How a nymph was turned into a lime tree (043)

The lime tree is the tree of abundance. There is a profusion of blossom in June and the fragrant scent of the flowers on summer evenings is a delight. By day and night thousands of honey seekers such as honey and bumble bees and moths feast on its honey rich flowers. The lime is also the symbol of female strength, beauty, happiness, trust, love, fertility and comfort. In this Greek myth rife with sacrifice inspired by love you will hear how this came to be. Draw closer and listen to my tale…

Thousands of years ago people believed that the world was inhabited by numerous gods and demi-gods. Each god had one or more tasks.
One of the demi-gods was the sea nymph Philyra. She was one of the three thousand daughters of Tethys, the goddess of the seas and subterranean rivers. Her father was Oceanus, the god of the oceans and the three thousand river gods were her brothers. Some of the seas surrounding Greece also came under her protection.
For quite a while Philyra had been having trouble with the then ruling upper god Kronos. He had been trying to seduce her, but she did not want anything to do with this god known for his cruelty. One morning she was lying on her beach enjoying the warm sun and the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, when suddenly Kronos appeared out of nowhere and overwhelmed her. During their intercourse the upper god saw his wife approaching them across the beach and he panicked. Hoping to escape detection he took the guise of a stallion in a flash. As a result of this metamorphosis, the child conceived was born a centaur named Cheiron. He was half man half horse. Philyra was so ashamed at having given birth to this monster, that she begged the gods not to have to continue living in human form. And the gods listened to her. They changed her into a beautiful lime tree. Cheiron grew up at the foot of this lime tree, his mother. In her tree form she educated her son with wisdom and the boy grew up to be a wise centaur. Many kings sent their sons for a noble education to this special centaur who continued to teach beneath the branches of this large lime tree. This is how the lime became the symbol for abundant love and care.

For the Germans the lime is the tree of Freya, the goddess of beauty, sensuality and fertility. In the heart of many villages in the middle ages you would find lime trees under whose branches matters of justice were settled, people married and all kinds of celebrations took place. Often this was where you would find markets, the domain of women since time immemorial. The leaf of the lime was the symbol of a freeman and freeholder (the oak leaf was that of the serf). Limes are tall trees with deep roots. They can grow to be several hundred years old. The honey in the flowers attracts thousands of lice. The excrement of these lice causes the familiar stickiness on anything under the tree such as benches and cars.


© Els Baars,

Post Author
Els Baars