Sambucus—Intercultural exchange and evolution

Daniel Frank Austin

Abstract


The plant Sambucus, called elder or elder-berry in English, has been associated with major and minor deities longer than history records. In contrast to gods and goddesses, other applications of sambucus are made in more secular ways. Sambucus and its variants have been applied to five entities—plants, a musical instrument (sambuce, שׂבּבָא), a military device (sambuca, σαμβύκ), a sailing vessel (sambuq, sanbuq, زنبق), and a liquor (sambuca, zammut). Each of these connotations is separated, some slightly and others markedly, from the others by fragmented historical records. While the most ancient application known is for the musical instrument, the designation of a plant is not much, if any, younger. The war machine is almost the same age as the plant tradition. Considerably more recent are the labels of a ship and alcoholic drink. This synopsis puts these records together to reveal a history of intercultural exchange and the evolution of terminology.


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Ethnobotany Research and Applications (ISSN 1547-3465) is published online by the Department of Ethnobotany, Institute of Botany, Ilia State University.
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