Delving into the World of Plant Symbolism

5 min read

For millennia human beings have tinkered with and attempted to delve into plant physiology and extract their many-sided benefits. From the psychological effects of psychedelics to the medicinal uses of fungi, we have found numerous ways to improve the health of our bodies and minds and explore the more spiritual nature of our reality through the use of these substances’ nature has provided us. Of course, there are many dangers to these plants as well, so we must always be wary. That wariness, that respect, and the devotion that comes alongside them have led to a host of different ways of viewing plants, creating deeply ingrained symbology and meaning in association with the hundreds of plants out there in different ways depending on what culture you look at. We explore some of those meanings and the different ways they have been expressed around the world.

Continue reading to find out:

• Asian Plant Symbolism
• Native American Plant Symbolism
• South American Plant Symbolism
• European Plant Symbolism

Asian Plant Symbolism

Very few areas in the world can come close to the depth of knowledge that many countries within Asia, especially China, have developed over the centuries in regards to plants. Chinese herbal practitioners are largely responsible for much of the knowledge we have about herbs and other plant medicine, and their astounding contributions were done without any of the amazing technology we have today. Simply using trial and error and figuring things out over the decades. It is no wonder that we see so much symbology associated with plants within their culture and other Asian nations around them. Here are some of the plants that China and other oriental countries have held up to the limelight and have deep meaning for them.

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Bamboo: In Chinese tradition, bamboo is considered of the four noble ones, a group of plants that not only represent the seasons but also embody the spirit of what it means to be a good human. Bamboo is thought to symbolize tenacity, uprightness, integrity, and elegance.

Plum Blossom: Another member of the four noble ones, the plum blossom also holds deep symbolism in Japanese culture, and is considered one of the three friends of winter, alongside bamboo and pine. It is widely used as a way to rank things in Japan, such as being used in sets of sushi or ryokans. It symbolizes self-control, wealth, and fortitude.

Orchids: The orchid is yet another member of the four noble ones, and is widely revered for its beauty. It represents the purity of spirit we can all attain and is regarded as a symbol of nobility.

Native American Plant Symbolism

Native American tribes utilized plants in a beautiful and symbiotic fashion, in every way shaping their rituals and beliefs alongside these plant brethren of ours. There is even a native American church that mixes their traditional religious practices with that of Christianity and peyote use. Here are some of the more famous plants Native Americans use.

Peyote: Peyote is extensively used by Natives as a door to the spirit world, many use it as a way to separate childhood from adulthood, going on a spiritual journey to discover themselves before becoming a productive member of society. The Huichol consider peyote to one of their deities, who all descend from their sun God Tao Jreeku.

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Cacti: Cacti are prevalent in Native American culture, and have come to symbolize feelings of protection and warmth. It is associated with ideas of endurance, and the ability to thrive no matter how hard conditions are, and many associate it with the love a mother has for her child.

South American Plant Symbolism

Much like their counterparts in North America, many of the indigenous people of South America have a deep reverence and spiritual practices surrounding the use of plants. From hallucinogenic plants such as ayahuasca to the famed coca leaf, many plants are held in high regard in their culture.

The Coca Leaf: This plant has been grown for close to 7 thousand years, and is widely known throughout the world. It is deeply connected with ideas of knowledge and is thought to bring wisdom to those who seek it. Unfortunately, it has gotten a bad rap these days due to its use as a recreational drug, although what is used on the streets is nothing like its plant version.

Ayahuasca: This hallucinogen is very famously used by Shamans in Peru, as well as other countries, and has become more widespread as its possible healing properties have become known in western society. Much like Peyote, it is used as a bridge to the spirit world, and as a way to deal with past trauma. Many people believe it helps by creating a near-death experience for those who take it, which allows people to view the world differently upon their return to the waking world.

European Plant Symbology

European culture has a long history of using flowers to symbolize a multitude of different human values.

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Iris Flower: Famous even during Greek times, the iris flower has come to symbolize virtues of faith, courage, and wisdom. It was quite common to find it on the heraldic items used by knights and nobles.

Ivy: This plant is commonly used in weddings, where it represents fidelity and loyalty. In the past, druids used it to bind different plants together and so it came to symbolize peace and unity.

Symbology Is Everywhere

There are hundreds of examples of plants and their associated symbols throughout the world and we could spend days exploring them all. The world is a fascinating place, and human’s symbiotic relationship both biologically and culturally with our green neighbors is both deep and profound. There is so much more to learn and find out as we become closer and closer to plants and create more symbols and meaning to associate to plants.

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