Tag Archives: Shakespeare

“There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance. Pray, you love, remember.” ~Hamlet


RosemaryRosemary 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.

‘Tis the Season for Rosemary

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.


Rosemary1Beloved 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.

basket of herbs with rosemary

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

The Love and Lore of Violets


An excerpt from my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles:

“Who are the violets now
That strew the lap of the new-come spring?” ~ Shakespeare: Richard II

SweetViolets008

Violet (Viola Odorata). Part Used: Flowers (dried). The leaves and whole plant (fresh).

Sweet violets grow at the edge of forests and clearings and can be detected by their scent. Sometimes they appear as unwanted guests in yards and gardens, but we like violets and encourage them here. Violets have a long history reaching deep into the misty past. There are over two hundred species in the world; five are native to Great Britain. Sweet violets are usually dark purple, but may be white. The flowers are full of honey and appealing to bees, but usually bloom before bees are really out from as early as late February into April.

Viola OdorataViolets imbue liquids with their color and fragrance and make a divine perfume. A medicinal syrup of violets is given as a laxative considered mild enough for children, and for a variety of other ailments. Old herbalists recommended the syrup for ague (acute fever), inflammation of the eyes, insomnia, pleurisy, jaundice, and many other illnesses. They had great faith in its healing attributes. Among other components, violets contain salicylic acid which is used to make aspirin.

As with primroses, violets have been associated with death, particularly of the young. This is referred to by the poets, including Shakespeare in Hamlet. Ancient Britons used violet flowers as a cosmetic, and in a Celtic poem they are recommended to be employed steeped in goats’ milk to increase female beauty. In the Anglo-Saxon translation of the Herbarium of Apuleius (tenth century), the herb V. purpureum is recommended ‘for new wounds and eke for old’ and for ‘hardness of the maw.’ In Macer’s Herbal (tenth century) the Violet is among the many herbs which were considered powerful against ‘wykked sperytis.’  (A Modern Herbal)

Gar Flower Web Blue Violet

Askham’s Herbal Violet Recipe for Insomnia: “For the that may not slepe for sickness seeth this herb in water and at even let him soke well hys feete in the water to the ancles, wha he goeth to bed, bind of this herbe to his temples.”

spray of beautiful dark blue violets

To Make Syrup of Violets: Tale 1 lb. of Sweet Violet flowers freshly picked, add 2 ½ pints of boiling water, infuse these for twenty-four hours in a glazed china vessel, then pour off the liquid and strain it gently through muslin; afterwards add double its weight of the finest loaf sugar and make it into a syrup, but without letting it boil. (A Modern Herbal)

“Viola Odorata is an ancient heirloom, which the Greeks used in love potions, and beloved by our grandmothers and their grandmothers because of its sweet perfume, delicate purple to deep bluish purple flower and heart-shaped leaves.” ~ Quote from Cherry Gal, an interesting website that sells heirloom violet seeds, amongst other offerings.

violet“I know a bank, where the wild thyme blows Where ox-lips, and the nodding violet grows; Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.” ~ William Shakespeare

“Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you.” ~Edward Payson Rod

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.” ~Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

Rosemary, the Herb of Remembrance


Rosemary“There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance. Pray, you love, remember.” ~ Hamlet

Rosemary is the herb that we leave on graves and a fitting one 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 immoral verse by Shakespeare. My fascination with herbs plays a significant role in my historical-light 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.

‘Tis the Season for RosemaryRosemary 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.


Rosemary1Beloved 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.

basket of herbs with rosemaryA 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. (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

Sweet Saturday Sample from Ghostly Romance Novel Somewhere My Love–Beth Trissel


My 'Somewhere in Time' Series--Beth TrisselFrom Chapter Five: Will and Julia in rehearsal for Hamlet (Yes, Somewhere My Love has Hamlet parallels, plus Hamlet features a rather famous ghost)

Julia (as Ophelia) looked pained. “‘You are merry, my lord.’”

“‘Oh, God. What should a man do but be merry?’”

Will rose to heap condemnation on the queen for wedding his uncle so soon after the king’s death. It was a stretch, to say the least, to envision his elderly grandmother as the seductive beauty who’d  captivated his evil uncle, played by the sweating, ill at ease Douglas. But Will stabbed a finger in Nora’s direction. “‘For look you how cheerfully my mother does, and my father died within two hours.’”

“‘Nay, it’s twice two months, my lord,’” Julia corrected.

