Apple Symbolism

Peter Y. Chou

The fourteen books below are from my personal library:

Being almost spherical in shape, the apple signifies totality. It is symbolic of earthly desires, or of indulgence in such desires. The warning not to eat the forbidden apple came, therefore, from the mouth of the supreme being, as a warning against the exaltation of materialistic desire. The intellect, the thirst for knowledge— as Nietszche realized— is only an intermediate zone between earthly desire and pure spirituality.

— J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols
    Philosophical Library, New York, 1962, p. 14


Fertility; love; joyousness; knowledge; wisdom; divination; luxury; but also deceitfulness and death. The apple was the forbidden fruit of the Golden Age. As round it represents totality and unity, as opposed to the multiplicity of the pomegranate, and as the fruit of the Tree of Life given by Iduma to the gods. Eris threw the golden apple of discord among the Gods. As the apples of the Hesperides and the fruit of Freya's garden, it symbolizes immortality. Offering an apple is a declaration of love. Like the orange, as fertility, the apple blossom is used for brides. Celtic: The Silver Bough. It has magic and chthonic powers; the fruit of the Other-world; fertility; marriage. Halloween, an apple festival, is associated with the death of the old year. Chinese: Peace and concord. Christian: Ambivalent as evil (Latin: malum and the fruit of temptation and sin of the Fall, but depicted with Christ or the Virgin Mary it is the New Adam and salvation. An ape with an apple in its mouth depicts the Fall. Greek: Sacred to Venus as love and desire; a bridal symbol and offering; the 'apple of discord' was given to Venus by Paris. Apple branches are an attribute of Nemesis and Artemis and used in the rites of Diana; also awarded as a prize in the Sun-bridegroom race as was the olive branch at the Moon-virgin race. The apple of Dionysos was the quince. The apple tree was associated with health and immortality; sacred to Apollo. Apple blossom: A Chinese symbol of peace and beauty.

— J.C. Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols
    Thames and Hudson, London, 1978, p. 14


APPLE: ping-guo
The best apples used to come from Korea and Japan; the Chinese apple was not so tasty. Even today,m apples are relatively dear, and therefore an acceptable gift, escpecially since the apple (ping) can stand as a symbol for 'peace' (ping). On the other hand, one should not give apples to an invalid, since the Chinese word for 'illness'— bing— is very similar in sound to the word for apple. Apple blossom, however, symbolises female beauty.
    In North China, the wild apple blossoms in spring, and is therefore a symbol for this season of the year. The wild apple (hai-tang) may also symbolise the hall of a house (tang): a picture showing wild apple blossom and magnolias (yu-lan) in such a room can be interpreted as meaning 'May (yu) your house be rich and honoured!'
    The celebrated beauty Yang Gui-fei, the concubine of one of the Tang emperors, was known as 'Paradise-apple Girl' (hai-tang nü).

— Wolfram Eberhard, A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols
     Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1986, p. 21


APPLE, APPLE TREE: the guarantee of immortality
• In Irish tradition, the apple is a fruit that guarantees immortality: cut in half, crossways, it reveals a five-pointed star, the pentagram, a symbol of the 'five stations from birth to death and rebirth.'
• Apples were part of the Orphic cult and also symbolized the goddess Venus (to whom they were sacred), who, according to Robert Graves, 'was worshipped as the evening star, Hesper, on one half of the apple, and as Lucifer, son of morning, on the other.
• Jung interpreted the apple eaten by Adam and Eve as a symbol of life.
In dreams, a red and green apple is the expression of a harmonious organic life. A maggoty apple reveals an apparently healthy relationship which has been eaten away on the inside.

— Nadia Julien (Ed.), The Mammoth Dictionary of Symbols
     translated by Elfreda Powell (from 1989 Belgian edition)
     Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, 1996, p. 23


A symbol of the buddhis emotions and faculties, the "fruit of the Spirit".
"The golden apples which Ge (Earth) gave to Hera at her marriage with Zeus"
— Smith's Classical Dictionary
The "marriage" is the union of Wisdom (Hera) and Love (Zeus). Love struggles upward from below to meet Wisdom above; and Matter (Ge) yields up the results of experience and effort, on to the Wisdom plane.

— G.A. Gaskell, Dictionary of All Scriptures and Myths
    Julian Press, New York, 1960, p. 56


Deuteronomy 32.10: He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness;
he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

Psalms 17.8: Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,
Proverbs 7.2: Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
Song of Solomon 2.3: As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among
the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Song of Solomon 8.5: Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?
I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth:
there she brought thee forth that bare thee.

Joel 1.12: The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree,
the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field,
are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.

Zechariah 2.8: For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations
which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.

