|A Nymphaea caerulea flower in Mauritius|
Nymphaea caerulea, known primarily as blue lotus (or blue Egyptian lotus), but also blue water lily (or blue Egyptian water lily), and sacred blue lily (or sacred narcotic lily of the nile), is a water-lily in the genus Nymphaea.
Reports in the literature by persons unfamiliar with its actual growth and blooming cycle have suggested that the flowers open in the morning, rising to the surface of the water, then close and sink at dusk. In fact, the flower buds rise to the surface over a period of two to three days, and when ready, open at approximately 9–9:30 am and close about 3 pm. The flowers and buds do not rise above the water in the morning, nor do they submerge at night. The flowers have pale bluish-white to sky-blue or mauve petals, smoothly changing to a pale yellow in the centre of the flower.
The flower is very frequently depicted in Egyptian art. It has been depicted in numerous stone carvings and paintings, including the walls of the famous temple of Karnak. It is frequently depicted in connection with "party scenes", dancing or in significant spiritual / magical rites such as the rite of passage into the afterlife. Nymphaea caerulea was considered extremely significant in Egyptian mythology, since it was said to rise and fall with the sun. Consequently, due to its colourings, it was identified, in some beliefs, as having been the original container, in a similar manner to an egg, of Atum, and in similar beliefs Ra, both solar deities. As such, its properties form the origin of the lotus variant of the Ogdoad cosmogeny. It was the symbol of the Egyptian deity Nefertem.
Properties and uses
In modern culture, blue lotus flowers are used to make various concoctions including blue lotus tea, wine and martinis. Recipes for such drinks involve steeping or soaking the petals, about 10–20 grams for up to three weeks. Blue lotus 'tea' is prepared by boiling the entire flowers for 10–20 minutes.
Recent studies have shown N. caerulea to have mild psycho-active properties.[medical citation needed] It may have been used as a sacrament in ancient Egypt,. Eating N. caerulea can act as a mild sedative.[medical citation needed] A common misconception is confusion of the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) with the water lilies (Nymphaea, in particular Nymphaea caerulea, sometimes called the "blue lotus"); they are practically unrelated; far from being in the same family, Nymphaea and Nelumbo are members of different orders (Proteales and Nymphaeales respectively). However, both N. caerulea and N. nucifera contain the alkaloids nuciferine and aporphine.[unreliable source?] The mildly sedating effects of N. caerulea makes it a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer's Odyssey.
- Nymphaea lotus, the Egyptian white water-lily
- Nymphaea nouchali, the star lotus
- Sacred Weeds, a Channel 4 TV series examining the effects of various psychoactive plants (including the Blue lily) on volunteers
- "Nymphaea caerulea information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
- Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 133. ISBN 0-500-05120-8.
Media related to Nymphaea caerulea at Wikimedia Commons