This is the fourth post in the Mythological Foldout series. Check this overview to keep track of what’s been posted already and what’s still to come next days.
We see three small, roundish roots, each with two “legs”. The legs are curved in a particular, graceful manner. A vertical, straight line rises from each root, branching on top. Note how no leaves are depicted, nor any fruits. This is rather strange, maybe even unique on this foldout.
The three roots represent, without much doubt, the three graces, or Charites (singular Charis). They were “goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility”. They remained a popular subject in Renaissance art, like in the famous statue by Antonia Canova pictured on the right. Note how the branches on top seem to mirror the position of the arms in the Roman fresco.
To identify the plant, I first looked at the roots, trying to find a match with something like beets, radishes, turnips… Nothing seemed to fit the mnemonic sound or the label. Then, I considered the above ground part in isolation, as is required in all other plants on this foldout (see the rules). So we need to find something that looks like vertical sticks coming out of the ground, and is somehow useful in trade. What about…
Sugar cane. Names for its product, sugar, include : Bengali śôrkôrā, Hindi śarkarā / sakkar, Persian šakkar, Sanskrit śárkarā and so on…
Sugar originated in India, and remained unknown or rare in Europe for a long time.
The triumphant progress of Alexander the Great was halted on the banks of the Indus River by the refusal of his troops to go further east. They saw people in the Indian subcontinent growing sugarcane and making granulated, salt-like sweet powder, locally called Sharkara (Devanagari:शर्करा,Śarkarā), Latin saccharum, Greek ζάκχαρι (zakkhari). On their return journey, the Macedonian soldiers carried the “honey-bearing reeds” home with them. Sugarcane remained a little-known crop in Europe for over a millennium, sugar a rare commodity, and traders in sugar wealthy.
The label reads ??okaro. It’s always hard to find out the exact foreign name that is meant. If we assume something like the common sharkara, we would have to read the pi-glyph as /sh/ or /shar/. Would “pi without hat” be an /s-r/ ligature? Then we can read the label as SAROKARO.
So the mnemonic means: The foreign word for sugar is SHAKHARA. If you want to remember this word, think of the plant drawn like a KHARIS (grace).