Proverbs 25.11: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
Song of Solomon 2.5: Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
Song of Solomon 7.8: I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof:
now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;

The Complete Concordance to the Bible: New King James Version
     Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1983, p. 34


Purgatorio 32.75-87 with James Finn Cotter's translation:

Quali a veder de' fioretti del melo
che del suo pome li angeli fa ghiotti
e perpetue nozze fa nel cielo,

Pietro e Giovanni e Iacopo condotti
e vinti, ritornaro a la parola
da la qual furon maggior sonni rotti,

e videro scemata loro scuola
così di Moisè come d'Elia,
e al maestro suo cangiata stola;

tal torna' io, e vidi quella pia
sovra me starsi che conducitrice
fu de' miei passi lungo 'l fiume pria.

E tutto in dubbio dissi: "Ov'è Beatrice?".
Ond'ella: "Vedi lei sotto la fronda
nova sedere in su la sua radice.

Just as, when brought to see the blossoms of
the apple tree whose fruit the angels crave
and makes an endless marriage-feast in heaven,

Peter and John and James were overpowered
and, coming to themselves at that same word
by which slumbers more profound were broken,

They saw their company dwindle away
when Moses and Elijah disappeared,
and viewed their Master's raiment changed again:

So I came to myself and saw that same
compassionate woman standing over me
who first had led my steps along the shore.

And all perplexed, I asked, "Where is Beatrice?"
She answered, "See her seated on the roots
of that tree there with its fresh foliage.


The golden apple represents discord, since its presentation by Paris to Aphrodite in a divine beauty contest led indirectly to the Trojan War. Freya, the Norse goddess of love and magic, gave apples of immortality from her garden to rejuvenate the gods.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), The Judgment of Paris (1639), Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

At the wedding of the Greek goddess Thetis, Eris (strife) presented a golden apple to be awarded to the fairest woman present. The goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all claimed the prize. Zeus appointed Paris, the son of Priam (King of Troy), as judge in the beauty contest. Paris chose Aphrodite, who promised to reward him with the love of any woman he chose, and described the beauty of Helen, the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Paris abducted Helen, and brought her back to Troy, an action which precipitated the Trojan War, in which he was killed. The myth conveys the idea that physical beauty, though alluring, can ultimately be destructive.

— David Fontana, The Secret Language of Symbols
     A Visual Key to Symbols & Their Meanings
     Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1993, pp. 107, 127


In Celtic legends apples appear as the fruit of the Otherworld. More specifically, they are associated with the mythical Avalon, the 'Island of Apples'. The otherworldly apple tree was also said to have been the source of the Silver Bough. In Norse tradition the tree bearing the golden apples of immortality was protected by the goddess Idun, whence they were stolen by Loki. The gods began to age, but they recovered the apples just before they were overcome by senility and death. In alchemy, when the alchemist is represented eating an apple at the end of the Great Work, he enjoys the fruit of immortality.
    The golden Apples of the Hesperides were a wedding gift to Zeus and Hera from Gaia, the primordial earth goddess. The precious fruit was guarded by a snake or a dragon. Herakles' eleventh labour was to steal the apples, and although he was successful, he followed Athena's instructions and returned them. Eris, "Discord', proffered an apple as a prize for the fairest among Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, asking the shepherd Paris to act as a judge. Paris chose Aphrodite, bribed by her promise of Helen of Troy as his reward. The Trojan War was the consequence, and so in Greek myth, apples are associated with temptation, transgression, and the acquisition of success and power.
    Jews and Christians also consider that apples symbolize temptation, as well as forbidden wisdom. They are central to the story of Adam and Eve's temptation by the Serpent and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Since the apple is a pagan emblem of immortality, and the serpent a symbol of ancient wisdom, and both were associated with goddesses, this story— which blames woman for the Fall after she was tempted by the serpent with an apple (also a symbol of love)— may have been an attempt to demonize powerful symbols of the old religions which the Jews were struggling to replace. (The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, from which Adam and Eve ate the fruit, is sometimes considered to have been a fig tree— but both trees are symbols of knowledge).
    In Christian art, when Christ or the Virgin hold an apple, they are overcoming evil, redeeming mankind from the first sin symbolized by the apple. But the Old Testament also compares wise words to golden apples, and apples are an ingredient of charoseth, eaten at Passover, representing the clay from which the Israelites slaves made bricks in Egypt.
    In China, apple blossom represents feminine beauty. In northern China, the apple is a symbol of Spring. Apples are a good gift, as the word for apple (ping) sounds similar to the word meaning peace. However, apples should not be given to someone who is unwell, as their name also sounds similar to the word for illness (bing).

