Poppy as Aphrodisiac

Publication Year: 
2003

Culturally, the poppy is considered one of the most significant plants with a long history. Mythologically and pharmacologically, it has a central position around the world as an aphrodisiac, especially the juice and seeds.

Poppy seeds were considered important incense in antiquity. They were treasured world-wide as a spice and ingredient of aphrodisiac preparations (bhang, electuary, Oriental joy pills, rasayana). Those of the early modern period in europe named poppy seeds as an ingredient of witches' ointments and love oracles.

Cultural History and Mythology
The garden or opium poppy is in no way an exotic plant. Rather, it is an endemic plant of the Old World. Since the New Stone Age, Papaver somniferum has been cultivated as nourishment and a constituent of incense (Dimbleby 1978, 70B; Hardwich 1899). A Sumerian tablet (c. 3000 BCE) dociments its earliest mention and describes it aptly as a "plant of luck." Assyrians named the poppy namtilla, "plant of life," and treasured its root as an aphrodisiac (Thompson 1949, 227B). In the Orient, the plant was called "flower of joy." Cybele, the Phyrgian Magna Mater (Great Mother), was represented with poppy capsules (or seed pods) in her hands.

The Greek pantheon variously mirrored the aphrodisiac, inebriating, dream-creating, and narcotic effects of Papaver somnifferum, the sleep-bringing poppy: with poppy capsules, Hypnos, the god of sleep and solver of troubles, abducted people to nightly dream realms. Poppy wreaths adorned Thanatos's dead. The night goddess, Nyx, appeared on antique representations with poppy-enlaced temples. Demeter/Ceres, the goddess of the harvest, was also adorned with poppy wreaths. Hermes/Mercury, the messenger og the gods, carries the plant in his left hand. Finally, poppy belonged to th emost important plants of the love goddess, Aphrodite. Many statues showed her with a poppy flower in her hand. (Paisanias 2.10.5). According to Theocritus, the poppy arose out of her tears as she mourned over her youthful lover, Adonis. It was ritually treasured as an intoxicating aphrodisiac during the mystery celebration of the great goddess.

Text: The Encyclopaedia of Aphrodisiacs: Psychoactive Substances For Use In Sexual Practices. Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling, 2003.

Image: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/popwhi64-l.jpg

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