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The daily world of an ancient Egyptian was dominated by priests and rituals, in preparation for the next world. They built grandiose temples and had unique burial customs, and, of course, believed in plant magic.

Egyptians found evidence of divine presence in everything. The blue lotuses that grew in the Nile’s shallow muddy shallows, were a symbol of nature’s fertility. They believed the lotus blossom had emerged from the ocean at creation.

The prolific reed of the Nile, papyrus, became their symbol of freshness, youth, and vigor, and also supplied them with paper. Papyrus bouquets decorated religious rites, an amulet shaped like it ensured the wearer of a long life, and papyrus columns-although made out of stone, but formed to look like the plant-endowed their temples with the reed’s spiritual virtues.

The onion was also a revered plant of ancient Egyptians. In its fragrant bulb, they found a symbol of the universe. The layers of the onion, they believed, represented the layers of earth, and in turn heaven. Egyptians also took their oaths on an onion, like people today might swear on the Bible. And although the onion was their favorite vegetable to eat, they also presented it to the gods as sacrificial offering.

Egypt is an arid country, and to them trees were sacred. Groves of trees were customarily planted around their temples for the enjoyment of the gods. And they filled their crypts with flowers. Their mummies have been found with the remains of plants such as sweet marjoram, chrysanthemums, narcissus, and roses.

Egyptian military and commercial expeditions always collected plants to be brought back. In 1457 B.C., when the pharaoh Thutmose III won his first campaign in Syria, exotic plants were an important part of the booty sent back to Egypt.

It is said that Queen Hatsepsut, aunt of Thutmose III, sent five ships south to the Land of Punt, a region in Africa known for its myrrh production, to bring back sacks of myrrh and myrrh saplings. Legend has it that she offered the saplings to the god Amon, who in turn promised her “life, stability, satisfaction...forever.”

To the ancient Egyptians, plants were sacred!