The history of basil is a long and sordid one. It wasn't always regarded as the essential herb for Italian and Indian cuisine. While In India it was sacred to the Hindu Gods Vishnu and Krishna and put on the burial robes to help the deceased have a good journey into their next life, Medieval superstitions claimed that by placing a sprig of basil under a pot growing basil in the evening, the sprig would turn into a scorpion by morning. Lore has it that basil grew around Christ's tomb and the Greek Orthodox religion uses it to prepare their Holy Water. The Greek and Roman tradition of cursing while sowing basil seeds was said to insure proper germination of the seeds. In western Europe it was believed to ward off witches and was considered to be the herb of the Devil. By the time the 17th century rolled around, it was thought that sniffing powdered basil, or even smelling it, would cause scorpions to nest in your brain!
Of course, now, these fears have all been proven incorrect as Basil has become one of the most popular and widely used herb around the world!