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Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea, or the blue Egyptian water lily/lotus is an aquatic flowering plant with cultural and religious significance in ancient Egypt.


Some evidence indicates the effects of plants including N. caerulea that contain the psychoactive alkaloid aporphine were known to the ancient Egyptians.[1]


Along with the white lotus, Nymphaea lotus, also native to Egypt, the plant and flower are very frequently depicted in Ancient Egyptian art. They have been depicted in numerous stone carvings and paintings, including the walls of the temple of Karnak, and may be associated with rites pertaining to the afterlife. A number of pharaohs' mummies were covered with the petals of the flower. There are indications it was grown in special farms over 4,000 years ago to produce enough flowers for votive offerings, although it was apparently also simply grown as an ornamental in traditional Egyptian garden ponds. N. caerulea was considered extremely significant in Egyptian mythology, regarded as a symbol of the sun, since the flowers are closed at night and open again in the morning. At Heliopolis, the origin of the world was taught to have been when the sun god Ra emerged from a lotus flower growing in "primordial waters". At night, he was believed to retreat into the flower again. Due to its colour, it was identified, in some beliefs, as having been the original container, in a similar manner to an egg, of Atum, and in similar beliefs Ra, both solar deities. As such, its properties form the origin of the "lotus variant" of the Ogdoad cosmogeny. It was the symbol of the Egyptian deity Nefertem.


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