Beyond the juvenile "I love you" teddy-bears, the kitchy sentimental magnets and Hallmark postcards, Valentine's Day is just another chance to celebrate that which should be celebrated each day of the year: true love. And what is love but that force that surpasses all obstacles, all hindrances, to make possible the impossible?
In that vein and collaborating with The Non Blonde, my friend in arms Gaia, today we embark on a small homage to the world's most powerful god of them all: Eros or Cupid!
My first acquaintance with Scarborough Fair, the 16th century folk love ballad, had been in the version (immortally) sung by Simon & Garfunkel (contrapuncted with Canticle, a song about a soldier) in the iconic film of the 1960s The Graduate. Who can forget it, put into that memorable segment of chasing after phantoms? Yet other versions might focus our attention more to one "fragrant" passage in it, namely the line "parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme" which gets told and retold throughout.
More than meets the eye, Scarborough Fair talks about Love Magick. It talks about a couple who have been estranged: She has left him, he yearns for her and to rekindle their love, all delivered in a lengthy message over the song ("remember me to one who lives there, for once she was a true love of mine"), they exchange challenges consisting of impossible tasks which would prove they still have love for each other: she has to sew a cambric shirt with no seams or needle work, then wash it in a dry well, or find an acre of land between the sea and sand. Is it a reaffirmation of his pain or can love do the impossible?
Thyme: Girls once used thyme sprigs in ceremonies to discover the identity of their true loves. A more upscale lady of Medieval times would embroider a flowering thyme sprig along with a visiting bee as a token to be given to a favored knight. A woman wearing thyme was once held to be irresistable.
Sage: Sage was once used to help childless couples conceive, and is associated with wisdom and longevity in plant lore. It was also used magically to honor weddings and to ensure domestic harmony.
Rosemary: Was once held to represent love and faithfulness. The plant was used in wedding ceremonies in place of rings as a sign of fidelity, and carried by newlyweds and wedding guests as a charm for fertility. But it also has the meaning of remembrance, as Shakespeare noted in Hamlet 'there's rosemary for remembrance.' Often used in love potions, it is also said to attract elves.
Parsley: It was once believed that only witches and pregnant women could grow this herb--Sow parsley, sow babes, was an old expression. The herb has been associated with witchcraft in England and also with death since ancient times. But more importantly, it is said to provoke lust and love.
Additionally, these herbs have long stood as "messages" to higher ends: Thyme stands for devotion, sage implies dependancy, rosemary (as Ophelia well knew) stands for remembrance, while parsley denotes a desire to procreate with said partner.
Keeping in mind these fragrant succulent herbs enter into many a delicious recipe (or even a scented herbal tea which lovers can share), perhaps the modern herbalism could recreate a powerful love potion, not only for Valentine's Day but for every day!
Music takes into other places as well, where the impossible is taking shape:
"Whatever love dreams,
life lets them stay dreams.
But whoever falls in love
turns pain into a prayer,
turns the kiss into a boat
and leaves abroad..."
True love is nevertheless often denied...due to inexperience. Or supressed manners. As in Lucy's and the reverent's case in E.M. Forster's A Room with a View (1985) where the possible becomes impossible for no apparent reason at all...until it dawns on her in the end.
Or it can be denied because it's just seems wrong. When it's possibly the only right thing in a messy situation.
My own perfume preferences for Valentine's Day wearing?
Grand Amour by Annick Goutal: Because "love is everything" and he never fails to notice.
Passion by Annick Goutal : Because he loves it so...
Molinard de Molinard : Because this was his first fragrant gift to me and it holds precious memories.
Amaranthine by Penhaligon's : Because a little skank never hurt no relationship.
Don't forget to visit Gaia's blog to read her own musings.