Plants Sacred and Their Cultivation

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Sacred Plants


There are plants that are sacred to each God, laurel for Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. 
Ἀπόλλων), the olive and oak for Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), myrtle for Aphrodíti (Aphrodite; Gr. Ἀφροδίτη), etc. you may wish to have at your disposal leaves or boughs of these plants for ritual and festivals, but these plants may not be native to your region. One option would be to grow the plants in pots and take them in before frost.

A plant that is ideal for pots is Myrtle (Myrtus communis). They are very attractive plants. Myrtle, like laurel,  is sacred not only to Aphrodíti but the Gods in general. It is also a culinary plant as the leaves can be used as a substitute for bay leaves. The berries were used in ancient times in the same way that pepper is used today.  In contemporary Europe a wine is made from the berries and the leaves are still used in some regional Italian cooking.  

This author has had less success with the olive (if you have suggestions, I'd love to know). Mine is healthy but has grown very little in several years. I do not know if you will ever get olives from them, but if you wish to try, it is said that they need some days below 50 degrees Fahrenheit to produce fruit.

Another excellent plant for pots is Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis). The laurel tree is sacred to Apóllohn
 especially, but to all the Gods. A single leaf is the most traditional offering to Gods in our community. Crowns of laurel were given to the victors of ancient games and music contests. For modern practitioners of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, if we do not have branches of olive available, we use boughs of laurel in October for the Eiræsióhni (Eiresione; Gr. Εἰρεσιώνη) at the festival of  Pyanǽpsia (Pyanepsia; Gr. Πυανέψια, ΠΥΑΝΈΨΙΑ). Leaves from the Eiræsióhni can be burned as an offering to Apóllohn in times of great need. 

Plant laurel, olive, or myrtle  in  very large pots. Both laurel and myrtle are fast growing and can become quite large, especially the laurel, which will try to grow into a tree. After a mere two summers, the author's laurel grew from a few inches to five feet. Make sure there are holes in the bottom of the pots. Drill the holes yourself if they don't have them already. I love the beautiful clay pots made in Greece, but they become very very heavy, together with all the soil and the large plants, so you may find it wiser to use a decorative plastic pot.

Although none of these plants seem fussy about soil, I used a combination of good topsoil mixed with sand and peat moss. To this I added some blood meal, bone meal, ground oatmeal (use a blender) and muriate of potash. These are slow materials to deteriorate and will not burn the roots. They create an excellent, natural soil that will not need to be replaced for a long time. It will retain moisture well. If you use this soil-mixture, pot the plants before winter because the various organic materials (especially the bone meal, blood meal, and the oatmeal) attract little animals that will knock your pots down looking for the food that they will not find, but these materials compost adequately in a couple months such that the odor is negligible. In truth, any good topsoil should be adequate for these plants.


The recommendation is to water deeply, then allow the soil to almost dry out. In Chicago during the winter, this takes about a week (with the above soil mixture). In the coldest part winter, when it gets so very dry, I give them water in between. If you forget to water and the leaves of laurel sag, they will revive in an hour or so after watering. An excellent method of watering any plant is to acquire a large, deep plastic pan, like one for doing dishes, but a heavy-duty one you can find in a hardware store. Place a grill on top of this. Finally put the pot on top of the grill. Start adding water slowly until it begins to come out the holes in the bottom. If you use this method of watering, and wait until all the dripping has ceased, the roots will never sit in water and rot.  

In the very hot Chicago summers when I bring all these plants outside, I water daily and deeply, allowing the water to flow out the bottom of the pots. In recent years we have had blistering heat into the low triple digits (Fahrenheit) and I have been watering both in the mornings and evenings. When the hot sun shines on laurel, the new growth sags, but don't worry; as long as they are well-watered, as soon as the sun passes, the leaves will revive perfectly.


Sources:

You can obtain seeds and plants for either bay laurel or myrtle at Richter's, a wonderful source for all kinds of herbs, spices, and plants: 

Richters Herb Catalogue Directory

Bay Laurel Plants

Bay Laurel Seeds Bay Laurel seeds require stratification, a period of time in the refrigerator: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratification_%28botany%29.  Fortunately, Richter's stratifies the seeds for you. They arrive semi-germinated.

Greek Myrtle Plants


Using the Leaves of Sacred Plants

The leaves and flowers of sacred plants can be used as offerings in ritual. In particular, laurel leaves are a traditional offering placed on the altar. They can also be offered in a ritual fire or, after they have dried, can be used as incense. 


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kosmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς).



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