In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous. ~Aristotle
You may wonder why I am sharing an image of a dried up plant, but this plant plays a role in our story of Christmas.
It’s name is Anastatica hierochuntica, but it is known in Arabic as Kaff Maryam, meaning Mary’s palm.
It grows in the Sinai, where it is common in the wadis, or dried river beds of the desert.
Legend has it that Mary carried this plant when she was pregnant with Jesus, and she is said to have clutched it in her hand during childbirth. For centuries, it has been used by the people of the Middle East as a herbal medicine. Pregnant women were given an infusion of the plant to help ease labour pains.Whether there is any truth in this, we will never know, but ever since then, this little plant has been called Kaff Maryam. The word Kaff means the palm of the hand, and Maryam is the arabic for Mary.
“If God can bring life from this dead plant shall he not much more bring life from your life?” ~Bedouin saying
Anastatica hierochuntica grows in the deserts of North Africa and the Arabian peninsula. It is a small inconspicuous plant, with soft blue-grey desert foliage and tiny white flowers. Once it has flowered, it curls up into a tight woody ball enclosing it’s precious seeds, and dies. The plant can stay like this for many years, until the rain comes. The Bedouins told me that it takes two rains… the first to unfurl the branches, the second to bring the seeds to life. For this reason, it is also known as the Resurrection plant.
It’s life cycle is best described in this short video by the great David Attenborough, in his series Africa.
Another legend says that when Mary and Joseph fled Bethlehem with Jesus to avoid the massacre by King Herod, they stopped for a while in the desert of Jericho. When Mary climbed down from her donkey, this little plant began to flower in greeting, giving it the title of the Rose of Jericho.
Kaff Maryam is also traditionally kept as a good luck charm, and hung in the home as a talisman for fertility, good health and hope. So on that note, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~Albert Einstein