4 thymes herbs were holy

IT'S not unusual for things you grow in your garden to have a double life.

Lemon can be used as a cleaner, potatoes can be used as projectiles, and watermelons can be used as helmets.

Even herbs can be used for things not involving your stomach: lip balms, soaps and deoderisers for example.

>>> Click here for your chance to win a day with Costa

As cool as that is, it's also fun to know that the herbs you're grabbing for free out of our paper could also have had sacred significance?

Herbs have been used in worship or even worshipped throughout our history, and now we pay tribute before plonking them down in the dirt and hoping they sprout.

1. Myrrh (Commiphora Myrrha)

By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Franz Eugen Köhler

If you're a Christian, myrrh should be familiar to you in a religious context already. For its day job, this herb tree secretes a resin used throughout history as a powerful, often intoxicating perfume.

And while it's been used in incense and even traditional medicines, its most famous role was as one of the gifts given to the baby Jesus at his birth by one of the wise men.

Myrrh had a devout streak even prior to this as an ingredient of Ketoret - a consecrated incense used in Talmudic antiquity. It was also part of the Hebrew Temple service and was used in anointing the Tabernacle.

Makes sense for the magi to bring it as a gift in that context.

Mistletoe (Viscum Album)

Elie plus at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Elie plus at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons Elie plus

As soon as someone from a European or at least western extraction hears 'mistletoe', we think about kissing. The Christmas tradition of kissing under the mistletoe isn't necessarily holy, but it can trace its roots back there.

The tradition we think of which accords bad luck to any woman who refuses to kiss someone while they're standing under mistletoe comes from a similar druidic ritual where druids would climb a sacred oak, cut down mistletoe growing on it, sacrifice two white bulls and use the herb to make an elixir to cure infertility. See, similar.

Prior to that, the Norse god Loki tricked the blind god Hodur into killing yet another god named Baldr with an arrow made of mistletoe.

Verbena (Verbena Officinalis)

Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber
Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber Kurt Stueber

Less well known but still holding quite the divine resume, verbena (or sometimes more specifically common vervain), were once called Tears of Isis in reference to the Egyptian goddess or Hera's tears in reference to her Greek counterpart/alter-ego.

Christian folklore also held that verbena was used to staunch Jesus' wounds after the crucifixion and, therefore, took on holy significance.

On the happy side, the Pawnee used it in their sacred rites and even used it as part of their dream divination rituals. On the darker side, the flowers from the common vervain were carved onto anti-stregheria (witchcraft) charms by the Italians.

Tulasi (Ocimum Tenuiflorum)

By GourangaUK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tulsi02.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By GourangaUK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tulsi02.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons GourangaUK

Unlike the participation awards given to the other herbs in this article, Tulasi is actually worshiped in its own right.

The herb is considered to be an avatar of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity, but is also vital to the worship of her husband Vishnu and his avatars, Krishna and Rama.

4000 years of civilisation can't be wrong: grab your own herbs for free

HAVE you been collecting your free seeds in the paper?

It's not too late to start.

For the next fortnight, we will continue to give away free seed packets to help your garden grow this spring.

The seeds include a great selection of fruit and vegetables, herbs and flowers, allowing your backyard patch to be full of flavour and colour.

Picking up the packets is easy. All you need to do is cut out your daily coupon from the paper and take it to your local participating newsagent.

Plus, don't forget to enter our competition for one lucky reader to win $1000 in gardening vouchers and a day with gardening guru and TV presenter Costa Georgiadis.

The bearded backyard buff will first help you plan your garden revamp and, by day's end, will make sure you've achieved it.

>>> Click here for your chance to win a day with Costa

And for great gardening tips every week, make sure you grab your Saturday copy of the paper to read Maree Curran's Green Thumb column in Weekend.
 


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