Herb Strewing For Deodorizing, Protecting Health and Remembering Wedding Vows
In England there was an official profession called the "Royal Herb Strewer". This was a hand me down title derived over the centuries from the Romans who had similar positions for the presentation of the Emperor to the massses. One of the primary duties of the Roman Strewer was to lead the Emperor's entourage down the stone roads strewing herbs, generally rosemary, in front of the Emperor and his entourage. As the Emperor's entourage marched they crushed the rosemary and out wafted the "Imperial Scents" of the Emperor. Not only practical but one of the first uses of fragrance for marketing purposes.
The primary duties of the Royal herb strewer included distributing herbs and flowers throughout the royal apartments in order to mask the unpleasant odors of living in a city. The Royal family often had many residences within the city and the sanitation practices, or lack thereof, made the smells unbearable. Many herbs were used, along with straw for their aromatic and insect repelling properties.
Horses and other livestock were crucial to the Royal family. The stable areas would use straw for the absorbent properties and herbs such as pennyroyal for the insect repelling properties spread liberally throughout the stable areas. The animals were allowed an area to rest without the incessant insect biting and once the Royals were ready to move on the fleas and other insects would not attack them as they saddled on the horses or in the carriages.
Strewing herbs were used in all areas of the households, not only by the Royalty but also the common masses. The dining, kitchen and bedrooms were liberally strewn with herbs adding to the environmental enjoyment. Also since the masses often lived in houses with thatched roofs, it was important to keep the insects living in the roofs from venturing down into the home. Insect repelling fragrances would waft upward and the roof was not the best place for the insects to live. As the family members walked on the herbs in the home the fragrances were released and upwards they went, not only to the delight of the residents, but to the detriment of the fleas and ticks.
The attire of the day was often women wearing long, voluminous skirts that trailed behind them. Rather than having grass lawns it was common to have lawns liberally planted with thyme, Thymus serphyllum, and the long tails would pick up the essential oils on the dress after the lady had walked over the thyme and released the fragrant oils. The smell was rather pleasant, and some of the oils were captured and retained by the long dress prolonging the delightful scents.
The "planted seat" was also designed to scent clothing. It was created of carved stone and appeared much like a heavy church pew. The seat was hollowed out into a cavity about 6 inches deep and into this was packed earth planted with either chamomile or thyme. When a person sat down and crushed the plants, resulting oils soaked into breeches or skirts. The seat would be replenished as needed but did require high degree of maintenance to keep it watered and fertilized. Eventually potpourri would replace the "live planted seat" and the potpourri changed seasonally.
One of the common practices today of herb strewing is in weddings where once again rosemary is strewn, rather than throwing rice. Of course the rosemary smells better but the real reason is the historical reason for rosemary, the herb of remembrance.
Remember those wedding vows!!!
Bob Johnson is HerbFest.net and HerbFest founder.
Herbfest has a free interesting weekly snippet of herbal lore and legend sent to subscribers on interesting tidbits of herbal history. The phrases, "caught red handed", getting the "cold shoulder", eating "humble pie" are discussed in the historical context. Also receive herbal tips, cooking recipes, herb crafting tips for free. To sign up go to: http://tr.im/ha5x.
The Herbfest is held in Wake Forest, N.C. for 10 days starting the first Friday following April 15th yearly. It's family friendly, lifestyle festival with free herbal seminars ranging from cooking to medicinal, organic composting and organic gardening.
Foods on site are herbally inspired, local microbrewery beers available, live free entertainment and the largest selection of organically grown herbs and vegetables East of Mississippi. For more information go to the web site, http://www.herbfest.net
The phone number for the HerbFest is 1-800-937-3993, toll free.