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The Legend of St. Helena and the Sweet Basil
The Legend of St. Helena and the Sweet Basil Today, both Constantine and Helena are revered as saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it is the legends that grow over the years about the lives of the saints that bring us much of the charm and lore connected with Church history. The story is often told how Saint Helena had arrived in Jerusalem on her pilgrimage in search of The True Cross. She believed that God had told her that she would eventually find this most holy of relics and restore it as a symbol of Christian worship. Helena had been searching for many days before she noticed a sweet - smelling plant growing on a barren hill outside Jerusalem. Immediately, she gave instructions to dig under the plant where she discovered the cross on which Jesus had been crucified. Today this plant, sweet basil, is a basic herb used in much of Greek and Italian cooking. The name Basil, itself derived from the Greek word basileus, meaning "king", is a favorite boy's name amongst peoples who worship in any of the international congregations of the Eastern Orthodox Church throughout the Balkans, Russia, and the United States.
In India the Basil plant is sacred to both Krishna and Vishnu, and is cherished in every Hindu house. Probably on account of its virtues, in disinfecting, and vivifying malarious air, it first became inseparable from Hindu houses in India as the protecting spirit of the family.