Carolyn's Daily Posts: 2011

February 26, 2011

Herbs & Spices: Their Role in History


HERBS & SPICES: Their Role in History

     Herbs and spices have played a role in man’s life since antiquity. As prehistoric man probably sought refuge from nature’s onslaughts in natural caves, he would cower from the downpour of the tempest, the brattles of thunder and the terrifying flashes of lightning, and would conjure up fearsome demons and he would also want to please the virtuous gods of his imagination.

     Could he not do this best by making offerings of the sweet smelling spices in the belief that what so delighted him must also delight the gods?

     And so began the uses and customs which have endured throughout the ages: spices used for food, healing, preservation, fumigation, placating the gods, love potions and perfumes.

     The Arabian Nights mentions cinnamon’s uses and tells of Sinbad the sailor, voyaging from Basta to an island where he took on pepper, cloves, and cinnamon, which he sold at a handsome profit in Baghdad. By the time such spices reached Europe, their cost was fantastic.

     Expensive? Not at all, said the crafty Arab masters of this lucrative trade. Think of the perils!


     That herbs and spices were so valued is evidenced by the fact that the men who unloaded the spices from ships in the harbor were not allowed to do so unless they were not clothed, lest they would hid some of the small pieces in their clothing. The penalty for the theft of even one piece of cinnamon was death. Peppercorns were used to pay rents, and were left in wills.

     In fact, spices were invaluable to the Ancient Egyptians. They believed that the most important gods were those of the dead. They also believed that the spirit returned to the body of the deceased.  Therefore, it was crucial that the bodies, especially of the wealthy dead, be preserved. Spices were critical to the process of mummification!

     Spices incenses were valuable during burnt offering, being used to alleviate the noxious odors emanating from burnt sacrifices.

     They were used in pre-refrigeration days to help preserve meats..

     During the period when bathing was considered unhealthy, baths occurred no more than twice a year. Can you imagine a congregation of unbathed persons? Incense provide a more pleasant aromatic experience.

     These extreme situations do not exist today. However, spices remain useful for seasoning, incense, perfumes, and medicines.



March days to celebrate

Witches to be Taxed in Romania & Memorialized in Scotland

World Trade Center Steel Artifact Comes to Connellsville, PA.

February’s Prelude to Spring

Grog Recipes

To Reclaim a Family Farm—Or Not

Hungarian Carnival in Darlington, PA

Banish Writer’s Block

Are We Computer Addicted? A 1997 Prediction





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