Asked in Supernatural and the OccultBotany or Plant BiologyJose RizalAsh Wednesday
What is the significance of laurel leaves?
January 04, 2011 6:26PM
Laurel leaves are a leaf from a plant that when chewed, release toxins that cause a psychotropic affect. Ancient soothsayers and prophets used it to bring on a trance for mediation and prophecy. This plant is also known as bay leaf and can be found at any grocery store in the spice section. May cause Hallucinations.
Although Laurel shares its common name with other species (Cherry Laurel, Mountain Laurel, and Sheep Laurel), it is not related to these poisonous-leaved plants. As one could imagine, a great deal of confusion arises when the subject of Laurel leaf toxicity comes up.
Laurel has given its name to the Laurel family of plants (Lauraceae). Within this family of over 2000 species are a number of aromatic plants, including Sassafras, Spice-Bush, Cinnamon-Tree, and Camphor-Tree. The Avocado, with its anise-scented fruits, is also a member of Lauraceae.
Besides its use as a spice in cooking, Laurel has a long history of use by people. The leaves contain an essential oil used in perfumery. The fruits contain lipids that are made into laurel butter which is used in human and veterinary medicine as laurin ointment, and as a sweat-inducing ingredient in aromatic baths. The fruits can be distilled to make a liqueur called Fioravanti.
Probably the most fascinating aspect of Laurel is its historical significance as an illustrious and symbolic plant. In ancient Greece Laurel was sacred to Apollo and, as such, was used to form a crown or wreath of honor for heroes, scholars, and poets (Apollo was the god of poets). Laurel became the symbol of triumph in Rome as well as in Greece. The term "laureate" derives from this tradition. In England the word laureate came to signify eminent. "Poet laureate" arose in England as a position of poet to the royal household beginning with Charles I in 1617. Some believe that "bacca-laureate", the name for the university degree of bachelor, owes its origin to this revered plant.
Laurel leaves were strewn on the floors of homes of distinguished persons during the reign of Elizabeth I. Up until the 18th century, Laurel was believed to be associated with the divine power of purification and protection. It was set before the doors of Greek houses and was used by the Romans as a guardian of the gates of the Caesars. The emperor Tiberius always wore a wreath of Laurel during thunderstorms, believing that lightning could not strike it. Greeks and Romans valued Laurel so highly that it was forbidden to use it for a "profane" purpose such as firewood.
Today, Laurel is occasionally seen as a potted herb or indoor shrub in our area. It propagates readily from cuttings, tolerates neglect, and does well when put outdoors for the summer. A few leaves can be harvested occasionally for seasoning, and for the superstitious, it just might keep away evil spirits.