Like all evergreens, laurels symbolize immortality, a factor of which the Romans certainly had not lost sight when they made it the emblem of both intellectual and military glory. In the past, the laurel was also believed to preserve from thunder, a quality deriving from the first of these.
This immortality symbolism was equally familiar to the Chinese. The Moon, one is assured, contains an Immortal and a laurel-bush. At the foot of the laurel (a medicinal plant), the Moon Hare brews the herbs from which it distills the drug of Immortality.
Before the Pythoness delivered her prophecies in Ancient Greece she either chewed or burned laurel leaves which, being sacred to Apollo, conferred the powers of second sight. Those who had gained a favourable reply from the the Pythoness ‘returned home wearing a crown of laurel’. Laurel symbolized Apollonian qualities, a sharing in these qualities by touching the plant sacred to the god and, consequently, a special relationship with him which ensured his protection and transmitted a share of his powers. Like milk, laurel displays symbolic association - immortality and hidden knowledge.
In North Africa at seasonal rituals of the Beni Snus, the masked participants carry wands of rose-laurel:
The shrub is deliberately chosen since it grows in damp places and peasants credit it with many purificatory qualities.... Once they have been sanctified by dipping in the blood of the sacrificial victim, these branches are tangible signs of the covenant made between humans and the invisible beings; and by this fact become protective charms which drive away all evil influences.