— Rowena & Rupert Shepherd, 1000 Symbols
     Thames & Hudson, London, 2002, p. 255


    The World-Poison: When the churning of the Milk Ocean began, the Serpent Vâsuki, under the strain of the pulling, vomited the Visha or World-Poison. This always symbolizes Ahankâra. From the point of view of the physical body it indicates an abnormal secretion of some gland, as the result of an abnormal stimulation of feelings or passions... From a fundamental point of view the World-Poison is the Ahankâra. It is at the root of all problems, whether of the mind, of sex or of anything else. The World-Poison is present in the Apple of the Serpent in Paradise, in the Apple of the Witch-Queen in the story of Snow White, in the Apple of Discord, and in a number of similar symbols.
    After the World-Poison had appeared on the surface of the Ocean, it was offered by female beings to Siva, who took it and swallowed it. The Goddess Parvati, his Consort, grasped his neck and prevented it from going down into his system. It remained stuck in his neck, giving it a dark colour, whence Siva derived the name Nilkantha or "Blue-necked One". (pp. 18-19)
    The Fruits: The Latin "pomum", meaning "fruit", means primarily "apple". Apple symbolism has already been referred to in connection with its unfavorable aspect. The apple, however, only becomes a fruit of Death in the hands of the Ahankâra. It is primarily a fruit of Immortality. Later the Golden Apples of the Hesperides and the Apples of Life of the Goddess Idunn of Northern Europe will be dealt with. Pomona was married to Vertumnus. Their Festival, the Vertumnalia, was celebrated in October. On Libra follows the Water-House of Scorpio, ruled by Mars. Vertumnus is an aspect of Mars as God of Autumn. We saw before that in his other House, Aries, Mars is God of Spring. Vertumnus is represented with a pruning knife in his right and a basket of fruits, or alternatively, a bludgeon, in his left hand. The bludgeon appears only— like the birch of St. Nicolas— when there are no spiritual fruits to be harvested. The Martian knife is always there, to be used either for the cutting away of decaying or dead branches, the "purging of the vine", or for the harvesting of the fruits. Concerning the Sixth Day, comprising Scorpio and Sagittarius, the Day of the attainment of Manhood, God said: "Be fruitful" (Genesis 1.28), and "Behold, I have given you... every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat" (Genesis 1.29). True Manhood brings forth Fruits and lives on Fruits alone. And the Animals should live on "green herbs", the form of life of the Element Water, the emotional plane. But the Beasts that hunt in the Field of the Fallen Man prey on each other and live on fresh— against the Word of God— and some are even man-eaters. (pp. 42-43)
    Killing of the Hydra: It is significant that the name Herakles, Latinized as Hercules, means "renowned through Hera". Zeus's Consort represents Mother-Goddess of the Moon-Sphere. Her garments were said to shine like the summer sea and she wore jewels like the stars of heaven. Over her forehead she wore a veil. The Stars and Veils of Maya, of Moon-Sphere, are deeply connected. She was said to be fairest of all the Goddesses, even fairer than Venus.
    Looking at the starry heavens, the constellation of the Serpens stretches from Scorpio past Sagittarius towards the Pole Star. In a straight line between the Serpens and the Pole Star are the constellations Hercules and Draco the Dragon. Draco is nearest the Pole Star, which symbolizes to Pole of Manifestation. It is not the Dragon of the Tree of Life. Hercules will meet that when in another of his Twelve Labours he will obtain the Golden Apples from the Garden of the Hesperides.
    The constellation Hercules is exactly midway between Serpens and Draco. It is the task of the Solar Hero, on his way to the Immovable Centre and Pole of Being, to master the Serpent, the Hydra and the Dragon guarding the Treasure and the Tree of Life, both of which form aspects of that Centre of Being. The position of the constellation Hercules in the night-sky shows the supreme importance which is traditionally given to the transfiguration of the Serpent Power. The constellation of the Hydra is found in the heavens on the opposite side, stretching out from the South of Cancer and Leo to Virgo. That is the stage of Height of Manifestation, and at that phase the Power of the Hydra is at its greatest. (p. 78)

— G.H. Mees, The Book of Battles
     N. Kluwer, Deventer, Netherlands, 1953, pp. 18-19, pp. 42-43, p. 78

