Myrtle: language of flowers and plants



Myrtus communis




The myrtle plant has always been associated with the female universe and femininity.

In ancient Greece the names of many heroines and amazons all had the same root: myrtò, myrsìne, myrtìla. Myrtò was an Amazon who had fought Theseus as Myrine was the queen of the Amazons, in Libya. A prophetess of the sanctuary of Dodona was called Myrsìne who tragically died due to a nefarious response.

But also Greek and Latin mythology associate the myrtle with female divinities in fact it was the sacred plant to Aphrodite. In particular, Athenaeus tells an ancient legend that sees Erostratus as the protagonist, faithful to Aphrodite who was surprised by a storm during a sea voyage. Then the goddess appeared to him in the form of small myrtle leaves suddenly sprouting from her statue that Erostratus had with him. This fact gave courage to the sailors who thus managed to land in a safe harbor and save themselves. Once on the ground, Erostratus placed the statuette with myrtle leaves in the temple of Aphrodite and intertwined a crown of myrtle branches which from then on was called "Naucràtis" or "lady of the ships".

Myrtle has always been the symbol of fertility, so much so that Pliny had nicknamed it Myrtus Conjugalis as it was used at wedding banquets as a wish for a peaceful life full of affection.

In Cretan songs it has always represented an aphrodisiac plant, so much so that anyone who wants to be loved is urged to pick a branch.

Myrtle is also considered a plant of good omen and good luck so much so that when you had to leave to found a new colony you would gird your head with a wreath of myrtle as a wish for good luck.

However, myrtle also has a funeral meaning. In fact, in ancient Greece it was said that Dionysus, when he went down into the Hades to free his mother Semele, had to leave a myrtle plant in exchange. Since then the myrtle has represented the afterlife and the dead. This double value of the myrtle, on the one hand a solar plant and well-wishing on the other funeral plant, should not surprise in fact life and death have always been one in the universe and the funeral aspect is not to be seen in a negative sense but simply like the evolution of life.

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