An exploration of this essential herb’s properties and history.
Rosemary is a common kitchen herb, known for its strong scent. Fairly easy to grow, it’s a perennial plant that loves sunlight and well-draining soil. A great many witches have this herb in their garden. However, as is true of all things, Rosemary does not solve every problem. Instead, it is known for five main uses: love/marriage; remembrance/death; protection; memory; and some healing properties. Additionally, I argue that it has the property of strength as well.
Rosemary as an herb of love:
Historically, rosemary has been used as an herb that can bind two lovers. It was believed that if rosemary was placed in the bed, it would lead lovers to be faithful. Younger people might put rosemary beneath their pillow in hope that their dreams would then reveal their true love. Bouquets and wreaths of rosemary were also common decorations at weddings.
For the modern witch, that history can prompt a great many ideas for rosemary’s use.
- Placing rosemary sachets beneath pillows, or above a bed to ensure faithfulness or marital happiness.
- Giving gifts of rosemary to loved ones
- Baking rosemary into a meal shared by lovers.
- Using rosemary skincare, bathing, or hair products in spells to invite new relationships
- Planting rosemary to invite love and faithfulness in the home
Rosemary as an herb of Remembrance:
In the past, rosemary was at times brought to funerals and cast onto the grave by mourners, set upon the grave as a wreath, or grown atop the grave itself. This symbolized how the loved one would be remembered and, when between lovers, it illustrated that their faithfulness would continue even beyond death. The presence of rosemary at a gravesite was also thought to aid the living when they later sought guidance from their ancestors.
Today, these specific historical examples can give way to a host of potential uses for this herb:
- Add rosemary to foods cooked for Samhain, or offerings for ancestors.
- Grow rosemary upon graves, or at the site ashes are spread.
- Use rosemary to decorate an ancestral altar or an altar for a deity of death
- Anoint yourself with rosemary before seeking to connect with spirits or ancestors
- Wear rosemary or rosemary products while in mourning or in remembrance of those who have passed.
- Use rosemary in food, decoration, or products when marking the passing of a significant anniversary relating to one who has passed.
Rosemary as an herb of Protection:
Rosemary has been used to protect against a great variety of problems. When placed in dog beds rosemary repels fleas, dried rosemary in a cupboard repels moths, and rosemary oil can be worn to deter mosquitoes. A hedge of rosemary grown around a coastal garden can protect interior plants from salty sea winds. And, in the past, rosemary has been burned in fireplaces to bring protection from fever and the plague.
In modern times, a witch might wish to try out a few of these older home solutions. But, more broadly, one can also see how rosemary was used to protect the home and individual from ill-health. In this way, rosemary might be used by:
- burning rosemary to cleanse a room
- growing rosemary around a property to protect the home
- setting rosemary sachets or sprigs around a space as a barrier against harmful energies
- wearing rosemary or rosemary-products to protect against minor ills or inconveniences.
Rosemary as a Healing Herb
The last section leads well to discussing the various ways Rosemary has been used to heal (do note, these are NOT replacements for professional medical attention).
- invigorating baths in rosemary can increase energy and soothe aches or scratches
- placing rosemary oil on joints is said to lessen pain from rheumatism and arthritis
- placing a heated bag of rosemary on a minor wound can reduce swelling, bruising, and risk of infection
- rosemary can be used as aromatherapy to reduce anxiety and stress
- putting rosemary based oils on the skin can improve skin tone
- using rosemary oils on the hair acts as a conditioner
- dab rosemary oil on the temple to relieve headaches
Rosemary to Improve Memory
It is said that smelling rosemary can increase the mind’s ability to retain and recall information. Due to that belief, keeping a sprig of rosemary at a desk to rub, drinking rosemary tea while studying, wafting rosemary around your study area, dabbing a bit of rosemary oil on you as you work, or burning rosemary the night before an exam are all ways one might be able to improve their memory using this herb.
Rosemary as an herb of Strength:
Without the historical stories or popular pagan associations to back me up, I add this part as my own UPG: one of rosemary’s properties is strength.
Rosemary is grown in full sun, and it’s a hardy, woody perennial. Once established, it is long-lasting and can bare a large variety of weather. It’s known for its ability to thrive on windy, salty coasts and is famous for its unforgettably strong scent and taste. For these reasons, I associate rosemary with strength. And, through this association, I connect rosemary to Tyr (in addition to the more traditional association with Frigga).
In my practice, I use rosemary when I focus on self-love, the strength to keep moving towards recovery, and protection from relapse and harmful thought patterns. In practice, this looks like:
- applying rosemary to my skin during prayer
- coating prayer candles in rosemary oil
- using rosemary on my hair and when drying clothes in order to carry the scent throughout the day as a reminder of my promises and goals
- charging sigils and runes regarding recovery with rosemary oil
- drinking rosemary tea when repeating daily affirmations and prayers.
Rosemary is a powerful and versatile herb, known for love, remembrance, protection, memory, and its healing qualities. It’s easily used, and only toxic in medicinal quantities (use culinary quantities!). It has an interesting history of use and an enormous amount of culinary uses. It is well worth learning how cultivate rosemary in your own little garden!
French, Jacqueline. Book of rosemary. New York: Angus & Robertson, 1993
Johnson, Rebecca L., Steven Foster, and Andrew Weil. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2014