The olive is a small evergreen fruit tree native to the Mediterranean area of Europe and the Middle East. The tree grows to about 25 to 50 feet tall with a lovely gnarled and twisted trunk and silvery, long, narrow leaves. The flowers are small, white and feathery and give way to the olive fruit, a drupe that begins green and darkens to a deep purple.
Olive trees may grow in climate zones 8-11. They need hot, dry summers and mild winters. Any freezing can damage the tree and a freeze that lasts more than a day can kill it. Too much rain can encourage fungal growth which can also kill a tree. However, olives do like a change in seasons so they can have a period of dormancy to gear up for flowering.
Olives like a sandy loam that isn’t extremely acid or basic in a sheltered, sunny spot. They do like to grow on slopes, the south side is ideal.
History and Folklore
The Latin name Olea europaea means “oil of Europe”. The name of the olive relates to the word “oil” in many languages.
According to Greek myth, the city of Athens was won by Athena in a contest with Poseidon. They were challenged to give the people the most useful gift. Poseidon’s was a salt spring and Athena’s was an olive tree. It is said that the very tree continued to grow in the Acropolis for centuries until the Persians burnt it to the ground but then the same day it grew again. The olive is sacred to Athena and to the city of Athens and an olive tree appeared on Athenian coins.
Pliny the Elder describes a vine, a fig tree and an olive tree growing in the middle of the Roman forum and the Roman poet Horace claimed his diet consisted of olive, endive, and mallow.
Athletes were anointed with olive oil at the Olympic Games and victors were crowned with olive leaves. Olive oil was used as fuel for the Olympic Flame as well as in sacred lamps as temples. Olive oil was also used in sacrificial offerings and to anoint priests and kings, as well as for more mundane purposes such as fuel for household lighting, a base for medicinal ointments and cosmetics, and, of course for cooking.
Olive wood was also extensively used for building and for carving xoanon.
Olive in the Kitchen
Choose extra virgin olive oil for the full effect and most nutritional benefits of olive oil. It is somewhat delicate and should be used only for low temperature cooking or used without heating, drizzled over steamed vegetables at the end of cooking, added to a salad dressing or try sprinkling fresh herbs like rosemary with a little salt into a dish of olive oil and dipping pieces of fresh crusty bread into it for a decadent treat.
Olives, that is the fruit of the olive tree, are too bitter to eat fresh and are cured in a variety of ways to make them more palatable. They do not need to be cooked after this curing process but may be added to pasta or pizza to tasty effect. They are delicious tossed in salads or eaten out of hand with a bit of cheese and some dates.
Olive leaves can be used as a garnish or steeped to make a tasty tea with many health benefits.
Healing Uses for Olive
Olive are loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids which have been proven to be a beneficial part of a weight loss diet as well as being heart-healthy. They may also be helpful for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, hot flashes, and metabolic syndrome.
Olive oil can be used as a base for any salve, ointment or massage oil.
Combine olive oil with salt or sugar to make a delicious exfoliating scrub for your hands and body.
Rub olive oil into the scalp and let rest for 30 minutes before shampooing for soft, shiny, dandruff-free hair.
Massage olive oil into your nails and cuticles for strength and shine.
Olive leaf tea is said to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and to help the body fight all sorts of infections including the common cold.
Olive in Magick
Draw a pentagram in olive oil on an item you would like to protect.
Wear olive leaves to bring good luck
Hang branches over the door to prevent lightning strikes and keep evil from entering, or place the leaves in a bag or add them to a wreath and hang on the door or the chimney for the same purpose
Steep olive leaves in rainwater and asperge your house after you’ve cleaned and blessed it, or stash leaves in the corners of a room to keep a peaceful household and prevent or bring an end to family arguments.
Wear a wreath of olive leaves to ensure female fertility.
Eat olives to ensure male fertility and potency.
Use olive leaves to decorate an altar in honor of a God or honored ancestor.
Use olives and olive oil as offerings to Gods and honored ancestors
Olive oil is an excellent base for any oil blends and anointing oils, but note that its distinctive fragrance will be quite noticeable in your blend.
Write Athena’s name on an olive leaf and press it to your forehead to make a headache go away.