Many plants introduced to Earth were sacred gifts from the gods. Lao-Tzu, the founder of Taoism, told of gentle beings who taught agriculture and flew to the heavens with a team of dragons. He, at the end of his life travelled across the Gobi Desert to the distant Kun Lun, the place of the Immortals.
Corn was sacred to Osiris and mistletoe, the 'golden bough' was holy to the Druids who gathered it on midsummer's eve. The Maya attributed cocoa to the gods and Brahmins say forget-me-nots came from paradise. The Slavonic thunder god Perun's symbol was the oak, and the sacred tree which provides the seeds for every plant was guarded by Simargl, the Bird-Dog (griffin.) Pine and ash trees were also from the gods and in Greece the cypress contained the powers of the underworld.
The willow was sacred to Persephone, Queen of the underworld, who after eating pomegranate was bound to marry Hades (Aidoneus) to whom narcissus was sacred, and she was destined to spend one third of the year there. Hades rose up in his chariot through a great fissure in the earth to abduct Persephone, when she was gathering flowers in a meadow one day. The crops withered until Persephone returned to the upper-world in the spring. As Pluto, the Prince of the underworld, (entered through a cave near Naples) was a giver of wealth and all good food, like corn, came from the depths of his domain, which contained treasures as well as the souls of the dead.
Demeter, an earth and corn goddess and the mother of beautiful Persephone (fathered by Zeus) was saddened by the loss of her daughter and sought her throughout the World, but to no avail. Wearied, she sat down upon a rock for nine days and nine nights in Eleusis. There she met King Celeus and in return for kindness shown to her by him, and Metanira his wife, Demeter wished to confer the gift of immortality on their newborn son by bathing him in ambrosia by day and burning his mortal parts at night, but the screams of his mother distracted Demeter from the process and her effort was brought to nought.
To try and recompense the parents Demeter returned and taught agriculture their son, Triptolemus. She gave him a chariot drawn by dragons to cover the Earth and teach mankind her lessons on the natural laws, necessary for civilized life. Triptolemus established the sacred rites in honor of Demeter, which are called Thesmophoria. Demeter was regarded in many areas as the daughter of Poseidon, in
the Arcadian pastoral paradise.
A subterraneous tunnel was said to stretch from Arcadia in Greece, to Naples and was frequented by unhappy lovers. Within it, Pan, the sensual satyr chased nymphs, while delightful shepherdesses collected water from a crystal fountain and tended their gentle flocks. Colourful butterflies, solicitous honey bees and turtle doves flew amongst fragrant herbaceous plants.
Myrtle, which is symbolic of death and resurrection, was the principle scent in the underworld Garden of Eden. Hebrew belief in a paradise created by Elohim, is of 'an otherworld, which is a part of the universe but of a different quality to the World we live in, a good place, blessed and happy'. A fragment of the Golden Age, which is inviolate.
‘The word "paradise" derives from the Persian word for a lush garden, a word which also begot the Hebrew word Pardes which in modern Hebrew means "orchard" and in Jewish mysticism means the inner place that the ecstatic seers strive to enter, the inner sanctum