THE LEGEND OF MYRHHA
The Legend of Myrhha 17 September 2016
Revered since the past 5000 years, myrhh has been used for medicinal to devotional purposes. Perhaps the most enduring memory of myrhh has to be when it was one of the three gifts the wise man carried to offer the baby Jesus.
When a tree wound penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the myrhh gum is emitted and is harvested to be used. It has a bitter aroma. Through history, it has been used in perfumery, incense and medicine and can even be used in the culinary arts, when mixed with wine.
Such a long history would yield certain lore and perhaps the most iconic, and tragic, is that of Myrhha. The daughter of King Cinyras and Queen Cenchreis of Cyprus, Myrhha claimed she was more beautiful than Aphrodite. Upset that a mere mortal sought to overthrow Aphrodite’s power, the goddess instilled in the girl an unnatural attraction towards her father.
Myrhha tried to take her own life to escape the torture but was stopped by her nursemaid who aided her in deceiving her father by getting into his bed. When he found out, he was justifiably enraged and tried to kill her. Full of remorse, a pregnant Myrhha escaped to the desert for nine months. Zeus finally took pity on her and turned her into a tree – neither living nor dead as the crime was too severe for either realm.
At the time of the delivery, she was aided by Lucina and her nymphs, who bathed the baby boy in the tree’s fragrant ‘tears’ – myrhh. The boy grew up to be Adonis, desired by both Aphrodite & Perspephone that created a rift between them. The situation was resolved when Zeus decreed it so that Adonis must be in the mortal realm for six months and in the underworld for the next six.
So as it is said, the tree weeps bitter & fragrant tears of guilt that are often converted to incense – an offering to appease the Gods for Myrhha’s sin.