Plants are great teachers – you probably heard this before. And indeed they are. For many reasons.
On the first place they are teachers of humbleness. They can’t communicate with words, they don’t shout at you, they don’t wave their arms, therefore you have to be humble, silent, aware, sensitive enough in order to get the wisdom and the messages of the plants.
Interestingly ancient Greeks were humble enough to be aware of the silent messages of plants. The vegetation has a major symbolic role in ancient Greek myths. Plants are connected to certain archetypes or realms or attributes of human nature. Ancient Greeks’ intellect was a so called transcendent intellect, so they were able to see beyond the material nature with their intuitive vision. They had a mythical worldview which is above linguistic communication. Much more, much different than that.
These myths are crystallized forms of truth.
Getting the deep messages of myths and plants both require a non-linear, beyond-material, humble vision of the world (and ourselves in it).
We can train ourselves for that.
We can start our training with long silent walks in nature, in a forest, respecting all life around us. Observing, watching, listening, smelling flowers, herbs and barks. Gently touching moss, trees and the soil.
Today when I went to the forest, I found the first blooming Narcissus tazetta by a tiny river stream. Gentle scent, mesmerizing beauty. A species which is blooming late winter, early springtime in Greece and prefers the banks of streams and rivers.
So what is Narcissus’ message now for us?
Well, first time in my life I truly feel that this flower wants to teach me something very important, which I ignored so far in my life. Something that humans could not explain or teach me so far. Studying ancient myths together with the vegetation that inspired them became a source of healing and guidance for me recently.
Maybe you can also find some answers for yourself this way…
Probably you heard about the myth of Narcissus and Echo. This story contains so much wisdom throughout its rich and complex symbols. The word Narcissus has a root in the Greek word ‘narke’, which means numbness. What are Narcissus and Echo numbing in themselves? And what are the consequences of that according to the myth? What is wrong with the connection between Echo and Narcissus? Are they representing two different characters, or two different attributes of one single individual?
Water/river functions as a mirror, a reflection of the self in this myth. The young and beautiful Narcissus leans over the river to watch himself in its surface, just like the elegant flower Narcissus tazeta grows at river banks and leans over the river itself.
I don’t tell more, but let you to discover the depths and messages of this story for you in your own path and current station in life. You can find one version of the myth in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book III).
Another central myth in ancient Greece, the story of Demeter and Persephone includes the Narcissus flower too connected to Persephone’s fall into the underworld. Also in this myth: what is the role of the narcissus flower? What does it represent in Persephone’s character? It is worth to mention that when Persephone comes back from the underworld at the end of the winter, narcissus starts blooming in nature…
What does Narcissus teach us finally?
I’ve found a poem which is “inspired by Narcissus, written from the perspective of Echo” by A Temple Wild Podcast. The poem is “for any of us who’ve been in relationships with people who seemed to maybe be incapable of loving other people or even loving themselves…” So, in some cases, it can be told to ourselves too…
A Poem for Narcissus
I met you after a long winter.
I was frost-bitten and numb.
You were springtime, milk white and gold.
I wanted to be beautiful like you.
And I thought: I know how to do this.
I have years of experience.
I am a master of reflection.
Afterall, my mother named me Echo
And I was raised a dancer,
Mimicking my teachers in the mirror.
Yes, I know how to do this.
I will keep myself hollow and hard
So that when you kiss me, your breath will fill me
Your voice will become my voice.
You will echo off the chambers of my mouth, my throat
The space between my thighs.
You would lounge with a drink in your hand,
To watch the surfaces blur and fade,
Like a hand disturbing the water.
Everyone else wanted you, too.
But you got so used to rejecting them all
That even when you reached for me,
You were pushing me away.
What was it you were saying?
I love you.
No matter how many times I echoed it back to you
You could not hear me.
Did you ever really see me?
When you looked at me, I was just another reflection
A mirage of the love you could not find in yourself.
The love you kept reaching for in the glass.
I don’t blame you.
I grew up looking for myself in mirrors, too.
So many things to contemplate on and to embrace as mythical wisdom. We are lucky to have this heritage of myths. The real challenge although is to find their layered messages for ourselves to lead us in the Great Mandala of Life…
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