Waterlilies and Lotuses are some of my favourite flowers, so I was happy to talk about them and their Lunar energy for members of Kelly M. Beard’s Venus Circle. I discussed several Spagyrics of Venus, as you’d expect, but none of the planetary energies exists alone, and the Moon’s influence is important in the rhythms of her group, as well as in our work, so I spoke about two of the “Mooniest” Spagyrics we work with: Sacred Lotus and Blue Waterlily.
My talk about these Spagyrics started as I often do when talking about these beautiful flowers- with a bit of botanical nitpickery. It may seem boring or ranty, but it leads to some very useful understandings of their differences in energy and use, I promise!
Both of these plants are often called Lotus, but only one of them is actually a Lotus, botanically speaking. Lotus is a Lotus, as its name suggests, and Blue Waterlily is a Waterlily- no matter how many entheogen vendors call it “Blue Lotus”.
There is no Blue Lotus, all the product sold under that name is botanically a Nymphaea, which is a waterlily. I suppose Blue Lotus sounds more interesting, Lotuses being better-known than Waterlilies, but each plant, and the differences between them, are really worth understanding better.
Both plants are native to areas of Asia, with each spreading in a different direction from there. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, is found in abundance in India, and then East across Asia to China and Japan. Blue Waterlily, Nymphaea caerulea, is also found as far east as India, but mainly grows from the middle East and then South through Africa. The ranges of both come together in Egypt, although it is the Blue that is most seen in their iconography.
Lotuses grow in murky water, arising from the mud and holding their leaves and flowers high above the water. This has made them a symbol of the divinity of the Soul in all the cultures that know them, an image of the purity of the divine inner self arising from the muck of physical existence.
Lotuses have a very Lunar energy, especially carrying the quality of renewal that the Moon shows in her monthly cycle. She waxes and wanes, but once a month, she is always renewed to purity and white wholeness, and that sympathy is seen in classic virginal Lunar deities like Diana/Artemis, and the Lady of Guadalupe.
In our own work with Lotuses, meditating in front of the extraction work, the image that came to me was that of Quan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. “She who hears the cries of the world” pours that compassion out on us like a healing nectar, soothing our pain and suffering.
Lotus leaves have very interesting structures on their surfaces that create “ultrahydrophobicity”, or an extreme repelling of water. Any droplets of water that land on the leaves do not stick, but rather roll around, picking up dirt and carrying it off the leaves to leave them clean and pure. This is called the “lotus effect”, and it is used in biomimicry-based design to create buildings that clean themselves.
Although used in modern building, this quality was well-known in ancient times, and is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita:
One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water.
Coming back to Quan Yin, her iconography is often of a beautiful woman riding a dragon or a turbulent wave, and yet remaining perfectly composed and calm. She is in the world but not of it, drawing her purpose from the suffering beings who call upon her, and bringing them serenity by pouring out that stillness that she holds within her. This is the gift of her flower, the Lotus, which also draws from chaos to create peace, in the world and within us.
Less well-known is that Quan Yin is also the goddess of discernment, understanding where to pour out that compassion and when to hold back. Our Lotus Initiatic is very supportive to this understanding, helping you have compassion for those who would benefit from it, but also holding your own energy when others might take advantage of it.
Our Lotus is also an excellent support for self-compassion, for helping you see the best qualities of yourself and be more kind and understanding towards your own shortcomings, which is often the most difficult compassion to muster.
Blue Waterlily, with its native African range, was especially sacred to the ancient Egyptians, and is found throughout their art and iconography. It is frequently depicted being held up to the nose, and if you have ever had the great joy of smelling a Blue Waterlily, you know why!
It has a deeply intoxicating fragrance, sweet and narcotic, which transports you to other places and times and muddles your thinking if you indulge in it long enough. Interestingly, the Mayans revered a related Waterlily, Nymphaea ampla, and represented it in much the same way in their sacred art.
In its growth habit, Blue Waterlily makes lilypads which float on the surface of the water, and its flowers stay closed and under the water during the night, to rise and open with the sun. This cycle, along with their caerulean blue flowers with the glowing golden center, represented the sun in the sky to the ancient Egyptians, and so, rebirth from darkness.
They also represented healing, which is a form of rebirth, and a cluster of two closed and one open Waterlily flowers was the occupational symbol for healer, which can be seen here in the hands of Peseshet, a female physician from around 2600 BCE.
That extraordinary shade of blue is named caerulean, after the Latin “caelum”, meaning “sky”; it is the shade of the clear sky of deepest summer. That shade is also associated with many psychedelics, seen in the colour of the staining of Psilocybe mushrooms, and at the edges of the vision when working with some entheogens- we call that shade “DMT Blue”.
Entheogens act upon the brain in many different ways and through diverse pathways, but one area of the brain is strongly associated with how psychedelics work. Called the locus caeruleus, it is a structure deep in the brain so named because it is that same special shade of blue.
So, tied up in all its signatures and connections, we see that Blue Waterlily is a plant of boundaries- between water and air, darkness and light, and in use, between the conscious and subconscious. Its growth habit mirrors our own journeys to dive deep through the liminal space to gather wisdom, and then rise up again into the bright world of action.
Dreamwork is especially facilitated by our Blue Waterlily Initiatic, and if taken at bedtime, it brings very lucid and controllable dreams, often related to a problem or goal you are working on. Once you awaken, the flow of insights and solutions from that watery realm is available for practical action, and this stitching together of the states of light and shadow can be a very useful spiritual tool.
I hope this journey through the scientific, entheogenic, spiritual and initiatic aspects of these beautiful flowers has brought you a new appreciation for how all the ways of understanding a plant can inform and support each other. From the most mystical to the most materialistic- all stories about the natural world have insight and value if we keep an open mind and heart.