace

Rose, Mundi

Variety

Rose, Musk

Capricious beauty

Rose, Musk, Cluster

Charming

Rose, Single

Simplicity

Rose, Thornless

Early attachment

Rose, Unique

Call me not beautiful

Rose, White

I am worthy of you

Rose, White (withered)

Transient impressions

Rose, Yellow

Decrease of love, Jealousy

Rose, York and Lancaster

War

Rose, Full-blown, placed over two Buds

Secrecy

Roses, Crown of

Reward of virtue

Rosebud, Red

Pure and lovely

Rosebud, White

Girlhood

Rosebud, Moss

Confession of love

Rosebay (Rhododendron)

Beware, Danger

Rosemary

Remembrance

Rudbeckia

Justice

Rue

Disdain

Rush

Docility

Rye Grass

Changeable disposition

Saffron

Beware of excess

Saffron Crocus

Mirth

Saffron, Meadow

My happiest days are past

Sage

Domestic virtue

Sage, Garden

Esteem

Sainfoin

Agitation

St John’s Wort

Animosity, Superstition

Sardony

Irony

Saxifrage, Mossy

Affection

Scabious

Unfortunate love

Scabious, Sweet

Widowhood

Scarlet Lychnis

Sunbeaming eyes

Schinus

Religious enthusiasm

Scotch Fir

Elevation

Sensitive Plant

Sensibility, Delicate feelings

Senvy

Indifference

Shamrock

Light-heartedness

Snakesfoot

Horror

Snapdragon

Presumption

Snowball

Bound

Snowdrop

Hope

Sorrel

Affection

Sorrel, Wild

Wit ill-timed

Sorrel, Wood

Joy

Southernwood

Jest, Bantering

Spanish Jasmine

Sensuality

Spearmint

Warmth of sentiment

Speedwell

Female fidelity

Speedwell, Germander

Facility

Speedwell, Spiked

Semblance

Spider Ophrys

Adroitness

Spiderwort

Esteem, not love

Spiked Willow Herb

Pretension

Spindle Tree

Your charms are engraven on my heart

Star of Bethlehem

Purity

Starwort

Afterthought

Starwort, American

Cheerfulness in old age

Stock

Lasting beauty

Stock, Ten Week

Promptness

Stonecrop

Tranquility

Straw, Broken

Rupture of a contract

Straw, Whole

Union

Strawberry Tree

Esteem and love

Sumach, Venice

Splendor, Intellectual excellence

Sunflower, Dwarf

Adoration

Sunflower, Tall

Haughtiness

Swallow-wort

Cure for heartache

Sweet Basil

Good wishes

Sweetbrier, American

Simplicity

Sweetbrier, European

I wound to heal

Sweetbrier, Yellow

Decrease of love

Sweet Pea

Delicate pleasures

Sweet Sultan

Felicity

Sweet William

Gallantry

Sycamore

Curiosity

Syringa

Memory

Syringa, Carolina

Disappointment

Tamarisk

Crime

Tansy (Wild)

I declare war against you

Teasel

Misanthropy

Tendrils of Climbing Plants

Ties

Thistle, Common

Austerity

Thistle, Fuller’s

Misanthropy

Thistle, Scotch

Retaliation

Thorn, Apple

Deceitful charms

Thorn, Branch of

Severity

Thrift

Sympathy

Throatwort

Neglected beauty

Thyme

Activity

Tiger Flower

For once may pride befriend me

Traveler’s Joy

Safety

Tree of Life

Old age

Trefoil

Revenge

Tremella Nestoc

Resistance

Trillium Pictum

Modest beauty

Truffle

Surprise

Trumpet Flower

Fame

Tuberose

Dangerous pleasures

Tulip

Fame

Tulip, Red

Declaration of love

Tulip, Variegated

Beautiful eyes

Tulip, Yellow

Hopeless love

Turnip

Charity

Tussilage (Sweet-scented)

Justice shall be done

Valerian

An accommodating disposition

Valerian, Greek

Rupture

Venice Sumach

Intellectual excellence Splendor

Venus’s Car

Fly with me

Venus’s Looking-glass

Flattery

Venus’s Trap

Deceit

Vernal Grass

Poor, but happy

Veronica

Fidelity

Vervain

Enchantment

Vine

Intoxication

Violet, Blue

Faithfulness

Violet, Dane

Watchfulness

Violet, Sweet

Modesty

Violet, Yellow

Rural happiness

Virginian Spiderwort

Momentary happiness

Virgin’s Bower

Filial love

Volkamenia

May you be happy

Walnut

Intellect, Stratagem

Wall-flower

Fidelity in adversity

Water Lily

Purity of heart

Water Melon

Bulkiness

Wax Plant

Susceptibility

Wheat Stalk

Riches

Whin

Anger

White Jasmine

Amiableness

White Lily

Purity and modesty

White Mullein

Good nature

White Oak

Independence

White Pink

Talent

White Poplar

Time

White Rose (dried)

Death preferable to loss of innocence

Wortleberry

Treason

Willow, Creeping

Love forsaken

Willow, Water

Freedom

Willow, Weeping

Mourning

Willow-Herb

Pretension

Willow-French

Bravery and humanity

Winter Cherry

Deception

Witch Hazel

A spell

Woodbine

Brotherly love

Wood Sorrel

Motherly love

Wormwood

Absence

Xanthium

Rudeness, Pertinacity

Xeranthemum

Cheerfulness under difficulty

Yew

Sorrow

Zephyr Flower

Expectation

Zinnia

Thoughts of absent friends

Plant Profile: Mistletoe – Viscum album

Plant Profile: Mistletoe – Viscum album

Mysterious Mistletoe (Viscum album L.)

SYNONYMS:

English: Bird Lime, Birdlime Mistletoe, Mystyldene, Lignum Crucis, All-heal,

German: Affolter, Donnerbesen, Heil aller Schäden, Hexenbesen, Nistel, Vogelleimholz, Heiligholz, Heilkreuzholz, Drudenfuss, Wintergrün,

French: Herbe de la Croix, Gui de Chêne

DESCRIPTION:

Mistletoe is an evergreen parasitic plant that sustains its greenish-yellow leaves throughout the winter. It becomes especially apparent once the leaves of its host have dropped. It certainly looks quite strange, this yellowish ball hanging high up in the tree.

Mistletoe’s growing habit is distinctly round. Its twigs bifurcate frequently, and its elongated, oval leaves always grow in opposite pairs. The tiny, inconspicuous yellowish flowers appear in May, but the translucent whitish pea-sized berries don’t ripen until late in the year.

Birds, particularly thrushes, spread the seeds. The fruit flesh of the berries is very sticky (hence the Latin name ‘Viscum album meaning ‘white sticky stuff’). The birds love those berries but the gooey stuff clings to their beaks which they clean by wiping them on the branches they happen to sit on. If the sticky stuff contains a seed then it has found a perfect spot to sprout. Soon it sends out a sucker rootlet that penetrates the bark and taps the sap of the host tree for nutrients and water. The berries, although loved by birds, are toxic to humans.

The Mistletoe is not all that choosey when it comes to its host. Although it is most commonly found on deciduous trees it is also occasionally found on conifers. The belief that it is frequently found growing on Oaks is a misconception that originates in the druidic lore. Druids always collect Mistletoe, which they consider sacred, from Oak trees, but it is actually rare to find it growing there. It is much more commonly found growing on apple trees, poplars, and lime trees.

Mistletoes belong to the family of Loranthaceae, which comprises some 75 genera and about 1000 species. Not all of them are parasitic but many of them are. Three Australian species are even terrestrial.

ECOLOGY:

Although Mistletoe is a parasite and as such is dependent on the host-plant for its nutrients and water, it does not rely on it for carbon dioxide. Since Mistletoe produces green, chlorophyll-containing leaves, it can perform its own photosynthesis. (Technically, it is thus a hemiparasite – it only partially depends on the host plant for its survival.)

As a rule, mistletoe does not kill the host-plant.

Mistletoe berries

HISTORY, MYTHOLOGY, AND FOLKLORE

The mysterious Mistletoe, airborne between heaven and earth, has always been a source of wonder. Where did it come from? How could it sustain itself, without roots, yet bear leaves and fruit, even in the winter, long after the life-force has retreated into the womb of the earth?

The Druids revered the Mistletoe as the holiest of holies, especially when it appeared oaks, their most sacred tree. The Mistletoe was their ‘Golden Bough’, the key to the heavens and to the underworld. The mysterious plant was regarded as the reproductive organs of Thor, the god of thunder, who also presided over the sacred oak tree. In the druidic tree calendar, December 23 belongs to the Mistletoe. It is the day on which it was ceremoniously cut:

Accompanied by prayers the chief druid would ascend into the tree to cut the unearthly Mistletoe with his golden sickle. Utmost care was taken to prevent the herb from touching the ground. The other druids stood below holding up a white cloth on which they caught the branches of the sacred herb. To mark the holy occasion they also sacrificed two white bulls, dressed with garlands.

