Sunday, December 15, 2013
The Curious Relationship of Numbers and Plants
Walking this afternoon in the snow-spitting chilly weather in the brown and black woods, I thought about two things: What would I eat if I were lost in these woods? and I wonder if Robert Lawlor's information about the correspondence between certain numbers and certain kinds of plants holds true in these woods?
Robert Lawlor wrote a book published by Thames & Hudson in London back in the early 90s called Sacred Geometry. He uses the word sacred to mean "underlying" or "unchanging, fixed". One of his chapters tells about the correspondence of the numbers 5, 6, and 7 to plants that have been traditionally food, medicine, or (sometimes) poison for humans. Since the number 5 is an underlying organizing principle of humans (a human standing with arms and legs held out and trunk straight forms the five rays of a pentagon, as in Leonardo Da Vinci's man squaring a circle), most plants that are organized around the number 5 have traditionally been known to be good as food and sometimes medicine for humans. Sure enough, throughout the plant kingdom are food plants with five petals, five sepals, five seeds, multiples of five, pentagonal structures, and other manifestations of five as an underlying organizing principle.
Walking in the woods I wondered if the fives would be evident even in darkest winter when there are no petals and only scattered seeds, fractured pods, and dried remnants of plants. Soon I came to the old apple orchard, where a few shriveled apples were still clinging to some branches. I collected one to check out at home. A few steps further I came to a dried cane from wild raspberries, and it had an intact ring of sepals from which the berry had long dropped. I added it to the collection. I scooped up a few rose hips and a stem of crispy yarrow flowers along with a brown maple leaf.
Then I saw some dried stems of heal-all, an herb that grows all along parts of the path and that I know to be good medicine. When I got home I dissected the dried specimens and carefully counted the numbers of seeds, sepals, divisions of the leaf, dried petals. Lawlor says that the organizing number 6 designates plants that are often poisonous, but that are sometimes useful as medicine for humans only. The number 7 is always poisonous for animals, and usually for humans.
You can see by the drawings that the apple, raspberry, maple, yarrow, and rose hip are all organized around the number 5: good food plants for humans. The heal-all had rings of six petals all along the flower stems-- 6, the number of medicines for humans. I am interested to learn that apples, which do have some medicinal properties according to Culpepper, but are mainly used as food today; and yarrow, which is strong medicine and not commonly used as food today are both fives; whereas heal-all, which is strong medicine and not ever used as food is organized around 6. Maybe heal -all is poisonous to animals. I have often wondered how people and animals knew what they could eat and what would make them sick. Trial and error doesn't seem like an efficient way for Nature to operate. I suspect that earlier people, more sensitive to their own bodies than we are, could sense a resonance based on that shared organizing number.