Apple Tree – Malus domestica

Sacred to: Abellio: (Romano-Celtic [Gallic]) god of apple trees.

Hera (associated with weddings), Aphrodite

(associated with love)

Celtic Deities: Morgan le Fay, Cerridwen, Olwen
Norse Deities: Idunn, Freyja
Greek Deities: Aphrodite, Dionysus, Apollo, Hera,

Gaia, Athena, and Zeus
Roman Deities: Pomona, Diana, Venus, Cupid,

Jupiter
Middle Eastern Deities: Ishtar, Shekinah, Astarte,

Ashtaroth

 

Myth 1: Wedding of Hera. The earth-goddess Gaia produced first apple-tree as a wedding-present for the goddess Hera. This tree of the golden apples was guarded by the three goddess Hesperides. (Source: Apollodorus, Hyginus)
Myth 2: Judgment of Paris. At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Eris the goddess of strife, cast a golden apple addressed to the fairest amongst the goddesses. Aphrodite, Hera and Athene all laid claim to the prize. They were referred by Zeus to the shepherd prince Paris, who awarded the apple to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. (Source: Stasinus, Apollodorus)
Myth 3: Melanion & Atalanta. The beautiful-princess Atalanta was reluctant to wed, and insisted that her suitors best her in a race. Those who failed the contest would be put to death by her father. The youth Melanion (meaning he of the apples) prayed to Aphrodite for help, and the goddess presented him with three golden apples. These he cast before the princess in the race, slowing her down as she stooped to retrieve them and so won the race. (Source: Hesiod, Apollodorus, Ovid)
Myth 4: Nymphai Epimelides. The nymph-protectors of apple-orchards.

 

Other Notes: Apples are brimming with symbolic meanings and mythic associations. In China they represent peace, and apple blossoms are a symbol of women’s beauty. In other traditions, they can signify wisdom, joy, fertility, and youthfulness.

 

Apples play an important part in several Greek myths. Hera, queen of the gods, owned some precious apple trees that she had received as a wedding present from Gaia, the earth mother. Tended by the Hesperides, the Daughters of Evening, and guarded by a fierce dragon, these trees grew in a garden somewhere far in the west. Their apples were golden, tasted like honey, and had magical powers. They could heal, they renewed themselves as they were eaten, and if thrown, they always hit their target and then returned to the thrower’s hand.

 

For the eleventh of his 12 great labors, the hero Hercules had to obtain some of these apples. After a long, difficult journey across North Africa, he enlisted the help of the giant Atlas, who entered the garden, strangled the dragon, and obtained the fruit. Hercules took the apples to Greece, but Athena returned them to the Hesperides.

 

A golden apple stolen from Hera’s garden caused the Trojan Warf, one of the key events in Greek mythology. Eris, the goddess of discord, was angry not to be included among the gods asked to attend a wedding feast. Arriving uninvited, she threw one of the apples, labeled “For the Fairest,” onto a table at the feast. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite* each assumed that the apple was meant for her. They asked Paris, a prince of Troy, to settle the matter, and he awarded the apple to Aphrodite. In revenge, Hera and Athena supported the Greeks in the war that led to the fall of Troy. People still use the phrase “apple of discord” to refer to something that provokes an argument.

 

In Norse mythology, apples are a symbol of eternal youth. Legend says that the goddess Idun guarded the magical golden apples that kept the gods young. But after the trickster god Loki allowed Idun to be carried off to the realm of the giants, the gods began to grow old and gray. They forced Loki to recapture Idun from the giants. Celtic mythology also mentions apples as the fruit of the gods and of immortality.

 

Today the apple is often associated with an episode of temptation described in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, lived in a garden paradise called Eden. God forbade them to eat the fruit of one tree that grew in the garden—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they gave in to temptation and tasted the fruit, God drove them out of the Garden of Eden for breaking his commandment. Many people picture the forbidden fruit as an apple because it has been portrayed that way for centuries in European artworks. However, the apple was unknown in the Near East when the Bible was written there. The biblical description of the tree in the Garden of Eden does not name a specific fruit, and in some traditions, the forbidden fruit has been imagined as a fig, a pear, or a pomegranate.

 

The Apple Tree is closely linked to Druids, in their aspect as magicians and shamans. The tree is often used when the Druid undergoes a magical transformation or journeys in the Otherworld. In The Voyage of Bran, an Otherworldly woman appears with an apple branch laden with bells, entrancing Bran with wondrous tales of the Otherworld. So enraptured is he by this damsel with the magical apple branch, that he sets sail immediately for the enchanted shores, having epic adventures on his journey. (Blamires, page 142)

An apple cut in half through the middle reveals the witches’ five pointed star, so apples are also a symbol of magic. In the Word Ogham of Cuchulain, the apple is described as an “emblem of protection” (Blamires, pg. 143). The pentacle in its center is a potent talisman of protection.