Thus, the regenerative power of the solar deity was joined in sacrifice to the moon goddess as the female counterpart in this fertility rite. The blessing was meant to bestow abundance and protection against all evil at the birth of the new solar year. On this day the male and female forces of the universe were held in balance by the power of this symbolic union. By extension, this meant a harmonization of all opposites, a state of perfect balance at the turning point of the year. A festival of wild abandon followed the sacred sacrifice.

Much tamer and somewhat superficial remnants of these ancient and long-forgotten ritual enactments have survived even to the 21st century. Mistletoe twigs still hang above the entrance of the home at Christmas time, giving license to kiss even strangers, and thereby receive the blessing of the humble twig – even if nobody remembers why.

In some of the rural, more traditional areas of France young children can occasionally be seen spreading Mistletoe blessings on New Years Day. Running through the village, shouting ‘Au gui l’an neuf’ (gui de chêne – Mistletoe) they dedicate the New Year to the Mistletoe and thus invoke its protective powers.

Mistletoe was believed to fend off all evil, all bad spirits, and harmful witches’ spells. It was sometimes worn as an amulet for protection, fertility, and abundance.

Norse Mythology – Baldur’s Death

Norse Mythology reveals a darker, but related aspect of Mistletoe’s symbolism. The story tells of Baldur, the divine solar hero, son of Frigg and Odin, who was killed by a twig of Mistletoe. It is said that he would not return until after doomsday when he will bring in a new era of light, a new ‘golden age’.

The beautiful young sun god Baldur was plagued by visions of his imminent death. Obviously, he grew concerned. When his parents found out about his troubles they too grew concerned. But his mother Frigg hatched a plan: She would go on a mission to obtain sacred oaths from everything and everybody in Valhalla. And so she went to ask all the elements, all the stones, all the trees, the plants, and even the venomous beasts to promise that they would not kill her beloved Baldur. All swore never to harm the beautiful boy – all except one: the Mistletoe.  Frigg never thought it necessary to ask such a feeble plant not to do any harm. She simply did not think that it would be capable of such a deed.

Satisfied with all these promises Frigg declared her son invincible. Henceforth, shooting arrows and throwing stones at Baldur, none of which could harm him, became a favorite pastime among the gods. Indeed, taking shots at Baldur came to be a way to honor him.

But trouble was brewing in heavenly abode. The jealous God Loki somehow learned that the Mistletoe had never sworn that oath. Thus, he went straight to it and enlisted it in his wicked plan. With a sharpened twig of Mistletoe, he returned to the Gods’ assembly, where everyone was having fun taking shots at the invincible Baldur. Only his blind brother Hodur was left out. Slyly, Loki went up to Hodur, asking ‘why don’t you show honor to your brother and take a shot at him?’ ‘I can’t see and nor do I have anything to throw’, Hodur answered. ‘Here, I will help you’, Loki offered, passing Hodur the Mistletoe twig and helping him to direct his arrow. In an instant, Baldur was slain.

The Gods were aghast and horrified, shocked and angered, swearing to avenge the attack. One of Baldur’s other brothers was quickly dispatched to follow him to the Underworld. He was to plead with the Goddess of death, to allow Baldur to return to the heavens.

His plea was granted but under one condition: all the gods and all the other beings of the earth, living or dead must weep to express their sorrow. Or else Baldur would have to remain in the Underworld until doomsday. After hearing this, all the gods and all the beings of the earth, living and dead wailed and wept – all but Loki. And so it came to pass that we must wait for doomsday before the young sun god may return (which, judging by the way things are going, can’t be too far off…) .

This story follows the classic pattern of the solar hero myth, complete with the promise of resurrection and renewal after a period of darkness – a perfectly appropriate myth for the celebration of the winter solstice, which marks the birth of the Sun God.

Mistletoe in Christian Mythology

Thus it is not surprising that the Mistletoe also found its way into Christian mythology as well. It is said that the wood from which the cross was fashioned came from the Mistletoe and that this so upset the pious plant that it retreated into a hermit-like existence, taking up residency between heaven and earth, and becoming parasitic.

