For you there’s rosemary and rue. These keep

Seeming and savor all the winter long.

Grace and remembrance be to you both,

And welcome to our shearing.

Act IV Scene IV, The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare

History of Rosemary

Rosemary, like lavender, is a well-known and easily accessible herb with a long history of medicinal and culinary uses. Associated with protection, cleansing, and especially remembrance, rosemary has been used for centuries as a symbolic way to remember those who have gone, as well as to literally help with the memory. Rosemary is a magickal herb with a plethora of practical and energetic applications, each of which taps into this herb’s unique design, flavor, scent, and energies. Let’s look at the wonderful, festive rosemary!

Dew of the Sea

Rosemary’s official name is Salvia rosmarinus. Rosmarinus in Latin means “dew of the sea”, a poetic name for a this plant which is native to the Mediterranean region. Salvia refers to the Latin salveo, meaning “to save/heal”, and so we can see by the official name of the herb that it was associated with healing. There is also a legend which tells of Aphrodite wearing a wreath of rosemary when she rose from the sea, giving this herb an association with love as well as the ocean.

The common name in English, rosemary, was drawn from this Latin name, but it has its own associations. (Isn’t it interesting how languages exchange and put meaning on things!?). The story says that the rosemary plant is named as such because of the Virgin Mary, who hid among the rosemary when fleeing to Egypt. She draped her blue cloak on the bush, turning the flowers blue, and hence, the herb was named “Mary’s Roses”, which morphed into Roses of Mary, hence rosemary.

Rosemary also has a few common names, such as herb of crowns, compass-weed, and polar plant.

History & Uses of Rosemary

Rosemary has been around for a long time. It was first mentioned in cuneiform tablets from 5000 BC and has been found in the tombs of Ancient Egypt and like many other herbs, was included in De Materia Medica, authored by Discorides. The first record of rosemary in Britain was in 1338, in a letter and cuttings were sent to Queen Phillipa, and the plant was grown in the royal garden. Its likely that rosemary existed in the country before this, however this is the first formal reference.

Rosemary boasts many medicinal uses throughout history, many of which have been unsubstantiated. One such use was to cure baldness and dandruff. Interestingly enough, in the essential oil community, rosemary is often suggested for hair rinses for this very reason. Rosemary was also used to treat a paralyzed queen, as well as skin and respiratory problems. In quite a few pieces of literature, such as Don Quixote and works by Charles Dickens, rosemary is described as an ingredient in healing balms and concoctions.

Rosemary has always been used as a fragrance ingredient. The Egyptians used it in their unguents, it was rubbed on the body as perfume in ancient Greece and Rome, and was used as a smudging and incense ingredient to add its distinct clean scent to rooms in the home or purify ‘sick rooms’.

Rosemary is used to flavor many foods, such as meats and vegetables. It was probably used to cover up the scent and flavor of rotten meat in the Middle Ages, but rosemary is a delightful addition to such dishes as roast chicken, pork, and lamb, as well as potatoes, carrots, and other root veggies.

Rosemary in Folklore

Rosemary is steeped in folklore with the two most prominent beliefs revolving around remembrance and love. In ancient Greece, rosemary was worn as a crown or braided into the hair of scholars to help them strengthen their focus on their studies (a form of remembering). Rosemary was also used in a more melancholic way to remember the dead. In some countries, rosemary is thrown into graves during funerals and placed on top of coffins before being buried. Rosemary sprigs were also worn during memorials or remembrance days, especially for those lost during war.

Rosemary was also associated with fidelity and love. In the European Middle Ages, rosemary was worn by brides as a symbol of this fidelity, and often a rosemary bush would be planted outside the newlywed’s home to bring luck to the marriage. A common saying sprung up from this practice, “where rosemary flourishes, the lady rules”, and the running joke is that husbands would uproot the rosemary bushes in the garden as an act of rebellion against this line of thinking. Finally, one folk believe said that if you touched a person with a sprig of rosemary that was in bloom, they would fall in love.

Like many other herbs, rosemary was placed under pillows for protection and to ward off nightmares or spirits. It was thought that if you carried a rosemary twig you could ward off the evil eye, and if you hung twigs of rosemary over a cradle you would keep fairies from taking your child.

One final folklore believe ties into the Christian association of the name. It was believed that rosemary bushes lived for 33 years, the age of Christ when he died.

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of rosemary reflect the history and folklore associations above. Rosemary is a hardy and sturdy plant, with clear, strong magickal properties. It can be used in the spellwork for:

  • Protection or purification
  • Spells having to do with memory – that is focus, strong mental ability, and clarity
  • Spells or rituals of remembrance
  • Love spells – romantic and familiar
  • Spells for self-love and for empowerment

Some practical suggestions for using rosemary in your practice are to create a crown out of rosemary springs for a spell or ritual calling for or necessitating focus and mental ability. Placing rosemary in a sachet or charm for a presentation or job that requires the same. Performing a ritual or even divination with rosemary strewn about. Using rosemary essential oil to scent a sacred space. Including rosemary in an incense or burning it to purify a space. Wear rosemary as a token of remembrance, or wear it (or give it as part of a corsage/bouquet) during a wedding or handfasting ceremony. Use a rosemary herbal rinse to induce focus and memory retention. Simply keeping rosemary in your garden or home to protect and ward off negativity. Because Yule is approaching, you may also consider using rosemary in your decorations for this sabbat.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Rosemary Recipe

For this recipe I chose a dish that is hearty and comforting. Rosemary is often considered a winter herb as it stays vibrant and aromatic during the colder months, therefore I chose a recipe that can be made on the chilly winter evenings and even for the upcoming holidays as a side dish. This recipe is for regular potatoes, but you can probably use the same rosemary seasoning for sweet potatoes, carrots, cauliflow er, or any other kind of vegetable depending on your food needs.

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

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