Will answered with Hamlet’s sarcasm. “‘So long?  O heavens, die two months ago and not forgotten  yet? There’s hope a great man’s memory may outlive  his life half a year.’”

Cole’s had outlived his by two centuries.

Will gentled his voice and bent back over Julia, cupping her sweet face between his hands. He loved the feel of her smooth skin. “‘Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? It were better my mother had not born me.’”

She gazed at him in convincing bewilderment.

He wore on. “‘I am proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts  to put them in or time to act them. What should  such fellows as I do crawling between earth and  heaven? Believe none of us. We are errant knaves,  all. To a nunnery, go. And quickly, too,’” he urged,  and covered her lips in a hard kiss.

The taste of her was intoxicating and he drew out the feel of her mouth as long as he dared. Angry and hurt she might be, but she had no choice other  than to kiss him now. His grandmother was also obligated to indulge him. For a moment.

Heart pounding, he straightened and smoothed Julia’s soft cheek. “‘Farewell.’”

It was only a part and he merely an actor in a play, but Will recoiled at the finality of that word. ~

***For more authors participating in Sweet Saturday Samples click HERE.

***Somewhere my Love is available for .99 at Amazon Kindle

“Be wary then; best safety lies in fear.” ~ Hamlet

‘As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul,’ & Other Herbal Quotes


 ‘Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun,
and with him rise weeping.’ ~ Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale

‘If you set it,
the cats will eat it,
If you sow it,
the cats don’t know it.
~Philip Miller, The Gardener’s Dictionary, Referring to Catnip

‘Salt is a preservative. It really holds flavor. For example, if you chop up some fresh herbs, or even just garlic, the salt will extract the moisture and preserve the flavor.’ ~ Sally Schneider

‘The Herbs ought to be distilled when they are in their greatest vigor, and so ought the Flowers also.’ ~Nicholas Culpeper

‘The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk.’ ~Jacqueline du Pre

‘I plant rosemary all over the garden, so pleasant is it to know that at every few steps one may draw the kindly branchlets through one’s hand, and have the enjoyment of their incomparable incense; and I grow it against walls, so that the sun may draw out its inexhaustible sweetness to greet me as I pass ….’
–  Gertrude Jekyll

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you: and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O! you must wear your rue with a difference.  There’s a daisy; I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.” ~Shakespeare, Hamlet

‘Thine eyes are springs in whose serene And silent waters heaven is seen. Their lashes are the herbs that look On their young figures in the brook.’ ~William C. Bryant

Waters are distilled out of Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, and Roots.
~Nicholas Culpeper

“We have finally started to notice that there is real curative value in local herbs and remedies. In fact, we are also becoming aware that there are little or no side effects to most natural remedies, and that they are often more effective than Western medicine.”  ~Anne Wilson Schaef

‘The basil tuft, that waves
Its fragrant blossom over graves.’
~Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookhm, Light of the Harem

“The herb that can’t be got is the one that heals.” ~ Irish Saying

‘See how Aurora throws her fair Fresh-quilted colours through the air: Get up, sweet-slug-a-bed, and see The dew-bespangling herb and tree.’ ~ Herrick, Robert ~Corinna’s Going a Maying

‘As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not
only because my bees love it but because it is the herb
sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a
sprig of it hath a dumb language.’
–  Sir Thomas Moore

‘Eat leeks in oile and ramsines in May,
And all the year after physicians may play.’
(Ramsines were old-fashioned broad-leafed leeks.)

‘My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse.’ ~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.

‘When daisies pied and violets blue, and lady-smocks all silver white. And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue, do paint the meadows with delight.’ ~ William Shakespeare, 1595.

‘Women with child that eat quinces will bear wise children.’ ~Dodoens, 1578.

‘Gardening with herbs, which is becoming increasingly popular, is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.’
–   Helen Morgenthau Fox

‘And because the Breath of Flowers is farre Sweeter in the Aire (where it comes and Gose, like the Warbling of Musick) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for delight, than to know what be the Flowers and the Plants that doe best perfume the Aire.’ ~ Francis Bacon, 1625

‘Caesar….saith, that all the Britons do colour themselves with Woad, which giveth a blew colour… ‘ ~John Gerard, 1597

‘You have got to own your days and live them, each one of them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you.’~Herb Gardner

‘Once you get people laughing, they’re listening and you can tell them almost anything.’~ Herb Gardner

‘Would You Marry Me?
“According to old wives’ tales, borage was sometimes
smuggled into the drink of  prospective husbands
to give them the courage to propose marriage.’
–  Mary Campbell, A Basket of Herbs

