April 5, 2024

Magical Botany H

        Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge!  My theme this year is the Botany of the Realms of Imagination, in which I share a selection of the magical plants of folklore, fairy tale, and fantasy.  You can find out about the A to Z Challenge here.
        For H we’re starting about as far back as we can go, with the huluppu tree.  It’s not entirely clear what magical powers this tree had, but it must have been powerfully attractive to magical beings for some reason, as you shall see.  The goddess Inanna brought the huluppu tree home to plant in her garden at Uruk, and she tended it with utmost care, planning to make a throne and a bed from it.  But when the tree had matured, a dragon nested in the roots, an Anzu bird and its young nested in the branches, and Lilith the demon lived in the trunk.  Try as she might, Inanna couldn’t get these interlopers to clear out, so she called on Gilgamesh to help.  He donned his mighty armor, wielded his mighty ax, and slew the dragon.  Upon seeing this, the Anzu bird and Lilith fled, and the huluppu tree was duly made into a
fabulous throne and bed for Innana.  (Inanna and Gilgamesh also made from the huluppu tree a pukku and mikku for Gilgamesh — which may be a drum and drumstick, or possibly some kind of ball game, although scholars don’t really know.)
        Moving along chronologically, we come next to the hamadryads of Greek mythology.  Dryads are the spirits or goddesses of trees, but hamadryads are dryads that are closer to being plants themselves.  They are so closely identified with their tree that they are one with it.  They cannot leave the tree to frolic about like other nymphs, and when the tree dies, the hamadryad dies with it.  This is why you must never kill a tree except in great need.
        In Zoroastrian and Persian mythology we find the divine haoma plant.  It is tall, fragrant, golden-green, and it grows on mountains.  As far as magical properties, it’s healing, strengthening, mildly intoxicating, and nourishing; it stimulates alertness, and it’s an aphrodisiac.  Zoroaster is believed to be infused with the spirit of the plant.
        The moral of today’s stories is that trees are a great way to connect with the divine, by whatever name you want to call that life force.  People all around the world and through history have seen trees as a connection to their gods, and now science, too, confirms that our emotional and mental health requires a connection to nature.  Gardening tip of the day: go outside and hug a tree today!
        Do you have a favorite species of tree?  Or a favorite individual tree?

[Pictures: Huluppu Tree of Creation, lino cut by Kristian Johnson Michiels, (Image from Etsy shop WoodHorsePress);

Huluppu Tree (Sacred Tree), alabaster wall panel relief from the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II, 865-860 BCE (Image from The British Museum);

Hamadryad (detail from an illustration of Dryope), engraving by Crispin van de Passe from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, 1602-7 (Image from Rijksmuseum);

Haoma, detail from a linocut by Joanna Lisowiec (Image from the artist’s web site joanna-draws.com).]


Frewin55 said...

I have just been watching an episode of Bebop Cowboy in which Eco-terrorists use terra-forming spores that turn anything - people included, into trees - these myth tropes are alive and well...

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Frewin, that's interesting... and if you want to know more about spores that turn people into plants, come back at K!

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

From your list, I've only read about hamadryads before. Interesting selection!

Ronel visiting for H: My Languishing TBR: H