    Braga and Idunn: Braga was represented as a venerable old man with a silver beard. Playing on his Golden Harp and singing the Song of Life, he shows some resemblance to Narada Rishi. His Consort was Idunn, Goddess of Immortal Youth, who was said to be the most beautiful of the Goddesses. She preserved the Apples of Life in a Golden Vessel, and daily gave them to eat to the Gods, therewith granting them Immortality. Her name is related to those of the Goddess of the Tradition in the Greek "Athena" and the Sumerian form "Adueni". She corresponds more particularly to the Greek Hebe, who was a form of the Goddess of the Tradition who gave the Nectar and Ambrosia to the Olympian Gods. The Apples of Life are also known in Greek mythology. The golden vessel in which the Asa kept the Apples is another form of the Kumbham or Holy Grail or Wine Cup of Aquarius.
    Undoubtedly "Braga" is one with the Hindu "Brahma". Both are Lord of the Tradition. Of Brahma tradition records that he is Adikavi or "the First Poet" and that his Sakti is his tongue. Braga is God of Poetry (of the Tradition) and it is said that Runes are imprinted on his tongue. Both are represented with a venerable beard. Of Braga it is said that this symbolizes the ripe existence of old age. His marriage with Idunn stresses the immortality of youth, always connected with the Inspiration of traditional poetry. One of Brahma's symbols is the Lota with the Water of the River of Life; it is a reflection of the Kumbha of Aquarius. Braga's Sakti owned the Golden Vessel with the Apples of Life. (p. 89)
    Fetching of the Golden Apples from the Garden of Hesperides: The Eleventh Labour of Herakles was the fetching of the Golden Apples from the Garden of Hesperides. It refers to Aquarius. On the occasion of the marriage of Zeus and Hera, all the Gods brought marriage-presents. Gaea, the Earth, caused a wonderful Tree to grow on the shore of the World-Ocean, full of Golden Apples. Four Nymphs, called the Hesperides, Daughter of Night, were made to watch the Tree which was guarded by a terrible-looking Dragon with a hundred heads, called Ladon, which never closed its eyes in sleep. Herakles was told by Eurusheus to get three Golden Apples for him.
    The marriage of Zeus and Hera represents the Mystic Marriage, implying the Aquarian Perfection. The present of Gaea reflects the Kingdom of Heaven of Earth. Aquarius is Bhûr-loka and is ruled by Saturn, the God of the Element Earth. The stage of the Mystery is both an Earth and an Ether-stage. The four Nymphs form the emotional parallel to the four Winds and represent the Air-House of Aquarius, in the heart of the Night-period of the Path. The hundred-headed Dragon represents "perfect" selfishness in the state of utter soul-fragmentation, with the stress on consciousness. As long as that is not overcome, the Treasure of Immortality cannot be obtained. The Tree is the Tree of Life and the Garden of the Hesperides is Paradise. In Genesis 2.8, the Garden is "eastward in Eden" and the word "Hesper" means the direction of the west. The reason for this apparent contradiction is that Genesis (as also Heralkes) looks at Paradise as the direction of the Sunrise, issuing from the beginning of the Path, whereas the Greek tradition embodied in the word Hesperides looks at the Garden as the direction of the Sunset, leading to the end of the Path. (pp. 203-204)
    The Fruit of the Tree of Life: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that wins the victory, will I give fruit from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." He that overcometh is he who, instead of falling further, returns unto the Spiritual Pole, which is symbolically represented by the Tree of Life in the middle of the Garden. This symbolism is emotional. The Fruits of the Tree of Life correspond to the Apples of Immortality of Idunn and the Golden Apples of the Garden of Hesperides, which we have encountered before in the stage of Aquarius. An apple is an emotional symbol, but as food it has reference to the lower mind. It corresponds to the Bread of Life and the Ambrosia or Amrita, with the difference that bread is a predominantly rational symbol. (p. 224)

— G.H. Mees, The Book of Stars
     N. Kluwer, Deventer, Netherlands, 1954, p. 89, pp. 203-204, p. 224


