- According to traditional lore, rosemary is a versatile little plant, and in general its uses are positive. Lines in A Nosegaie Alwaies Sweet, for Lovers to Send for Tokens of Love ... (c.1582), provide the famous definition of rosemary for remembrance, as quoted by Ophelia in Hamlet, iv. v: 'Rosemarie is for remembrance, betweene us daie and night'. Rosemary was essential at both *weddings and * funerals, and its use at the latter is partly explained by its reputation for practical rather than symbolic protection. A writer in The Monthly Packet (23, (1862), 88) describes meeting a funeral party in a West Sussex village and asking about the nosegays many of them carried, and being told that the rosemary and rue in them were 'fine things against infection'.Rosemary was also popular as a *Christmas decoration, an all-purpose disinfectant, and even as a hair rinse. As late as the 1990s people were still calling it the 'friendship bush': 'You always had to plant rosemary in your garden so that you wouldn't be short of friends' (Vick-ery, 1995: 318). Nevertheless, a parallel belief states that rosemary only thrives where the woman of the house is dominant. A much older tradition, reported by Nuttall, holds that rosemary plants never grow taller than the height of Christ when he was on earth, and that when they are 33 years old their upward growth stops.■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 332-3; Vickery, 1995: 318-19; Hazlitt, 1905: 524-6; Hone, 1832: 19-21; G. Clarke Nut-tall, 'Rosemary at Christmas', The 19th Century 98 (1925), 797-804.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.