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Notes from the Apothecary

February, 2019

Notes from the Apothecary: Cumin

Cumin
is a fragrant spice in the apiaceae family, meaning it’s related to
carrots, parsley, and the similar looking caraway. We use the seed of
the plant in both cooking and magic.

Cumin
has been used for thousands of years, and most likely originated near
Syria, based on evidence from nearby excavation sites. Cumin was a
table spice in Ancient Greece, a tradition which continues today in
Morocco. The Romans adopted the use of cumin, and Spanish and
Portuguese colonists eventually brought the spice to the Americas,
where it is enjoyed in a range of cuisines.

The
Kitchen Garden

Cumin
is one of those mesmerising flavours that simply doesn’t taste like
anything else. When I was first learning about cooking Indian food, I
had not realised that cumin was such a commonly used ingredient.
Adding it to my store cupboard changed my life. Most curries I cook
now have whole cumin seeds fried until they pop and release their
smoky, earthy goodness into the hot oil. Every chilli con carne is
blessed with my kitchen’s holy triumvirate of cumin, coriander and
turmeric, making the house smell simply divine.

Whole
seeds and ground cumin are both readily available in grocery stores
and supermarkets. I’ve found that the best value way to buy cumin
is to visit an Indian or Mexican store or wholesaler, as shops that
don’t specialise tend to bump the price up.

The
Apothecary

Cumin
seeds are used as a natural medicine all over the world. Alleged
cumin medical properties include being an anti-inflammatory,
diuretic, antispasmodic, carminative, aromatic, digestive, and an
emmenagogue. In their book about healthy seeds, Danny Sarmiento
writes that cumin helps prevent the harmful effects of stress on the
body. That must be why I love a cumin heavy curry on a weekend after
a hard week!

Sarmiento
also states that cumin can offer relief for asthma sufferers as it
may dilate the airways. There’s also some indication that the seeds
may be effective for treating diabetes.

The
seeds are filled with nutritious vitamins and minerals including iron
and manganese, so they’re a great addition to just about anyone’s
diet.

The
Witch’s Kitchen

Cunningham
lists cumin in his encyclopaedia of magical herbs. He states the
spice is masculine, associated with Mars and fire, which makes sense
when you think of how this spice is often used in hot curries and
Mexican food! Heat is definitely linked to cumin. But I also find it
earthy, and grounding.

According
to Cunningham, the spice is used for protection magic, to ensure
fidelity, for exorcism and to prevent theft. Bread baked with cumin
seeds won’t be stolen by spirits, so if you follow this
superstition, don’t leave cumin-spiced bread out for the fair folk!
Cumin can be burnt with frankincense to create a powerful protective
incense. Scatter cumin and salt to create a protective boundary.
Carry in a pouch at handfastings to drive negative thoughts or
energies away from the happy couple. Or add some to the wine later
on, for an exciting wedding night!

Home
and Hearth

Mix
cumin seeds with fine salt. Walk the boundary of your home at Imbolc
or the Spring Equinox. Sprinkle the protective mix while you
visualise your home as a safe and special place. Imagine the sun’s
returning light suffusing your home with a warm, comforting glow. The
salt and spice mix will keep negativity at bay, whilst allowing love
entry, and encouraging loyalty.

I
Never Knew…

There’s
an old superstition that you should curse and shout as you sow cumin
seeds, to ensure a good crop.

All images via
Wikipedia or Wikimedia commons.

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is
a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestorsand Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon