{The Legend of the Royal Myrtle}

[Reprint of magazine article by Cornelia Powell]

Simply the fragrances of flowers and scrubs—with their sensual yet other worldly effects—have launched legends throughout history. Take myrtle, Myrtus communis. Associated with both Aphrodite and Venus—the goddesses of beauty, love, laughter, protection and joy—this tender perennial of Mediterranean origin is botanical royalty! In Greek mythology, myrtle, with its small creamy-white fragrant blossoms and waxy leaves, represented the goddess Aphrodite and adorned the Three Graces, her attendants.

“Although many plants and flowers were dedicated to Venus in Roman antiquity, the myrtle was the most sacred,” according to Deirdre Larkin, author of The Art of Illumination blog for The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Indeed, myrtle was the epithet of Venus, known as the “Heart-Turner.”

“A plant of immortality, myrtle was an emblem of love and desire; poets, especially love poets, were crowned with it, and doorposts were wreathed with myrtle in nuptial celebrations,” Ms. Larkin continues. Myrtle has been greatly valued for centuries for the aromatic oils released from its leaves and is still used in precious perfumes and unguents. Women of both ancient Roman and Greek cultures bathed in healing and soothing myrtle-scented water; these baths became sacred rituals for brides to prepare for their wedding.

With such a legendary heritage, it’s no wonder that myrtle has been irresistible to brides through the ages. Prized by the Hebrews, and their emblem for marriage, Alchemy Works explains that “myrtle has often been associated with marriage, probably because it was originally connected with sex. In English folklore, a marriage will follow shortly after the myrtle blooms. It was a Victorian symbol of fidelity in marriage and is still thought to bring good luck at weddings.”
Since the eleventh century, Fulham Palace in London was the home to the Bishops of London and surrounded by rather legendary gardens (and until recently, a moat!)  “According to popular legend,” states an article in Country Life magazine, “the four myrtle bushes on the east facade of Fulham Palace, facing the gardens, were grown from cuttings taken from Queen Victoria's wedding bouquet in 1840.” The magazine article declares that “the circumstantial evidence is certainly pleasing.”

In the early nineteenth century, Fulham Palace was the official residence of Bishop Charles James Blomfeld. The story goes that he “officiated, together with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, at the Queen’s wedding. And the bishop was a keen gardener. Standing only inches away from the fragrant royal bouquet, did Bishop Blomfield find himself, as keen gardeners are so prone to do, dropping a hint?”

Fulham Palace—which has recently undergone a major renovation—is no longer a residence; part is now a museum, part is used for offices, and part is available for weddings and parties. Matthew Bates, hospitality manager, explains that the palace’s gardens, called amongst the most important in England, “include woodland, meadow, lawns, and an 18th-century walled garden—a secret spot with a knot garden of herbs, a wisteria pergola and orchard.”

It is this lush setting that those royal myrtle bushes watch over like regal goddesses. Their sweet-scented flowers—with long eyelash-like stamens—cover the scrub in early summer and become an added pleasure to the brides who gather at Fulham Palace during the season. But for brides (and indeed for all of us) who don’t have the benefit of experiencing this fragrant delight in person, the “dream interpreter” of SpiritCommunity.com reveals: “To see myrtle in foliage and bloom in your dream, denotes that your desires will be gratified, and pleasures will possess you.”

I love being reminded of Mother Nature’s far-reaching magical influence, from legendary ancient cultures to the fragrant awareness of the present moment. I also find delight in how Nature—especially through her “transportive” fragrances—reminds me that “pleasure” is such a wonderful, enlivening word…as in pleasing and awakening all the senses! (Why would I want to live any other way?)

So here’s to the beloved fragrant myrtle, to the Goddesses of Love, to the romance that fills our dreams, to the wise and playful divas in our gardens, and to the desires of the heart that are fueled by the fragrance of flowers. Go plant something aromatic today—whether from a wedding bouquet or a favorite neighborhood nursery—and launch your own legend! (And see what pleasures bloom in your dreams.) ~

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