HD Blog 27: "grant us strength to endure"

hello everyone! a new post with a few biblical references that are quite intereting!
nothing new to report, 10 days left on thesis, one week left for work…AND i hear that sethharwood.blogspot.com and sethharwood.com is all the rave. CHECK IT OUT!!!!



Grant us strength to endure
a little longer,

now the heart’s alabaster
is broken;

we would feed forever
on the amber honey-comb

of your remembered greeting,
but the old-self,

still half at-home in the world,
cries out in anger,

I am hungry, the children cry for food
and flaming stones fall on them;

our awareness leaves us defenceless;
O, for your Presence

among the fishing-nets
by the beached boats on the lake-edge;

when, in the drift of wood-smoke,
will you say again, as you said,

the baked fish is ready,
here is the bread?


Alabaster is a name applied to varieties of two distinct minerals: gypsum (a hydrous sulfate of calcium) and the calcite (a carbonate of calcium). The former is the alabaster of the present day; the latter is generally the alabaster of the ancients.

The two kinds are readily distinguished from each other by their relative hardnesses. The gypsum kind is so soft as to be readily scratched by a finger-nail (hardness 1.5 to 2), while the calcite kind is too hard to be scratched in this way (hardness 3), though it does yield readily to a knife.

Calcite Alabaster, the “alabaster” of the Bible, is often termed Oriental alabaster, since the early examples came from the Far East. The Greek name alabastrites is said to be derived from the town of Alabastron, in Egypt, where the stone was quarried, but the locality probably owed its name to the mineral; the origin of the mineral-name is obscure, and it has been suggested that it may have had an Arabic origin. This “Oriental” alabaster was highly esteemed for making small perfume-bottles or ointment vases called alabastra, and this has been conjectured to be a possible source of the name. Alabaster was also employed in Egypt for canopic jars and various other sacred and sepulchral objects.

Calcite alabaster is either a stalagmitic deposit, from the floor and walls of limestone caverns, or a kind of travertine, similarly deposited in springs of calcareous water. Its deposition in successive layers gives rise to the banded appearance that the marble often shows on cross-section, whence it is known as onyx-marble or alabaster-onyx, or sometimes simply as onyx – a term which should, however, be restricted to siliceous minerals. Egyptian alabaster has been extensively worked near Suez and near Assiut; there are many ancient quarries in the hills overlooking the plain of Tell el Amarna. The Algerian onyx-marble has been largely quarried in the province of Oran. In Mexico, there are famous deposits of a delicate green variety at La Pedrara, in the district of Tecali, near Puebla. Onyx-marble occurs also in the district of Tehuacán and at several localities in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Virginia.



Alabaster Occurs only in the New Testament in connection with the box of “ointment of spikenard very precious,” with the contents of which a woman anointed the head of Jesus as he sat at supper in the house of Simon the leper.

These boxes were made from a stone found near Alabastron in Egypt. The woman “broke” the vessel; i.e., she broke off, as was usually done, the long and narrow neck so as to reach the contents. Mark says (Mar 14:5) that this box of ointment was worth more than 300 denarii, and if we take the denarius as the day’s wage of a laborer (Mat 20:2), then the whole would be quite costly.

HERE is the passage from MARK 14:

1 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.

2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.

3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.

4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?

5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.

7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.

9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.


Spikenard, a much-valued perfume (Sol 1:12; Sol 4:13, Sol 4:14). It was “very precious”, i.e., very costly (Mar 14:3; Joh 12:3, Joh 12:5). It is the root of an Indian plant, the Nardostachys jatamansi, of the family of Valeriance, growing on the Himalaya mountains. It is distinguished by its having many hairy spikes shooting out from one root. It is called by the Arabs sunbul Hindi, “the Indian spike.” In the New Testament this word is the rendering of the Greek nardos pistike . The margin of the Revised Version in these passages has “pistic nard,” pistic being perhaps a local name. Some take it to mean genuine, and others liquid. The most probable opinion is that the word pistike designates the nard as genuine or faithfully prepared.


(tintorreto’s miracle of the manna)

this couplet from the section:

I am hungry, the children cry for food
and flaming stones fall on them;


9 Or who is there among you, who, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?

HERE is the entire passage from MATTHEW chapter 7:

1 “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged.

2 For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.

3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye?

4 Or how will you tell your brother,’Let me remove the speck from your eye;’ and behold, the beam is in your own eye?

5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.

6 “Don’t give that which is holy to the dogs, neither throw your pearls before the pigs, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

7 “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you.

8 For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.

9 Or who is there among you, who, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?

10 Or if he asks for a fish, who will give him a serpent?

11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

12 Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

13 “Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it.

14 How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.

16 By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?

17 Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit.

18 A good tree can’t produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit.

19 Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire.

20 Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.

21 Not everyone who says to me,’Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

22 Many will tell me in that day,’Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’

23 Then I will tell them,’I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’

24 “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock.

25 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand.

27 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell-and great was its fall.”