Magic apples of immortality, or of death-and-rebirth, are common to most Indo-European mythologies. The apples are usually dispensed by the Goddess to a man, hero, ancestor, or god. The Norse Goddess Idun kept all the gods alive with her magic apples. Influenced by this idea, Norsemen buried apples with the dead to serve as resurrection charms. Mother Hera fed the gods on apples from the Tree of Life in her western garden of paradise. The Irish hero Connla received a magic apple of immortality from a woman of the Other World. King Arthur was taken by the Triple Goddess to Avalon, the "Apple-land" of eternal life.
    It seems that the famous scene of the three women, an man, and an apple, known as Judgment of Paris, was "mistakenly deduced from the icon which showed Heracles being given an apple-bough by the Hesperides— naked Nymph-goddess in triad— [or] Adanus of Hebron being immortalized by the Canaanite Mother of All Living." In similar iconography, the first man (Adam) was brought to life by the Mother of All Living, which was one of the titles of Eve (Genesis 3.20). The Triple Goddess created the world in the Greek myth of Eurynome, Eurybia, and Eurydice, three sisters ruling earth, sea, and the underworld. The three Mothers of the World were always closely conected with apple trees in early Greek and in Celtic myth. The Goddess became the mistress of the paradise garden and greeted the hero Owein while she stood beside her apple tree, "which is the axis of the world, the centre of life." The apple tree remained sacred to the Goddess in Romanian folklore, where she appeared as "the fairy Magdalina", sitting in a cosmic apple tree whose branches touched the sky, and whose roots reached into the bottom of the ocean.
    Much of the reverence paid to the apple arose not only from its value as food, but also from the secret, sacred sign in its core: the pentacle, which is revealed when the apple is transversely cut. Gypsies claimed this was the only proper way to cut an apple, especially when it was shared between lovers before and after sexual intercourse. At Gypsy weddings it was customary for the bride and groom to cut the apple, revealing its pentacle, and eat half apiece. Such marriage customs may suggest the real story behind Eve's sharing of an apple with her spouse: an idea that developed quite apart from the biblical version, in which there is no mention of an apple, but only of a "fruit".
    In the Volsung cycle, it is the poet's wife who provides "apples of Hel", that is, gifts from the underworld Goddess Hel, which will enable him to live under the earth. Going down to the underworld (womb) was a common method for heroes and poets to discover secrets of nature, and not incidentally to acquire wealth— or, as the Gypsies called it, "earth". A 15th century Book of Lismore, copied from earlier material, mentioned three Irish princes who had to marry three wives before they could find their "fortunes", another form of the three Fortunae. The three wives represented the Triple Goddess and her sacred apple trees: one in full bloom, a second shedding the blossom, and the third covered with ripe fruit.
    Apples figured prominently in the lore of magic, undoubtedly because of their ubiquitous connections with Goddess worship. It was said that a holy name written on an apple and eaten on three consecutive days would cure a fever. Abortion could be procured by writing the palindromic charm sator arepo tenet opera rotas on an apple and eating it. Apples consumed on Halloween could show a young person the dream image of his or her future spouse; hence the bobbing-for-apples game. Christian lore made the apple a symbol of original sin, but this never appreciably interfered with the popularity of the fruit that could "keep the doctor away". (pp. 479-481)
The most widely revered of all esoteric symbols, the pentacle has received many alternate names: pentalpha, pentagram, Solomon's seal, Star of Bethlehem, Three Kings' star, wizard's star, Star of Logres, devil's sign, witch's cross, goblin's foot, or the Druid's Foot. From this assortment of names it can be seen that the pentacle is associated with magic, paganism, deviltry, & Christian mysticism.
    In ancient times, the pentacle meant "life" or "health". It was derived from the apple-core pentacle of the Earth Mother. To this day, Gypsies cut an apple tranversely to reveal the pentacle, which they call the Star of Knowledge. The pentacle was sacred to the Celtic death-goddess Morgan and was carried in her honor on a blood-red shield, according to the tale of Gawain and the Green Knight. It is still the sign of the earth element in the Tarot suit of pentacles, which evolved into the modern suit of diamonds. With one point downward, the pentacle was supposed to represent the head of the Horned God. (p. 72)
The red and white rose was adopted by alchemists as a symbol of the vas spirituale, the sacred womb from which the filius philosophorum would be born. This was an ancient female symbol of the virgin daughter (white) within the mother (red), formerly applied to such images as Kore/Demeter and Mary/Eve. The conglomerate rose was similar to the apple (the mother and the fruit), containing its five-lobed core (the daughter and the flower). Symbolism was drawn entirely from female creative powers. White and red were the sacred colors of the Virgin and Mother, respectively. In male-centered systems, however, the black of the destroying Crone was pointedly omitted. (p. 422)
Many myths speak of the Tree of Life or World Tree that was somehow involved in the creation of the universe, the origin of humanity, and the divine gifts of nourishment and civilized skills. The Maya called it First Tree of the World, or Green Tree of Plenty, growing in their won territory on the Yucatan peninsula. Those who faithfully kept the rituals would go after death to the paradise shaded by the First Tree. It was represented in the form of a cross, and the savior-god was crucified on it as Our Lord of the Tree. His head wore a tree crown and his arms ended in branches.
    The Indo-Europeans in general, the vision of paradise included the sacred tree with a spring at its root, like the obviously female rose-apple tree of Jambu Island, the Fairy Tree of Celtic tradition, or the Goddess's life-giving apple trees in Avalon, Hesperides, or Eden. It is possible that the whole Eden myth was falsely deduced from an icon showing the Goddess, personifying the Tree of Life, handing her apple to the first man while her serpent of wisdom twined in the branches. (pp. 472-473)

— Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects
     HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, 1988


In one version Cindrella's fairy visitors emerge from a vase, and from this same vase they produce her exquisite dresses. According to another version wherein Cinderella gets her clothing from an apple tree, she says:
                                  "Little golden apple tree,
                                    With my vase of gold have I watered thee,
                                    With my spade of gold have I digged thy mould;
                                    Give me your lovely clothes, I pray,
                                    And take my ugly rags away." (p. 252)

    It apparently struck the ancient fancy that anything round or circular was like the Orb of Day. Thus the Lithuanians called an apple obolys, which is simply obolus, a little ball... Among the ancient Mexicans the word on served to denote anything circular. The Celtic for circle is kibak ib, the "great orb", and for round, krenn— ak ur en, the "great fire sun"... In accordance with this rule the ob of the Russian, Gaelic, Irish, and Lithuanian "apple" becomes the ap of the English apple, the German apfel, the Icelandic epli [This etymology of "Apple" is confirmed by the French pomme, i.e. op om, the Sun Ball; also by pomolo, the name for a giant orange. The word orange resolves into or-an-je, the golden everlasting Sun]. The knowledge that ap is equal to ob enables us to reduce the name Apollo into Ap ol lo, the 'orb of the Lord Everlasting'.
    Ap must be the root of the Greek apo, meaning "far away", and it may also be equated with our up and upwards, both meaning towards the orb: it is also the foundation of optimus, the best, and of optimism or faith in the highest. "High" may similarly be equated with towards the I or Eye. Country people pronounce up "oop", and the child's hoop may have been so named because it was a circle like the Sun. Op is not only the root of hope and happy but it is also the foundation of optics, optical, and other terms relating to the eye or eyeball. The word eye, phonetically "I", may have arisen from the fact that the eye is a ball like the Sun, and this idea runs through the etymology of "eye" in many languages. Ops or Opis was one of the names of Juno, the "unique, ever-existent O", or, as she was sometimes known, Demeter, the "Mother of brilliant splendour". Ops was the giver of ops, riches, whence the word opulent; plenty is fundamentally opulenty, and the Latin for plenty is copia. A synonym for plenty is abundance. The syllable Op, meaning Eye, occurs in many place-names, notably in Ethiopa and Europe. Cox translates Europe as meaning "the splendour of morning", and the word is alternatively rendered "the broad-eyed". But the two syllables of Europe are simply a reversed form of the English surname Hooper, the Eye or "Hoop of Light"— the Sun. (pp. 303-305)

