A Bit of Herbal Mythology Part II
Many myths have made their way through the years in association with a variety of herbs. Here is part two of our slight history lesson regarding the myths and legends and stories associated with the use of herbs.
Lavender: • Legend says that the pleasant smell of lavender comes from the baby Jesus. After washing his swaddling clothes, Mary hung them to dry on a lavender bush. This gave the plant the scent of Heaven.
• In the Middle Ages, it was believed that couples who place lavender flowers between their bed sheets would never fight.
• According to myth, Hades had developed a lust for a nymph named Minthe. Hade's wife Persephone found out about Hades lust, and angrily transformed Minthe into a plant to be trampled on. Hades could not undo the spell, but he was able to ease it by giving Minthe a wonderfully sweet fragrance; one which would be released whenever her leaves were trampled on.
• The ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite created oregano. They believed that if it grew around a grave, the deceased would have eternal happiness.
• In Germany, oregano was hung over doorways to protect against evil spells.
• In the Middle Ages, oregano symbolized happiness and love.
• According to myth, the first roses did not have thorns. While Venus' son Cupid was smelling a rose, a bee came out and stung him on the lip. Venus then strung his bow with bees. She removed their stingers and placed them on the stems of the roses.
• Myth also says that all roses were originally white until Venus tore her foot on a briar and all the roses were dyed red with her blood.
• In Christian lore, the red color of roses comes from the blood of Christ.
Rosemary: • From the times of ancient Greece through the Middle Ages, it was believed that rosemary strengthened the brain and memory. When they needed to take exams, students braided rosemary into their hair in order to help their memory.
• The ancient Greeks burned rosemary in order to repel evil spirits and illness.
• In some parts of Europe, it was believed that if an unmarried woman placed rosemary under her pillow, her future husband would be revealed to her in her dream.
• The Romans believed that sage was a sacred herb which gave immortality.
• Up until the 18th century, it was believed that sage increased fertility.
• It was also believed that sage strengthened the mind.
Thyme: • During the Middle Ages it was believed that the scent of thyme inspired bravery. Knights wore scarves with thyme leaves sewn on them during tournaments.
• In English lore, if a person collected thyme flowers from hillsides where fairies lived, and rubbed the flowers on their eyelids, they would be able to see the fairies.
So now we know. I hoped you enjoyed this two part series and if for no other reason - at least this will provide some fun discussions at your next party get together!
Elizabeth Krause is owner of http://www.simpleitaliancooking.com, a website featuring many family Italian recipes which incorporate some of the spices and herbs mentioned. Sign up for her weekly newsletter where she gives additional recipes and cooking tips perfect for easy lunches and dinners!