Laurel Leaves – Symbolism and Meaning

Laurel leaf engraved band ringI’m going to veer recklessly off course from my typical blog entries today. It’s been a difficult week, so overlook me…

I’ve always been drawn to decorated band rings. I like fanciful engravings on basic bands. (Think Victorian and Edwardian era stuff – laurel leaves, ivy and acorns.)

I like the idea of decorating the plain, of giving the simple more depth. I like functional art. Whatever that makes me, so be it. I like symbolism and the meanings conveyed in natural items and decorative invocation of the symbolic power of those items.

In the same way, I want to live in a simple house and eat from my over-done, fanciful, renaissance-styled sterling flatwear. I know that may sound contradictory, but I think that we should have the beauty we want in the things we need, rather than having art knick-knacks or examples that can only be admired and never touched, held, enjoyed and used. Museums are wonderful places, and I love them, but I wouldn’t want to live in one. I prefer my home and my life to incorporate the beautiful into the everyday.

With that said, I have found a white gold band I want to wear.

It’s a simple band with an abundance of hand engraved detail on three of the four sides (it’s squared off). It’s a thin band, Edwardian era, 20K white gold and embellished with one of my favorite symbols — the laurel leaf. It’s my size and it’s simply lovely… and it’s available on eBay. I’ll take THAT as a sign!

Meaning of the laurel leaf

You may think of bay leaves when you hear “laurel” — or you may think of “resting on one’s laurels” — but there is more to the laurel story. I did a bit of research on the variety of meanings — modern and historical, religious and social and even supernatural and I found the following from my research…

Creativity – Laurel was said to communicate the spirit of prophecy and poetry. Laurel leaves were commonly put under pillows at night to gain inspiration through dreams and its intoxicating properties are associated with prophetic and poetic inspiration.

Cleansing Properties and Magical Attributes - Laurel leaves surrounded the temple of Apollo to cleanse the soul before entering. It’s associated with purification and was seen as a plant with powers of immortality. Laurel supposedly awakens awareness and past life memories, stimulates psychic awareness, health and the powers of divination.

Peace and Protection – Today laurel is seen as a symbol of peace. It also indicates a power over the passions and is thought to protect from the influence of evil spirits and to give protection from lightening.

Achievement - It has long been a symbol of victory. Laurel was given as a symbol to the winner in Pythian games. Masons consider the laurel symbol to signify the hopeful expectation of success in the search for the True Word. In the bible, laurel is an emblem of prosperity and fame. In Christianity it is said to symbolize the resurrection of Christ and the triumph of humanity. It is also the source of the word Baccalaureate and of poet laureate.

– (Coincidentally, the name of my best friend of many years.) In Greek mythology, the nymph Daphne changed into Laurel to escape the pursuit of Apollo.

So, yes, I think I’m going to bid on it. I may even combine my love and belief in the power of the spoken word and get the inside engraved with a special quote to create my own perfect poesy ring — and a recipe for peace, creativity and inspiration all rolled into one tiny band of gold. Just looking at it every day will probably remind me of all the things… all the attributes… I hope to achieve. And all of them are wrapped around the symbol of the laurel leaf as tightly as the laurel engraved ring will be wrapped around my finger.

33 thoughts on “Laurel Leaves – Symbolism and Meaning

  1. Thanks for the blog, my name (Kelilah) means crown of laurel leaves, and I wanted to find a more complete descrition of laural leaves signifgance

  2. I was looking up the meaning of Laurels because right before my mother in law passed away from a fight with cancer she spent a few weeks coming in and out of a very deep sleep. She was often telling our aunt that the angels were finishing her coat. Once she told our aunt that the coat was being made of laurels. I just thought of that again and wondered if there was any significance to it. I was very surprised to learn in your article that it meant “to cleanse the soul before entering”. Maybe before entering heaven. What a beautiful thought.

  3. Thank you for your blog! You have done the research for what I had yet to express as my heritage! Have a Happy and Holy Holiday and 2011. Llora

  4. Hey Angela
    I am in search of the meaning of my name and stumbled across your blog and I have to say i like your school of thought!!!! I am also a fan of usable collectables although i dont use my favourite tea cup as much as i like to as i fear it will not hold up to another round of superglue!!!lol but to the point the meaning of laurel is inspiring and seems to fit me extremely well I wonder how much of our being named at birth is devine appointment or that we just live up to our names meaning – food for thought!!!
    Thank you


  5. Hey Angela
    are you not amazed that a blog you wrote over 3 years ago is still being read and discussed thought upon etc…


  6. Thanks for dropping by, Lorinda! I believe that the best art and “collectibles” are those that we use and enjoy daily. Unfortunately, I can’t bear to see the things I love cracked or broken — so I threw out the superglue and simply take a photo of my favorite things when they are damaged (to keep the memory) and throw out the item. It depresses me to see my favorites damaged. It’s one of my (many) weirdnesses. ;)

    I don’t know if we are named (unknowingly) by our parents for the qualities we already possess, or if our name influences who we are — but I do believe that either way, it’s an indication of our “true” selves. Of course, my mother once told me that I was her “little angel” before quipping that it wouldn’t have seemed right to name me her little devil. Go figure.

    Hope to see you around WB again soon! Blessings.

  7. Hello, I was doing a tarot reading and laurel was one of the symbolisms – very helpful thank you for you post.

    light and love

  8. Angela,
    i live on street named Laurel, found your research really insightful.
    stay blessed.

  9. Sorry, I’m not qualified to say — I just do a bit of research on topics that interest me and share on WickedBlog from time to time. Best wishes!

  10. Hi Angela,
    Thank you for this post… I am growing a Laurel Bay plant and it is doing absolutely fabulous. I tried to grow one last year when I was in a failing marriage and the plant too, died. Since my divorce, I have been on an amazing journey into spirituality. I brought the new Laurel plant 6 months ago and I was curious about it’s amazing growth. Your blog really nailed it! Thank you again!

  11. <3 thanks! i believe we all live up to our names… and i did not know anything about the poetry involved in the symbology of "laurel" until just now, except for intuitively: i have a baccalaureate degree in poetry! <3

  12. Hi Angela

    Here I am, a university lecturer in English in faraway Zululand (South Africa), and in wanting to understand the symbolism of the laurel I came across your very helpful blog. So you’re still being read on 5 October 2012! I tgought I’d remind you of what the great Irish poet Yeats wrote about the laurel in his wonderful poem ‘A Prayer for My Daughter’. This, the sixth stanza, is so beautiful:

    May she become a flourishing hidden tree
    That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
    And have no business but dispensing round
    Their magnanimities of sound,
    Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
    Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
    O may she live like some green laurel
    Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

    And here’s the last stanza:

    And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
    Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;
    For arrogance and hatred are the wares
    Peddled in the thoroughfares.
    How but in custom and in ceremony
    Are innocence and beauty born?
    Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn,
    And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

    I’ve just thought that if I had a daughter I’d call her Laurel, as your correspondent Patrick (15 April, 2011) did. Thanks for your help and inspiration!

  13. Many thanks. My son and I were discussing the meaning of Poet Laureate, and this was most helpful. On considering the aspect of purification and poetry, it occurred to me that this notion is most apposite. A poet needs to understand or ‘see’ without hindrance and then have the capacity to render what is ‘seen’ or understood into speech – words, metre and so on. I think T. S. Eliot spoke about the ‘shadow’ coming between the Idea and the utterance. True poetry is where the Idea and the utterance come together. Many thanks once again, you have got me thinking. I may have to start looking around for a laurel of my own.

  14. Thanks for stopping by, Hamish! I have enjoyed my laurel ring for several years now, but have decided that it will be one of the items I sell in my bid to live a life more simple. I probably won’t have it listed for a few days (maybe even a week with the holiday).

    A laurel ring is a really nice thing, though, especially with the symbolism. :)


  15. The discussion continues into 2013, I am registering my daughter tomorrow… Florence Loren x

  16. Hi Angela! I too love engravings on rather simple bands. Engravings that are personal yet also symbolic of a deeper meaning. Ironically, this is how I stumbled across your blog! I’ve been searching for unique engraving ideas for my boyfriend and myself. In case you might share this interest, I found some neat ideas here with some nice photos as well: Thanks again, I’m glad to have found you.

  17. thanks much for sharing this, now i know what my parents wanted to tell me. I’m considering the laurel leaves to be tattoed on the way my name is ‘”daphne”

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