(Sesamum indicum) In spite of the specific name, this is an African plant, though it was taken to India at an early date. From there it spread to China (Brouk), and, in times of slavery, to Brazil. Sesame oil is known as benne in West Africa, teel (til) or gingili in India, and sim-sim in East Africa. A confection of sesame and honey has always been popular in China, and in America "bene" candy is traditional (G B Foster). The seed, soaked in sparrow's eggs, and cooked in milk, was used for centuries as an aphrodisiac. Sesame oil was a cosmetic, it was mixed with vinegar as an ointment for the forehead, "to strengthen the brain"!, and, blended with crow's gall, as an embrocation for impotence (Lehner & Lehner).

A correspondent of Folk-lore. vol 65; 1954 p 51-2 says that in the Bahamas, if someone has to travel along dark roads at night, Benne (sesame) seeds should be carried. Sooner or later a spirit will try to catch the traveller, and then he should drop a few (actually more than ten) of the seeds in order to be quite safe, for the spirit has to stop and count them. As no spirit can say ten, it would have to start all over again when it had reached nine ... and so on.

Sesamum indicum > SESAME

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