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Wormwood (star)

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Wormwood, αψίνθιον (apsinthion) or άψινθος (apsinthos) in Greek, is a star, or angel,[1] that appears in the Biblical New Testament Book of Revelation.

Wormwood in the Bible

Although the word wormwood appears several times in the Old Testament, translated from the Hebrew term לענה (la'anah), e.g., Deuteronomy 29:18 and Jeremiah 9:15, its only clear reference as a named entity occurs in the New Testament book of Revelation: "And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter." (Revelation 8:10, 11 - KJB).

Certain commentators have held that this "great star" represents one of several important figures in political or ecclesiastical history,[2] while other Bible dictionaries and commentaries view the term as a reference to a celestial being.

A Dictionary of The Holy Bible states, "the star called Wormwood seems to denote a mighty prince, or power of the air, the instrument, in its fall, of sore judgments on large numbers of the wicked."[3]

Interpretations of Revelation 8:10

Historist interpretations

Various religious groups and figures, including Seventh-day Adventists and the theologians Matthew Henry and John Gill,[4] regard the verses of Revelation 8 as symbolic references to past events in human history. In the case of Wormwood, some historist interpreters believe that this figure represents the army of the Huns as led by king Attila, pointing to chronological consistencies between the timeline of prophecy they have accepted and the history of the Huns' campaign in Europe.[5] Others point to Arius, the emperor Constantine, Origen or the ascetic monk Pelagius, who denied the doctrine of Original sin.[4]

Futurist interpretations

Commentators favoring a naturalistic interpretation of Revelation 8:10 relate it to the last days, seeing Wormwood as a meteor fated to strike the earth and cause environmental calamities.[6] Others, while not specifying a precise method, see in the verse a "personification of something God threatens to do to [His] people when they allow themselves to be deceived by false prophets."[7]

Various scientific scenarios have been theorized on the effects of an asteroid or comet's collision with Earth. An applicable scenario theorizes a chemical change in the atmosphere due to "heat shock" during entry and/or impact of a large asteroid or comet, reacting oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere to produce nitric-acid rain.[8] The bitterness produced by the Wormwood Star upon a third of the Earth's potable water could be the Biblical prediction of acid rain from the heat shock of a large comet or asteroid's impact with Earth.[9]

Alternative interpretations

A number of Bible scholars consider the term Wormwood to be a purely symbolic representation of the bitterness that will fill the earth during troubled times, noting that the plant for which Wormwood is named, Artemisia absinthium, is a known Biblical metaphor for things that are unpalatably bitter.[10][11] One interesting theory is that 'wormwood' merely represents nuclear weaponry. They do poison the water where they are detonated, thus explaining the correlation. Some even point to the Chernobyl disaster as a possible fulfillment of this prophecy, as the name Chernobyl is said to translate to "wormwood."

Artemisia absinthium

This and other species of Artemisia were sacred to the Greek goddess Artemis; hence their name. Artemisia comes from Ancient Greek ἀρτεμισία, from Ἄρτεμις (Artemis).[12] In Hellenistic culture, Artemis was a goddess of the hunt, and protector of the forest and children.

Absinthium comes from Ancient Greek ἀψίνθιον (apsinthion),[12] possibly meaning "unenjoyable", and probably referring to the bitter nature of the derived beverage.[13]

Consider the following quote by Lucretius found in Institutio Oratoria, an ancient work on rhetoric by the philosopher Quintilian:

"And as physicians when they seek to give
A draught of bitter wormwood to a child,
First smearing along the edge that rims the cup
The liquid sweets of honey, golden-hued,"

The word "wormwood" comes from Middle English "wormwode" or "wermode". The form "wormwood" is influenced by the traditional use as a cure for intestinal worms. Webster's Third New International Dictionary attributes the etymology to Old English "wermōd" (compare with German Wermut and the derived drink vermouth), which the OED (s.v.) marks as "of obscure origin". An alternative explanation dubiously combines the Old English "wer", meaning "man" (as in "werewolf"), with Old English "mōd", meaning "mood".

Wormwood is mentioned seven times in the Jewish Bible and once in the New Testament, always with the implication of bitterness.

Wormwood can be considered as an antiseptic.

In culture

The character Lebedyev in Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot interprets the "Star of Wormwood" as the network of railways spread across Europe.

The Screwtape Letters is a work of Christian fiction by C.S. Lewis first published in book form in 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of an earthly man, known only as "the Patient." The character of Miss Wormwood from the Calvin and Hobbes comics was named after this character.

