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Italian cypress Cupressus sempervirens pyramidalis v. stricta
Italian Cypress
This Saturn-ruled tree is associated with the Death card in Tarot and in many cultures is planted around graveyards. It was the traditional wood for making sarcophagi (coffins) in ancient Egypt because the fragrant wood resists rotting. In ancient Greece, statues of the Gods were carved from this wood. The name comes from the Greek Cyparissus, who accidentally killed a pet stag. He prayed to Apollo, his lover, to allow him to grieve forever for the loss, and the god turned him into a tree that weeps--its resin forms tears on the bark--and which would be planted around graveyards. Top

Cuparissus being turned into a cypress In fact, in Europe, coffins were built of cypress and funeral garlands and wreaths made of its branches to represent eternal life. This magick herb is sacred to Hades ("the unseen"), the god of the Underworld and thus of both death and earthly riches, who was stern, ferocious in battle, and just. Cypress is also the tree of the Blood Moon (October) and is linked to elemental Earth, not only through Hades but especially in the form of the Phrygian goddess of earth and caves, Cybele/Kybele. She ruled over the natural world, wild animals, dark magick, and revenge. Cypress represents life after death and comfort for grief. In Agrippan magick, this plant is connected to Mars, as are all fragrant woods. It is tied to the root chakra and third eye chakra.   Top

Cypress in Tuscany
Some people consider this a gloomy tree, but it has been cultivated since prehistoric times for its fragrant wood. Its stately, tall, narrow form is often found in formal gardens. It's a classic tree in Tuscany, where it is planted along country roads to yield a fragrant path shaded from the hot sun and protected from winds. This cypress yields the most fragrant of the various cypress essential oils. The tree produces a resin that can be gathered from incisions in the bark (some resin just seeps through the bark without cutting), or the needles can simply be harvested and added to incense and pot pourri. Men are especially fond of its scent, which is refreshing, restorative, calms anger, helps with concentration, and creates feelings of security. Top

Cypress along a road
Cypress is a Mediterranean tree and so can be grown outside only in the warmest parts of North America (zones 7-11, down to 10F/-20C). It can, however, be grown in large containers--it is often a topiary subject--or small pots as bonsai and brought into a cool room in winter. It makes a dense screen when planted 3 feet/1 m apart and is great for lining roads or drives. It grows slowly but becomes a big tree--some consider it too big for residential planting. It does not need to be pruned. Once it is established, in 2-3 years, it is tolerant of salt and drought, but it will get much larger if it has enough water and nutrients and will be better able to resist disease and bugs. It needs good drainage or the roots will rot. It can live to be over 1000 years old!  This tree is also known as Mediterranean Cypress, Funeral Cypress, and Tree of Death. Top

How to grow Italian Cypress: Sow outside, barely covering, in fall or winter sow. Or cold-stratify (wet a paper towel, wring out, and put the seeds between the folds of the towel; put in a baggie and keep in fridge for a month). Seed will germinate in 2-3 months after the weather warms to 20C. Watch out for damping off w/the seedlings. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun where temps do not go below 10F/-20C (zones 7-11). Or plant in a container and keep in a cool room in winter, not watering much. This tree gets 40-60ft/20-30 m high and 3-6ft/1-2m wide but grows slowly. Good for screening, lining drives, topiary, and bonsai. Leaves and tears of resin are great in dark god/dess incense. General growing info.   Top

Cupressus sempervirens v. stricta
Italian Cypress
40 seeds $3.50


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Rites of the Dead
Honoring Hades
Mars/Earth Herb

2004, 2017 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission