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Menthe, the naiad nymph


In ancient Greece, there were gods and minor gods who had responsibility over earth and all those who dwelt upon it.  Naiades were of the type nymph, a set of minor goddesses.  They were responsible for the care of plants and animals of their domain.  Some were also responsible for the waters or springs.

Naiades were thought to have powers.  Some had prophetic powers.  Others had powers of the occult.  It has been said that some could give men the gift of poetry.  They also have been attributed with such powers as healing the sick.  They were worshiped because of these powers and because they were associated with water which gave life to vegetation that in turn gave life and blessings to people.

The waters or springs that the Naiades cared for were also thought to have powers.  If one drank the water, one could be inspired.

Although they were minor gods, they were important and as such were  invited to and attended the assemblies of the gods on Mount Olympus.  There they mingled with the major gods.  Some of the major gods took particular notice of the Naiad nymphs and sometimes the major gods and the minor gods would fall in love with each other.

Menthe was a Naiad nymph of Mount Minthe on Elis in Southern Greece.  She caught the eye of the great god of the underworld; Hades, who was also known as Pluto.  The two names: Hades and Pluto are representative of the two attitudinal aspects that are attributed him.  Hades was thought of as being dark, evil, and violent.  He had stolen Persephone for his wife and in the process, depending on who is telling the tale, raped her.  Few temples and religious ceremonies were dedicated to his name.

However, when people spoke of Pluto, they spoke of him in positive terms, dedicated temples and religious ceremonies to him.  They further spoke of him as being a loving husband to Persephone; the woman his name was invoked with during the religious ceremonies.  Although he ruled the underworld, he is portrayed positively as the god of wealth since precious and expensive minerals came from the depths of the earth.  He was also thought of as life-giving since seeds are planted in the ground and spring forth with food for the people.

Since it is the aspect of Hades that is negative, dark, and questionable, we have to assume that it was in this state that Hades came to fall in love with Menthe.  And, it is in this state (as Hades), that Persephone must have found them together and reacted in a wildly jealous manner violently stomping on Menthe until her death.

In one version, Hades, could not bear to see the death of his beloved Menthe and, therefore, to save her life, he turned her into the fragrant plant that we know as mint.  As this plant,she would always be pleasantly sweet (if in fragrance only) and he could keep her near him always without further offending his wife.  Turning her into a mint plant also served to appease Persephone who imagined people trampling upon Menthe throughout eternity as justice for her treacherous actions with her husband.

This is how it is explained that mint came about.  It is an interesting story to think of when you are doing something with mint.  In following posts, I’m going to write more about mint and the role that it plays in my life.