in History, Ancient Texts and
THIS section is still evolving and is currently only a small eclectic sample of some of the references to wormwood collected so far. I shall add more as research and time allow and hope to elicit you other reference material whores (you know who you are!) to help me flesh out this list.
I welcome any contributions from others -- if you have found an interesting mention of wormwood in old texts, please email me the reference and what source you found it in, and I'll happily include it here. Please include your email address/name as I will list you as the contributor of the reference unless you want to include it anonymously.
Also, see Contributed & Miscellaneous References for a few tidbits that didn't fit entirely neatly into the categories below.
hieroglyphs for wormwood
In An Ancient Egyptian Herbal by Lise Manniche, a remedy for expelling intestinal worms from pharaonic Egypt is quoted:
A remedy to expel worm: leaves of pondweed 5 ro; wormwood 5 ro; sweet beer 20 ro; is ground together, strained and drunk.
Another: melilot 1; wormwood 1; fermented plant juice 1; is mixed and eaten. The patient will expel all the worms which are in his belly.
Also from An Ancient Egyptian Herbal:
A pain in the anus of demonic origin was treated with:wormwood 1/8; juniper berries 1/16, honey 1/32; sweet beer 10 ro; is strained and drunk for four days.
In a text by Soranus, a Greek doctor who practiced in ancient Rome, he offered his "expertise" to women on how to end an unwanted pregnancy. Some of his advice is still in circulation -- fortunately, usually cited as folklore. His advice included things like leaping or walking energetically, riding horses, or carrying heavy objects. If these standards failed, he provided a recipe to be used as a decoction in a bath, of which wormwood was one of the ingredients.
In Christianity - The Judeo-Christian Bible
Sources say that wormwood is mentioned in the Judeo-Christian Bible at least a dozen times. I have accumulated four mentions. Any Bible experts out there willing to email me the other mentions?
Proverbs 5:1 - 5:6
My son, be attentive to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding that you may guard knowledge. For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not take heed to the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
Lamentations 3:13 - 3:19
He drove into my heart the arrows of his quiver; I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the burden of their songs all day long. He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood. He has made my teeth grind on gravel and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, `Gone is my glory and my expectation from the Lord Remember my affliction and my bitterness* the wormwood and the gall! [*Greek translation is 'bitterness'; Hebrew is 'wandering']
Seek the Lord and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!
Revelation 8:10 - 12
The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the fountains of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died of the water, because it was made bitter.
Nikos Sarantakos wrote in to comment that the Greek text contains no reference to "wormwood". The Greek reference is to "bile, gall" (in Greek: chole). Apparently, the word "wormwood" was later substituted for "bile" in the English translations.
Wormwood wine was called eisell or eysell. In Hamlet, Hamlet insists to Laertes that he loved the now dead Ophelia more than Laertes:'Swounds, show me what thou'lt do:
Woo't weep? woo't fight? woo't fast? woo't tear thyself?
Woo't drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
I'll do't. Dost thou come here to whine?
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou'lt mouth,
I'll rant as well as thou.
In one of Shakespeare's sonnets;I will drink
Potions of eysell, gainst my strong infection
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance to correct correction."
The Kama Sutra
In Chapter 1, "On the Manner of Living of a Virtuous Woman, and of her Behavior During the Absence of her Husband," the prescribed behavior includes:At appropriate times of the year, and when they happen to be cheap, she should buy earth, bamboos, firewood, skins, and iron pots, as also salt and oil. Fragrant substances, vessels made of the fruit of the plant wrightea antidysenterica, or oval leaved wrightea, medicines, and other things which are always wanted, should be obtained when required and kept in a secret place of the house. The seeds of the radish, the potato, the common beet, the Indian wormwood, the mango, the cucumber, the egg plant, the kushmanda, the pumpkin gourd, the surana, the bignonia indica, the sandalwood, the premna spinosa, the garlic plant, the onion, and other vegetables, should be bought and sown at the proper seasons.