28 It happened, when Jesus had finished saying these things, that the multitudes were astonished at his teaching,

29 for he taught them with authority, and not like the scribes.



[1] After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
[2] And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
[3] And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
[4] And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
[5] When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
[6] And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
[7] Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
[8] One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,
[9] There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
[10] And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
[11] And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
[12] When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
[13] Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
[14] Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
[15] When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT & HD Blog 26: "how imperceptibly the grain"

wanted to take this moment to point out a new blogger in blogland: a writer and friend: SETH HARWOOD!!! His blog (which is the first link in my blogroll) also links to his author’s webpage, which has his published short stories that you can read for free, pictures of his cute dog hadley, AND (what i am most excited about) the in progress PODCASTING of his genre novel — i can’t wait to download the chapters to my IPOD — there is a theme song and i think a soundtrack is forthcoming as well.

SO, here’s what i want you to do. Link to his blog from here, go to his webpage…check out the stories…then go back to his blogger blog and leave a comment telling him what you think of the site / stories / PODCASTING, etc. HERE is the important part, IF 30 people comment on his blog and mention my name, I WILL RECEIVE A FREE SET OF STEAK KNIVES!!!

Go send him some blogger love and welcome him to the DIY community (and drop my name);) [do that now and come back]


the photo above is by Minor White; here dedicated to Len, who is the second link on the blogroll. He is not new to blogger, but he may be new to you. SO now you MUST check out his blog, he is an amazing poet AND photographer. if he gets 20 comments with my name dropped, I RECEIVE A FREE STEAK!!! [go ahead and go there now, i’ll wait]


OTHER BUSINESS: for some reason, some of the pictures from the HD BLOG is disappearing…does anyone know why…i usually just upload the photos from the web, but now i think i should save them onto my hard drive…HELP!


Finally, the HD post: one of the most exciting reads yet!!! this post ranks with the post on amber and the one on sapphire…this one is all about the porphyry!!! READ ON and for each comment i will donate $1 to the journal “G=E=O=R=G=E=B=U=S=H”, a new journal of right-wing language-centered poetry!!! peace



O Heart, small urn
of porphyry, agate or cornelian,

how imperceptibly the grain fell
between a heart-beat of pleasure

and a heart-beat of pain;
I do not know how it came

nor how long it had lain there,
nor can I say

how it escaped tempest
of passion and malice,

nor why it was not washed away
in flood of sorrow,

or dried up in the bleak drought
of bitter thought.


(Minerva (found at Cori); porphyry statue – Rome: Palazzo Senatorio)

The term “porphyry” is from Latin and means “purple”. Purple was the color of royalty, and the “Imperial Porphyry” was a deep brownish purple igneous rock with large crystals of plagioclase. This rock was prized for various monuments and building projects in Imperial Rome and later.

Pliny’s Natural History afirmed that the “Imperial Pophyry” had been discovered at an isolated site in Egypt in AD 18, by a Roman legionnaire named Caius Cominius Leugas. It came from a single quarry in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, from 600 million year old andesite of the Arabian-Nubian Shield. The road from the quarry westward to Qena (Roman Maximianopolis) on the Nile, which Ptolemy put on his second-century map, was described first by Strabo, and it is to this day known as the Via Porphyrites, the Porphyry Road, its track marked by the hydreumata, or watering wells that made it viable in this utterly dry landscape.

All the porphyry columns in Rome, the red porphyry togas on busts of emperors, the porphyry panels in the revetment of the Pantheon, as well as the altars and vases and fountain basins reused in the Renaissance and dispersed as far as Kiev, all came from the one quarry at Mons Porpyritis (“Porphyry Mountain”, the Arabic Jabal Abu Dukhan), which seems to have been worked intermittently between 29 and 330, when Constantine the Great erected in Constantinople a 30-meter pillar, built of seven stacked porphyry drums, which still stands. A triumphant last use were the eight monolithic columns of porphyry that support exedrae in Hagia Sophia.

In Constantinople, the imperial family were “born to the purple.”Anna Comnena, daughter of the eleventhth-century emperor Alexius I, created a room in the palace veneered with purple porphyry where women of the ruling family were taken to give birth. The choice of porphyry for this room in particular was no accident: It ensured that members of the imperial family were literally porphyrogenitos, or “born to the purple.” The room is in the form of a perfect square from floor to ceiling, with the letter ending in a pyramid.

The imperial family were entombed in the purple as well, beginning with Nero, the first to be immured in a porphyry sarcophagus. Roman sarcophagi were re-used for imperial burials in Sicily: the poprphyry sarcophagi of Holy Roman Emperors Frederick II and Henry IV and king William I of Sicily and the Empress Constance, are preserved in the cathedrals of Palermo and Monreale.

After the fourth century the quarry was lost to sight for many centuries. The scientific members of the French Expedition under Napoleon sought for it in vain, and it was only when the Eastern Desert was reopened for study under Muhammad Ali that the site was rediscovered by Bruton and Wilkinson in 1823.

Subsequently the name was given to igneous rocks with large crystals. Porphyry now refers to a texture of igneous rocks.


