After taking you on a brief tour of some of the stories in Greek mythology which feature flowers of various kinds, today we’re going to delve even further back into the swirling mists of the past, and talk about one of the most significant flowers to one of the most revered early civilisations: to wit, the Lotus Flower, and what it meant to the ancient Egyptians.
The significance of the lotus in Egyptian mythology is huge. For it was from the lotus flower that their sun-god, the centre of their entire mythos.
The story goes:
At the beginning there was nothing but flux and fluid; a watery chaos, a swamp of nothing, and of all. This chaos, this all-nothing, was a place but it was also a creature, and as a creature it had a name: that name was Nun.
And from these waters, from the emptiness of Nun, broke a lotus flower, rising above the swamp. The lotus arose from the waters on a single mound of dry land. And then, the flower bloomed.
When the petals of the lotus flower opened, they opened to reveal the Sun god, Atum, as a child. Other versions of the myth call the sun-god Ra; the two gods identities are merged, as is that of Ra and Amun. Hence, you sometimes read the given name as Atum-Ra or Amun-Ra.
When the self-created sun god had emerged from the lotus, he created the gods Shu and Tefnut, who swam away into the waters of Nun. When they returned, Atum was so overjoyed to see them that he wept tears of joy: these tears became the first humans.
The myth is undoubtedly wonderful. But why the lotus flower? It has very unique features which make it perfectly suited to this kind of myth. For one thing, it is the only known plant to bear fruit and flowers at the same time: a potent image of fertility and creation.
But also, the wonderful lotus flower does something quite magical on the waters of the Nile. It sinks underwater during the night, only rising to bloom again at the break of daylight. These magical properties made it deeply associated with the sun; after all, every time the lotus opens its petals, just as in the myth, the sun emerges.