The Blessing of the Herbs
Edited by LMG Calla Victoria
I just recently became acquainted with an ancient tradition which I had never heard of called "The Blessing of the Herbs." Of course being a Master Gardener and never hearing of this before I did some research.
The Blessing of the Herbs is first of all a catholic tradition, so that is one reason that I knew nothing of it. This ritual is generally celebrated on Aug 15th, which is supposedly the date of the Assumption of Virgin Mary. This blessing comes from Germany, and formulas for it are found as early as the Tenth Century. The Blessing of Herbs was reserved only to the Feast of the Assumption. Herbs had not our restricted English meaning but included all kinds of cultivated and wild flowers, especially those which in some way had a symbolic relation to Our Lady. The people brought herbs to church on her feast not only to secure for themselves, but also to make of the occasion a harvest festival of thanksgiving to God for His great bounty manifested in the abundant fruits of the earth. The herbs were placed on the altar, and even beneath the altar-cloths so that from this close contact with the Eucharist they might receive a special consecration; over and above the ordinary sacramental blessing of the Church.
It is said that according to one version of the reason for this ritual, that the other eleven Apostles believed in the Assumption because angelic music played in the air over the tomb on the day of the burial of the Virgin Mother, and for three days after. St. Thomas, arriving after the music had ceased, refused to believe them until the tomb was opened and the absence of the body confirmed. According to another version, Thomas already knew and believed in the Assumption before coming to Jerusalem, and brought the others to the tomb to show them that the Virgin’s body was gone; after which, they heard all the music together. A further addition to the story says that flowers were growing out of the stone sarcophagus in which She had been laid, and were the source of the sweet odor coming out of the tomb, confirming the Apostles’ faith in Her Assumption.
Although most Blessing of the Herbs ceremonies are held on August 15th, the New Orleans Unit of the Herb Society of America hosted their Blessing of the Herbs on Thursday, Aug. 28th, on the Eve of St. Fiacre’s feast day, just as it has for the past 16 years however this was the first time the public was invited.
According to Herb Society members, St. Fiacre is the Patron Saint of Gardeners. He was told by the bishop of the area that he could build a garden on as much land as he could clear in a single day. According to legend, angels came at night to help him, so that in the morning, a vast area had been cleared for his garden, and people came from all over to visit him and be cured.
The Herb Society’s Blessing of the Herbs took place in the Walled Garden at the beautiful Longue Vue House and Gardens. The gardens at Longue Vue were designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman in 1938. She was the first female Landscape Architect in American, and was known for her formal gardens and lush planting style.
This article is published in the September 3, 2016 issue of Data News Weekly.
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Remember, never get too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!