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Ocimum basilicumOcimum basilicum
The name "basil" comes from the Greek word "basilikon," which means king; but its Latin name, "basilikum," is similar to "basilisk," the name of a repitilian critter, often depicted with a beak and wearing a kingly crown, that could kill with a glance. In medieval Europe, the basilisk was reimagined as a fire-breathing dragon, so it's a good symbol for a Mars herb. Galen and Dioscorides both considered basil poisonous, but others, like Pliny and the herbalists of the Arab world, thought it a beneficial herb. BasiliskCulpeper considered it a Mars herb ruled by Scorpio and therefore especially helpful for treating the bites of venomous (martial) creatures, like wasps. The French Renaissance astrologer/physician Antoine Mizauld said that if basil was thrown onto a dung heap, it would engender venomous beasts; Gerard wrote that chewed-up basil would spontaneously grow worms. According to Culpeper, another French physician reported how a scorpion grew in the brain of a man who regularly smelled basil. Culpeper doesn't seem convinced of basil's danger, yet he notes that rue does not like to grow near it, and as we all know, "rue is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows."  On the other hand, Gerard recommends basil for melancholy, cautioning only that too much "dulleth the sight." Basil was grown in medieval European gardens for cooking.

Basil's Mars influence is countered by a Venus aspect - it is cited in various cultures as an aphrodisiac. In Voudou, basil is sacred to Erzuli, goddess of love, and used in love spells. According to Moldavian folklore, if a woman gives a man a sprig of basil,  he will fall in love with her, and in Italy, wives can use basil to pull an indifferent husband to them. In the Victorian language of flowers, basil's contradictory nature is shown in the fact that it can signify either love or good wishes. The medieval story-cycle
The Decameron tells of a woman whose love was decapitated. She buried his head in a flower pot, put a basil plant in it, and watered the plant with her tears. The plant grew well, but her brother thought it was harming her. He took it away, and she died of grief.

How to Grow Basil
Barely cover to germinate in 5-10 days at room temperature. After they germinate, expose to indirect sunlight or use shoplights 2-3" above the seedlings. Pot up when they get their first true leaves (the second set of leaves).  Transplant during the waxing moon to an area where they can get 6 hours of sun a day, preferably morning sun. This is a traditional companion plant for tomatoes. You can start harvesting basil once it gets past its second set of true leaves; then harvest every 3-4 weeks for optimal amounts. Cut off flowers to keep the plant producing leaves. Harvest in the morning after dew has dried but before the sun gets too hot if using that day. If harvesting to dry and store, harvest at night between 6-10 PM.  When drying, keep leaves whole to preserve flavor.  Or you can chop  fresh leaves in oil in a ration of 4:1, pour into ice cube trays, and freeze. You can also lay fresh whole leaves between layers of salt and store in the fridge in a closed jar. They should stay fresh for months. Genovese, the most flavorful basil for pesto and cooking, gets 24-30in/60-76cm tall with nice big leaves 3in/7.5cm long. It's ready for harvest 68 days after transplanting outside. Amethyst is shorter, 16-20"/40-50cm tall, with deep purple black leaves. It's great for coloring herb vinegars. Basil is a tender pennial that will be killed by frost but can be grown inside on a sunny windowsill. General growing info


Ocimum basilicum
Organic Genovese Basil (most flavorful for pesto)
100 seeds $3.25

 Ocimum basilicum
Amethyst Deep Purple Basil (great for coloring vinegars)
50 seeds $3.25

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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Love Magic
War Magic
Mars/Venus Herb

2006, 2018 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission