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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Myrtus communis | Common Myrtle

Botanical Overview of Myrtle

  • Scientific Name: Myrtus communis

  • Common Names: Common Myrtle, True Myrtle, Roman Myrtle

  • Family: Myrtaceae

  • Description: Common myrtle is an evergreen shrub that typically grows up to 2-5 meters tall. It has glossy, dark green leaves that are aromatic when crushed. The plant produces small, white or pinkish flowers with a sweet fragrance, blooming from late spring to early summer. These are followed by blue-black berries. The branches are often densely packed with leaves, giving the shrub a lush, compact appearance.

myrtus communis botanical illustration

Properties of Myrtle

  • Chemical Constituents: Contains essential oils (including myrtenol, myrtenyl acetate, and eugenol), flavonoids, tannins, and phenolic acids.

  • Edibility: The leaves and berries of common myrtle are used in culinary applications. The leaves can be used fresh or dried to flavor meats, particularly in Mediterranean cuisine. The berries are edible and can be consumed raw or used to make jams, jellies, and liqueurs such as the traditional Sardinian "mirto" liqueur.

Distribution and Habitat of Myrtle

  • Native Range: Mediterranean region, Southern Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia.

  • Preferred Habitat: Common myrtle thrives in warm, sunny environments with well-drained soil. It is often found growing in coastal regions, scrublands, and rocky hillsides. The plant is drought-tolerant and can endure dry, hot climates, making it a common sight in Mediterranean landscapes.

Medicinal Properties and Uses of Myrtle

  • Traditional Uses: In ancient times, myrtle was revered for its various medicinal properties. It was used to treat respiratory conditions, digestive disorders, and skin ailments. Myrtle leaves and berries were often made into poultices, infusions, or essential oils for these purposes. The antiseptic and astringent properties of myrtle were particularly valued in treating wounds and infections.

  • Modern Applications: Today, myrtle continues to be used in herbal medicine, particularly for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. Myrtle essential oil is used in aromatherapy to alleviate respiratory issues and enhance mood. It is also included in skincare products for its ability to tone and soothe the skin. Additionally, myrtle is studied for its potential benefits in supporting the immune system and reducing inflammation.

Magical Correspondences and Uses of Myrtle in Magical Practice

  • Element: Water

  • Planet: Venus

  • Magical Properties: Love, protection, purification, and immortality.

  • Uses: In magical practices, myrtle is cherished for its strong associations with love and protection. It is often used in love spells and rituals to attract a partner or enhance romantic relationships. Myrtle leaves and flowers can be carried, placed under pillows, or used in baths to foster affection and harmony. The plant's protective qualities make it valuable in charms and amulets designed to ward off negative energies and ensure safety. Myrtle is also employed in purification rituals to cleanse the body and spirit, promoting peace and renewal. Its connection to immortality and eternal life makes it a fitting choice for rituals aimed at honoring ancestors and celebrating life’s continuity.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Common Myrtle

  • Historical Context: Myrtle has a rich history in mythology and symbolism. In ancient Greece, myrtle was sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, and was often included in bridal bouquets and crowns. Romans also revered myrtle, associating it with Venus and using it in various ceremonies and as a symbol of love and honor.

  • Folklore: In many cultures, myrtle was believed to bring good fortune and protect against evil. Placing myrtle sprigs around the home or carrying them as charms was thought to ensure happiness and ward off harm. Myrtle was also associated with vitality and fertility, often used in rituals to promote growth and abundance.

  • Mythology: According to Greek mythology, myrtle was the favored plant of Aphrodite, who adorned herself with myrtle wreaths. This connection to the goddess of love reinforced myrtle’s symbolic ties to love and beauty. The ancient Romans extended these associations, incorporating myrtle into their own myths and rituals. In some traditions, myrtle was also seen as a plant of victory and honor, used to crown heroes and celebrate triumphs.

Historical Literary Sources

  • Pliny the Elder’s "Natural History": Provides extensive details on the uses of myrtle in Roman culture, including its applications in medicine and ritual.

  • Theophrastus’ "Enquiry into Plants": Discusses the characteristics and uses of myrtle in ancient Greek horticulture and medicine.

  • Ovid’s "Metamorphoses": References myrtle in the context of Roman mythology, highlighting its sacred status in rituals and ceremonies dedicated to Venus.


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