The Eastern Desert played an important role in the history of Egypt. It was the source of gold, copper and many other minerals and precious stones that were highly sought after from the earliest of times. It was also the place through which trade with Arabia, Somalia and India was channelled. As a result, a large number of roads were built there throughout ancient times. These routes were especially important during the Roman occupation of Egypt, when many mines and quarries were reopened, and some new ones broken.

There were four main roads, starting from the Nile at Qena and Qift, crossing the Red Sea hills and terminating on the Red Sea at the Graeco-Roman ports of Myos Hormos (Abu Sha’ar Al-Qibli, 18km north of modern Hurghada, now the site of Al-Gouna resort), Philoteras (16km south of modern Safaga), Leukos Limen (modern Qusseir) and Berenice. The territory thus defined was covered by a veritable network of both main and subsidiary roads. All of them were unpaved — merely cleared tracks from which the stones had been picked and arranged in a line on each side. Yet, they are still clearly visible at many places, especially along the Myos Hormos road, where many kilometres of road have been preserved intact.


(fort at Badia)

The Myos Hormos road connected Qena (Kainopolis) with the most northerly of the Red Sea ports. It was about 190km long and was controlled by at least eight garrisons, whose stations lay approximately 25km apart. At Al-Heita, the road left Wadi Qena, crossed its main tributary, Wadi Fatira, and followed the course of Wadi Al-Atrash to its source near a pass in the Red Sea mountain range between Gebels Gattar and Dokhan. From there, it descended along the course of Wadi Bili to the Red Sea.

The stations along the road were check points where taxes were collected, overnight travellers accommodated and beasts of burden watered. Each station compound contained a well, usually of considerable depth. Water was stored in a tank of burnt brick and mortar which occupied a good part of the compound. For this reason, they were known as hydreumata (watering stations).

The station was a square fortified walled enclosure with a single gateway flanked by twin towers, and bastions at each corner and against each side. Staircases round the outer walls would have led to parapet walks. Today, the walls still stand three or more metres high.

The larger stations of Deir Al-Atrash and Al-Heita had bath houses and a number of buildings made of sun-dried bricks.

* The QUARRIES of Mons Porphyrites

(walkway to the mountain)

On the Myos Hormos road lie the quarries of the celebrated Mons Porphyrites. It was here that the beautiful purple stone known as Imperial Porphyry was quarried. The quarries stood high on the mountain side, while the quarrymen (mostly christian slaves) lived and worshipped on the lower flanks of the mountain.

The quarry seems to have been worked intermittently between AD29 and AD335, after which it was lost to sight for many centuries. The scientific members of the French Expedition under Napoleon sought for it in vain, and it was only when the Eastern Desert was reopened for study under Mohamed Ali that the site was rediscovered by Bruton and Wilkinson in 1823.

The high flanks of the remote mountain of Gebel Dokhan was the only place in the entire Roman Empire where this burgundy-coloured rock, speckled with rosy or white feldspar crystals, was to be found. The rock was quarried, chiselled and cut into roughly-shaped columns, and then slid 100 metres down a winding causeway or chute, to the dry bed of Wadi Al-Maa’mal.

From there, the columns were rolled, perhaps on tree trunks, down a stony course for another 15km, following the same path that is now used by motor cars. At the point where the wadi meets the plain, they were hauled up a large ramp which still exists to this day. From there, they could be loaded on to carts or sledges for a desert journey of about 160km to the Nile at Qena, where they would be placed on barges and shipped to Italy.

The thousands of tons of Imperial Porphyry which were extracted from Gebel Dokhan mostly ended up in Rome, where they were fashioned into finished pillars (134 of which still stand today in Italian churches), as well as countless altars, fonts, basins and sarcophagi. Many pillars were also taken to Istanbul, where they were used by Constantine and his successors to embellish the new Imperial city. The largest of these porphyry pillars originally stood in the temple of the sun at Baalbeck (Lebanon), from where they were subsequently moved to Saint Sophia cathedral (later mosque) in Istanbul. In later times, much of the porphyry was recut to suit medieval and modern tastes, and made into busts and sarcophagi for the royal families and aristocracies of Europe.

Today, three of the towns where the quarrymen lived survive in ruined form, each a cluster of houses crowded within a fortified wall. The town on the terrace opposite the temple housed the officer (who held the rank of centurion), the garrison of the quarry and probably the administrative staff. One eloquently built house, complete with plunge bath, is indicative of the luxurious lifestyle which expatriated officers enjoyed.

The two other towns are much more modest, with little huts divided by narrow lanes. It seems likely these were labourers’ houses. Their lives must have been hard and difficult to bear. Many of them were convicts, lower-class criminals, slaves, or even captives from the Jewish and Christian revolts. Greek inscriptions, evidently Christian in origin, can be seen on the quarry walls, confirming the words of Eusebius of Caeseria in his classic Church History (written ca. 303AD) concerning “the vast number of persecuted Christians sent to work in the porphyry quarries of the Thebaids.”

