Pagan Blog Project Week 25: M is for Myrtle
Myrtle, the plant, is sacred to Aphrodite. It has been used to symbolize sex, fidelity, love, and offer protection. For me, this plant has associations of protection specific to women and children. When Apollo chased Daphne, she turned into a myrtle tree. Aphrodite often wears a crown of myrtle leaves and she punished Psyche by beating her with a myrtle branch. This slow-growing plant is sacred to women. According to folklore, myrtle will only grow if planted by a woman. This plant can be used in love magic, is especially popular for marriages, and fresh myrtle can be protective. Symbolically, myrtle can be many things.
Myrtle is also my great-grandmother, the one I called “Grandma.” She is, was she passed away in 1999 at 90, my grandfather’s mother. It’s fitting she should be name after a plant – everything about it suits her. Her home was my home, it is the home I aim to “re-create” in every house and apartment. Myrtle’s home was a home not just because of her glamorous depression glass stacked high in the china cabinet and used nightly for supper, or her 1960s era glorious rose patterned velvet sofa, nor the sun-room that I slept in under a white french knot quilt lined in windows the sills overflowing with african violets, not the crystals in the windows throwing rainbows around the room. It was home because of her flowers. Granddad was in charge of the garden she simply cooked it’s bounty. She grew flowers and I loved everything about them. The roses on the side of the house always fascinated me, all in pastel colors pinks and oranges. White “snowballs” on the side of the garage, the massive poppy and bleeding heart lived in front of the porch. Myrtle was an amazing baker natural medicine enthusiast and a wonderful flower gardener.
My great-grandmother was something else: she was also a Southern Baptist. Myrtle was deeply passionate about her religion. According to granddad, he and grandma had a lot of fun in the 1920s until she found religion. Even after religion, Grandma had a dark side: she became an alcoholic addicted to wine in the 1970s. I don’t know if her religion helped her or not, but by the time I existed no alcohol of any sort was allowed in the house: granddad kept his whiskey in the garage. My grandpa doesn’t talk about church too much, he certainly never took his children to one, nor does he in his old age care to think about starting church-going now. His mother, I’m sure of it, would be reverently praying for his soul were she still in an existence where this would be necessary. Myrtle would have disowned me and never let me set foot in her house again to see the kind of religion I practice. Despite this, I think we are alike in our spirituality. Like my grandmother, I find comfort in my religion. She knew 100% for sure she was going to heaven. She looked forward to the day she died. She planned her funeral, in detail right down to setting out her clothes completely, jewelry included, and buying the casket. It was slate-grey, blue satin with pearl details inside, if you were wondering, over ten years later I remember it. She believed that casket would take her straight to Jesus. During her last years she was afflicted with nerve pain and “attacks” (anxiety or pain I”m not sure which). I remember when she felt an attack coming on she would go to her ancient, giant bible and read Psalm 23. She knew it by heart, and by 9, I knew it by heart too. Her faith filled her and sustained her – just as my faith, however different, sustains and directs my life. For this at least, I like to think we would have an understanding; I am her blood, she is reflected in me.
Through the memory of Grandma, I am able to see parts of myself. She leads me even though she is gone through her memory still teaching me what it means to be a woman and how to live a good life. I wear her triple strand pearl necklace often, as she did. Her copy of Back to Eden was the first real book on herbalism I ever read, and even though I don’t refer to it much anymore and have what I consider “better” books, I keep it on my shelf. Through her remedies, I learned that the body itself is divine. I am able to see other religions, even those which would condemn me, finding the good. I believe all religions hold truth; I accept that not all truth is for everybody. That is the most important thing my Grandma taught me. I grow flowers for their beauty too – one day, I will plant myrtle in my yard and that is how I will know I am finally home.