Basil - the plant of love

by M. Arjoca,

BasilThe basil (Ocimum basilicum) is native to India and tropical regions of Asia. This plant with special pungent aroma can grow to 60 cm (23, 6 inch) height and belongs to Lamiaceae family like the mint too. There are many varieties of basil, with different forms of leaves, dimensions and smells. Some of them have lemon or cinnamon scent and there are varieties with purple leaves, but majority have green leaves.
The basil is very used in Italian cuisine especially to tomatoes dishes (it gives a special fragrance to tomatoes sauces), but also in Asian cuisine being consumed as food or as a drink. Besides its culinary qualities, the basil has also medicinal properties. Digestive and respiratory disorders are treated with basil and also the state of stress. In Indian traditional medicine (Ayurveda) it is used in the treatment of many diseases and disorders, being considered a plant who balances the biological functions and the body processes.
The basil has not only culinary and medicinal qualities, but also cultural and spiritual value, like other plants which are considered sacred.
In India where it is grown for over 5000 years, the basil is one of the holy plants, being worshiped as the sacred lotus is. In Hinduism, it is the reincarnation of Lakshmi, the consort of god Vishnu, the one who is in all and in everything. And Lakshmi brings wealth, luck and happiness. The embodiment of this Hindu goddess, the basil is called "The Incomparable One" (Tulsi) and is celebrated every year through the festival Tulsi Vivah. This festival celebrates the union between Tulsi and Vishnu and opens the season when the weddings are allowed in India.
Because they say that basil is very appreciated by Vishnu, the believers wear strings of beads made from tulsi wood, burn leaves or eat them. Bringing blessing and good luck, Hindus believe that a family is not a real Hindu family if she doesn’t have in her garden or in the house this plant. So, they grow basil in garden or in pots to have the blessing of Vishnu.
In Romania the basil is the most loved plant and mentioned in poetry and songs because it is the symbol of love and good luck. Its pungent scent protects those who smell it and those who wear little branches. It has the power to help them in love and to bring them luck. Therefore it is used in many magical rituals with the purpose to purify the participants, to help them be happy in love and in life.
Because it has a strong fragrance and preserving properties the Orthodox Church used it to make holy water (agheasma). This holy water has the role to send away the bad spirits, the bad thoughts, the diseases, to help obtain forgiveness for your sins and to clarify your mind. Those who drink it, in accordance with the tradition and religious rituals, purify their soul and body and obtain blessing.
The power of holy water becomes stronger during the holiday of Boboteaza (January 06), when it is celebrated the baptism of Jesus Christ in the water of Jordan River by John the Baptist. Then the houses, animals, people and everything they possess are sprinkled (with a bouquet of basil) by a priest to send away the bad spirits, to obtain blessing and wealth. In that day the people bring home from church holy water so they can drink from it all year around. In this way they will have luck. The water is kept with branches of basil in clean recipients.
Besides its purifying qualities, the Romanians believe that the basil is first of all the plant of love because it has special aphrodisiac properties. It symbolizes the sexual attraction, fertility and the protection against evil. Therefore it is an erotic symbol in folk songs and literature and all most every ritual made to obtain fulfillment in love and marriage, uses this plant to increase the magical powers.
In villages, when the girls and boys go to "hore" (local folk dances), they wear a little branch of basil behind the ear, or closed to their heart if they want to meet a lover or if they want to make somebody fall deeply in love with them. The basil increases the power of attraction and the chances to meet somebody.
In the night of Saint John (January 06), the single girls put under their pillow, a branch of basil took from the priests bouquet when he sprinkled the house with holy water. But in the day before they have to fast and before they go to sleep, to eat very salted bread. During the night, if the ritual was completed as it supposed, they will dream the man with whom they will marry. This man will bring them water to drink. So they can see in the future the man that destiny will give them.   
In some villages from Oltenia (south Romania), before the wedding, the bride accompanied by the suite of single girls and boys, walks through their village to invite people to the wedding party. They give them to drink some alcohol from a "plosca" (a bottle made of wood). This bottle is very beautiful decorated with branches and flowers of basil. But on their way, the suite stops to 3 fountains placed to crossroads. Here, the best man pull out water with a bucket very beautiful decorated with flowers and money. The bride soaks a bouquet of basil in this water and then sprinkles with it the boys and girls which stand to the 4 cardinal points. So they can have also luck in finding love and getting married. The sprinkle is done 3 times and after this the bride pours the water from the bucket towards East. Because the Sun rises in the East and a new day begins.
Knowing all these, may the scent of the magic basil purify your soul and the touch of love embraces your heart when you bend to smell it in your garden.