Native to the Mediterranean region this aromatic tree is sacred to Apollo and in ancient times was especially revered at Delphi, were it played an important ritual role in the rites of the Delphic oracle. The old legends tell how the Nymph Daphne had tried to escape the amorous advances of the young sun god Apollo, alas in vain. Seeing no other escape she pleaded with her father the river God to turn her into a tree- which he promptly did. And so it came to be that Apollo was left standing, hugging a tree. To remember his undying love he wound a wreath from the twigs which he henceforth wore as a crown. Paradoxically the Laurel wreath became known as a crown of honour that decorated the winner in amicable contests or even warfare. In northern regions it was mostly considered a protective herb and tree of life, because of its evergreen nature. It was commonly used as a 'quickening' rod and believed to transfer its life giving and protective powers by way of touching or hitting. Bay Laurel was thought to avert all evil influences and even protect the beer from turning during a thunderstorm. In modern magical practice it is sometimes added to incense blends for its oracular powers. See also Bay Essential Oil
These days it is mostly used as a culinary spice and counts as an indispensable flavouring agent for any European cuisine. Its stomachic properties aid digestion and soothe the upper digestive tract. It also helps breaking down very greasy foods and heavy meals. Medicinally it is usually the essential oil that is used for conditions such as joint and muscle aches and pains, but if the essential oil is not at hand, try adding a decoction of the leaves to the bath water to relieve tense and aching muscles.
Bay is used for divination and prophecy. It makes the mind receptive and enables the practitioner to understand and interpret the oracle. It is also used as a protective panacea, to ward off all evil influences and protect against the evil eye or other forms of envy, jealousy and mean spirited daemons.