- Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium):
- translation: Artemis; without sweetness.
synonyms: Green Ginger.
The first mention of Wormwood is in the Ebers papyrus, a medical document dating to 1550 B.C. The Egyptians, as well as many late cultures, used it as a vermifuge, which may account for the name wormwood. The name might also be a corruption of the German vermut, ‘preserver of the mind,’ in reference to its properties to alter mental states. It is symbolically associated with bitterness of spirit; the earliest correlation being a legend involved Queen Artemis of Caria. When her husbnad, King Mausolus, disappeared, she sent searchers for him everywhere, but he was nowhere to be found. She assumed he was dead, and started building a great monument to him, where he was buried, after he returned. Artemis, however, retained her association with grief, bitterness, and absense. The Bible also contains numberous references to Wormwood, in symbolism of bitterness. A Christian legend says that wormwood sprang up in the serpent's trail as he left the Garden of Eden to prevent its return, and the association of snakes not entering a garden where wormwood grows continued. The bitter taste of wormwood was utilized to encourage the weaning of babies, as mentioned in Romeo and Juliet by her nurse. It is excellent for repelling insects, often used in poultices, was said to ward off plague, and was used as an ingredient in love charms. Russian peasants held the belief that wormwood's bitter taste was due to its “absorption of bitter human suffering;” with the exception of rue, it is the bitterest herb known. The Mexicans celebrated the great festical of the Goddess of Salt by a ceremonial dance of women, who wore on their heads garlands of wormwood.
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