— Harold Bayley, The Lost Language of Symbolism
     Chapter X: The Star of the Sea (p. 252)
     Chapter XII: The Eye of the Universe (p. 304)
     Citadel Press, New York (first edition, London 1912)

The Dome of St. Paul's may be described as the very apple of the Eye of London, and surmounting the Dome of the new Old Bailey is a five-rayed figure of Maat or, as she is now named, Justice. To the north of Thurso is Orkney Island named Pomona, "sole Father", and the principla town on Pomona is named Op. North of Pomona, a word meaning apple in Latin, is a small island named Papa Westray— an extended form of Papaeus, on of the names of Jupiter. [The root apple in such English place-names as Appleby, Apple-Cross, Appledram, Appleton, etc., may often be equated to Apollo]. (p. 7)

The heroine of The Song of Solomon is described as having been raised under an apple-tree. In mystic literature, the apple-tree figures frequently as the Tree of Life, and in fairy-tale, the apple appears as the giver of immortal youth. Cinderella, according to an Armenian version of the story, knocks off the crown of a certain King Ambanor by the dexterous throw of a diamond apple, and when the King, full of vexation, picks up the diamond apple, "the face of a most lovely girl looks forth at him as from a mirror."
    There s a Slav story relating to an apple-tree "that bears the fruit of the everlasting youth, and one of whose apples eaten by a man, even though he be dyng, will cure him and make him young again." Something having gone awry with this apple-tree so that neither fruit nor flower will grow upon it, a messenger is despatched to the Palace of the Sun to ascertain the cause of the misfortune. When the weary Apollo returns from his daily round and is resting sleepily upon his Mother's lap, the following dialogue takes place:
    "Mother, what do you want?"
    "Nothing, my Son, nothing; I was dreaming. In my dream, I saw a large town, the name of which     I have forgotten. And there grew an apple-tree, the fruit of which had the power to make     the old young again. A single apple eaten by an old man would restore to him the vigour     and freshness of youth. For twenty years this tree has not borne fruit. What can be done to make     it fruitful?"
    "The means are not difficult. A snake hidden among (p. 251)
    According to the Mosaic account of Creation, the Garden of Eden was protected by cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the Tree of Life (Genesis 3.24). Cherubims as here mentioned is not another name for angels, but the Cherub of the writer of Genesis— like the Cherub of Assyria, the Cherb of Babylon, and the Cherb of the entire Orient— was a fabulous winged-animal akin to a Griffin or Gryphon. The Mosaic idea of the protective Cherubim may be equated with the Persian conception of the innumerable attendants of the Holy One keeping watch against the attempts of Ahriman to destroy the tree Hom, situated in the region of bliss called Heden. According to Greek legend, the apple-bearing tree in the Garden of Hesperides was guarded by a Serpent or Dragon. The Hindoo sacred Mount Meru, whose summit towered into the golden light of Heaven, is said to have been guarded by a dreadful Dragon. The Chinese tell of a mysterious garden where grows a tree bearing apples of immortality guarded by a Dragon, and this winged Serpent— the national emblem of the Celestial Empire— is regarded as the symbol of Infinite Intelligence keeping ward over the Tree of Knowledge.
    In the figure herewith a Dragon-guarded Tree is subscribed with the word Brasica, fundamentally equivalent to Persica, a peach. The Persica was the Chinese Tree of Life, and among the Gnostics there was a sacred rite called Persica. The initiates into this Mystery were termed "Keepers of the Fruits", and, according to Porphyry, the “symbolically signified 'the power of Keeping or Preserving.'” The word Persica is evidently allied to Jasper, a Radiant and Perfect Serpent, whom they identified with Jesus Christ or Sophia; and the antagonism of "the Lord" with "leviathan that crooked serpent" is one of the themes of Isaish: "In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. In that day sing ye unto her, a vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." (Isaiah 27.1-3) In the midst of this Celestial Vineyard there is said to have been a Tower, and the Dragon of the Absolute is flying guardingly before a Tower. The Eagle of Omnipotence is sheltering the symbol of His Vineyard or the Holy Grail.

