“Albert G. Mackey calls attention to the fact that each of the ancient Mysteries had its own peculiar plant sacred to the gods or goddesses in whose honor the rituals were celebrated. These sacred plants were later adopted as the symbols of the various degrees in which they were used. Thus, in the Mysteries of Adonis, lettuce was sacred; in the Brahmin and Egyptian rites, the lotus; among the Druids, the mistletoe; and among certain of the Greek Mysteries, the myrtle.
“As the legend of Chiram Abill is based upon the ancient Egyptian Mystery ritual of the murder and resurrection of Osiris, it is natural that the sprig of acacia should be preserved as symbolic of the resurrection of Chiram. … The mystery of the evergreen marking the grave of the dead sun god is also perpetrated in the Christmas tree. …
“The pomegranate is the mystic fruit of the Eleusinian rites; by eating it, Prosperine bound herself to the realms of Pluto. The fruit here signifies the sensual life which, once tasted, temporarily deprives man of immortality. … Among the ancient mysteries, the pomegranate was also considered to be a divine symbol of such peculiar significance that its true explanation could not be divulged. It was termed by the Cabiri ‘the forbidden secret.’ Many Greek gods and goddesses are depicted holding the fruit or flower of the pomegranite in their hands, evidently to signify that they are givers of life and plenty.” ~Manly P. Hall
Sacred Trees and Flowers
Everyone is aware of certain animals being sacred to some ancient civilizations, and even some present ones. The sacred cows of the Hindus and the supposed worship of cats by the Egyptians come to mind. But plants, including trees, were just as often sacred symbols in the ancient mysteries.
According to a landscaping site, the top ten tres that were considered sacred by one group or another are Willow Tree, Ash, Oak, Cypress, the Bodhi, Witch Tree (Little Cedar Spirit Tree), Lebanese Cedar, Baobab Tree, and the Christmas Tree. Wikipedia lists Oak, Ash, Apple, Hazel, Alder, Elder, and Yew as sacred to the Celts. To Christians, the symbolic “trees” called the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil are the best known sacred trees. There are many reasons why a particular tree may be considered sacred, and I won’t cover all of them, but here are a few reasons:
- Evergreen trees are considered sacred as symbols of eternal life
- Fruit trees may be sacred as symbols of plenty, and the food from God, which is Light
- Strong trees like the oak may be considered sacred as symbols of strength and determination.
With flowers, we know that the lotus is probably the most recognized sacred flower. It symbolizes, when opened, the awakened soul. It is also a symbol of purity. The sunflower is also symbolic of the sun, and therefore a symbol of the sun god and Light, including the Light of the Spiritual Sun. The rose is often a symbol of God or Divinity. The lily, especially white varieties, symbolize purity and chastity.
Sacred Fruits and Vegetables
Trees and flowers are not the only sacred plants. Fruits and vegetables are often sacred to some. Hall goes deeply into the pomegranate in the quote. It is curious that today, the pomegranate has made a comeback as a sacred plant of sorts by being labeled a super fruit for its healthy effects on the physical body. While it may have represented sensuality to some of the ancients, it also represented plenty because of the large number of seeds in the fruit. Seeking the golden apple is one of the great myths of the past, which clearly symbolized the search for spiritual enlightenment. Norse and Celtic myth said the golden apple gave immortality. It can’t be much clearer than that. The peach symbolized immortality to others. Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment while sitting under a Bo tree, which is a type of fig tree. In Greek and Roman mythology, pears are sacred to several goddesses.
The quote mentions lettuce as a sacred plant in the Mysteries of Adonis. Corn was sacred to the Mayans and they even had a corn god. Many Native American tribes also considered beans sacred. The ancient Egyptians thought they were too sacred to eat. The Manoic root, which is made into flour by the peoples of the Amazon region, was believed to be the body of Mani, an ancient god who promised to return to them and take care of them.
Sacred Plants for All
So you can see that many people in many times have considered various plants to be sacred. Sometimes, it was merely because of their ability to heal illness or simply to feed them. Often, though, they were symbolic of something more, something spiritual. It behooves all spiritual students to look beyond the simple meditation classes of today and learn from the myths and mysteries of the past, including the myths of sacred plants.