Mistletoe in Greek Mythology – Aeneas Journey to the Underworld

In Greek mythology, Mistletoe was also associated with the Underworld. Here, the sacred bough presented the key with which a living mortal could enter the Underworld and return unharmed to the world of the living. The story is told in the annals of Aeneas.

Using the powers of the golden bough the young hero Aeneas enters the Underworld with the ancient Sybil as his guide. His mission is to seek his father to seek his guidance and advice. Eventually, he finds him and receives his teachings concerning the cycles of life and death, for which he had come. Eventually, he returns safely to the world of the living. Mistletoe is the key to his destiny. It opened the gates to the underworld, where the hero is transformed. He returns to the world of the living, spiritually reborn.

Magical Powers: Protection, the key to life’s mysteries, fertility, abundance, blessings, peace, harmony, the balance of opposites, love, transformation. Astrologically this herb is governed by the Sun and Jupiter.

Mistletoe in trees

MEDICINAL USES

PARTS USED: Leaves and Stems

HARVEST: Autumn, before the berries form

CONSTITUENTS: These may vary depending on the host plant. Viscotoxin, triterpenoid saponins, choline, proteins, resin, mucilage, histamine, traces of an alkaloid

ACTIONS: Anti-tumour, cardioactive, nervine, tonic

INDICATIONS: Stress, nervous conditions, heart problems, epilepsy

Internal Use:

Not only the myths and lore of mistletoe are interesting. This herb is also interesting from a medicinal point of view. Most notably it is recommended as a remedy for epilepsy, particularly childhood epilepsy. There are not many herbs that are indicated for this affliction. This treatment seems to suggest a homeopathic approach, as large doses of the herb, and especially the berries, actually cause fits and convulsions. At one point Mistletoe was considered specific for this affliction and was also used to treat various other nervous conditions, such as hysteria, delirium, convulsions, neuralgia. It was also used for urinary disorders and certain heart conditions, especially those related to nervous conditions (stress). In ancient times, mistletoe amulets were worn to ward off epileptic attacks (thought to be caused by possession).

Mistletoe has cardio-active properties that can strengthen the pulse and regulate the heart rate while simultaneously dilating the blood vessels, thus lowering the blood pressure. This alleviates symptoms related to high blood pressure such as headaches and dizziness. However, from the literature, it is not entirely clear in which form Mistletoe should be administered for this effect. Some sources claim that the cardio-active principle is only effective if applied by injection, while others recommend standard teas, tinctures, and extracts. One source states that the active constituents are destroyed by heat and should be extracted by means of a cold infusion. In recent years another interesting property of Mistletoe has caught the interest of science:  its cancer-fighting properties. Mistletoe is now regularly used as an anti-tumor agent in naturopathic cancer treatment,

Culpeper says:

‘The Birdlime doth mollifie hard Knots, Tumors, and Impostumes, ripeneth and discusseth them; and draweth forth thick as well as thin Humors from the remote places of the Body, digesting and separating them’

Recent research has confirmed Mistletoe’s cytotoxic properties in vitro and to some degree in vivo. It also stimulates the immune system response thus increasing the white blood cell count. Both of these properties have brought Mistletoe into focus as a candidate for Cancer and Aids research, which has lead to the development of a Mistletoe drug used in chemotherapy. Studies have shown both equal and better survival rates in patients treated with certain Mistletoe preparations compared to standard chemotherapy drugs. Most importantly, perhaps, the patients who had received the Mistletoe treatment have reported a better quality of life than the control group who had received standard chemotherapy. Mistletoe does not produce nausea and hair loss associated with other cytotoxic chemotherapy agents. However, a possible negative side effect of subcutaneous treatment is a local infection at the site of injection. For detailed study results check out:

Cancer therapy with phytochemicals: evidence from clinical studies

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4418057/

Mistletoe is also said to regulate digestive functions and able to cure chronic constipation, probably via a stimulating effect on the gall bladder and the metabolic rate in general.

Older sources also recommend it as a treatment for sterility and menstrual difficulties. This would make sense where such problems stem from underlying nervous system issues such as stress, tension, hysteria, or fear.

