The other day I was cooking preparing to make some pasta sauce and found myself out of oregano. When searching out a substitute, I was led to marjoram. In the process, I came to learn that they are of the same herbal family. Most everyday cooks have oregano or marjoram in their cabinets, not realizing they are quite similar and nutritious of any by themselves and have a long history of spiritual and medical benefits.
As I sat and looked at this bottle of marjoram, I began to think about how little we know about the history hidden within these spice bottles. How much of the history of herbs has been hidden from us, begging to be revealed to us. When we open the bottle to use them, it is not just an invitation to season our foods, but to open ourselves up to hearing the story and history of these herbs.
As I sprinkled the marjoram into my sauce, I knew that I was stirring my love for family into the sauce. What I did not realize is that I was also stirring happiness into the sauce as well. Marjoram/oregano has “been portrayed in a very positive light, associated with love, protection, purification, healing, and happiness, and steeped in religious tradition and myth.” Marjoram was often times referred to as the herb of happiness. It was used to bless couples as they married wearing crowns of marjoram at their weddings and ensuring happiness in the next life by placing bouquets of marjoram on gravesites.
Biblical scholars have suggested that what we refer to as marjoram and oregano was what is referred to in the Old and New Testament as hyssop. So what we now sprinkle on our food was once used to purify and sanctify people’s home and sacrifices. King David, for example, spoke of hyssop as a symbol of cleansing, saying “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7, NRSV). It is with this same hyssop that Jesus was served his last drink on the cross. It is from this stalk of hyssop, this symbol of cleansing and purification, which he then drank before he said, “It is finished.”
Today, marjoram, in its essential oil form, continues to serve as a way of seasoning foods, but also contributing to the calming and healing of others. According to Young Living, marjoram is a “calming oil, it has a warming effect on both mind and body and soothes tense muscles after exercise. It is beneficial for occasional simple nervous tension* and may also be used for cooking.”
The next time I add some marjoram to a sauce, I will be thinking about it in a completely new way. It is now more then just an herb in a bottle. It has its own story to tell me and is adding happiness and healing to every dish I use it in.