Wednesday, April 11, 2018
J: Juniper Tree
Juniper is an evergreen shrub found in Europe, Southwest Asia, and North America. Many of us aged 21 and over may know that the berries are used to flavor gin. In fact, the name "gin" comes from the Dutch word for juniper, geniver. But juniper berries and oil have also been used as traditional medicines as far back as ancient Egypt for treatment of ailments as wide-ranging as cancer, indigestion, bronchitis, tuberculosis, heart failure, gout, back pain, gallstones, infections, and gonorrhea. Modern herbalists still use juniper in teas, aromatherapy, and ointments. The Navajo, who tend to be lactose intolerant, burn juniper wood and add the calcium-rich ash to blue corn mush.
In legend and folklore, juniper is often used for purification after illness, for ritual cleansing at the new year, and to expel demons and other unwanted guests. It was apparently unlucky to dream of a juniper tree, but to dream of gathering the berries in winter signified coming prosperity. Juniper appears in the Bible, Native American legend, and Greek mythology.
Not to be outdone, Grimm's Fairy Tales gives us "The Juniper Tree" story, which includes familiar Grimm (and grim) elements such as: red blood on white snow, a devout woman who bears a child and then dies, the wicked stepmother who takes her place, child abuse, deception, decapitation and dismemberment, cannibalism, a talking bird, helpful tradesmen from the village, red shoes for dancing, the stepmother's comeuppance, and bringing the dead back to life. Whew!
Happy J Day!