20. Myrrha becomes a tree

Once upon a time, Cinyras, the king of Cyprus, was deceived by his daughter Myrrha, to consort with her. When he found out the deception, he was about to kill Myrrha, but she escaped in the dimness of the night.

Running away from the palace, the pregnant Myrrha travelled through pathless ways amidst bushes, fields, and forests. In aimless wanderings, she crossed Arabia of palm trees, and the Panchaean lands. As nine months had passed, she was forced to rest at Sabaea, for the burden of the unborn child in her womb, along with the burden of the guilt in her heart, had become unbearably heavy.

The constantly crying Myrrha did not know whether to pray for life or for death. If she would live, then her dead past would haunt her alive present. If she were to die, then the hopeful future would grieve her hopeless death. She could neither pray for life nor for death, and thus, with flowing tears, she prayed to the Gods to change her form, so that her flesh may not be granted either life or death.

Her prayer was heard by the answering Gods, and from her feet began to grow roots, which gave firm support, to the upwards growing trunk. Her blood became sap, arms became branches and skin turned to bark. Myrrha lost her human form and became a myrrh tree. But her crying did not stop, and her flowing tears became unending drops of myrrh that distilled from the trunk of the tree. As she had prayed, her constant crying did not grant her life, and the highly valued drops of myrrh did not grant her death.

Meanwhile, the weight of the unborn child made the myrrh tree painfully groan. Lucina took pity and she laid her hand on the tree, while uttering charms to help with the birth. The trunk cracked open, and the Naiads picked up a wailing baby-boy. They laid him on soft leaves and anointed him with drops of myrrh. The baby-boy was astoundingly beautiful, so beautiful that even envy would be forced to praise. They named the boy as Adonis.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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