The mines and quarries of Ancient Egypt were all the property of the state, but on occasion they could be leased to contractors for a limited period of time and for a specific purpose. Whoever was in charge, however, working conditions were atrocious, as is attested by written records found in this quarry, mostly in the form of ostraca (inscribed pottery shards).

(porphyry bath)

To the northeast of the town, on a granite knoll, lie the ruins of the temple of Serapis, the god invented by Ptolemy I as part of his attempt to reconcile the Egyptian and Greek religions.

The logistics of extracting the Porphyry are incredible. The Porphyry can only be extracted in workable blocks from the tops of 4 mountains, and the quarries are named Lycabettos, Rammius, Lepsius and North-west. The difficulty of the terrain meant that the workers were accommodated in separate villages from the quarries, generally reasonably close. The two main areas of settlement below the quarries are a fort in the Wadi Abu Ma’amel and another on the southern flank of the Gebel Dokhan, named Badia. The whole complex was linked by a system of footpaths and slipways down which the Porphyry would be brought to the Wadi bed.

The footpaths zig-zag up the hills, often revetted over difficult areas and generally narrow. The slipways in contrast have a smooth gradient and are wider but still survive from the tops of the mountain to the wadi bed or loading villages. The path of the slipways is often marked by cairns, circular structures made of dry stone walling. The slipways are particularly impressive for both their extent and completeness. On reaching the wadi bed the evidence continues in the form of a cistern and animal lines at Umm sidri and then a great loading ramp 8km futher on, where it is believed the the stone would be loaded on to carts for the journey to the Nile, 150km away, going via Badia on a road again delineated by cairns that are still visible today.

The environment is harsh with no readily available water, except for a number of shady rock pools which may preserve water for some time. The local vegetation is sparce although Wadi Umm Sidri has a number of Zizyphus Spina-Christi trees which may indicate the presence of ground water. Other water is conserved in underground pockets in the wadi system, which at Badia is a few metres deep but over 15m below the surface at Umm Sidri. Two wells were dug to supply the workers and a supply chain was set up to bring water from the Nile. Modern rainfall is infrequent and is usually in deluges between October and December. These occurred three times during the length of the project and resulted in considerable movement of the boulders on the wadi bed.
Fort at Badia.

The problem of supplying food is little different to that of water. There is no local source of food to support the workforce which could in antiquity have amounted to several hundred men and the wildlife of any size is rare in the present day environment. The climate can reach temperatures of 114 degrees F (45.6 degrees C) in the summer.


* When George Murray, chief of the Egyptian Geographical Survey in the 1930’s, visited the quarry, he found a place so barren that it made him shudder. A ruined fortress, three lifeless villages, abandoned temples and shrines, dry wells, broken pillars, cracked stone baths—”the fossil whims of three centuries of Emperors,” he called it. The local Ma’aza Bedouin have a similar saying about the place: “The Romans left; only the ibex remained.”


In Islam, agates are deemed to be very precious stones. According to tradition, the wearer of an agate ring is believed to be protected from various mishaps and will enjoy longevity, among other benefits.

In other traditions agate is believed to cure the stings of scorpions and the bites of snakes, soothe the mind, prevent contagion, still thunder and lightning, promote eloquence, secure the favour of the powerful, and bring victory over enemies. Persian magi are also known to have prized agate rings in their work and beliefs.

The Shia Book of collected prayers, Mafatih Al-janan, quotes the fifth Shia saint Imam Muhammad al-Baqir on agates, as such:

“Whosoever endures the night ’til sunrise wearing an agate ring on his/her right hand, before seeing or being seen by any human that morning, turns the agate ring toward the palm side of his/her hand, and while looking at the gem recites the 97th chapter of the Qur’an followed by this prayer [specified], then the God of the Universe shall grant him/her immunity on that day from any danger that falls from the sky, or rises up to it, or which disappears into the earth, or rises out of it, and he/she shall remain protected by the power of God and the agents of God until dusk.” (p1212 of version by Haj Sheikh Abbas Qomi)

* Formation and characteristics

Most agates occur as nodules in volcanic rocks or ancient lavas where they represent cavities originally produced by the disengagement of volatiles in the molten mass which were then filled, wholly or partially, by siliceous matter deposited in regular layers upon the walls. Such agates, when cut transversely, exhibit a succession of parallel lines, often of extreme tenuity, giving a banded appearance to the section. Such stones are known as banded agate, riband agate and striped agate.

Many agates are hollow, since deposition has not proceeded far enough to fill the cavity, and in such cases the last deposit commonly consists of quartz, often amethyst, having the apices of the crystals directed towards the free space so as to form a crystal-lined cavity, or geode.

On the disintegration of the matrix in which the agates are embedded, they are set free. The agates are extremely resistant to weathering and remain as nodules in the soil or are deposited as gravel in streams and shorelines.


