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Folklore Friday: Rosemary

Updated: Mar 6

Ophelia, by Thomas Francis Dicksee (1819–1895)

It's no surprise that rosemary is among the most beloved plants of herbalists the world over (mine included). Rosemary's folklore runs long and deep. Here's just a snippet of the enchantment dear Rosemary has gifted us across the ages.

Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosmarinus in Latin translates to "Dew of the Sea" (Ros = Dew; Marinus = Sea). Rosemary favours the sandy, dry coastal soils of the sun-drenched Mediterranean — thriving off the sea spray that settles on its leaves like dew.⁠ Little wonder then, that in some versions of Greek mythology, Aphrodite was draped in rosemary when she arose from the sea foam that birthed her! ⁠ "Rosemary, that's for remembrance — pray, love, remember" said Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Δ This symbol of remembrance has seen Rosemary play an important part in funeral rites. In ancient Egypt it was used for embalming and placed in tombs. Traditionally, it's been placed in graves with the deceased.⁠ Δ Rosemary has long been a symbol of love and fidelity — brides would wear wreaths of rosemary dipped in scented water and guests were given rosemary tied with colourful ribbons.⁠

Δ Imagine — churches and halls decked with hanging rosemary for ceremonies and celebrations, and strewn on the floor to perfume the air when crushed underfoot! Δ Long ago, if a young person tapped their desired one with a sprig of rosemary in full flower, it was said the couple would fall in love.⁠

Δ Rosemary is a herb of friendship. I feel it is a beautiful symbol of love and loyalty to gift a friend a pot of rosemary.⁠

Δ Rosemary's symbol of remembrance is rooted in much truth — its ability to strengthen the memory and improve cognition is absolutely tried and true. Greek students would wear garlands of rosemary when studying. ⁠ Δ Rosemary was placed under the pillow to ward off nightmares. This is a comforting tradition that can be kept alive with your own children today.⁠

Δ Rosemary is the herb that spawned the famous 13th century 'Queen of Hungary's' cure-all elixir and perfume.

Δ Arabic herdsmen encouraged their flocks to graze on rosemary due to the lovely taste it would impart to the milk.

Δ Nursing mothers can likewise pass on its benefits by drinking or eating rosemary before breastfeeding.

Δ Rosemary was also burned as incense and smudge for religious ceremonies and warding off negative energy. Rosemary was burned with juniper berries in old French hospitals to cleanse and purify the air of the sick.

Instead of putting more strain on endangered/over-harvested herbs for spiritual use, we can make use of the plants that are in abundance in our environment — that are powerful in their own right. I feel we have 'forgotten' in ways — or take for granted the power and potency

of commonplace, everyday herbs. But there is much magic in the mundane, if we simply look upon our surrounds with baby-fresh eyes.

This is getting long now but the folkloric history of rosemary is monumental! I haven't even touched on rosemary's faery and gypsy folklore... Rosemary is a dearly treasured herb to me — for her wealth of internal and external medicinal benefits, as well as the marked effect it offers to the mind, spirit and heart.

You can find rosemary working its magic in my Thieves Balm and Herbal Hair Oil.

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