July 21st, 2010

Rosemarie is for remembrance, between us daie and night

An unhinged Ophelia (Kate Winslet) recalls that rosemary is
traditionally for remembrance, in Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh, 1996).

A rose by any other name:

The botanical name Rosmarinus is derived from the old Latin for ‘dew of the sea’, a reference to its pale blue dew-like flowers and the fact that it is often grown near the sea. (Garden Guides)

Rosemary for memory:

Rosemary is said to stimulate the memory; both Greek and Roman students wore garlands of Rosemary to further learning in their studies. Rosemary also has a strong association with marriage and it was traditional for brides to carry sprigs of Rosemary in wedding bouquets; this was originally for its aromatic properties. Today, Rosemary is also associated with death; some European countries carry Rosemary at funerals and throw the herb into the grave. (Suite 101: Rosemary)

To wear a wreath of rosemary into an exam would be a fun tradition to uphold, I think.

I was looking for some kind of natural mosquito repellent and I read online some claims of rosemary to that effect. So I steeped a heaped teaspoon of dry rosemary in about 3/4 a mug of hot water, for an hour or so — maybe a bit longer. I strained the solution into a small atomizer in order to spray it on my skin before bed. And, lo and behold, I haven’t gotten a bite since, except for a night when I forgot to use it. I admit that’s hardly conclusive scientific evidence, but so far so good.

Rosemary in English folklore:

Rosemary was also popular as a Christmas decoration, an all-purpose disinfectant, and even as a hair rinse. As late as the 1990s people were still calling it the ‘friendship bush’: ‘You always had to plant rosemary in your garden so that you wouldn’t be short of friends’ (Vickery, 1995: 318). Nevertheless, a parallel belief states that rosemary only thrives where the woman of the house is dominant. A much older tradition, reported by Nuttall, holds that rosemary plants never grow taller than the height of Christ when he was on earth, and that when they are 33 years old their upward growth stops. (answers.com)

As for Rosmarine, I lett 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; whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our buriall grounds.

— Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) (Suite101: Remembering Rosemary)

More info about rosemary’s alleged medicinal uses at suite101.

Rosemary at Wikipedia.


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