Cornelian is a red variety of chalcedony which is cryptocrystalline quartz. Its red colour is due to the presence of iron impurities in the form of iron oxide or hematite. It can vary from a flesh red to a clear red. It is usually cut en cabochon, or into beads, and is also used for intaglios and cameos. Imitations of cornelian are made by the staining of agate.

Originally found in the deserts of Arabia and Egypt, it has also been found in the Rio Grande area, India, China, Colombia, Saxony, Scotland, West Germany and USA.

Cornelian has featured in nearly every great civilization. From the royalty of Ur (the Mesopotamian capital of pre-biblical times) to Napoleon, cornelian has been revered for its healing, spiritual and creative qualities.

A deeply religious stone, cornelian was used by the Egyptian goddess Isis to protect the dead on their journey to the afterlife; was one of the stones on Aaron’s breast plate of judgment; it is the symbol of the Apostle Philip; and Muhammad’s seal was an engraved cornelian set in a silver ring.

To this day Buddhists in China, India and Tibet believe in the protective powers of cornelian and often follow the Egyptian practice of setting the stone with turquoise and lapis lazuli for enhanced power. It is also the Astrological birthstone for Virgos.

From “cornu” (Latin) a horn
From “cornum” (Latin) cherry
From “carnis” (Latin) flesh or meat

while working on the template here to add links, i accidentally deleted the last 1/3 of the blogroll and all the guam links. i don’t quite remember what was there, but hopefully i can recover most of the links. Well, here is the next section of the HD, a furthering of the questions from section 26. for those interested in trees and their symbolism, this post will be a feast for you. Also, AT THE END OF THIS POST THERE IS A GAME!!!!!! enjoy – A QUESTION ALSO: for those who know a lot about trees, what do you see as the symbolic differences between the trees in this list…thanks!


Is ours lotus-tree
from the lotus-grove,

magnolia’s heavy, heady, sleepy

or pomegranate
whose name decorates sonnets,

but either acid or over-ripe
perfect only for the moment?

of all the flowering of the wood,
are we wild-almond, winter-cherry?

are we pine or fir,
sentinel, solitary?

or cypress,


The lotus tree was a plant in Greek mythology bearing a fruit that caused a pleasant drowsiness. This fruit was reported to be the only food of an island people called the Lotus-Eaters. In Homer’s Odyssey those of Odysseus’ men who ate the fruit lost all desire to leave the island and had to be forced away. In another story from Greek mythology, the nymph, Lotis, is turned into a lotus tree.

In Greek mythology, the Lotophagi (“lotus-eaters”) were a race of people from an island near Northern Africa dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary foodstuff of the island and were narcotic, causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy. (a little orientalism at play here?)

When Odysseus and his men landed on the island of the lotus-eaters, Odysseus sent three of his men to investigate the island. But the men began doing as the natives did, eating the lotus fruit. This caused them to forget about leaving the island and ever going home. Finally, Odysseus managed to drive the three wailing men back to the ship and set sail.

The Lotus tree in Greek mythology is thought to have been a species of Jujube or the Date Palm. The island itself may be the modern Djerba.

Recent studies have shown that the Blue Lilly of the Nile Nymphaea caerulea, also known as the Blue Lotus, was possibly the plant used. It can be processed to be used as a soporific and in some formulations has psychedelic properties. It is very common in Egyptian iconography which suggests its use in a religious context.


In 1703 Charles Plumier (1646-1704) described a flowering tree from the island of Martinique in his Genera. He gave the species, that was locally known as ‘Talauma’, the genus name Magnolia, after Pierre Magnol. The English botanist William Sherard, who studied botany in Paris under Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, a pupil of Magnol, was most probably the first after Plumier to adopt the genus name Magnolia.

Magnolias have long been known and used in China, though not under their scientific names. References to their medicinal qualities go back to as early as 1083. After the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Philip II commissioned his court physician Francisco Hernandez on a scientific expedition in 1570. Hernandez made numerous descriptions of plants, accompanied by drawings, but publication was delayed and hampered by a number of consecutive accidents. Between 1629 and 1651 the material was re-edited by members of the Academy of Lincei and issued (1651) in three editions as Nova plantarum historia Mexicana. This work contains a drawing of a plant under the vernacular name Eloxochitl, that is almost certainly Magnolia. This must have been the first ever description of a Magnolia that came to the Western World. So the first Magnolia had already found its way to Europe before Charles Plumier found his Talauma on Martinique and gave it the name Magnolia[11].

The bark from Magnolia has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as houpu. The aromatic bark contains magnolol and honokiol, two polyphenolic compounds that have demonstrated anti-anxiety and anti-angiogenic properties. Magnolia bark also has been shown to reduce allergic and asthmatic reactions.

The natural range of Magnolia species is rather scattered. It includes eastern North America, Central America and the West Indies and east and southeast Asia. Some species are found in South America. Today many species of Magnolia and an ever increasing number of hybrids can also be found as ornamental trees in large parts of North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Magnolia is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. As a result, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are tough, to avoid damage by eating and crawling beetles. Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae dating back to 95 million years ago. Another primitive aspect of Magnolias is their lack of distinct sepals or petals.