Aleister Crowley's Correspondence of Wormwood (Absinthe)
In Aleister Crowley's 777 And Other Qabalistic Writings, Crowley in the Table of Correspondences lists Absinthe and Rue under the Key Scale number of 27. This number correlates to a variety of other things. In the main table of correspondences, there are 47 different categories. Since it would be too cumbersome to list all 47 correspondences, here are just a few in the less esoteric categories: Correlations to gods of various civilizations: Horus (Egyptian); Tuisco (Scandanavian); Pan, Priapus, [erect Hermes and Bacchus] (Greek); Mars (Roman); and Pergamos. Tarot attribution is to The House of God [the Tower]. Mystic number of the Sephiroth is 378.
Nicholas Culpeper's The Complete Herbal
Versions of this book, considered a classic compendium of herbal knowledge, have been in print and reprinted for over 300 years since the book's first publication in1653.
Culpeper, who was both a Puritan and an astrologer, called his herbal magnum opus an "astrologo-physical discourse of the vulgar herbs." His books have enjoyed a notable popularity with a diverse assortment of groups, such as scientists, Puritans, herbalists, and occulists, to name a few.
The main entry on wormwood in his book is lengthy, and the herb is referenced in several other sections as well. Here is a small excerpt:Wormwood is an herb of Mars . . . . What delights in martial places, is a martial herb; but Wormwood delights in martial places (for about forges and iron works you may gather a cart-load of it,) ergo, it is a martial herb. It is hot and dry in the first degree, viz. just as hot as your blood, and no hotter. It remedies the evils choler can inflict on the body of man by sympathy. It helps the evils Venus and the wanton Boy produce, by antipathy; and it doth something else besides. It cleanses the body of choler (who dares say Mars doth no good?) It provokes urine, helps surfeits, or swellings in the belly: it causes appetite to meat, because Mars rules the attractive faculty in man. The sun never shone upon a better herb for the yellow jaundice than this. Why should men cry out so much upon Mars for an infortunate, (or Saturn either?) Did God make creatures to do the creation a mischief? This herb testifies, that Mars is willing to cure all diseases he causes; the truth is, Mars loves no cowards, nor Saturn fools, nor I neither.
Brewer's: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, (1894)
The definition of wormwood given in this old reference book is: The tradition is that this plant sprang up in the track of the serpent as it writhed along the ground when driven out of Paradise.
Barbara Walker's Encylopedia of Women's Myths & Secrets, (1983, 1988)
This well-researched and useful reference tool has a sizeable quantity of entries on mythological, historical, occult, and other such related subjects. Often categorized as a "feminist" encyclopedia, many of the entries (especially those specifically female) provide more detail or differ somewhat from more standard mythological dictionaries.
An excerpt of the entry on wormwood:. . . . In Russia, wormwood or absinth was called "accursed herb" because it was sacred to the pagan nymphs (Vilas), but it had also protective magic.
Wormwood was a corruption of Old English wermod, "spirit-mother," which became German Wermut, French vermouth. Absinthe was first prepared by French witches from artemsia....
Scott Cunningham's Encylopedia of Magical Herbs, (1985)
This book is a good reference for people practicing herb magick or for those who want a good compilation of ancient folk-magic lore. It lists for each herb various associations (such as ruling planet and deity), the powers attributed to the herb, and the traditional magickal uses.
An excerpt of the entry on wormwood:Planet: Mars
Deities: Iris, Diana, Artemis
Powers: Psychic Powers, Protection, Love, Calling Spirits
Magical Uses: Wormwood is burned in incenses designed to aid in developing psychic powers, and is also worn for this purpose.
Carried, wormwood protects not only against bewitchment, but also from the bite of sea serpents. . . . Hung from the rear-view mirror wormwood protects the vehicle from accidents on treacherous roads.
. . . . Wormwood is also burned to summon spirits. It is sometimes mixed with sandalwood for this purpose. If burned in graveyards, the spirits of the dead will rise and speak, according to old grimoires.