Lavender’s Biblical Roots

Lavender is up there with some of the world’s most ancient documented plants, for example, hieroglyphic texts from Ancient Egypt detail the use of lavender in embalming and cosmetics.

And further to this when the tomb of Tutankhamen was opened, jars filled with ointments or salves containing something resembling lavender were found. It was documented that these salves were used only by the royal families and high priests in cosmetics, massage oils, and medicines.

Wealthy ancient Egyptian men would put solid cones of these salves on their heads, which, as they melted, would cover their bodies with perfume.

Another ancient text which mentions lavender is the Bible, although not necessarily as we know it. In biblical texts, lavender is often referred to as spikenard or nard (from the Greek name for lavender, naardus, after the Syrian city Naarda).

Under this pseudonym, lavender appears multiple times throughout the Bible, most frequently associated with its amazing scent that was prized by ancient people. It was frequently transformed into a costly and exclusive perfume, oil, or unguent that was used to purify, heal and fragrance.

Mentions of lavender in the Bible include:

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” (Gospel of John, 12:3)

Another passage in the Bible refers to how lavender got its wonderful and powerful scent. It is believed that the lavender plant was taken from the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve, however, it was not until the Virgin Mary laid the infant Jesus’ clothes onto a lavender bush to dry that the scent was bestowed upon the plant.

“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.”
(Gospel of Mark, 14:3)

Lavender (spikenard) is also mentioned twice in the biblical love poem, the Song of Solomon:
“While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof” (1.12)
“Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices”

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