Thursday, May 9, 2013

Herbs in Religion and the Bible

On May 8, I gave a presentation at Roxbury United Methodist Church in response to a speaker's bureau request. The Salt & Pepper Club meets monthly. They did not have any specific topic in mind. With my audience in mind, I researched and prepared a presentation highlighting eight herbs associated with religion and the Bible. Here is information about these plants.

COSTMARY (Tanacetum balsamita)
Costmary may refer to the Virgin Mary and it is often referred to as the bible herb.  Dried costmary leaves were used in medieval times as a place marker in bibles as they make a neat, fragrant bookmark. The scent may help with alertness as well as deter silverfish.

If you want to put a leaf in the family Bible, be sure to dry it first as it may stain the pages if fresh.
Other names are alecost (used to flavor wine and ale), allspice (scent like allspice) and sweet tongue (refers to sweet scent and leaf shape.)

(Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary, a symbol of fidelity and remembrance, was used in Christian wedding and funeral ceremonies.

For a time it was believed the rosemary plant would never grow higher than 6 feet in 33 years so as not to stand taller than Christ.
Another story tells that the flowers were originally white, but changed to blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on the bush while fleeing from Herod’s soldiers with the Christ child.

Passion Flower

PASSIONFLOWER (Passiflora incarnate)

The name honors the Passion of Christ and the flower is seen to symbolize implements of the crucifixion. The three spreading styles on the stigma represent the 3 nails of the cross while the five anthers recall the Christ’s five wounds. The fringe-like corona may symbolize a halo or crown of thorns.

Other names are maypop, purple passionflower, wild apricot, and wild passion vine, and Holy-Trinity flower.
(Artemisia absinthium)

Wormwood is mentioned in the Bible, always for bitterness. According to legend, wormwood grew up in the trail left by the serpent’s tail as it slithered out of the Garden of Eden.

Wormwood is the active ingredient in the alcoholic drink absinthe. It is  illegal in many countries today as a drink but is still used as flavoring in vermouth.


RUE (Ruta graveolens)

Rue's scientific name comes from the Greek "reuo," to set free. It has long been the symbol of repentance and sorrow. It may have earned the nickname "herb of grace" for God's grace given after repenting one's sins.
Brushes made from rue were once used to sprinkle holy water at the ceremony preceding High Mass in Catholic Churches.
HYSSOP (Sorghum vulgare)
Hyssop was used to cleanse the temples and other sacred places. In Psalms 51:7 David says, " Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
It is thought that when Jesus hung on the cross the soldiers stuck a sponge soaked in wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips.
Coriander Seed & Cilantro Leaf
(Coriandrum sativum)
Coriander is the seeds from the cilantro plant - cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander.
This herb was introduced to the Israelites in Egypt. Mentioned in Exodus 16:31, it is believed that when they saw manna in the wilderness, it reminded them of the white seeds of the coriander plant. Seeds have been found in ruins dating back to 5000 B.C.
Fennel Seed
FENNEL (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel seeds were often carried to church in small pouches and eaten to ward of hunger during long sermons and thus gained the nickname meeting seeds.
Fennel seeds and syrup are often used to calm the stomach, perhaps making meeting a little quieter.
Dill Seeds
DILL (AntheAnethum graveolens
Seeds of this plant are also meeting seeds

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