The Pomegranate is a species of fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5–8 m tall. The pomegranate is believed to have originated in the areas in eastern Iran, but its true native range is not accurately known because of its extensive cultivation.

Pomegranates are drought tolerant, and can be grown in dry areas with either a Mediterranean winter rainfall climate or in summer rainfall climates. In wetter areas, they are prone to root decay from fungal diseases.

The name Pomegranate derives from Latin pomum (apple) and granatus (grainy). The genus name Punica is named after the Phoenicians, who were active in broadening its cultivation, partly for religious reasons. In classical Latin its name was malum punicum or malum granatum, where “malum” is an apple. This has influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages (eg German Granatapfel, seeded apple).

Another widespread root for “pomegranate” is the Egyptian and Semitic rmn. Attested in Ancient Egyptian, in Hebrew rimmôn, and in Arabic rummân, this root was brought by Arabic to a number of languages, including Portuguese (romã), and Kabyle rrumman.

The pomegranate has been cultivated around the Mediterranean region for several millennia. In Georgia, to the east of the Black Sea, there are wild pomegranate groves outside of ancient abandoned settlements. The ancient city of Granada in Spain was renamed after the fruit during the Moorish period. It is also extensively grown in South China and in Southeast Asia, and could have been brought by sea traders, assuming the pomegranate was not native to the Pacific coast. Missionaries from Spain are also said to be the source for the pomegranate’s introduction into the Caribbean and Latin America during the 1700-1800’s.

Pomegranate juice is a popular drink in the Middle East, and is also used in Iranian and Indian cuisine; it began to be widely marketed in the US in 2004. Pomegranate concentrate is used in Syrian cuisine. Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice; it is used in cocktail mixing. Before the tomato arrived in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Persian foods; it can still be found in traditional recipes. The juice can also be used as an antiseptic when applied to cuts.

Pomegranate seeds are sometimes used as a spice, known as anardana (which literally means pomegranate (anar) seeds (dana) in Persian), most notably in Indian and Pakistani cuisine but also as a replacement for pomegranate syrup in Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine.

In Turkey, pomegranate (Turkish: nar) is used in a variety of ways. The most famous one is pomegranate juice (Turkish: nar ekşisi), which is used as a salad dressing, to marinate meat, or simply to enjoy it straight. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads, in Muhammara (Turkish Walnut Garlic Spread) and in Güllaç, a famous Turkish desert.

In Greece pomegranate, (Greek: ροδι, rodi), is used in many recipes; such as “kollivozoumi”, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins; Legume salad with wheat and pomegranate; traditional Middle Eastern lamb kabobs with pomegranate glaze; pomegranate eggplant relish; avocado and pomegranate dip; are just some of the dishes it is used in culinary.

One pomegranate delivers 40% of an adult’s daily vitamin C requirement. It is also a rich source of folic acid and of antioxidants.

***Pomegranates and symbolism***

Judaism and the Bible

Exodus chapter 28:33-34 directed that images of pomegranates be woven onto the borders of Hebrew priestly robes. 1 Kings chapter 7:13-22 describes pomegranates depicted in the temple King Solomon built in Jerusalem. Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to have 613 seeds which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah. For this reason and others many Jews eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah.

Greek mythology

The wild pomegranate did not grow natively in the Aegean area in Neolithic times. It originated in the Iranian east and came to the Aegean world along the same cultural pathways that brought the goddess whom the Anatolians worshipped as Cybele and the Mesopotamias as Ishtar. The myth of Persephone, the dark goddess of the Underworld also prominently features the pomegranate.

In one version of Greek mythology, Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken off to live in the underworld as his wife. Her mother, Demeter, (goddess of the Harvest), went into mourning for her lost daughter and thus all green things ceased to grow on the Earth. Zeus could not leave the Earth to die, so he commanded Hades to return Persephone. It was the rule of the Fates that anyone who consumed food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to spend eternity there. Persphone had no food, however, Hades tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds while she was still his prisoner and so, because of this, she was condemned to spend six months in the Underworld every year. During these six months, when Persephone is sitting on the throne of the Underworld next to her husband Hades, her mother Demeter mourns and no longer gives fertility to the earth. This became an ancient Greek explanation for the seasons.

The pomegranate also evoked the presence of the Aegean Triple Goddess who evolved into the Olympian Hera, who is sometimes represented offering the pomegranate. According to mythographers like Carl A. P. Ruck and Danny Staples, the chambered pomegranate is also a surrogate for the poppy’s narcotic capsule, with its comparable shape and chambered interior. On a Mycenaean seal (illustrated in Joseph Campbell’s Occidental Mythology 1964, figure 19) the seated Goddess of the double-headed axe (the labrys) offers three poppy pods in her right hand and supports her breast with her left. She embodies both aspects of the dual goddess, life-giving and death-dealing at once. Is that why Persephone found the pomegranate waiting, when she sojourned in the dark realm? The Titan Orion was represented as “marrying” Side, a name that in Boeotia means “pomegranate”, thus consecrating the primal hunter to the Goddess. Other Greek dialects call the pomegranate rhoa; its possible connection with the name of the earth goddess Rhea, inexplicable in Greek, proved suggestive for the mythographer Karl Kerenyi, who suggested that the consonance might ultimately derive from a deeper, pre-Indo-European language layer.