— Harold Bayley, The Lost Language of Symbolism, Vol. 2,
     Chapter XV: The White Horse (p. 58)
     Chapter XIX: The Garden of Allah (p. 251)
     Chapter XX: The Tree of Life (pp. 286-287)
     Citadel Press, New York (first edition, London 1912)


• This fairy-tale (transcribed in 1845) could serve as the original popular form of the Perceval story. It is the Breton fairy-tale of Peronik.
Peronik, a poor youth, hears from a passing knight that two magic objects, a golden goblet and a diamond lance, are to be found in the Castle of Ker Glas. A drink from the goblet heals all ills and the lance destroys everything it strikes. These things belong to the magician Rogear who lives at Ker Glas. To reach the castle, so the knight has learned from a hermit, one must first pass through the forest of illusion, pluck an apple from a tree guarded to a corrigan [dwarf] with a fiery sword and find the laughing flower guarded by a snake-maned lion. Then, passing through the Sea of Dragons and the Valley of Joy, the hero will reach a river, at the only ford of which a black-clad woman awaits him. He must take her up on to his horse, so, that she may show him the way. Every knight who has previously sought the castle has perished in doing so, but this does not deter Peronik. He sets out upon the way and succeeds in safely undergoing all the adventures and in reaching Ker Glas. The magician dies after he has taken one bite from the apple and been touched by the woman, who is revealed to be the plague. In an underground chamber Peronik finds the goblet and the lance, "la lance qui tue et le bassin qui vivifie". The castle vanishes in a clap of thunder and Peronik finds himself in the forest. After dressing himself in fine clothes he goes to the court of the king, who loads him with gifts and makes him commander of his soldiers. So the foundling child becomes a great and mighty lord.(pp. 35-36)
• At the conclusion of the story, the Grail is handed over to Joseph's brother-in-law Brons, who departs for the West, for Britain, to preach Christianity. There in Avalon, "where the sun goes down", he must await his grandson and eventual successor. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the mortally wounded King Arthur was carried to Insula Avallonis, Island of Apples (or of the Avallo), to be restored to health by the nine sisters skilled in healing and magic who dwelt there, one of whom was the famous Morgana. This apple island is analogous to the Isles of the Blest of antiquity, where golden apples were tended by divine maidens, and to the Celtic "Land of the Living", likewise situated in the West. The concept of an Elysium of this kind also continued into Christian times. In the legend of the voyage of Bran the Blessed, widely distributed in the Middle Ages & later, this Irish saint, during his journey to Terra repromissionis, the Promised Land, also comes to an island, equally in the West and planted with apple trees. This apple orchard signifies the second Paradise, the goal and salvation that have to be rediscovered after the loss of the first Paradise throught the instrumentality of an apple tree. (pp. 343-344)
• In the Vita Merlini the firy Morgana is a sister of Arthur and one of the nine fairies of the Insula Pomorum (Island of Apples— Avalon). She is an evil sorceress who destroys her lover, something like Circe in the Odyssey. In the Lancelot she creates a Val sans Retour (Valley of No Return) in which she confines her lovers. According to the Vulgate Merlin, she is called a boine clergess (good clergywoman) and has a special understanding of astronomy and necromancy. She has been taught the latter by Merlin himself, for he is passionately in love with her and has fallen completely into her power. She then turns the art against him. (p. 393)

— Emma Jung & Marie-Louise von Franz, The Grail Legend
     2nd Edition, translated by Andrea Dykes,
     Sigo Press, Boston, 1986 (original 1960)


The following books are from Stanford Green Library's Information Center & Stacks:

An ancient symbol of fertility and, especially in the case of the red apple, of love. Because of its spherical shape, it was occasionally interpreted as a symbol of eternity. The apple is also frequently encountered as a symbol of spiritual knowlege, especially in the Celtic tradition. The golden apples of the Hesperides were regarded as symbols of immortality. The apples of Iduna gave the Ases eternal youth.
    The apple's spherical shape is also interpreted in Christian symbolism and elsewhere as a symbol of the earth or, due to its beautiful shape and sweetness, as a symbol of the temptations of this world. The apple is thus a common symbol of the initial Fall from grace (instead of a fig or quince). With respect to this, an apple in the hand of Christ symbolizes the salvation from Original Sin that came about from the Fall. Apples on a Christmas Tree symbolize the return of humanity to Eden brought about by Christ. The apple should be interpreted in the same vein as an attribute of Mary, the new Eve (see Pomegranate). The imperial orb, symbol of the globe, is a symbol of world domination. In antiquity, it appears in various forms in depictions of Nike, goddess of victory, and is shown, usually topped with a cross, with Christian rulers. The apple acquired symbolic significance because it is one f the oldest fruits gathered by man.

