The lotus, more than a plant, a symbol

In the Theban tomb of Menna (TT69) a young girl, seated on a mat, holds lotuses in her hands

The flowers, they are one of the wonder on our planet for sure. I am not exaggerating; we may see them all around us and not notice when we look at them we feel some calmness and happiness in our soul.

And here is the proof! The magic of this nature goes back to the magic of ancient Egypt. Here is the tale of the wizard of Nymphaea, the Water Lily.

With a heartily thank to two honourable Egyptologists and friends of mine

http://Marc Chartier & http://Marie Grillot πŸ™πŸ’–πŸ™πŸ’–

“Imagine it if in the hands or on the forehead of women, in bouquets mounted or on offering tables, in decorative friezes or floating on water features in gardens, the image of elegant blue lotus is one that is automatically associated with Egyptian civilization. ” (Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, Ancient Egypt and its Gods, Fayard 2007).

In his “General Overview on Egypt” Antoine BarthΓ©lΓ©my Clot-Bey, evokes it thus: “The water lily is the famous Nymphaea lotus of antiquity. When the flood disappears, this aquatic plant covers the surface of its canals. immense leaves, in the middle of which stand out white or azure flowers, of the most elegant form. Its tubers were, according to what Herodotus reports, one of the foods most in favour among the ancient Egyptians “.

Lotus – NΓ©nuphar – NymphΓ©a

In fact, three different water lilies are usually listed on Egyptian soil: the pink Indian lotus introduced to Egypt by the Persians around 500 BC. AD; the white lotus which opens at nightfall and is characterized by its jagged-edged leaves, rounded buds, spreading petals and strong scent; the blue lotus, with its leaves with a linear edge, its tapered, pointed buds and its narrow, pointed petals.

It is the latter – the Nymphaea caerulea, lotus or blue water lily – that is most characteristic of Egypt.

With a suave and sweet aroma, it blooms during the day, opening at the first rays of the sun, then in the evening, closed for the night, it disappears under the water from which it will not emerge until the next morning. “Its yellow centre, with a blue outline, also evokes the sun in the sky” specifies Salima Ikhram. It is considered by the ancient Egyptians to be “the initial flower” and “the symbol of the birth of the divine star”. Thus, when it has finished its course, the sun takes refuge in the lotus to plunge back into the wave.And the cycle begins again every day and every night, since the dawn of time.

Symbol of birth, the lotus is also that of re-birth. “Chapter 81 of the Book of the Dead allows the deceased to assimilate to the renewed solar god. The vignette which illustrates it represents the skull of the dead springing from the water lily” specifies Isabelle Franco.

Magnificent polychrome wooden statue representing Tutankhamun
whose head emerges from a lotus flower with open blue petals (JE 60723)

This image can only refer us to the magnificent polychrome wooden statue representing Tutankhamun whose head emerges from a lotus flower whose blue petals are open (JE 60723). Christiane Desroches Noblecourt analyzes it thus: “Symbolic image of the rebirth of the deceased, the head of the sovereign emerging from the lotus evoked the Horus-child: Harpocrates”.

Center: the four sons of Horus stand on a lotus – Roy’s Theban tomb (TT255)

This flower can also serve as a “support” for the four sons of Horus: “This representation appears at the end of the XVIIIth Dynasty, without real systematization at the beginning. Then the motif of the four standing figures, frozen in a precise order, on the corolla of the open lotus will be the standard cannon from the XXth Dynasty until Roman times …

The choice of the blue lotus is clearly related to the rise at this time of the Hermopolitan cosmogony. This presents, at the dawn of time, four male characters who fertilize the primordial lotus floating on the abyssal waters of the Nun (or the Nun himself, from which the plant will emerge); lotus from which will spring the solar child, and therefore Creation “… (Osirisnet)

The lotus was endowed with other functions, symbolic and mythological; it was used in particular to represent Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt has been associated with the papyrus. Thus the two plants are instituted as the “heraldic plants” of Egypt and are often presented linked to signify the union of the two lands.

Lotiform columns: portico of the temple of Akh-MΓ©nou (Karnak)

It is widely used in the decoration of temples. This is how we find columns with loti form capitals – “they may have originally represented, writes Gaston Maspero, a bundle of lotus stems whose buttons, tight around the neck by a link, meet in a bouquet to form the capital “- and that often” the base of the columns is surrounded by leaves, the foot of the walls were lined with long stems of lotus or papyrus “.

In the Theban tomb of Nakht (TT52) lotus bouquet decorating an offering table

The lotuses are very often represented in the scenes of the tombs. They are found on offering tables, in floral wreaths, on headbands worn by beautiful ladies, or, quite simply, in their hands and sometimes turned towards their nostrils …

As we can see on certain wall decorations, or pavements, which reach us from the Amarna period, the lotus, like the papyrus, expressed their freshness and their overflowing nature …

Lotus flowers and buds: detail of a breastplate from Tutankhamun (JE 61897 – GEM 139)

It is also very popular in goldsmiths where it is found in rings, bracelets, elements of necklaces or pectorals or in certain chalices which borrow its shape.

He was the emblem of the god Nefertum, son of Ptah and Sekkmet, “divinity of the pleasant smell”, appeared “like a lotus in the nostril of Ra”.

“Despite its brevity, comments Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, this [last] formula is important since, in addition to the allusion to the fact that the flower is breathed, it establishes a relationship with the sun, a link that underlines (…) the only other mention of the god in the oldest corpus of Egyptian religious texts: invoked as ‘image of Nefertum’, the lotus then becomes that of the primordial flower, ‘exit of the Nun’ [personification of the primordial waters existing before creation], d ‘where the solar child arises every day as he did the first time. ”

Represented in the “erotic” papyrus of Turin, above the heads of the characters, the lotus was famous, such as Ginko Biloba, for its tonic, narcotic and aphrodisiac virtues, against the effects of ageing or sexual “breakdown”.

In the Theban tomb of Menna (TT69) ducks swim among the lotuses

The lotus was, therefore, for the Egyptians of antiquity, a flower, beautiful and fragrant, loaded with meaning, life, and promises …

http://Marc Chartier & http://Marie Grillot

Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology, Isabelle Franco, 2013
Ancient Egypt and its gods, Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, 2007
Egyptian Archeology, Gaston Maspero, 1910
General Overview on Egypt, Clot-Bey, Antoine B., Paris, 1840
The fabulous heritage of Egypt, Christiane Desroches Noblecourt, 2004

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