In the Christ Clone Trilogy by James BeauSeigneur, Wormwood is an asteroid. It is destroyed by nuclear missiles, but the arsenic contained inside its divided exterior fall into the Earth's oceans, poisoning the fresh water and killing most, if not all, human beings.

In the Stephen King short story Home Delivery, an alien object enters Earth's orbit and causes the dead to rise as zombies and attack the living; the hellish object, a meteor-sized ball made up of many writhing worms, is referred to as "Star Wormwood." Also in "The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger," Sylvia Pittson, the preacher-woman in the town of Tull, makes reference to the "Star Wormword" while she speaks of Satan during a Sabbath.(Located on p. 51 of the Revised edition.) In another Stephen king book, Under the Dome, Star Wormwood is mentioned several times by Chef Bushey. Star Wormwood is also mentioned by Mother Carmody in both the Novel and Movie of Stephen King's short story The Mist. In The Light of Other Days, by writers Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, there are also references of a meteor called Wormwood that is heading for our planet.

In the Shadowmancer series of books by G.P. Taylor, Wormwood is the name of a comet headed straight for London which will destroy Earth.

Wormwood is mentioned as a possible baby name by a Satanist nun in the novel Good Omens.

In the DC Comics miniseries Kingdom Come, the Secretary General of the United Nations is named Wyrmwood. He calls down a nuclear strike to rid the world of all metahumans.

Star Wormword, a novel by Curtis Bok, set in the Depression, is about a horrible crime, the subsequent trial, conviction and execution of the criminal. The author, himself a renowned judge, ends the book with a criticism of capital punishment.

In an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, entitled "Invasion of the Bane", Sarah Jane references the star called Wormwood falling to Earth and poisoning the water. The enemy in this episode was an alien called Mrs. Wormwood. She was actually turning people into zombies using a drink called "Bubble Shock!".

In the manga series Angel Sanctuary, the Egg of Wormwood is kept hidden in Hades, and used to summon a meteor that will wipe out one third of earth's population, the devils and those who have blasphemed against God. It actually turns out to affect all life, even the angels.

Swedish black metal band Marduk have an album entitled Wormwood after the name of the star in Revelations.

Irish post-hardcore band BATS have a song named "Star Wormwood" on their album, Red In Tooth & Claw.

In the Supernatural series on the CW episode Season 5, Episode 2: "Good God, Y'All" they mentioned the Wormwood Star; the episode mentioned the star falling and poisoning a towns river. The star was an omen to the arrival of the Horseman War.

In the song "Demon Called Deception" by Grant Lee Buffalo, -The Star Wormwood- is also meantioned. "...hes right beside me when i whisper words like, brother nothin here is any good. See the birds, theyre droppin like a star wormwood".

The rock band Fozzy's final track on their latest release, "Chasing the Grail", is entitled "Wormwood", and is a musical telling of the biblical story.


  1. Lewis, James R., Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy (1996), Angels A to Z, Entry: Wormwood, p. 417, Visible Ink Press
  2. Henry, Matthew, Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume VI (Acts to Revelation): Revelation Chap. VIII, Public domain, Library of Congress call no: BS490.H4, at Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  3. Rand, W. W. (1859), A Dictionary of the Holy Bible: for general use in the study of the scriptures; with engravings, maps, and tables, Entry: WORM WOOD at
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gill, John, Exposition of the Entire Bible, Revelation 8:10 at
  5. Nichol, Francis D (1957), The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7, Revelation, p. 789, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D.C.
  6. Robertson, A.T. (1932), "Commentary on Revelation 8:10," Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament, Broadman Press, at
  7. Editors: Osborne, Grant R., Briscoe, D. Stuart, Robinson, Haddon (1997), "The First Four Trumpets," Commentaries for Revelation Chapter 8, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, ISBN 0-8308-1800-6 at
  8. Hooper Virtual Natural History Museum citing Prinn and Fegley, 1987
  9. The Messianic Literary Corner
  10. Johnson, B. W. (1891), The People's New Testament, The Revelation of John, Chapter VIII: The Seventh Seal Opened at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  11. Revelation in the Geneva Study Bible (1599) at
  12. 12.0 12.1 "absinthium". Wiktionary. Wikimedia Foundation. 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  13. "Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris L.)". University of Graz. 4 July 2006. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 

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