The Egyptian lotus, the flower at the origin of the world

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The so-called “Egyptian lotus” is a flower of unparalleled beauty, capable of enchanting the people of the pharaohs to such an extent that it was chosen as the flower at the origin of the world.

Lotus or water lily?

The “Egyptian lotus” actually belongs absolutely not to the Lotus genus but to that of the Nymphae; this distinction is very important to make both to explore the myths behind these many names, and to fully understand which plants we are going to talk about today: the Nymphaea lotus and the Nymphae Caerulea.

Lotus, the covered

For centuries the word Lotus has been associated with very different species, so called because of their habit of “hiding”. The term would derive from the Latin Lotus which has many origins but one in common with the ancient Greek: λωτός. This word would in turn be borrowed from some Semitic languages, from which the name of the biblical and Koranic character Lot was derived; this word has several possible traditions, the most interesting of which, in our case, is that of “veiled, covered”, but I will explain better later.

lotus
Lotus berthelotii

It is very important to understand, however, that the Lotus genus has the Fabaceae (the bean family) as its closest relative and are in fact legumes. These plants are therefore not related to the legendary flowers of the Indo-Buddhist universe (whose genus is that of Nelumbo) but rather to those of the legendary Lotophagi. This mythical population appears in the Odyssey and in the Stories of Herodotus and would be located between the Libyan and Tunisian coasts, with the particular characteristic of feeding on only Lotus, the “real” one, however.

Water lily, the legend on the water

The water lily is one of the most ancient and appreciated ornamental plants of all time, also virtue of a variety of its life in the bodies of water and its beauty. The etymology is to be found in the legendary Greek nymphs and from the Persian “nenufar” which would mean “blue lotus”. Ever since man began to cultivate he came into contact with this incredible form of life, no longer being able to rest his gaze on anything else. The water lily flower soon became the symbol of all Egypt, transforming it into a legendary flower to say the least; 2 varieties, in particular, became the symbols of the pharaohs: the Nymphaea lotus and the Nymphae caerulea.

lotus
The water lily flower is on the head

The flower of the origin of the world

In fact, the two species, in addition to producing an incredible perfume and an effective sleeping pill, also have a flowering that literally takes your breath away. In fact, caerulea blooms only from sunrise to sunset, quickly closing in on itself and sinking into the water with the rising of twilight, while the lotus does the same but with the moon. It is impossible even for a contemporary of ours not to remain entranced, we do not struggle to believe that at the time he was considered divine.

A video of the flowering of the largest water lily species in the world

According to the Egyptians, in particular, the primordial bud was fertilized in the pond of Khemno by the 8 of the primordials, representing respectively: primordial waters, darkness, limitlessness and invisibility. From this flower the god Atum would then emerge, representing the maximum divinity of light. Precisely because of its importance, many people in over 2500 years of history changed the roles of the divinities, constantly attributing this birth to the “main” god of that historical moment. However, the importance of this flower remained intact, becoming, indeed, the symbol par excellence of every Egyptian pharaoh.

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