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"Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree." Isaiah 55:13.
Myrtle is mentioned in the bible in connection with peace. (Nehemiah 8, 15 and Zacharia 1,8 and 11.) It was often included in wedding bouquets and headdresses. It was used to make a powder for babies, a skin tonic called 'Angel Water' and to fight cancer.
Myrtle is the symbol of divine generosity. According to one interpretation, when "Adam was expelled from Paradise he was allowed to take with him wheat, chief of foods, the date, chief of fruits; and the myrtle, chief of scented flowers"
It was held sacred to the Goddess of Love in ancient times. .
The Greeks considered it to be a symbol of love and immortality. It was so important that myrtle leaves formed the crowns of winners of early Olympic games.
According to Greek mythology, the nymph Daphne turned herself into myrtle to avoid the attentions of Apollo. Myrtle was considered a symbol of love, peace, a happy married life and was sacred to Aphrodite in ancient Greece. Winners at the Olympic Games were crowned with wreaths of myrtle. Church floors are still strewn with myrtle at Easter time. The Romans garlanded poets and playwrights with myrtle.
History.— The myrtle has been held as the emblem of honor and authority, and was worn by the Athenian judges in the exercise of their functions. It constituted the wreaths of the Grecian and Roman victors, in the Olympian and other festivities. Scriptural allusions to it are abundant, and to the Jews it was a token of peace, and entered into bridal decorations. It is a Mohammedan tradition that it was among the pure things carried by Adam from out the Garden of Eden. The leaves, berries, and twigs have been employed in flavoring food and wines, and the leaves are said to furnish a good tea (see Willis, Practical Flora).
The French distill an aromatic water from the leaves and flowers which they call eau d'ange. Myrtle was one of the medicinal plants of the ancients, and was practically obsolete in modern therapeutics until revived, in 1876, by Delioux de Savignac. In Mexico the Myrtus Arroya, Kunth, is substituted for myrtle. Its leaves contain a volatile oil and tannin.
Hebrew: hadas) Myrtus communis It is abundant in certain localities of the Middle East. This plant was sacred to Venus and the name was taken from the Greek word meaning "perfume." Its Hebrew name means "sweetness." This plant was prized for its fragrant leaves and from it were made wreaths to crown the nobility. The Jews collect the boughs to adorn sheds and booths during the Feast of Tabernacles. It bears beautiful white flowers and its scent is considered more exquisite than that of the rose. Myrtle was carefully cultivated by the Romans of ancient times. In modern times the leaves have been used in Italy as a spice, and in Syria all parts of the plant are dried for their perfume.
Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
The Romans believed that a person standing under a laurel (Laurus nobilis) would be shielded from infection by plague and also from lightning. During the Middle Ages, laurel was believed to provide protection against both lightning and witches [Lust, 1990]. The related myrtle (Myrtus communis) was an important tree in religious rituals and ancient festivities. The ancient Persians regarded the myrtle as a holy plant. In Egypt, women wore blossoms of myrtle, pomegranate and lotus on festive occasions. To the Jews, the myrtle was a symbol of peace; to the ancient Greeks, it was sacred to the god Aphrodite; and to the Romans, it was sacred to Venus [deWit, 1967].