‘As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul.
–  Anonymous

‘As for the garden of mint, the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits, as the taste stirs up our appetite for meat.’ ~   Pliny the Elder

‘How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?’
–  Andrew Marvel

‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance;
pray, love, remember; and there is pansies,
that’s for thoughts.’
–    Shakespeare, Hamlet

‘The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine.  And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year.  There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.’
Alice B. Toklas

‘How I would love to be transported into a scented
Elizabethan garden with herbs and honeysuckles,  a knot garden and roses clambering over a simple arbor ….’ ~Rosemary Verey

Herbal Lore and Romance


The love potion in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been analyzed by a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in England. Doctor Sell thinks it was made up of heart’s ease (violas) blended with the sweetness of musk roses. In the play, Oberon drops the flowery decoction onto the eyelids of the sleeping Titania, but the good doctor cautions against trying this at home. Rather, opt for the nape of the neck or the décolleté. Men just love the décolleté, breasts pushed up by a tightly drawn corset for those of you who didn’t realize.

In ages past it was thought that a young maiden could toss a sprig of St. John’s Wort over her shoulder and soon learn the name of the man she was to marry. Leafy branches of this herb were also hung in windows to ward off evil spirits and burnt to protect against devils, goblins and witches. Bear this in mind, if you’re troubled by them. Legend has it that angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the bubonic plague. All parts of the plant were deemed of great value against enchantment. And don’t forget boughs of the sacred rowan tree to ward off evil spells.

Feeling timid? Anoint your feet with catnip tea to embolden yourself. Fennel seed is said to boost desire. Lavender is “of ‘especiall good use for all griefes and paines of the head.” For those of you who would be true, rosemary is the symbol of fidelity between lovers. Traditionally, a wreath of the aromatic herb was worn by brides. Rosemary is also the herb of remembrance left at the grave of loved ones.~

***I’m teaching a class on Herbal Lore and the Historic Medicinal Uses of Herbs in May for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers—open to the public.  Click the link for more information and scroll down until you come to the listing for my class.  You can be an active participant or a lurker–entirely up to you.

Images from our garden by daughter Elise~

The Ides Of March and The Old Farmer’s Almanac


I love The Old Farmer’s Almanac website and their interesting newsletters.  Free, btw.  Today’s subject is the Ides of March,  spring tonics and recipes for St. Patrick‘s Day…

In a nutshell, what they say about the Ides of March (March 15th) “has long been considered an ill-fated day. Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C. Historians note that it is likely that a soothsayer named Spurinna had warned Caesar that danger would occur by the ides of March. William Shakespeare included the phrase “Beware the ides of March” in his play Julius Caesar.”

Outside of falling down my steps and skinning my knee, so far the Ides of March have been uneventful here.  And that happened yesterday, so technically it wasn’t The Day yet.  I’ll just sir tight and avoid assassins.

For more on the Ides of March and the Old Farmer’s Almanac click here.

Early history of the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

“The first Old Farmer’s Almanac (then known as The Farmer’s Almanac) was edited by Robert B. Thomas, the publication’s founder.

There were many competing almanacs in the 18th century, but Thomas’s upstart was a success. In its second year, distribution tripled to 9,000. The cost of the book was six pence (about four cents).

To calculate the Almanac’s weather predictions, Thomas studied solar activity, astronomy cycles and weather patterns and used his research to develop a secret forecasting formula, which is still in use today. Other than the Almanac’s prognosticators, few people have seen the formula. It is kept in a black tin box at the Almanac offices in DublinNew Hampshire.

Thomas also started drilling a hole through the Almanac so that subscribers could hang it from a nail or a string. Subscribers would hang the Almanac in their outhouse to provide family members with both reading material and toilet paper.

Thomas served as editor until his death on May 19, 1846. As its editor for more than 50 years, Thomas established The Old Farmer’s Almanac as America’s “most enduring” almanac by outlasting the competition.”

We’ve gotten the annual Old Farmer’s Almanac for years and find that it’s weather forecast is usually right.  Interesting to note that “in 2008, the Almanac stated that the earth had entered a global cooling period that would probably last decades. The journal based its prediction on sunspot cycles. Said contributing meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo, “Studying these and other factor suggests that cold, not warm, climate may be our future.”

With the exception of the blistering hot summer of 2010, this would be true of the Shenandoah Valley.   So far, March has mostly been chilly here, and I see the Almanac is calling for a cooler than normal spring, also a slightly cooler than normal summer. We shall see, but they’re probably right.