Laurel – Moderation
Genus: Laurus – Family: Lauraceae
Laurel reminds us to reclaim our voice and our wisdom as we rebalance our life. This is a time of moderation and self-control.
In 1400 BCE, Pytho was home to an ancient Laurel forest near a sacred spring on Mt. Parnassus Greece. It was worshipped as the navel of Gaia, the mother earth, and as the home of a great oracle who was protected by a giant python.
In 800 BCE Homer wrote of how Apollo, god of light and prophecy, killed Gaia’s python to claim the oracle for himself. Pytho was renamed Delphi or delphys meaning “womb”. In honor of Gaia’s python, the Oracle of Delphi became known as a Pythia, a high priestess who spoke for Apollo. The Pythia ritually chewed laurel leaves, sat on a tripod made of laurel wood and held a branch of laurel. She breathed in vapors that induced a trance-like state before providing prophecies on agriculture, life, death, war and peace. The first temple dedicated to Apollo, was believed to be built of laurel at Delphi.
In Greek mythology Apollo’s obsession with the laurel tree began when he mocked Eros, god of love. Eros shot a golden arrow into Apollo’s heart that made him fall in love with Daphne, a nature nymph. In turn, Daphne was struck with a lead arrow that made her hate Apollo. Desperate to get away from Apollo she cried, “Let me be free of this man from this moment forward!”. This cry for help, transformed her into a laurel tree. Undeterred, Apollo vowed to love her forever. He used his powers of immortality to render Daphne, the laurel tree, to be “forever green”.
To honor Daphne, Apollo created a wreath made of laurel leaves, which he wore as a crown. Depictions of Apollo, the Sun god, show light radiating from his crown. Apollo’s twin sister Artemis is seen as the Moon Goddess and lady of the forest. The cypress tree is her symbol. In 586 BCE, athletes competed in the Pythian games at Delphi. The victors were given a crown of laurel to symbolize nobility, honor, truth and victory. The titles Poet Laureate and Noble Laureate are directly related to the ancient laurel tree. Bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, is an aromatic evergreen, it is the type species for the Laurus genus.
Over 150 million years ago vast laurel forests known as “cloud forests” lived throughout the Mediterranean Basin. As the climate became less humid these forests dwindled until they disappeared 10,000 years ago. There are only four species of Laurus remaining. Bay leaves are used for cooking, medicine, divining and smudging.
Message: Laurel reminds us to be the moderator of our life as we reclaim our voice. Through self-control we can rebalance our life. This is not a time of excess or extremes; it is a time of inner stillness as we discover a deeper level of our true self. By standing in our truth we can discern what is right for us now. This empowers us to speak up for ourselves as we step into our truth. Laurel is a strong spirit that reminds us of our strengths and desires. It encourages us to continue believing in ourselves and the goals we have set.
Challenge: Extreme actions that throw us off balance. Following false truths, people or causes. Giving our power away to others. Avoiding conflict that is causing stagnation.
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4 Comments Add yours
Hello. Do you have any information on Sassafras trees? They are so unique with their different leaves. Thank you
Hi Debbie, I’m not personally familiar with Sassafras trees, but what I do understand is that each tree can have up to three different types of leaves… A two-lobed leaf that looks like a left or right hand mitten, a three-lobed leaf and a singular unilobed leaf. Within the Sassafras genus there is one living species of Sassafras native to North America – Sassafras albidum, and two that are native to East Asia – Sassafras tzumu (China) and Sassafras randaiense (Taiwan). The main difference between the North American trees and the Asian trees – is the North American trees are dioecious, meaning that there are male and female trees, versus the Asian Sassafras trees which are monoecious, meaning that each tree contains male (stamens) and female (pistils). All Sassafras trees are deciduous trees versus being an evergreen tree, which is what the majority of trees within the Lauraceae (Laurel) family are. It is placed in the Lauraceae family primarily because of its aromatic leaves and wood, which are similar to Bay Laurel. Sassafras trees have a long and varied history as being a medicinal tree used by the indigenous cultures where it grew. Its leaves were used to treat wounds and fevers. Teas and powders were made to treat kidney stones, blood disorders, syphillis etc. It leaves are still used as a flavoring ingredient, such as file powder, to flavor meats and soups like gumbo. The root of Sassafras trees inspired the beverage we know as Root Beer. (Not to be confused with Sarsaparilla, which is made from the Sarsaparilla vine.) But, Sassafras root is no longer an ingredient in Root Beer because it was determined to be a carcinogen in the 1960’s. The bark and roots of Sassafras contain Safrole, which is an active ingredient in MDMA/Ecstasy, which also makes it somewhat controversial. Its wood is valuable for its durability and beauty. During the colonial period it was one of the most exported products next to tobacco from North America to Europe. Overall it is a tree with a very long and complex history. As a side note, the leaves of Sassafras do not contain detectable amounts of Safrole, which is why they are still used today as a flavoring ingredient. Hope that helps. I would love to know more about the native words and uses of this tree.
I find it quite synchronistic that your name is actually Laurel as well LOL along with many other things this article has provided me with a beautiful and magically clear connection today I appreciate you and the work you have done here
Thank you Freyja… if you wish to know more about Laurel trees you can read the post I just did for the month of August, which is dedicated to Laurel 🙂