Stalk of basil.

Sacred Plant of Eternal Love and Healing: The Mythology and Magic of Basil

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Beautiful Pasta Closeup with Spinach, Cheese, Olives, Basil and Nuts.

Beautiful Pasta Closeup with Spinach, Cheese, Olives, Basil and Nuts. ( valeria_aksakova / Freepik )

The history of pesto

Historically basil arrived in Liguria in the second half of the eleventh and early twelfth century and especially in Genoa following the enterprises of the Genoese commander Guglielmo Embriaco, known as Head of Chainmail. The leader kept on one of his galleys his real secret entrusted to Captain Bartolomeo Decotto. The captain experimented with the therapeutic characteristics of the basil when he was in Palestine during the crusades and returning to Genoa he brought some bags of seeds with him. A true legend was born. At first it was said that the basil leaves were only used as a medicine, but then when working with the pestle to obtain ointments, it happened that someone thought it well to add olive oil to use as a cream for skin irritations. It is said that accidentally the sauce fell on bread and ... pesto was born!

Legends and superstitions have always accompanied the history of spices, but curiously some survived right until the 1800s. It is said that some English people living in India roamed regularly with a wooden necklace of basil to neutralize the electrical impulses, keeping away the lightning, as claimed by the Hindu religion. In the same period, but only in the eclipses, basil was also eaten and placed in water reserves to prevent contamination.

Devotion to the tulsi plant, sweet basil; A lady ascetic, 1800s, Rajasthan.

Devotion to the tulsi plant, sweet basil; A lady ascetic, 1800s, Rajasthan. (

It is a matter of opinion whether basil is actually a ‘magic’ plant or not, but we can point out that Napoleon used it for its property of stimulating intellectual concentration. Napoleon was in fact convinced that its scent would help him prepare the plans for maneuvering the armies and history is no legend…

Dr Massimo Bonasorte is the founder and publisher of the magazine Veritas Arcana .

Top image: Stalk of basil. ( Kevin Faccenda / flickr )

By Massimo

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