The Riddles Within ‘Scarborough Fair’

Yorkshire Ballad 1889

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme have – like many other herbs – a symbolic meaning that goes back centuries: it has also been known (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme) were the main ingredients to an old witches love potion.

  • Parsley has been used as a digestant, which should take the bitterness out of certain comestibles. 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. Rosemary for remembrance.
  • Thyme symbolizes courage and thus found its way into heraldry.

Both man and woman in this ballad invoke said powers in naming these herbs: mildness to soothe the bitterness of their relationship, spiritual strength to endure being apart from each other, faithfulness and lastly encouragement, to fulfill the impossible tasks given.  Riddle – “Plough it with a ram’s horn, and sow it all over with one peppercorn”.

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