Basil is the official flower of the Orthodox Church. A rare and beautiful plant it was found by St Helen growing above where the Cross of Christ was hidden in 325 AD. The name ‘Basil’ was named in honour her – Vasiliko ‘flower of royalty’.

Uses of basil
It is used extensively in Church services for blessings and purification. Its main purpose is for sprinkling Holy Water and to bless the faithful. When a blessing of water is done the faithful come up to the priest kiss the Cross he holds, his right hand and are then lightly tapped on the head with basil soaked in Holy Water.

Faithful people can offer basil to the church when it is needed for a service. It can also be left as an offering beneath icons or relics.

If growing basil in pots keep a pot at the front and back doors of the house. As a flower of the Church and its association with the finding of the Cross it will help keep evil from entering the home.

Basil can also be used to decorate the Church, Theophany (6th Jan), during Holy Week or even placed in a glass of water and placed at the icon corner.

It is a good idea to grow basil as it is used many times either at Church or for home use.

Once basil has been dipped in Holy Water it cannot be thrown away in the rubbish. It should be buried in a corner of the garden when no person or animal walks, or burnt.

How to look after basil
Basil grows relatively easy, especially once established. Some helpful tips:
·        get a variety with white flowers (same type St Helen found)
·        grows well in pots – leave in the garden or balcony
·        keep in a sunny spot
·        give it a light trim from time-to-time to encourage extra growth

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