We usually associate rosemary with remembrance, and it had this meaning in early modern England too, when sprigs of rosemary were dropped into graves. But it also signified fidelity and played an important role in weddings.
A bride wore sprigs of rosemary pinned in her hair, and her attendants tied rosemary to their arms with ribbons. That night, her maids (bride’s maids) would hide the rosemary under their pillows and hope to dream of their future husbands. The bride cup that led the wedding procession was often adorned with a branch of rosemary, and rosemary leaves were scattered on the sheets for the wedding night.
As today, rosemary had many uses. It was valued for its fragrance and in cooking, and was considered to have a number of medicinal properties. ‘It is an herb of as great use with us as any whatsoever, not only for physical, but civil, purposes,’ says Nicholas Culpeper. It helped, he thought, ‘all cold diseases, both of the head, stomach, liver, and belly’. Not only that: ‘This herb is good for a dull and melancholy man to make use of; for, if they take the flowers, and make them into a powder, and bind them on the right arm in a linen cloth, this powder, by working on the veins, will a man more merry than ordinary.’