Pear – Pyrus

Sacred to: In Greek and Roman mythology, pears are sacred to three goddesses: Hera (Juno to the Romans), Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans), and Pomona, an Italian goddess of gardens and harvests.

Myth: see below

Other Notes: The ancient Chinese believed that the pear was a symbol of immortality. (Pear trees live for a long time.) In Chinese the word li means both “pear” and “separation,” and for this reason, tradition says that to avoid a separation, friends and lovers should not divide pears between themselves.

The Magic Pear Tree – A Tale from China

 

Adapted from a Story retold by Alida Gersie

 

A long time ago in ancient China a farmer went to market. He had luscious pears to sell and was determined to ask a very high price. Once he had found a good place in the market, he cried out: “Pears, beautiful pears…!”

Whilst he called attention to his goods, an old ragged-looking monk approached him. He humbly asked to be given one of the pears. The farmer said: “Why should I give a pear to you? You’re as lazy as anything and haven’t done an honest day’s work in your life.” As the monk did not walk away but repeated his request, the farmer became more and more angry. He called him the nastiest things under the sun.

“Good sir, ” said the monk, “I cannot count the number of pears in your wheelbarrow. You have hundreds of them. I have only asked for one pear. Why has this made you so angry?”

By then a large crowd of people had assembled around the farmer and the poor monk. “Give him a little pear,” someone suggested, in the hope that this might solve the problem. “Do as the old man asks, for heaven’s sake it is only a pear,” another one remarked, but the farmer wouldn’t hear of it. “No is no is no,” he said. Finally an elderly man bought one of the pears and handed it reverently to the old monk.

The monk bowed, thanked the elderly man, and said: “You know that I am a holy man. When I became a monk I gave up everything. I have no home, no clothes, which I may call my own, no food other than what is given to me. How can you refuse to give me a single pear when I ask for it? I shall not be this selfish. I invite every one of you to eat one of the pears that I have grown. It shall be an honor if you accept my invitation.”

The people were startled. Why had the monk asked for a pear if he had so many pears with him? He did not seem to carry anything. What did the old man mean?

The monk ate his pear with great concentration until there was just one small pip left. He quickly dug a hole in the ground, planted the pip and gently covered it with earth. Then he asked for a cup of water. One of the people in the crowd handed him the water. The monk poured it on the soil. Hardly any time had passed when the bystanders saw some green leaves sprouting from the earth. These leaves grew very quickly. The people were astounded. In front of their eyes stood a small pear tree with branches and more branches and leaves, more and more leaves. Where the old monk had planted the little pip only minutes ago, there was now a small pear tree. It continued to grow faster and faster. They could see it grow.

Silence fell in the marketplace as the tree burst into flower and the flowers slowly turned into large, sweet-smelling pears. The monk’s face was aglow with pleasure. He picked the pears one by one, and handed them to each person who had witnessed the pear tree’s miraculous growth. He handed them out and handed them out until everyone had been refreshed by a delicious pear. Then the monk took his axe and before the people even realized what was happening, the pear tree was cut down. The monk simply picked the tree up, put it over his shoulder, and went on his way.

The farmer had watched the scene in amazement. He had not been able to believe his eyes when the pear tree grew out of the ground so near to his very own wheelbarrow, which was full of pears. He looked at the barrow. It was empty. Not a single pear was left in it. One of the handles of the barrow was missing, too. Then the farmer knew what had happened. The old monk had used his pears to create the wonderful pear tree.

Of course the monk was nowhere to be seen. The pear tree, which the monk had picked up with such great ease, was found a little further down the road. It was the missing handle from the wheelbarrow. The farmer was in a towering rage, whilst the crowd laughed.

Bradford Pear flowers

Bradford Pear flowers

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