Valentine's Day With Basil, The Symbol Of Love! Know Its History
Image Credit: Fresh basil, Unsplash

There are many anthophiles and floraphiles among us who adore flowers and plants. As February 14th draws nearer, thoughts turn to Valentine's Day gifts, specifically, the plants and flowers people most likely give to one another. We all know that roses are a universal symbol of undying love. Roses are beautiful but don't have to be the final word. The emblematic meanings of plants and flowers are familiar and conversant to Valentine's Day. But out of all the things in the world, many may be surprised to learn that basil has been connected to passionate feelings since ancient times.

Basil's connection with love has references to its power to foster passion and love found in literature dating back to the Middle Ages. This aromatic herb has been used to signify love and devotion throughout the centuries, and it has been used to create potions and love spells in cultures around the world.  

Once, basil's connotation was "hatred." Greeks and Romans detested it, saying it coerces men to insanity. But later, basil's symbolism has been transformed into an insignia of affection. It was common to practise in the Victorian era to send "well wishes" to the recipient with a sprig of sweet basil. Traditionally in Italy, if a man accepted basil from a woman, he would marry her.

Tracing Basil's Roots as a Symbol of Love

Basil was first mentioned in archives dating before 206 B.C.E. Basil "exists only to drive men insane," it says. The origins of basil's associations with love and romance can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. In Greek mythology, it was believed that basil grew from the tears of a goddess, and it was thought to have mystical powers that could bring about love and passion. Similarly, in Roman mythology, it was believed that basil could bring back intense feelings of love and devotion. 

A man smelling basil bunch, Image Source:Dreamstime

In some cultures, the tradition of giving a bouquet of basil as a token of love or courtship still exists today. The herb also has a unique aroma that has long been known to stimulate the senses, making it a popular choice for lovers to add to their meals or sprinkle on their beds. 

Ancient Egypt also used the herb to create love potions and aphrodisiacs. It was believed that basil could help to attract and retain love, and it was often used in spells and charms to help bring love into a person's life.

Basil later grew to symbolise love in Italy, to the point where Giovanni Boccaccio used it to represent Lisabetta and Lorenzo's unfortunate love in The Decameron. Folklore in Sicily links it to both romance and demise.

A basil plant, Image Source: Pexels

Medieval and Renaissance Eras: A Timeless Legacy of Basil

In the Middle Ages, basil was used to signify love and devotion, and references to its power to bring about passion and love were found in literature and art. During this era, it was believed that a sprig of basil kept under the pillow could ward off evil spirits and help people fall in love. The herb was also associated with Christ's passion and used in religious ceremonies to symbolize his sacrifice.

During the Renaissance, basil was used to create love potions and elixirs. It was believed that consuming a potion made with basil could help to attract a lover and make them more devoted and faithful.

Basil's Contemporary Link to Love and Lifestyle

Today, basil is still associated with love and romance, albeit in a less mystical way. It is often used in cooking to add flavour and aroma to dishes, and it is still believed to have some aphrodisiac qualities. Additionally, it is often used in aromatherapy to help create a calming, romantic atmosphere.

In sum, basil has a long association with love and romance. From Ancient Greece to the Renaissance, it has been used to signify love and devotion and to create potions and spells to bring about passionate love. Although the herb is no longer used in the same mystical ways as it was in ancient times, its relevance in love and romance remains the same.