Authors: Susan Wittig Albert
Frankincense and Myrrh
(originating in Arabia, Somalia,
and Ethiopia) produce valuable gums that are used
as incense in ritual purification ceremonies by many peoples, including Hebrew,
Egyptian, and Arabic. The biblical author Matthew names them as gifts brought
to the Christ child, from which Christmas gift-giving is said to derive. But
this practice has other origins, as well. The Roman feast of Saturnalia
honored the god Saturn and was celebrated from December 12 through 17. Candles
were exchanged, symbolizing the coming of the light, as well as gifts of
honey, figs, and coins.
One of the very great pleasures of
learning more about the mysteries of the "useful plants" lies in
recognizing the many different roles they have played in the history of human
cultures. While the early magical origins of our familiar Christmas plants may
have been hidden by later cultural forces, it is fascinating to uncover them
and to know that the herbs and plants that play such an important role in our
favorite celebrations were loved and respected by people who lived millennia
ago, in a time and place very different from our own.
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you may download the recipes and subscribe to a free E-mail newsletter. (Susan
Albert's herbal newsletter,
is no longer being
by Dr. John
Link, Owl Books, 1998.
The Victorian Language of Herbs and Flowers,
by Kathleen Gips, TM Publications, 1995.
by Sir James
George Frazer, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1922.
Herbs Against Cancer: History and
W. Moss. Equinox
The Meaning of
by Claire Powell.
A Modern Herbal,
by M. Grieve (2 vols.). First published
in 1931, Dover
reprint edition 1971.
The Art of Henna Body Painting,
Three Rivers Press, 1998.