The evergreen laurel daphne tree is rooted, blushes out in the fertile soil of the temperate climate of Mediterranean… It radiates that beautiful smell of its to the culture of its homeland. It finds its place in mythological stories, work of art, in the corner of the kitchen.
Daphne. A nymph with her long blond hair and her unique beauty that will make even the most beautiful flowers in the world jealous. Daughter of Peneus, one of the river gods… And the only love of the God Apollo… Maybe the love of Apollo for Daphne is one of the most favorite stories of mythology lovers.
The story of Apollo’s proverbial love actually starts when he meets the Eros, God of Love. When you mention Eros, the first thing that comes to mind is that he will help Apollo find the true love. But it will be different this time. Eros, the God of Love, will prevent love because of his ego. Because Apollo is such a good archer that his strength and success in archery is told by everyone. When he meets Eros, he boastfully and pedantically says “I can shoot arrows better than even you“. After this comment, Eros becomes furious with rage. He flames with vengeance. He is unable to bring himself to accept this challenge and finally, he swears to make Apollo know the bitter taste of how powerful his arrows are. He prepares two arrows; one of them will bring eternal love when shot, and the other will make that person repulsed by love.
Symbol of Victory: Laurel crown
The beauty, nymph Daphne is included in the story here. Unaware of everything, she wandering along the tree-covered riverside of Peneus in Thessalia. Her beauty attracts Apollo’s attention instantaneously. Seeing this as an opportunity, Eros shoots his first arrow, and it hits her right in her heart. Apollo falls madly in love with Daphne. Eros prepares his second arrow for Daphne, and it is also a direct hit. Daphne starts to run away from Apollo, refuses his love. The more Daphne runs, the more Apollo chases with an ever-growing love. His love grows day by day. And Daphne is no longer able to run. She asks Mother Nature and his father Peneus for help. And they help her.
Right when Apollo catches Daphne, her body changes into the laurel tree. Her arms become branches, her hair becomes leaves. Still feeling Daphne‘s heartbeats, Apollo is filled with grief, and he makes a vow: He will keep his love for her alive forever. From then on, he never takes off his laurel crown. In time, the laurel crown turns into a symbol of the victories of heroes, a crown of warriors.
Fragrant tree of Mediterranean
Beautifully scented laurel tree is rooted, blushes out in the fertile soil of the temperate climate of Mediterranean... Laurel tree is commonly seen in Turkey, Greece, Spain and Italy.
“Apollo, whose love Daphne is changed into a tree, is devastated by grief and makes a vow: He will keep his love for her alive forever. From then on, he never takes off his laurel crown. In time, the laurel crown turns into a symbol of the victories of heroes, a crown of warriors.”
Laurel leaves are not only in certain seasons but always green. Laurel tree is verdant both in summer and winter. Its leaves never fall. There are two more types of laurel besides the Laurel of Mediterranean. Azores and Canary Island Laurel. Its roots are said to be ancient. The have been findings regarding its presence even in Ice Age. For a long long time, laurel tree has been colorizing the earth with its wonderful scent and green beauty.
The leaves of the laurel tree, generously greened by Mother Nature have a narrow structure. They are 2–3 cm wide, and their edges are wavy and short. Its fruits of the size of the chickpea turn black as they mature. These fruits are quite oily. Even the oil of the tree is hidden in these fruits rather than the leaves. The flowering season of the laurel tree which grows widely in the Black Sea Region in our country varies from region to region. The flowering period of the tree is between March and May. When spring comes, the breeze blowing over the land of the laurel tree carries the beautiful scent everywhere…
Laurel ritual in Efe tradition
The Aegean, where the laurel trees generously put in an appearance, is also the land of Efe... In Efe culture, the laurel tree has very specific meanings. Another name for this tree in Efe and Zeybek culture is Teknel. Teknel is not such an ordinary tree. It is a symbol of self-sacrifice and strength. It’s sacred. Efe is a title won after a man has been proved to be powerful and courageous. It was not so easy to be Efe in the past. In order for a young man to rise to the rank of Efe, he had to pass certain tests, prove his power, his courage, his ambition and his goodness. The young man to be able to be an Efe, he must first be accepted to be trained by Efe. A ceremony was organized when it was decided that the young candidate, who had been through challenging struggles, was qualified to be an Efe. At this ceremony, with the first lights of the morning, they climbed the mountains and at the end of the ceremony, the weapons were hung on the laurel tree. At the end of the ceremony, the master Efe stuck his knife in the laurel tree and asked his young student: “Let a knife to be stuck in the heart of an Efe who does not live up to his promise?” If the young candidate replied with a “Yes”, he was accepted to the group of Efe.
Motherland of Daphne: Antakya
Every corner of Anatolia is filled with laurel trees, its stories ... It would not be wrong to call Antakya, the most attractive touristic locations of Turkey with its history and culture, “the motherland of Daphne“. Antakya has a district called Defne (Daphne). It is believed that the characters Apollo and Daphne in mythology lived in this district where the laurel tree and cocoon silk production are widely seen. Harbiye neighborhood in Defne district is an area renowned for its history, wonderful nature and especially its forcefully flowing waterfalls.
The waterfalls flowing from Harbiye are called “Daphne’s tears”. The Olympics held in Defne area, told to be a renowned holiday resort in the past, with its luxurious houses, temples, art centers and entertainment venues, are said to be the most important event of the time. It is told that many high level people came to Defne with their families for the Olympics, they were hosted here and they spent their vacations.
The historical sources also tell us that this wonderful settlement had a terrible earthquake, and everything came to the ground with this earthquake. That is why there are not many historical artifacts left today. The historical ruins found in the archaeological studies in the area are displayed in Antakya Archeoloy Museum. “Apollo and Daphne” mosaic displaying the love of Apollo for Daphne in this museum is enchanting.
A cure-all Laurel daphne soap
Laurel tree has a significant place in the lives of the people living on its soil. The soaps obtained from the laurel tree are a source of healing… Laurel soaps are good for almost all skin problems. The benefits of these soaps are countless. The benefits of laurel soaps are as follows:
Good for the problem of dandruff.
- It reduces hair loss.
- It helps to prevent many skin diseases due to its antiseptic feature. It is quite efficient and useful in the treatment of microbial skin diseases.
- It reduces the formation of varicosis by increasing the blood flow if applied to the varicosis area.
- It provided health to skin with eczema, fungus, parasites.
- It ensures the oil balance in oily skin and protects the moisture balance of the skin.
- It keeps the skin young by supporting the cell renewal.
- It prevents the formation of black spots.
- Thanks to its natural scent and chemical structure, it prevents pests in the cabinets at homes
- When used in baths, it moisturizes the skin and has a stress-reducing effect
- It can be used as shaving foam.
Fragrant guest of Mediterranean cuisine
The leaves of laurel are used commonly in Mediterranean cuisine. From meats and fish to rice, the leaves of laurel brings a different taste, a different scent to each meal. When added to the sauces prepared for meat, it almost doubles the taste of meat. Fish courses always have a place for the leaves of laurel… Especially when cooking fish stew, leave of laurel is a must. In Ottoman cuisine, leaves of laurel are also used in rice. Especially in a dinner for an important guest, the beautiful scent of the leaves of laurel in rice captures the hearts of the guests.
The plants growing in the nature, flora, and soil of a region touches the culture, food, art, and everything in that region... So does the laurel tree. The beautiful laurel of Mediterranean has been the apple of the eyes of these lands with a mild climate throughout the history... And it still is...
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