In the story of Adam and Eve the apple became a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, the fall of man into sin, and sin itself. The larynx in the human throat has been called Adam’s Apple because of a notion that it was caused by the forbidden fruit sticking in the throat of Adam.

The Greek hero Heracles, as a part of his Twelve Labors, was required to travel to the Garden of the Hesperides and pick the golden apples off the Tree of Life growing at its center.

The Greek goddess of discord, Eris, became disgruntled after she was excluded from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. In retaliation, she tossed a golden apple inscribed Kallisti (‘For the most beautiful one’), into the wedding party. Three goddesses claimed the apple: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris of Troy was appointed to select the recipient. After being bribed by both Hera and Athena, Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite, thus indirectly causing the Trojan War.

It is sometimes claimed that the use of the pentacle as a symbol in traditional Romany faith comes from ceremonially cutting an apple across the hemisphere, revealing a pentagram of pips ringed with green.

Swiss foklore holds that William Tell shot an apple from his son’s head with his crossbow

Irish folklore claims that if an apple is peeled into one continuous ribbon and thrown behind a woman’s shoulder, it will land in the shape of the future husband’s initials.

Danish folklore says that apples wither around adulterers.

John Chapman (born in Leominster, Massachusetts on September 26, 1774; and died in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at aged 70, on March 18, 1845), also known as “Johnny Appleseed”, planted a popular American variety, the Jonothan Apple across the American wilderness in the late 1700s and early 1800s. His apple orchards in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky still exist, and some of the original trees he planted over two hundred years ago, still bear fruit. (Gifford, page 94)

 

The Pomegranate, Apple-Tree, and Bramble – Aesop’s Fables

  The pomegranate and Apple-Tree disputed as to which was the most beautiful. When their strife was at its height, a Bramble from the neighboring hedge lifted up its voice, and said in a boastful tone:  "Pray, my dear friends, in my presence at least cease from

such vain disputings.”

 

The Peasant and the Apple-Tree – Aesop’s Fables

  A PEASANT had in his garden an Apple-Tree, which bore no fruit but only served as a harbor for the sparrows and grasshoppers. He resolved to cut it down, and taking his axe in his hand, made a bold stroke at its roots. The grasshoppers and sparrows entreated him not to cut down the tree that sheltered them, but to spare it, and they would sing to him and lighten his labors. He paid no attention to their request, but gave the tree a second
and a third blow with his axe.  When he reached the hollow of the tree, he found a hive full of honey. Having tasted the honeycomb, he threw down his axe, and looking on the tree as sacred, took great care of it.  
 

Self-interest alone moves some men.

 

Atalanta and the Golden Apples

 

In Greek mythology, Atalanta was a superb athlete. Her father wanted a son and so, when Atalanta was born, he exposed her on a hillside to die. Happily, she was nurtured by a bear sent by Artemis, the Protector of Women, and kept safe until a group of hunters found her and raised her to adulthood.

 

Atalanta, like Artemis, was an excellent runner, archer, and hunter. (It’s even said that she was one of the Argonauts but can you see Jason, that boastful teenager, allowing a woman on his ship?) In any case, Atalanta’s father was proud of her skills in masculine activities and took her back to his palace

 

Now that she was a princess, she was expected to marry, but Atlanta, very sensibly, did not want a husband.

 

Atalanta swore that she would race any suitors and the one who beat her would be the lucky man to marry her, but if she won, she would kill the losers.

 

One youth, Melanion, a little smarter than the others, went to Aphrodite for assistance. The goddess gave him a loan of three golden apples (the very same from the Garden of the Hesperides). During the race, whenever Atalanta would get ahead of Melanion, he would drop one of the golden apples, and Atalanta would stop and pick it up.

 

Her frequent stops gave Melanion the advantage he needed. He won the race. Alas! Atalanta had to marry him.

 

Iduna’s Apples – Norse

 

In Norse mythology, Iduna, wife of Bragi the Poet, was the goddess of eternal youth and the guardian of the precious golden apples.

 

If any of the gods felt the approach of old age, they only had to taste of one of these apples to remain young. She was abducted by a giant and the other gods aged rapidly. Loki was sent to rescue her so that she might restore youth again.

 

And restore youth she did, and will continue to do so until Ragnarok, when the world ends.

Apples on display

Apples on display

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: