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Coconut

Knowledge by

Paloma Jones

Rising from an augmented mushroom base, the sylphlike coconut tree stretches out and reaches statuesque heights.

Context

The coiled trunk is flexible and with utter compliancy, leans gently to the command of the warm zephyr. Its peak is branched by glossy plume-like leaves, shielding what the tree gives its gratitude for – coconuts.

Origin

As legend proceeds, early explorers were left perplexed and naturally curious by the nut’s distinct three dimples. Their belief was that the seed, which appeared to imitate an almost mischievous or warned expression, was undoubtedly inhabited by a spirit. This superstition served as the inspiration for the name coco, with the suffix of nut later appended.

A longstanding insignia of tranquility, the coconut palm has unsurprisingly been adopted as the national tree of the idyllic Maldives. Not one destined for a mundane legacy, it is thanks to the resilient and venturesome seedling of the tree that the once Indian native is found worldwide.

Preferring humid, tropical climates, the coconut can withstand extensive travel and outside of its indigenous home, has been uncovered as ancient fossils in Australia and Columbia. Today, Indonesia, the Philippines and India represent 72% of the world’s annual coconut consumption.

There exists a pacifying sentiment about embarking on a sensory journey through nature without deserting the comfort of one’s walls.

Utilize

Notable for being rich in fiber and MCT (medium chain triglycerides), these qualities aid fatigue, metabolic health, improved heart health and amended digestion.

Although some may argue whether or not the coconut’s practicality is down to its material composition or creative ingenuity, the palm is admired as the Tree of Life and is considered a blessing of nature for its versatile multitude of uses.

Throughout history, it has been well documented that coconut fibers over the centuries were used to construct robust armor and the burning of the coconut’s shell activates a carbon believed to be effective for removing impurities and as an effective mosquito repellent.

Due to its complex mineral content, coconut water has the astounding ability to mimic the human body and has been used as a substitute for human plasma in emergency circumstances. From the husk into mattress stuffing, ropes, and brushes to the tree’s trunk in the construction of bridges, houses and boats, the entirety of the tree offers usable materials and mends the absence of vital resources.

Culture

For many cultures, the coconut palm is instrumental to their surrounding existence as much as for ritualistic practices. The tree’s presence is delicately interweaved within creation myths from Asian and Pacific Ocean cultures, who admire it as a motherly figure, as she consumes salted water and produces only sweet, drinkable water in return.

Holding a high standing in Hindu practice, coconut in Sanskrit is Sriphala and loosely translates in English to blessed fruit. It’s presence in Hindu rituals is binding for its spiritual connectivity and allegorical significance - the entirety of life’s complexities from the rough superficial level (husk) to the subtle and divine (water and flesh) that can be reached through self-sacrifice.

The belief system surrounding the sacred shattering of coconuts has many shades to it. As a passive alternative to live sacrifice, the coconut assumes the symbolism of one’s head, with each part of the nut substituting for a different human component; the skull and blood, ego and the mental space. The breakage of the shell symbolizes humility in front of God, a sign of surrendering hedonistic tendencies that would otherwise preclude oneself from salvation.

In Hinduism, the coconut converts from fruit into Prasāda or favor, as it is offered to chosen deities. Once their blessings have been instilled, pieces of coconut are then handed back down through worshippers to share around and in that act, pass around good karma and fortune to their fellow man. The ideology that we can achieve enlightenment and bond with higher powers, with surrounding flora as the provided vehicle.

Nature and its generosity are bestowed to humanity by the divine and must therefore hold within its own, properties of divinity.

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