In medieval times medicinal herbs were blessed on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, especially in Northern Europe. The fields were also blessed that day asking God to make them fertile the next year.
At the end of the Mass for the feast, herbs were brought into the church or to a holy well and were sprinkled with water, while prayers were said thanking God for the gifts of creation. The herbs were then brought home and a sprig was placed on the wall where children slept, asking God to keep the children strong and healthy.
Why were herbs and fields blessed on the Feast of the Assumption? Mary is often identified with flowers; she’s the “flower of the field and the lily of the valley”; she brought life and the “living water” Jesus Christ into the world.
I can remember as a kid being told on the Feast of the Assumption to go into the water (in those days the Newark Bay, polluted waters now). There’s a cure in the water, my mother told me. Others I know remember being told the same thing. I’m sure my mother was following the ancient custom.
It’s a custom we could benefit from today, isn’t it? We’re connected to creation. Most of our medicines come from plants. What we eat comes from the soil. Let’s bless herbs and medicines and fields and our gardens with holy water on the Feast of the Assumption. Maybe also put a sprig over a child’s bed (or our own). We need customs to reinforce our creation connection.
I’m hoping we might bring some holy water to our Mary Garden after the 11 AM Mass on August 15th.