Herbs of the Bible
There are numerous references in the Bible to a wide variety of herbs. Obviously, most of these herbs are well-suited to dry, desert-like conditions as one would find in the Middle East. When researching the herbs to include in the Bible-themed herb garden, one may find different herbs referenced for the same verse. This inconsistency is due to the many different translations of the same verse. One translation may attempt to specifically identify an herb while another translation may refer to it more simply, as in "bitter herb." The list below was compiled by Jane Dole of Indiana, Pennsylvania. Her article appears in Phyllis V. Shaudysí Herbal Treasures (Storey Communications, Inc. Schoolhouse Road, Pownal VT 05261: 1990)
Historically, herbs like spices, are rich in legend, fact, lore, romance, and business. Wars have been fought, trade routes established, lives sold, and cultures, countries and businesses founded, all in the name of the plants we call herbs. Below is a listing of herbs mentioned in the Bible or associated with the Christian religion.
Aloe (Aquilari agalloche) is believed to be the only tree descended to man from the Garden of Eden.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is referenced several times in the Old Testament.
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is an herb native to the upper areas of the Nile, mentioned in the Bible, along with Mint (Mentha sp.), when Jesus reproved the scribes.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is mentioned only once in the Bible. It was held in great esteem by the ancient Egyptians.
Hyssop (Sorghum vulgare) is known as the holy herb. Hyssop was used to cleanse the temples and other sacred places of the Egyptians. David mentions hyssop in Psalms 51:7. Hyssop as we know it may or may not be the hyssop mentioned by David. There is some debate since the derivation of the name hyssop is in the Greek word hussopos and the Hebrew esob, meaning simply, "holy herb."
Mustard (Brassica nigra) is described in Matthew 13:31 as "the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof."
Rose (Rosa spp.) The name for a rose is almost the same in every European language. Dried roses have been found in Egyptian tombs.
Rue (Ruta graveolens) has long been the symbol of sorrow and repentance, and may have been nicknamed the "herb of grace" in Christian times for the grace given by God following repentance for oneís sins. Brushes made from rue were once used to sprinkle holy water at the ceremony preceding High Mass.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is frequently mentioned in Scripture, always for its bitterness. According to legend, wormwood grew up in the trail left by the serpentís tail as it slithered out of the Garden of Eden.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a symbol of fidelity and remembrance once used in the holiest of Christian ceremonies, the wedding and the funeral. For centuries people thought that the rosemary plant would never grow higher than 6 feet in 33 years so as not to stand taller than Christ. Another story tells that the flowers were originally white, but changed to blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on the bush while fleeing from Herodís soldiers with the Christ child.
Costmary (Chrysanthemem balsamita) is also known as Bible leaf because in Colonial times a leaf served as a bookmark in Bibles and prayer books. When drowsiness set in, the sleeper treated himself to the minty leaf to stay awake.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Dill (Anethum graveolens) were carried to prayer meetings in Colonial times in small pouches. The seeds were used to curb the appetite. They were called "meeting seeds."
Cemetery Plantings of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Round Top, Texas
Bethlehem Lutheran Church was built and consecrated in 1866 of local cedar and sandstone. The church building is thought to be the oldest Lutheran church in Texas in which services are held regularly. The German settlers founding the church followed the old world heritage of burial in sanctified ground. Throughout rural Germany, cemeteries often occupy the yard surrounding the church building.
The German cemetery follows the Teutonic desire for symmetry, rigid geometry and orderliness. Tombstones are arranged in neat rows. When trees are present, they are made to grow as part of a precise geometry. Cedars were often planted at regular intervals, and randomly spaced native were often removed.
Plants in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church cemetery are somewhat sparse now, but looking at the choices of plants reveals the obvious links to the past. As with most limited-maintenance cemeteries throughout the South, bulbs make up the majority of the plantings. In addition , there are several hardy, antique roses, a sprinkling of the Texas state flower, the bluebonnet, and naturalized periwinkle. Along with the orderly red cedars, there are pecan and live oak trees. Old cemeteries like historic Bethlehem Lutheranís are a repository of hardy, historical plants.
Cemetery Plant List
Welch, William C. and D. Greg Grant. "Blumen Auf Dem Grab (Flowers on the Grave): Round Top Cemetery." Magnolia IX, no. 3 (Spring 1993): 6-8.
Jordan, Terry G. Texas Graveyards: A Cultural Legacy. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, 1984.