Plants of Faith
There is a very strong connection between wild plants and religious faith. Some of the earliest written accounts of Britain by the Roman writers talk of the strong religious associations of oak, mistletoe and vervain among the British tribes. There are also many tree customs still prevalent in Britain that may have a very long and pre-Christian tradition.
There are around 40 plants mentioned in the Bible that currently grow wild in the British countryside including the much sought after sweet flag (Acorus calamus), the thistles of Genesis, and the hyssop noted by Solomon. Many of our local and common names are based on Biblical connections, such as St John’s Wort, Aaron’s Rod, and Jacob’s ladder. We formerly had a wide tradition of naming plants in honour of the Virgin Mary before the Reformation of the 15th century, a tradition that has survived in Gaelic and Welsh. Wild plants have been used in many church rituals and ceremonies including strewing herbs for the floors and using snowdrops to adorn alters on Candlemass day. The history of Biblical art is also filled with wild plants from illuminated manuscripts, to Tudor and Stuart embroideries to Renaissance paintings and beyond.
Wild plants are also mentioned within the Qu’ran and the Hadith, several of which also grow in Britain. There is a very long and ancient tradition of scared gardens within Islam and the first literature cultures of Mesopotamia which have had great influence in European art and culture. Similarly in Judaism several of the plants in the holy books and in Jewish ritual are to be found growing wild in Britain today, such as the hyssop of Passover and the almond tree design of the Menorah. Please let us know of any links between plants that grow wild in Britain and other faiths currently practiced in the UK and we will update our information.
Please download our factsheets to find out more about plants of faith in Britain.