External Use:

External use of Mistletoe is no longer common, but older sources describe the preparation of a  plaster (mix with wax to make an ointment) which can be applied to hardened swellings and tumors. Mistletoe can also be added to crèmes in order to soothe sensitive or sore skin. Such crèmes are disinfectant and soothing while reducing abnormal cell production. Mistletoe thus suggests itself as an additive for lotions designed to soothe psoriasis and anti-dandruff shampoos.

CAUTION: The berries are poisonous. This potent herb is not suitable as a home remedy. Consult a doctor or herbal practitioner before use.

Pumpkins (Curcubita sp)

Pumpkins (Curcubita sp)

Gourds, Pumpkins, and Winter Squash

Since it is nearly Halloween I thought I’d write a post about Pumpkins – predictable I know, but nonetheless fascinating. Pumpkin, a member of the gourd family, belongs to a huge group of cultivars that are all variations of the winter squash. They come in a truly amazing range of shapes, colors, and sizes. Talking about size – some growers have developed the strange ambition: who can grow the BIGGEST Pumpkin of them all? The jury is still out, but growers have already managed to produce some pumpkins of absurd, even obscene sizes. So far, the largest Giant Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) ever reported is said to have weighed more than a ton! Other common cultivars are Cucurbita pepo (e.g. Acorn and Halloween type squash) and Cucurbita moschata (e.g. Butternut squash).

The gourd family is native to the Americas. Wild members were used as long as 10 000 years ago, and the family was one of the first to be domesticated. Various types of squash and gourds have been cultivated in Central America since about 7500 – 5000 BC!

They have never lost their appeal. On the contrary. New forms have been developed and Pumpkins, Squash, and Co. have now spread around the globe.

pumpkin varieties

Distribution:

Archeobotanist have found the earliest evidence of Pumpkin use in the Oaxaca region of  Mexico, but its native range comprises both, the northeastern corner of Mexico and the southwestern United States.

What’s in a name?

In the US and the UK the term ‘Pumpkin’, which seems to have derived from a Native American word for ‘a big round fruit’, only refers to the familiar round orange winter squash best known as Halloween decorations. But in New Zealand, the word is used for all types of winter squash.

The German word ‘Kürbis’ derives from the scientific name of the family of ‘Cucurbita’.

Food use

Botanically, Pumpkins are classified as ‘berries’, but no-one except botanists would think of them that way. Edible Pumpkins are mostly grown for the orange fruit flesh, which is incredibly versatile and can be used in countless sweet and savory dishes, most famous among them, Pumpkin pie! But the seeds are also edible and yield an edible and deliciously nutty oil that is rich in vitamin E and linoleic acid. It is not suitable for cooking, as its delicate constituents are destroyed at high temperatures, but it is excellent for adding an extra flavor dimension to soups and salads.

Even the flowers are edible. Stuffed and fried they are a delicacy.

pumpkin pie

Nutrition

It may come as a surprise that pumpkin is quite low in carbohydrates – the caloric value is 66% less than that of potatoes. Nutritionally, pumpkin scores high in beta carotene, the precursor of vitamin A that is so important for the immune system. It also contains pectin, a type of fibre that not only promotes a sense of satiety but also regulates the flow of sugars in the GI tract after a meal. It is thus a very beneficial food for people with metabolic issues. However, it is difficult to predict exactly how much pectin will be present in any particular pumpkin. The content level varies depending on the time of harvest as well as the method of preparation.

Pumpkin also contains vitamin C, B2, and B6. But, amazingly, it has a water content of 92%!

Medicinal use

Pumpkin is a therapeutic food that can boost the immune system and soothes kidney and bladder conditions. The seeds are rich in zinc which boosts the immune system. They are also indicated as a supportive nutritional remedy in the treatment of enlarged prostate glands. The Aztecs used the seeds as a remedy to expel worms, a use that has been adopted by western herbalists.

Pumpkin customs: Halloween decorations

Halloween decorations at the London Dungeon

 

Traditionally, the Halloween pumpkin was a Turnip. I kid you not! It was once a relatively local folk custom in Ireland to carve a Turnip at Halloween. The effigy was known as Jack-o-lantern, which has its origin in an Irish folk tale about a stingy guy called Jack (Stingy Jack, actually)

The Tale of Stingy Jack

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Stingy Jack had some drinks with the devil but did not have the money to pay for them. There must be some pretty stupid devils in Ireland – Jack manages to persuade this devil to change himself into a coin so he could pay for the drinks. But as soon as the devil obliged him Stingy Jack decided to keep the coin instead! He put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, thus preventing the devil to change back into his original form.

