The Symbolism of Myrtle

The Symbolism of Myrtle
For ancient people, myrtle was a very symbolic plant.

Traditionally, the plant has been used in bridal wreaths and bridal bouquets, and was also worn during wedding feasts. Couple always wore wreaths of myrtle at weddings. The plant represented undying, everlasting love, matrimony, fertility, fidelity, and constancy.

For those reasons, ancient people planted myrtle by the door so the residents would experience love and peace. The ancient Romans and Greeks drank myrtle tea as a means of preserving their love. In Britain, bridal bouquets included a stem of myrtle, which would later be planted in the couple’s garden by the bridegroom.

In the language of flowers, myrtle was considered “a flower of love.” Roni Jay, author of “Sacred Flowers,” describes myrtle as “the flower of the gods.”

Myrtle also came to represent peace in ancient times. The Sabines and Romans finalized a peace treaty under a myrtle tree.

Myrtle branches were burned in temples as a sacrifice. In ancient Rome, myrtle branches were placed on items used in sacrifices and were also used to adorn household altars.

The Graces, who served as attendants of Venus, wore chaplets of myrtle. Venus, the patrol deity of Pompeii, was most closely associated with myrtle. According to the poet Ovid, Venus arose from the sea at Cythera and landed on the shore where she used myrtle to conceal her body from the satyrs who were chasing her.

The plant was traditionally planted around the temples of Venus. Due to all the widespread use of myrtle by the ancient Romans, it is no surprise to learn that during the archaeological excavations of Pompeii that the archaeologists found a large bowl of myrtle berries at the site.

Myrtle was seen as a sign of victory through diplomacy and mediation.

Myrtle was initially the very first plant to be used in Rome for triumphs during which the conquering hero was crowned with the plant. However, at a later time laurel replaced myrtle during these events.

Patrick Faas, author of “Around the Roman Table,” writes about two prophetic myrtle plants that grew in front of the temple of Romulus in Rome. These represented the two political parties—the patricians and the plebians. The plant of the party that was out of power would wither, while the other would flourished. Later, when the Roman republic ended and the all- powerful emperors assumed power both myrtles died.

According to the Old Testament, myrtle was viewed as a sign of peace. The Jews interpreted the plant as a symbol of justice. Legend says that Adam gave Eve a sprig of myrtle, and she gave him an apple.

The prophet Isaiah was often depicted with a branch of myrtle. The Bible says that myrtle “shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off.”

The plant has also been associated with the Virgin Mary and in this case was seen as representing piety and humility.

In ancient Greece, the statesmen wore wreaths made of myrtle, which symbolized their authority. In Persia, the sacred fires were kept going by feeding them myrtle branches, while the priests wore crowns of myrtle.

Myrtle also came to have symbolic meetings during funerals. This was due to the fact that Dionysus brought branches of myrtle into Hades when he went to free Semelo, his mother, who had been killed by Jupiter’s thunderbolts. So, the plant came to be used during funerals, particularly as wreaths.

Myrtle also became a symbol of youth and beauty. People wore the flowers in their hair for dances and feasts.

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