The date palm tree has been around for centuries and has a deep-seated meaning and symbolism. The date palm is mentioned in the Bible, and it was an important tree in ancient times.
Today, the date palm still holds significant meaning for many people, who consider it a symbol of sustenance and trust.
Sustenance and trust
Baal (the spirit of the land), Allah (Phoenician and ancient Arabian)
The Romans believed in signs, called omens. For example, in 48 BCE a date palm tree started to grow through the stone floor in the temple of Nike-Victoria (the goddess of victory) at Tralleis Asia Minor. This happened next to the bust of Julius Caesar. He saw this as a good sign and he won his battle against Pompey soon afterwards.
About Date Palm Trees
Phoenix is a genus of dioecious palms that comprises about 17 species. These palms are found in tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia.
The date palm (P. dactylifera) grows to approximately 100ft (30m) in height at full maturity. This palm has a slender trunk which is covered with the bases of old leaf stalks; unless pruned, this tree will also produce suckers readily. Usually, the upper part of the crown on these trees bears erect-ascending foliage while the lower part features down-curving leaves instead.
Additionally, the leaves tend to be glaucous while single pinnae often stay narrow yet stiff – up to 18in (45cm) long in some cases!
When it comes time for fruit production, these dates are typically around 2in (5cm) long each with a seed that’s coated by thick edible flesh that tastes sweet too.
The date palm, having been first grown in northern Africa and western Asia about 6,000 years ago, is likely the oldest cultivated plant in existence. Dates are often referred to as the “bread of the Sahara”. Currently, this species of tree is commercially grown in Iraq, north Africa, California and Arizona. Additionally, various varieties and hybrids are planted as ornamentals elsewhere.
Poor people in ancient Egypt often roofed their houses or made fences and rafts out of the soft, fibrous wood from date palms. In addition, they wove mats, baskets, and other household items from the leaflets of these plants.
The human body quickly converts fruit flesh to sugar, resulting in a rise of blood sugar levels and insulin secretion. To help with this problem, people who live in the Sahara roast and grind the fruits and seeds to make “date coffee”. This is traditionally taken with milk which then lowers the absorption rate so that the blood sugar level does not increase as rapidly.
Dates are a natural remedy for various digestive issues, including constipation and heartburn. They can also help detoxify the body by flushing out harmful toxins from alcohol consumption.
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that dates are warm and sweet. They mainly affect the liver, lung and spleen meridians but also tone yin energy and the blood. This makes them useful for treating a weak stomach, palpitations and nervousness.
According to Ayurveda, eating dates decreases pitta while increasing kapha. People with vata constitutions can eat fresh dates but should avoid dried ones.
Folklore, Myth, Symbol of Date Palm Trees
The date palm has long been revered in Egyptian culture, dating back to ancient times. The tree was thought to be the home of Nephtys, the goddess who offers a tray of dates and the water of life to departed souls. In Assyrian art, from around 1000 BCE onward, the Tree of Life is increasingly depicted as a date palm.
A winged disc above the tree represents the supreme deity’s presence. Palace relief carvings show high priests adoring the tree while holding what looks like the male cone from a date palm.
In ancient times, people assisted in the fertilization of female palms. This was believed to be a ceremonial process. A single male tree produces enough pollen for 25-50 females. Female trees can sometimes be seen leaning towards their male neighbour.
It seems that from early on in history, date growers in the Near East (such as Mesopotamians) began brushing female trees with bundles of male flowers to ensure fertilization.
The date palm’s Latin name originates from the phoenix, a mystical bird that builds its nest and pyre out of frankincense and myrrh. Once it has died by fire, the phoenix rises again from the ashes for another life cycle lasting 1,461 years – this being in correspondence with Sirius’ celestial rhythms. (Sirius is sacred to Isis and was known as the Dog Star. Its precise position during flooding would herald annually.)
The island of Delos had a sacred date palm that was supposed to have sheltered the births of Artemis (the moon goddess) and Apollo (the sun god). But since palms did not grow in mainland Greece, their fruits were imported from Phoenicia, which translated means “the land of the date palm”.
The importance of this tree for humans is reflected in the Greek word for it- palma. Additionally, dates were called “fingers” in both Greek and Latin.
“The palm tree of Deborah” became a symbol of justice and righteousness in Jewish history. For the Feast of Tabernacles, ceremonial booths were built with palm fronds among other boughs; they are used commonly for rejoicing (for example, when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem). Many places grew palms: for example, Jericho was named the “city of palm trees”.
In addition, the Hebrew word for palm, tamar, has been used as a first name for women to use over many years.
Arabian legend claims that after creating Adam, Allah had some spare clay. With this leftover clay, he made the date palm tree. The camel and date palm were believed to be humankind’s most precious gifts. The Koran tells of how Mary gave birth to Jesus under a date palm tree. This same tree offered its fruits to her.
The first mosque’s columns were made of palm trunks, and the early Islamic holy warriors were buried under palm trees. Calif Abu Bekr (c573–634 CE), the closest companion of the Prophet Mohammed, incorporated “Do not destroy palm trees” into his ten commandments.
In Oman, Nakhlah (Saudi Arabia) and Nejran (Yemen) there flourished sacred palms in the 19th century. The latter was an ancient tree oracle that had an annual feast where it was decorated with fine garments and jewels.
In ancient mythology, Baal was the spirit of life and fertility. Trees in the desert were considered to be sacred and were called Baal trees. In Islamic tradition, these trees are known as “dhat anwat”, which means “trees to hang things on”.
The date palm tree is not only an ancient symbol of fertility and eternal life, but it also has a variety of practical uses. From providing shade and food to making paper and baskets, the date palm tree is a versatile plant that has been revered by many cultures for millennia.
If you are looking for a unique way to show your appreciation for someone special in your life, consider giving them a date palm tree pendant or charm. The next time you see a date palm tree, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and history.