In the sixth century BCE, Polykleitos took ivory and gold to sculpt the seated Argive Hera in her temple. She held a scepter in one hand and offered a pomegranate, like a royal orb, in the other. “About the pomegranate I must say nothing,” whispered the traveller Pausanias in the second century A.D., “for its story is something of a mystery.” Indeed, in the Orion story we hear that Hera cast pomegranate-Side into dim Erebus — “for daring to rival Hera’s beauty”, which forms the probable point of connection with the older Osiris/Isis story. Since the ancient Egyptians identified the Orion constellation in the sky as Sah the “soul of Osiris”, the identification of this section of the myth seems relatively complete. Hera wears, not a wreath nor a tiara nor a diadem, but clearly the calyx of the pomegranate that has become her serrated crown. In some artistic depictions, the pomegranate is found in the hand of Mary, mother of Jesus.

In modern times the pomegranate still hold strong symbolic meanings to the Greeks. On imporant days in the Greek Orthodox faith, such as the Presentation of the Virgin Mary and on Christmas Day, it is tradition to have at the dinner table “polysporia”, (“polisporia”), also known by their ancient name “panspermia” in some regions of Greece. In ancient times they were offered to Demeter and to the other gods for fertile land, for the spirits of the dead and in honor of compassionate Dionysus. In modern times they symbolic meaning is towards Jesus and his mother Mary. The presence of pomegranate is also very important in Greek weddings and funerals. When Greeks commemorate their dead, they make “kollyva” as offerings that consist of boiled wheat, mixed with sugar and decorated with pomegranate. It is also tradition in Greece to break a pomegranate on the ground at weddings, on New Years and when one buys a new home for a house guest to bring as a first gift a pomegranate which is placed under/near the ikonostasi, (home altar), of the house, as it is a symbol of abundance, fertility and good luck. Pomegranate decorations for the home are very common in Greece and sold in most homegood stores.


* The Ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates. The Babylonians believed chewing the seeds before battle made them invincible.

* The Qur’an mentions pomegranates three times (6:99, 6:141, 55:068) – twice as examples of the good things God creates, once as a fruit found in the Garden of Paradise.

* Pomegranate has a calyx shaped like a crown. In Jewish tradition it has been seen as the original “design” for the proper crown. [5]

* Pomegranate juice stains clothing permanently unless washed with bleach.
* Pomegranate juice is used for natural dyeing of non-synthetic fabrics.

* Although not native to Japan, the pomegranate is widely grown there and many cultivars have been developed. It is widely used for bonsai, because of its lovely flowers and for the unusual twisted bark that older specimens can attain.

* Grenada, an island nation off the coast of South America, was named after the Spanish and French word for ‘pomegranate’.

* The pomegranate also gave its name to the hand grenade from its shape and size (and the resemblance of a pomegranate’s seeds to a grenade’s fragments), and to the garnet from its colour. In many languages (including Bulgarian, Spanish, French, and Hebrew) the words are exactly the same.

* The pomegranate was the personal emblem of the Roman Emperor, Maximilian I.


The flowering of the wood as a reference to the flowering of the cross

The flowering of the cross has been traced back to the 6th century. It is an especially striking and beautiful way to symbolize the new life that emerges from the death on Good Friday. Traditionally before the Easter Sunday service, the cross is covered with real flowers and the top draped in white. The entire cross is covered with flowers and is placed prominently at the front of the church to symbolize the new life in our risen Lord to all the worshippers present on Easter Sunday morning. The contrast between the starkly bare cross that worshippers have seen for 40 days and the living flower cross of Easter Sunday dramatically and visually represents the new life that we are celebrating after witnessing the very instrument of death and endings transformed by Christ’s rising.


Arbutus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae, native to warm temperate regions of the Mediterranean, western Europe, and North America.

North American members of the genus are called Madrones, from the Spanish name madroño. The European species are called Strawberry Trees from the superficial resemblance of the fruit to a strawberry; some species are sometimes referred to simply as the “Arbutus”.

They are evergreen trees or large shrubs growing to 5-25 m tall, with red or brown bark. The leaves are spirally arranged, oval to broad lanceolate, with a serrated or entire margin. The flowers are bell-shaped, 5-10 mm long, white or pink, and produced in racemes or corymbs. The fruit is a rough-textured red or orange-red berry 1-2 cm diameter containing yellow fruit flesh with numerous very small seeds; the fruit are edible but have minimal flavour and are not widely eaten.

A recent study which analyzed ribosomal DNA from Arbutus and related genera suggests that the Mediterranean Basin species of Arbutus are not very closely related to the North American species, and that the split between the two groups of species occurred at the Paleogene/Neogene boundary.




