Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Rosemary for asperging

Posted on by royvickery |

On visiting the magnificent church of St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, London Borough of Croydon on 16 April 2018 a small ornamental bucket of water containing a small branch of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) was observed placed on the font.

According to the church’s vicar, Fr John Pritchard, ‘the rosemary we use at the asperging [the sprinkling of a congregation with holy water] as a herb synonymous with remembering.  The use of this is quite common in Anglo-Catholic parishes (I think).  During Eastertide we asperge each week at the beginning of Mass, it is our penitential rite which reminds us that through the waters of baptism we are saved.  The congregation is asperged as a whole, so the president of the liturgy (priest) has a bucket of holy water and they walk around sprinkling the faithful.’

Thanks to Jane Lawson, who in April 2022 drew our attention to a discussion on ‘High up the Candle Anglicans’ twitter:

1.  I must admit I perhaps enjoy sprinkling (a.k.a. dousing with as much water as a sprig of rosemary can hold) our congregation with baptism water at the Easter Eucharist a little too much.  Thankfully they don’t seem to mind and I’m sure it’s good for their souls.

2. A first for me this year.  Loved it.  We had a little bouquet of mint [Mentha sp.], thyme [Thymus sp.] and rose geranium [Pelargonium sp.] – smelled divine too.

3. Rosemary represents remembrance.  It’s therefore appropriate to use it as an aspergillum for the asperges/vidi aquam.

4.  In my experience a good bough of Churchyard Yew [Taxus baccata] does a tremendous job as the tiny leaves are slightly concave and so hold more water than rosemary.  I have a former Church Warden who still hasn’t forgiven me for the dousing she got in 2017.

Updated 19 April 2022.

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