Rosemary is the traditional herb to leave on graves, and there have been far too many deaths lately in our family and in the world. Daughter Elise and I have visited graves with nosegays of rosemary and left them there. A solemn time of remembering those who have gone before us. Rosemary is a fitting herb for Memorial Day.
I love the scent of rosemary and the wealth of history behind it. Known as the herb of remembrance from the time of ancient Greece, it appears in that immortal verse by Shakespeare. My fascination with herbs plays a significant role in my historical/paranormal romance novel Somewhere My Love, as does Hamlet, for that matter. I always wanted to write a murder mystery with a focus on herbs and parallels to a Shakespearean play, and so I did. Ghostly, murder mystery, time travel romance novel, Somewhere My Love, is interwoven with Hamlet and herbs. But herbs don’t stop there. I weave them into all my stories.
Rosemary is considered a tonic, astringent, diaphoretic (increases perspiration), stimulant. Oil of Rosemary has the carminative (induces the expulsion of gas) properties of other volatile oils and is an excellent stomachic and nervine (has a beneficial effect upon the nervous system), curing many cases of headache.
Beloved by the ancients, rosemary had the reputation for strengthening memory. On this account, it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. And holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was rosemary used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells. It was entwined in the wreaths worn by brides, being first dipped into scented water. Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII, and fortunate to escape with her life due to an annulment, is said to have worn such a wreath at her wedding. Maybe it protected her. She outlived his other wives, two of whom were beheaded, and the sixth one, Catherine Parr, might have been had he hung on much longer. Such were the vagaries of his moods. But I digress.
A rosemary branch, richly decorated and tied with ribbons, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty. Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavor ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration. Together with an orange stuck with cloves it was given as a New Year‘s gift. Rosemary came to represent the dominant influence of the lady of the house, “Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.” I add, to prove their dominance, some husbands would damage the flourishing plants. (From A Modern Herbal)
“As for rosmarine, I lette it runne all over my garden walls, not onlie because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance, and, therefore to friendship..” ~Thomas Moore