Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Mint, and love in the Underworld

The first M colors that came to mind were Maroon and Magenta, but neither of them yielded any exciting stories. And then I remembered Mint.
Mint is a soft, light green color named after a plant with a very specific, strong scent, usually associated with freshness and chewing gum. When I was little, I remember rolling around in a mint patch during a class hiking trip, enjoying the scent.

The story associated with mint comes from Greek mythology. It tells us about Minthe, a nymph from the river Cocytus (one of the five rivers of the Underworld), who was in love with Hades, the Lord of the Dead. They were lovers for a while, but unfortunately Hades also happened to be (un)happily married to Persephone, who found out about the affair, and was not thrilled. She turned the nymph into a small, plain green plant and walked away. Hades, who could not reverse the transformation, have the gift of divine scent to Minthe to soften the blow.
In ancient Greece mint was associated with funeral rites, along with other spices and herbs that had a strong enough scent to mask the smell of a dead body.

As simple as this story is, I kind of like it for a few reasons. One of them is that I have never been crazy about Hades and Persephone. The whole "kidnap my niece and force her to marry me" just sounded disturbing to me. On the other hand, I kind of find it adorable that someone can have a crush on the Lord of the Dead. In some versions of the story I have found Minthe watched Hades from far away before she approaches him with her feelings. There is someone out there for everyone.

For one of my favorite literary characters, Minty Fresh, see the books A Dirty Job and Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore.


  1. Hello there. I love the smell of fresh mint. If you boil it with ginger and cinnamon sticks, it's good for an upset tummy too. Thanks for sharing. All the best with the challenge!
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  2. I've not heard of Minthe before. I'm not sure having a lovely smell makes up for being turned into a plant though :). Still is was nice of Hades to try, I suppose.
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  3. I love the smell of mint...it is so refreshing! And now that I know this interesting story of Minthe it actually makes it even better in some ways :) Thanks for your thoughtful comments on my blog. Always good to hear from readers from across the world, it adds much richness to the theme I am covering :)

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  4. I never heard of the Minthe, very interesting post.

  5. I also think it's adorable that someone had a crush on the Lord of the dead. Fun could be had in telling that. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Great little myth, I didn't know that one! Thanks for sharing.

  7. This one's a new one for me. I think another good alphabet exercise would be "jilted lovers of classical mythology."

    I will drink my juleps with new appreciation thanks to you.

  8. Poor Minthe being turned into a plant, but at least Hades felt bad for her, although a nice smell is not much consolation.
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  9. I love to use mint in cooking and in drinks! I was just thinking the other day I need to make a batch of mint iced tea. :-)

  10. I had not read this one before and it is kind of touching that Hades gave her a nice scent xx

  11. I love mint too and we have many recipes that incorporate mint! I loved the story and am intrigued that Persephone was actually jealous of the alliance!


  12. I actually tried to have an herb garden last year but didn't use it as much as I thought I would.

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  13. Poor Minthe.

    I had no idea of this myth at all!

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  14. Lovely story . . . and now I'm craving mint tea.

  15. Loved reading about one of my favorite herbs - mint. I have chocolate mint and spearmint growing in my garden right now. I will treat them with special attention now that I know the Greek myth behind our sweet mint. Thank you for this post!

    Sue Kuentz

  16. I didn't know the story about Minthe, and you're right, it is kind of cute that someone loved the lord of the underworld.

    My childhood mint memory is of me taking mint leaves from the bush we had at the back of the house, wetting them down and sticking them to my skin and pretending I was one of the lizard people from "V". Heh.

  17. Maroon and magenta have a heavy connotation... mint is fresh & light...

    And yes, there is someone out there for everyone. They say that there is "a lid for every pot"...