Thinking about the title for this blog post got me thinking of (and singing) an old English ballad about the Yorkshire town of Scarborough. Scarborough Fair was made popular in our time by the famous duo, Simon and Garfunkel.
But, this tune with its medley of herbs—parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme—has nothing to do with food. The song relates the tale of a young man instructing the listener to tell his former love to perform some pretty impossible tasks. If she completes these tasks he will take her back. Often the song is sung as a duet, with the woman then giving her lover a series of equally impossible tasks, promising to give him the seamless shirt he asked for once he has finished.
Doesn’t sound like true love, does it? Was this couple testing each other to see if they were marriage material? With their lists of impossible demands, it’s no wonder they had to throw in a little parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, the main ingredients, apparently, for a love spell.
Jokes aside, it seems these herbs, like many others, have a symbolic meaning that goes back centuries:
- Parsley has been used as a digestant, which should take the bitterness out of certain foods. Some medieval physicians used this herb in a spiritual manner.
- Sage is renowned as a symbol of power.
- Rosemary represents fidelity, love and remembrance and is therefore often used in traditional wedding customs.
- Thyme symbolizes courage and thus found its way into heraldry.
Both the man and the woman in this ballad invoke said powers in naming these herbs: mildness to soothe the bitterness of their relationship (parsley), spiritual strength to endure being apart from each other (sage), faithfulness (rosemary) and lastly courage (thyme) to fulfill the impossible tasks given.
How wonderful to know that if a marriage is based on the foundation of Jesus Christ, no bride or groom will ever require these plants to be added to their wedding day bouquet or corsage.
Because of Jesus, there’ll be no bitterness brewing in their relationships and they will have the power of the Holy Spirit to give them strength for each day of their future together. Fidelity will be core to their relationship. And with God as the central part of their marriage, they will have the courage to face whatever the future holds for them.
The only other thing newlyweds will need is time (not thyme). Time to enjoy each other. Time to laugh. Time to love.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12