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A Little Lore: Rosemary

As a symbol, rosemary was particularly important in the remembrance of a life, consider Hamlet’s Ophelia: ‘Rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray love, remember.’ It was seen as a purifying herb and even as far back as the Ancient Egyptians it was being used in embalming rituals.

Rosemary was often placed in coffins for remembrance by mourners in early medieval Europe, or even put into the hands of the dead themselves. Dorothy Bovee Jones quoted Valmont Bomare in his Histoire Naturelle as stating “when coffins were opened after several years, branches of rosemary that had been placed in the hands of the dead were found to have grown so that they covered the corpse.” Some people even believed that the herb stopped decomposition.

Featured image credit: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

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