Basil is known far and wide as a culinary herb, but it also contains some interesting magical properties. In Mediterranean countries, it is strewn on floors to purify a home. It also can bring luck to people moving into a new residence - a gift of a potted basil plant guarantees good fortune. Maud Grieve's Modern Herbal says that the name "basil" may come from the Greek basileus, a king, because 'the smell thereof is so excellent that it is fit for a king's house.' Basil plants are also said to attract scorpions, and in some cultures it was believed that smelling the plant would cause a scorpion to grow in the brain.
In some countries, however, basil is considered something that real men don't eat -- why? Because it's associated with teas that are used to provide relief from painful menstrual periods.
Magically, basil can be used in love magic and in love divination. Scott Cunningham says in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs that two basil leaves placed on a live coal will give you an indicator about the state of your relationship: if they burn to ash quickly, the marriage will be harmonious, but if they crackle and hiss, your marriage will be disruptive.
Basil can also be used to guarantee fidelity -- or detect the lack of it. If you suspect your lover has been stepping out, place a fresh basil leave on their hand. If it wilts right away, chances are good they've been spreading the love around. To keep your spouse or partner faithful, sprinkle powdered basil in the bed while they sleep -- especially around the heart -- and they will remain true to you.
Other Names: St. Joseph's Wort, Witches Herb, American Dittany
Deity Connection: Mars, Krishna, Vishnu, Ares
If you decide to plant some basil, don't worry -- it's very easy to grow. However, it's cold sensitive, so make sure you wait until after the last frost, and harvest all your plants before chilly weather returns.