Eventually, he made a deal with the coin. He freed him on the condition that he would leave him alone and not bother him for a year and a day, not claim his soul, should he die in the meantime. After a year and a day had passed the devil returned and stupidly allowed himself to be tricked again. This time Jack had sent him up a tree to pick a fruit and while he was up there, had carved a cross into the bark. Thus the devil was stuck again. Jack demanded that he would leave him alone again for a further 10 years.

But Jack did not live that long. Soon after the second episode with the devil he died. But despite his posturing with the cross and all, God was not pleased with his conduct and refused entry to heaven on account of his dishonesty. This was a bit of an unforeseen dilemma for Jack, since the devil, still upset with him for tricking him and being mean, also refused him entry to hell. Besides, he had given him his word that he would not claim his soul for 10 years.

Thus, the devil sent Jack off with only a piece of coal to keep him warm and to light his way through the twilight zone. To carry the coal Jack carved out a Turnip to safeguard his chunk of coal, and to this day he roams the land as the lost soul known as Jack O’Lantern.

When the Irish arrived in the United States they brought their story of Jack O’Lantern and their custom of carving the Turnip with them. When they came across the Pumpkin they were delighted as Pumpkins are much easier to carve than Turnips! And, as they say, the rest is history.

Remembering the dead, honoring the spirits

This is the most common story regarding the use of pumpkins at Halloween. But in fact, the real story is much older. In Celtic Ireland, the custom of the carved out Turnip root far predates this Christianized tale. Originally, it is related to the Celtic Festival of Samhain (November 1st), which marks the end of the growing season. At this time, the veil between the worlds is said to be thin and spirits of the deceased leave the Other World to roam among us and to beg for food. It was customary to put out a little food and drink for these spirits and a carved-out Turnip with a candle placed inside was hung up so they could find their way. In turn, the spirits blessed the souls of those who provided for them. The day that marked the occasion later became known as ‘All- Hallows Eve’, which in time morphed into ‘Halloween’.

Interestingly, a similar custom is practiced in Mexico, where November 1st is celebrated as ‘El Dia de los Muertos’ – the day of the dead, which combines Catholic elements (All Saints and All Souls day) with pre-Columbian Aztec traditions. It is a day to remember the dead and families gather in cemeteries to make offerings to their departed relatives. Food offerings, including candied Pumpkins, are an important part of the celebrations, as are the sugar skulls and candles are placed on their graves.

As endearing as these ancient traditions of remembering the dead are, the accompanying waste of food is truly shocking. As the Guardian reports, a staggering 12.76 million pumpkins will be purchased, carved up, and then binned over Halloween.

That’s scary!

The Old Tree and the Carpenter

The Old Tree and the Carpenter

One day, a carpenter and his apprentice were traveling through the countryside. They came upon a beautiful ancient tree standing by an earth altar. The carpenter’s apprentice was admiring the ancient being but the old carpenter exclaimed: look at that useless old tree, it is no good for anything. If one was to cut it down to build a ship with it, the ship would soon sink or if one were to make tools from it they would soon rot, it’s a completely useless old tree.

Later that night the two retired at an inn nearby. During the night the old carpenter had a dream. The old tree appeared to him and spoke: You want to compare me with your domesticated trees, like hawthorn, pear, apple or cherry or whatever else bears fruit for you? No sooner as they produce their crop for you they are abused and violated. You cut their branches and slice their bark. Thus their generosity is their own demise. By merit of their gifts, they endanger their own lives and rarely reach their ripe old age. Such is common practice. Therefore I have long since tried to be as useless as possible. You, mortal! What if I had some use to you – I would never have reached this age and size, I would have been cut down for my wood a long time ago. And besides, you and I are creatures alike, why should one creature pass judgment upon the usefulness of another? What do you, a mere mortal and useless human, know about the ‘useless’ trees?

When the carpenter woke from his dream the next morning he thought deeply about its message. When his apprentice later asked him why this tree, in particular, came to serve at the earth altar the carpenter answered: quiet, now, let’s not speak about it anymore. The tree chose to grow there because otherwise, those who did not know him would have abused him. Had he not grown by the earth altar surely he would have been cut down for his wood and died.

We tend to place more value on the things that can be fashioned from plants than on nature herself, or the plants on which we depend. But, all of nature is sacred and has an innate and inalienable value, which it is not for us to judge. 

 

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