Basil is a part of religious traditions around the world, from Christianity to Hindu.Although there is no mention of basil in the Bible.
The plant is said to have grown at the site of Christ’s crucifixion and is associated with St. Basil. St. Basil – feast day is celebrated in Greece on January 1 by having basil blessed at church
Holy basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum, is particularly sacred in Hindu tradition. It is thought to be the manifestation of the goddess, Tulasi, and to have grown from her ashes.
There are several versions of the legend, but according to a widely known one, Tulasi was tricked into betraying her husband when she was seduced by the god Vishnu in the guise of her husband.
In her torment, Tulasi killed herself, and Vishnu declared that she would be “worshipped by women for her faithfulness” and would keep women from becoming widows.
Thus, holy basil, which also goes by the common name tulsi, an obvious reference to the goddess, became a Hindu symbol of love, eternal life, purification and protection. In addition to basil’s role in the death of Tulasi in the Hindu legend, basil has played a role in burial rituals and has been grown on graves in various countries.
Basil’s love symbolism isn’t limited to India.
It has been considered an aphrodisiac by some, is associated with the pagan love goddess, Erzuli, and is used in love spells.
In Italy, where sweet basil is called “kiss me Nicholas,” “bacianicola,” it is thought to attract husbands to wives, and a pot of basil on a windowsill is meant to signal a lover.
In Moldavian folklore, if a man accepts a sprig of basil from a woman, he will fall in love with her.
As is typical for its folklore, while being linked to love and attraction, basil has also conversely been associated with chastity.
In Sicilian folklore, basil is associated with both love and death when basil sprouts from the head of isabetta of Messina’s slain lover.
Protection and Luck
Basil is considered a good luck charm in some folklore. It is reportedly used in exorcisms, for protection and to attract wealth.
Language of Flowers
Basil’s symbolism in the Victorian language of flowers also reflects its dual nature. It signifies both hatred (for common basil) and best wishes (for sweet basil).