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Myrtle engravingMyrtus communis
A tender perennial of Mediterranean origin, the myrtle is good for love/sex magick and for protection. It was the symbol of one of the Three Graces, and along with the dove, sparrow, and swan, represented Aphrodite. On April 1, the Romans celebrated Verticordia, the day of the heart-turner, Venus (Aphrodite): Goddess of Beauty, Mother of Love, Queen of Laugher, Mistress of the Grapes. Just as her statue was bathed and decked with new jewelry, woman bathed themselves in myrtle-scented water (which is good for the skin) and wore myrtle crowns. But the men were not left out--this day was also known as Fortuna Virilis, Men's Luck.  Nymphs of the myrtle tree gave us the arts of making cheese, keeping bees, and growing olives. Myrtle has often been associated with marriage, probably because it was originally connected with sex; it was a Victorian symbol of fidelity in marriage and is still thought to bring good luck at weddings. In English folklore, a marriage will follow shortly after a myrtle blooms. The myrtle is also protective; the nymph Daphne turned herself into a myrtle to escape being raped by Apollo. In Jewish mythology, Myrtle was a woman who turned into a myrtle tree after being murdered by townspeople for being a witch; this fits with a Greek story that the myrtle was once human and was speared to death by barbarous villagers--this is why its leaves have tiny holes in them.  Myrtle is considered a good ritual remedy for when one is threatened. In the past, Jews believed that eating myrtle leaves allowed a person to detect witches, and they also thought that if leaves crackled when they were crushed in the hand, the person's lover would be faithful. It was said in the Middle Ages that the Moors (Muslim Arabs who conquered Spain) used myrtle as a strewing herb on Midsummer, and the Catholic church used it as a strewing herb at Easter.  The smoke of its wood or leaves gives a bay/rosemary flavor to grilled food, as is done in Italy and Sardinia, but don't eat the leaves themselves. Use them to flavor vinegar or marinade. The berries can be used like juniper berries, and in some cultures were a substitute for black pepper; ancient Greeks nibbled them as breath freshener, and it was said that they made a wine that did not intoxicate. Myrtle is hardy only in warm climates where it doesn't go below 25F/-4C; there it will grow to 3-5 feet in 3 years and can reach 15ft/4.5 m. The sweet-scented white flowers bloom in summer and are followed by the black edible berries. It can also be grown indoors as a bonsai (max height indoors is 3 ft) and makes a good topiary plant, but watch out, guys - according to English folklore, myrtle will grow only if a woman plants it. Top

How to grow myrtle: Soak seed for 24 hours, then sow in Jiffy-7 or put in a small amount of damp sand in a baggie and store in the coldest part of your fridge (40F/4C) for 30-60 days. Sow, and it will germinate in 14-21 days. Or sow on Winter Solstice (see special directions on the Solstice Sowing page). Once they are up, transplant to full sun or light shade and rich, moist soil. This can be grown indoors as a bonsai in a bright east window or a few inches under fluorescent lights for 16 hrs/day (shoplights work). Put outside in light shade spring-fall. Inside, use a humidity tray or mist daily besides watering. Don't let it get dried out (but watch out for overwatering!). You can prune lightly throughout the season--this plant makes a great topiary. General growing info Top

Myrtus communis
25 seeds $3.50

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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Honoring Aphrodite
Love Magick
Venus Herb

2004, 2018 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission