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Myrtus communis

In the shrubby macchia forest of the Mediterranean hills the sweet fragrance of Myrtle scents the air. The scent, both subtle and distinct, can often be detected before one spots the Myrtle tree among the evergreen oaks and heather bushes. When the tree is in flower and the delicate white blossoms beam a twinkle of joy to the passer-by, it is easy enough to spot, but without the flowers only the scent reveals its presence. In mythology, Myrtle is sacred to Aphrodite, Goddess of love and beauty. During her festival to celebrate the coming of spring, Myrtle served as her sacred herb. Myrtle wreath also adorned young brides on their wedding day and Myrtle water, also known as 'Eau d'Ange', or angel water, not only cleansed their skin, but also lent them an angelic scent. This flower water long remained an integral part of the beauty potion repertoire, though nowadays it has been almost completely forgotten.

In ancient Egypt, Myrtle was associated with the Otherworld, serving as a reminder of the eternal life of the soul. Perhaps the flowers were seen as the fleeting beauty of incarnate existence, for the divine scent rests in the evergreen leaves, rather than the flowers, which soon perish and give way to bitter, dark blue berries. The berries are edible, though not very palatable and have sometimes been used as a spice. In the days of antiquity Myrtle was considered a valuable healing plant. Modern herbalists neglect this herb, but aromatherapy is bringing it back to our awareness.