I do not read the book of Revelation often. Except for the overarching, “This world will end, God wins,” it is a notoriously difficult book to interpret. In a discussion the other night, part of it came up:
The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the fountains of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died of the water, because it was made bitter. (Rev 8:10-11, RSV)
The DH and I were discussing Catholic sources that blindly sign on to movements that sound good, but push evil: a natural family planning magazine that touted environmentalism without acknowledging the green movement’s strong ties to the contraceptive mentality, coerced or forced sterilization, and abortion. Catholic hospitals that have signed on to the new universal health care plan, ignoring the lack of respect for (and even hostility to) individual physicians’ conscientious refusal to participate in abortions. Somehow, out of this, DH remembered the destruction of Wormwood. What has destroyed a third of the earth and poisoned the waters so that people died? Abortion.
In the U.S., we have aborted at least a third of the children conceived since abortion was legalized. Since we don’t know how many died from IUD’s (always abortifacient) and the Pill (sometimes contraceptive, sometimes abortifacient), we can only say “many”.
We are beginning to find out that the artificial estrogens in the Pill are poisoning our water supply. Unlike natural estrogens, which break down, the artificial ones stay in the water, eventually making it back into our drinking water. Some have hypothesized that one of the reasons for the increasing rates of infertility in this country, in addition to the effects of delayed child bearing and damage from STD’s, is our exposure to estrogen in low dosages over long periods of time. Especially for children, estrogen is detremental to their developing sex organs.
Ok, it seems to be a legitimate interpretation. Other interpreters pegged the destruction of Wormwood on Attila the Hun or the Black Death. Some fingered Roman persecution of Christians. “Chernobyl” is Ukranian for the plant we call mugwort, related to wormwood. Some hold that the Wormwood of Revelation hasn’t happened yet and will be some sort of disaster, or even, in the very literal interpretation, an actual comet or meteor that hits the Earth.
Listening to my husband, however, I suddenly remembered something: many herbs are known abortifacients. This explains some of Europe’s eagerness to prosecute witches and midwives: some of their “help” was abortion drugs. The Hippocratic Oath, a very short documents, spends time condemning abortion. The Didache, a late first century document for teaching new converts, condemns abortion. The ancients were familiar not only with chemical contraception, but with abortion, especially the herbal/chemical means.
A quick internet search confirmed my hunch: wormwood has several useful properties, including ridding a person of intestinal worms, hence the common name. However, it can also be used to cause an abortion.
Several websites specifically called it abortifacient. A few more said it was good for “encouraging menstruation.” One other website noted that, since the 1400’s, herbalists avoided calling herbs abortifacients and instead disguised their full usage under “encouraging menstruation.” Ironically, that is exactly what the modern Pill does: if it fails to prevent ovulation, the secondary mechanism of the Pill is to force the body into menstruation, overriding the hormones from the developing embryo that are telling the body not to shed the uerine lining so that the embryo can implant. Thus, at least part of the time, women on the Pill are not preventing conception, they are getting a chemical abortion of their days-old child.
Chemical contraception was well known in the ancient world; one particular island made a fortune exporting a weed that acted as a contraceptive, until they overharvested it and it went extinct. The Bible seems to give us some hints that the ancient world also knew wormwood as an abortifacient.
For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not take heed to the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (Prov 5:3-6)
The mother warns her son against “loose women”, who deny the covenant with the Lord by their sin. The covenant God made with Abraham, the forefather of the entire Jewish people, specifically promised numerous offspring; is the death/life contrast not only spiritual, but the death of unwanted children of the affair by abortion by wormwood?
In Jeremiah, the prophet warns from God, “Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and give them poisoned water to drink; for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone forth into all the land.” (Jer 23:15)
And again, in Lamentations,
My soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and my expectation from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall! (Lam 3:17-19)
The affliction is wormwood, the loss of the “expectation from the LORD.” Again, the main expectation of the covenant was children.
The irony of this possible explanation is that we have inflicted it on ourselves. The Black Death, barbarian invasions, massive meteors… they are all calamities that come from outside.
In abortion, we, as a society, chose death.