The opened “heart-shell” opens the series of questions of section 25 & 26. Although it at first seems that these questions subvert the otherwise pedagogical tone of the book, it does seem that HD uses the questions for their pedagogical value. Well, let me know what you think…


What fruit is our store,
what flower?

what savour do we possess,
what particular healing-of-the-nations

is our leaf? is it balsomodendron,
herb-basil, or is ours

the spear and leaf-spire
of the palm?

are we born from island or oasis
or do we stand

fruit-less on the field-edge,
to spread

shade to the wheat-gatherers
in the noon-heat?


on the “healing-of-the-nations” as a reference to REVELATION

Revelation 22

1 He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,

2 in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations .

3 There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him.

4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

5 There will be no night, and they need no lamp light; for the Lord God will illuminate them. They will reign forever and ever.


on “balsomodendron” (also spelled “balsamodendron”)

Balsomodendron is a species of myrrh. It is also known as the ‘Balm of Gilead’ the “Balm of the Bible’ or ‘Balm of Mecca’ and it was used extensively for its ‘miraculous properties’.

The resin extracted from the Balsomodendron myrrha is very often used in great religious traditions. According to the tradition, myrrh favors the awakening of feminine qualities and a greater sensitivity to the realities of the outer world.

Balsomodendron comes from small evergreen African and Asiatic tree of the terebinthine family. Its leaves yield, when bruised, a strong aromatic scent.It has a yellowish or greenish color, a warm, bitterish, aromatic taste, and a fragrant smell.


on “herb-basil”

Basil has been used as a herb in alternative herbal treatments, to treat ailments and problems, such as fever, flu, colds, digestion, nausea, cramps and acne, stings, as well as skin infections. Restorative, warming, aromatic, mildly sedative herb that lowers fever, relaxes spasms, improves digestion and is effective against internal parasites and bacteria.

There is a story that Basil was found growing around Christ’s tomb after the ressurection. This is a kind of meeting of the herbs, for the women bearing myrrh and spices – to emtomb the fallen savior – find not a corpse to preserve but instead an empty tomb and fresh basil. This makes basil a symbol of the new life, the regenerated nature, and in that sense Ocimum sanctum grows in the garden of paradise regained and ushers in a return to Eden, neutralizing the forbidden fruit, just as the resurrection nullifies the fall. Hence, some Greek Orthodox churches use basil to prepare holy water, which becomes the Jordan for those that are cleansed of sin.


on the palm

The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory in pre-Christian times. Early Christians used the palm branch to symbolize the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul, as in the Palm Sunday festival celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. In Christian art, martyrs were usually shown holding palms representing the victory of spirit over flesh, and it was widely believed that a picture of a palm on a tomb meant that a martyr was buried there. Palms also represented heaven, evidenced by ancient art often depicting Jesus in heaven among palms.

In Judaism, the palm represents peace and plenty, and is one of the Four Species of Sukkot; the palm may also symbolize the Tree of Life in Kabbalah. The sacred tree in Assyrian mythology is a palm that symbolizes Ishtar connecting heaven, the crown of the tree, and earth, the base of the trunk. Muhammad supposedly built his home out of palm, and the palm symbolizes rest and hospitality in many cultures of the Middle East. Palm stems represented long life to the Ancient Egyptians, and the god Huh was often shown holding a palm stem in one or both hands. The palm tree was a sacred sign of Apollo in Ancient Greece because he had been born under one in Delos. In ancient Mesopotamia, the Date Palm may have represented fertility in humans.

Human use of palms is almost as old as human civilization itself, starting with the cultivation of the Date Palm by Mesopotamians 5000 years ago. Palms are mentioned at least 30 times in the Bible.


on the “wheat-gatherers”

It was in the Garden of Aden that Adam discovered the wild wheat – an event which was, by definition, the start of our civilization, as men began to lead a settled life in agricultural communities. In keeping with ancient tradition, the historical Adam was honoured by naming him as the First Man (Adam ha-Rishon). Adam left the Garden to look for watered land suitable for growing the nourishing grain, which takes only a few weeks to grow.

“Therefore the Lord God sent him from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground… In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…” (Gen. 3:23, 19).

The circumstances that led to the “expulsion” of mankind from the Garden, from a life of ease as gatherers of food to a life of toil as tillers of the ground, made of Adam a persona non grata and of our new condition as the “Fall” from God’s grace. This attitude is further confirmed by the story of Cain and Abel in which God looks favourably on Abel, the hunter and gatherer, and disapprovingly on Cain, the farmer. Cain’s murder of Abel represents the traumatic transition to a new life-style, and the triumph of agriculture over hunting.

“And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Aden”. (Gene, 4:16).

It is interesting to note here that one of the opinions in the Talmud mentions wheat as being the forbidden fruit that Adam ate in the Garden. The aphrodisiac quality of wild wheat promoted Adam’s eating of the Forbidden Fruit being associated with the dawn of sexual awareness.