Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


2014-05-04 14.49.46

1.  Plant rosemary by the door for luck.  Smell rosemary to remember.  The members of my family with long, thick hair used rosemary steeped in hot water for use as a hair detangling rinse.  This was in El Cerrito, California in the early 1970s [Starke, Florida, U.S.A., April 2015].

2.  From my Mum and Nan. My Mum was born in Hednesford, Staffs, and my Nan was born in Colton, near Rugeley, Staffs … Rosemary for dandruff, to get rid of it, not to give it to you obviously! [e-mail, April 2012].

3. There was an old rosemary bush in the garden and small twigs were broken off and put into a saucepan to boil up in water that was used to wash my hair [Eardiston, Worcestershire, April 2012].

4. ‘In the Cathedral [Derby] they sprinkle us with rosemary branches dipped in water in remembrance of our baptismal vows.’
‘When do they do that?’
‘Frequently.’ [Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, August 2003].

5. Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary, was grown for good luck. The luck was stronger if the plant was received as a gift [St Martin, Guernsey, April 2002].

6. Rosemary – smell for headaches [South London Botanical Institute, March 1997].

7. Rosemary is an essential part of a bride’s bouquet in the then Yugoslavia.  A gentleman of that nationality called on my mother, years ago, and asked if he could have a sprig of rosemary from her hedge, as he had been unable to find any for his dauaghter’s wedding anywhere else [Brodesley, Worcestershire, October 1996].

8. Never buy rosemary; it should be given to avoid bad luck [Grosmont, Gwent, November 1994].

9. I have always referred to rosemary as the plant of friendship [Charmouth, Dorset, January 1994].

10. When I was at school our teacher always gave us a piece of rosemary – for remembrance – before exams [Natural History Museum, London, December 1991].

11. I was born in 1943, towards the end of the War, and lived at Halstead in Essex until the summer of 1959 …
Rosemary – a bush of this in the garden is said to keep away witches and goblins, or even the Devil [Stowmarket, Suffolk, August 1989].

12. Some people considered it unlucky to grow rosemary. I imagine it may be because if it did well it meant that ‘the woman wore the trousers’ [L’Ancresse, Guernsey, April 1984].

Images:  main, cultivated, St Mary’s churchyard, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, November 2015; upper inset, sprigs left at the base of St Saviour’s war memorial, Southwark, London, May 2014; middle inset, planted around war memorial, St Lawrence’s churchyard, Eyam, Derbyshire, August 2023; third inset, cultivated, Crewe station, Cheshire, May 2015; lowest inset, bunches of rosemary and olive (Olea europaea) for sale at a florist’s stall in Mercado de Bolhāo, Porto, Portugal, Saturday 23 March 2024, for use on Palm Sunday the following day, when olive alone seemed to be the most popular ‘palm’.