Fortify and Support Yourself in Challenging Times
I have always loved Rosemary, but I have recently noticed myself being drawn to it more deeply.
Rosemary bushes grow everywhere in the region where I grew up in the UK. I believe it has something to do not only with the soft southern English climate (rosemary hates the snow) but also the chalky soils.
As a child, I would pinch off the fresh shoots and eat them. I adored the taste, which is difficult to describe. A mixture of tea and pine is the closest I can get.
Rosemary has a long history of use and relationship with humans. It comes from the Mediterranean regions of Northern Spain and Portugal and from there spread across the Alps to the rest of Europe.
By the middle ages, Rosemary was a common herb in gardens and monasteries.
Although most people relate rosemary to food, its principal original use was ritualistic. According to Cleene and Lejeune’s ‘Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe’, ‘rosemary played a part in the cult of Aphrodite and Venus.’ (1)
It is still today considered a plant of love and used in bridal bouquets symbolizing, luck, remembrance and, of course, love.
In Germany, the bride apparently hid a sprig of rosemary in the groom’s hat to protect her marriage and in Poland, brides hid a sprig in their bosom to make sure her husband stays loyal to her.
Rosemary also has a strong connection with death. A twig of rosemary was found in an Egyptian grave alongside a mummy in the late 1500’s by Prosper Alpinus, a physician and botanist.
The Romans also used rosemary sticks in burial, by laying them out on the place where the body was burned (1). All over Europe sprigs of rosemary were carried by the mourners at funerals or laid on the dead body. The reason for this was not just symbolic but also because rosemary has powerful antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties thus helping to conserve the dead body and purify the air. Rosemary was often planted in graveyards in England. It looks like a small conifer and remains green all year round, symbolizing eternity.
One of the properties that rosemary is well known for is memory. Cleene and Lejeune’s research states that it was used this way often between the 15th and 18th century. Again, we see how the ancients were able to tune into a plant’s wisdom without having scientific studies. The studies today support rosemary’s use for enhancing mental capacity. A 2017 study on rosemary essential oil and memory showed that inhaling rosemary essential oil increased the memorization of numbers. (2)
What is really interesting to me regarding rosemary are its strengthening properties. It is very dynamic and along with fortifying one’s mental capacity, it also has a strengthening effect on the nervous system. In this time on intense change and radical reflection triggered by Covid-19 and all it implies, rosemary is amazing support when you feel like the inner fire has gone out, when depressive thoughts and lethargy start to take over. Rosemary’s strength stimulates the circulation, heating up not just our physical being, but our souls and helping us re-align in these times that are pushing us off center.
“This yang oil provides support when you feel sluggishness, or mental fatigue. It helps you attain mental structure and evaluate possibilities.” (3)
We are definitely being asked to re-evaluate our lives and our direction, both on an individual and collective level at the moment and rosemary is here for us. I feel its support on many levels, as if it reminds our physical, mental and emotional bodies to keep the energy moving, to avoid stagnation and lethargy and to keep our fingers on the pulse of life. Change happens first within each of us individually. When I have been feeling lost or lonely recently, rosemary has given me the spark of enthusiasm that I needed to remember that I am lucky to have this life.Even if the direction forward is less clear at the moment, when the heart and mind work together and I feel the life force that is my birthright, I know anything is possible.
- Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe by Cleene and Lejeune
- Complete Aromatherapy Handbook by Suzanne Fischer-Rizzi