Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aromatic herbs used by ancient Indian tribes

In one of my previous posts I've told you about "Queen of the Night", Nicotiana plants with mauve, yellow and white flowers. I was surprised to find out that Nicotiana is wild tobacco, with very large usage, together with other aromatic herbs, as fumigant and medicament  into mythology and religious all over the world: in Indian rituals,the ritual leader offered smoke to the Creator, the four directions and to the earth; in Christian rituals, smoke from censers symbolized prayers ascending to heaven; in Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist traditions burning incense symbolized the presence of deity and the dispersal of prayers.

tobacco plants in stanley park

Native American Totem Poles and smoking or burning aromatic herbs were symbols of the ancient traditions of the native Indian tribes of the Northwest Pacific Coast, symbolizing power and community with deity.
In Americas long before the arrival of Europeans were widely used 2 types of Nicotiana plants: Nicotiana Tabacum and Nicotiana Rusticum. The indigenous practice of smoking was named "drinking smoke", smokers being described by Columbus in his journal as: "people who always carried a lighted fire brand to light fire, and perfume themselves with certain herbs they carried along with them".
Amerindians considered tobacco plants as gifts from "a creator".  Smoking was a religious, ceremonial event among North American Indians to be given proper respect, but only some tribes grew it. Native American "sacred pipes", the devices used for religious, ceremonial events smoking, were dated to more than 3000 years ago, and they had evidence of nicotine residues. Stone pipes were used for cementing friendship and offering smoke to the god.

Nicotiana plants in Stanley Park

I found some descriptions about North American Indians smoking rituals: pipes were assembled, filled with tobacco, ignited, and passed according to distinct Indian tribal rules in communal ceremonies and solemn occasions, until the pipe were returned to the host.

tobacco plants at VanDusen

Paradoxical seems that during the 17th century, tobacco smoke was transformed In North America from “good” into “bad” and a native American habit was turned as illegal, although in the tobacco industry are involved many Native American entrepreneurs. Nowadays laws around the world have restrictions on smoking, banning public cigarette smoking on North American grounds, but the huge tobacco industry are involved in the manufacture of cigarettes, cigars, snuff and chewing and pipe tobacco.

Tobacco plants in Stanley Park flowerbeds

Canada is leading the way in anti-tobacco programs.  Vancouver's Park Board Commissioners unanimous voted in April that smoking is prohibited in all 224 parks including trails, playgrounds and fields, and 18 kilometers of beaches, effective with September 1, 2010.

" To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did.  I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times."  Mark Twain


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