Sacred herbs  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Herbs are used in many religions – such as in Christianity (myrrh (Commiphora myrrha), ague root (Aletris farinosa) and frankincense (Boswellia spp)) and in the partially Christianized Anglo-Saxon pagan Nine Herbs Charm. In Hinduism a form of Basil called Tulsi is worshipped as a goddess for its medicinal value since the Vedic times. Many Hindus have a Tulsi plant in front of their houses.

Drugs and plants with psychoactive substances have been used world wide as entheogens to induce spiritual experiences. An example of this are the shamans in Siberia who used herbs and fungi such as the fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria).

Europe

Herbs were also considered sacred in European pagan beliefs.

The best known example is the mistletoe. The European mistletoe, Viscum album, figured prominently in Greek mythology, and is believed to be The Golden Bough of Aeneas, ancestor of the Romans. The Norse god Baldr was killed with mistletoe.

Mistletoe bears fruit at the time of the Winter Solstice, the birth of the new year, and may have been used in solstitial rites in Druidic Britain as a symbol of immortality. In Celtic mythology and in druid rituals, it was considered a remedy for barrenness in animals and an antidote to poison, although the fruits of many mistletoes are actually poisonous if ingested as they contain viscotoxins.

Verbena or Vervain has long been associated with divine and other supernatural forces. It was called "tears of Isis" in Ancient Egypt, and later on "Juno's tears". In Ancient Greece, it was dedicated to Eos Erigineia. In the early Christian era, folk legend stated that Common Vervain (V. officinalis) was used to staunch Jesus' wounds after his removal from the cross. It was consequently called "Holy Herb" or (e.g. in Wales) "Devil's bane". The generic name is the Ancient Roman term for sacrificial herbs considered very powerful. Pliny the Elder describes verbena presented on Jupiter altars; it is not entirely clear if this referred to a Verbena rather than the general term for prime sacrificial herbs.

Hazlitt's Faiths and Folklore (1905) quotes Aubrey's Miscellanies (1721), to wit:
"Vervain and Dill / Hinder witches from their will."
In the series of young adult novels The Vampire Diaries, author L. J. Smith uses vervain to protect humans from vampires, in an extension of vervain's fabled magic-suppression powers against witches. In The Struggle, Volume II, the vampire Stefan instructs the human Elena that vervain can "protect you against bewitchment, and it can keep your mind clear if someone is using Powers against you." He tells her how it is prepared and used, "Once I've extracted the oil from the seeds, you can rub it into your skin, or add it to a bath. And you can make the dried leaves into a sachet and carry it with you, or put it under your pillow at night", but gives her an unprepared sprig for protection in the meantime.

Vervain flowers are engraved on cimaruta, Italian anti-stregheria charms. In the 1870 The History and Practice of Magic by "Paul Christian" (Jean Baptiste Pitois) it is employed in the preparation of a mandragora charmTemplate:Fact.

Other examples of sacred herbs include yarrow, and mugwort.

Americas

From earliest recorded time, peyote has been used by indigenous peoples of the Americas as sacramental rite in religious and social ceremonies.

Other sacred plants widely used in Native American ritual include sweetgrass, tobacco, morning glory seeds, diviner's sage and white sage.

Asia

The best known sacred herb used in Asia in ancient times was the inebriant Soma, mentioned often in the Vedas. The active ingredient of Soma is presumed by some to be ephedrine, an alkaloid with stimulant and (somewhat debatable) entheogenic properties derived from the soma plant, identified as Ephedra pachyclada.) However, there are also arguments to suggest that Soma could have also been fly agaric, Syrian Rue, Cannabis, Belladonna or some combination of any of the above plants.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sacred herbs" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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