Basil

i.e., Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) A plant that is quite important in Greek folklore, used in divination practices and also to dismiss the evil Karkantzari at the proper season (Abbott). "A belief there is that basil comes into flower when the heavens burst apart at dawn on Epiphany" (Megas). Basilikos means royal (the plant is herbe royale in French (Grieve. 1933) ), and it is looked on by the Greek peasant as a prince among plants. It is a holy plant on the Greek island of Chios, connected with the True Cross, for when St Helena was seeking the Cross, she came to a place where there was a lot of basil growing, and the plant's scent guided her to the right place to find the relic. At the feast of the Invention of the Cross (14 September), women bring basil plants to the church, and the priests distribute twigs to the congregation (Argenti & Rose). It is burnt on mainland Greece to discover the worker of witchcraft. While it is burning, a number of names are repeated in succession. A loud pop or crackle denotes that the name of the offender has been reached (Lawson). In the Balkans, basil in vinegar is recommended to "drive the snake and any other creature out of a man" (Kemp).

In the Middle East, it was the herb of grief, and was put on graves. Jews carried sprigs of it to give them strength and endurance (A W Hatfield). Similarly, in Crete, it is a symbol of mourning. Perhaps better known is the plant's symbolising hatred (Leyel. 1937). The Romans used to sow the seeds with curses through the belief that the more it was abused the better it would prosper. When they wanted a good crop they trod it down with their feet, and prayed the gods it might not grow. The Greeks too supposed basil to thrive best when sown with cursing - this explains the

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