— Udo Becker, The Element Encyclopedia of Symbols (translated by Lance W. Garmer)
     Element Books Limited, Shaftesbury, Great Britain, 1994, p. 21 [AZ108.B4313.1994(IC)]


    A fruit with a core and multiple symbolic meanings. Wild crab-apples were gathered in ancient times, and full-sized varieties were already found in Central Europe in the Neolithic era. In ancient myth the god of intoxication Dionysus was the creator of the apple, which he presented to Aphrodite, goddess of love. Erotic associations liken apples to women's breasts, and the core of an apple cut in halves to the vulva. In this way the apple acquired a somewhat ambiguous symbolism. The goddess Eris called for "the judgment of Paris" when she threw down a golden apple marked "for the most beautiful" (the "apple of discord" in other languages corresponds to the English "bone of contention"); Helen of Troy was Paris' reward for choosing Aphrodite, but his abduction of Helen led to the Trojan War. Hercules had to brave great danger to retrieve the apples of the Hesperides from the far reaches of the west (compare Islands of the Blessed). On the other hand, the earth-goddess Ge (or Gaea) gave Hera an apple as a symbol of fertility upon her engagement to Zeus. In Athens newlyweds divided and ate an apple when they entered the bridal chamber. Sending or tossing apples was a part of courtship. The Old Norse goddess Iduna guarded apples that brought eternal youth to whoever ate them. In Celtic religion the apple was the symbol of knowledge handed down from ancestors.
    Chinese symbology starts with the homonymy of the words for "apple" and "peace" (p'ing), but the word for disease (ping) is also similar, and thus it is considered inappropriate to bring apples to the sick. Apple blossoms, on the other hand, are a symbol of feminine beauty. In Europe the apple of the Garden of Eden, from the Tree of Good and Evil, is the symbol of temptation and original sin. In European representations of the Fall, the serpent holds an apple in its mouth, although Genesis refers only to "fruit"; our apple was unknown east of the Mediterranean. Various traditions replace the apple with a fig, quince, or pomegranate. Paintings of Christ's birth show him reaching out for an apple, symbolically taking the sins of the world upon himself; apples on a European Christmas tree suggest that Christ's birth makes possible a return to the state of innocence that preceded the Fall. Tje enticing sweetness of the apple, however, was first associated with the enticements of sin, also in the surface similarity of the Latin words for "apple" (ralus, malum) and for "bad, evil, sin" (malum). Thus in baroque art the skeleton of death often is holding an apple: the price of original sin is death.
    In the secular realm the apple, with its almost perfectly spherical form, functions as a symbol for the cosmos; thus many emperors and kings hold an "imperial apple" along with their scepter. In ancient times some coins showed three spheres representing the three continents known to the emperor Augustus— Asia, Africa, and Europe; the imperial apple was crowned by an image of the goddess of victory (Nike, in Latin Victoria). In the Christian era a cross assumed this role, so that the astronomical symbol for earth is a circle with a cross on it. In the legends of Celtic Britain, Avalon (Appleland) is a symbol for divine joy. Thus Robert Graves takes the apple as a symbol for springtime and lovers' bliss: "It grants admittance to the Elysian Fields, those apple orchards where only the souls of heroes may go... An apple is the gift of the three Hesperides to Hercules, and the gift of Eve, 'mother of all the living', to Adam. Finally, Nemesis, the goddess of the holy grove, who in later myths became a symbol of divine vengeance wrought upon arrogant kings, carries an apple-bough, her gift to heroes. Every Neolithic or Bronze Age paradise was an island of orchards..." It should be noted that even the unpalatable crab-apple is harsh and tart, is also particularly useful for keeping wine from turning. Thus rigor that seems harsh chastises evil and conserves virtue."

— Hans Biedermann, Dictionary of Symbolism
     Facts On File, New York, 1992, pp. 16-17 [AZ108.B5313.1992(IC)]


Nickname of John Chapman, legendary planter of apple trees. Chapman was a historical figure (1774-1845) who established apple orchards in the early 19th century from his native Massachusetts westward through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. He was eccentric for his time, following the visionary teachings of the Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg and choosing an ascetic life that denied materialism and promoted altruism. His odd lifestyle no doubt generated controversial commentary among the other frontier people. He cared little for his own appearance, dressing in frayed or even tattered clothes; he pierced his flesh as testimony to his spirituality; he argued for humane treatment of all animals; and he spoke about mystical things.
    His potential for appeal to modern sensibility has been obscured by two 20th-century treatments. In the first place, his story was exaggerated and distorted by writers of children's books between World Wars I and II, who presented him as a quaint and funny fellow and touted him as "Johnny Appleseed", a genuine American tall-tale hero. In the second, Richard M. Dorson countered that tendency for unrealistic and saccharine writing about American tall-tale characters in general by dismissing these treatments of Johnny Appleseed as purely contrived "fakelore", of the same ilk as the fictions created about Annie Christmas or Paul Bunyan.
    Although undoubtedly influenced by both the ersatz literary treatments and Johnny Appleseed's fakelore notoriety, stories about John Chapman do have a continuing role in some local oral traditions, where people can still point to remnants of original Chapman orchards. Some local traditions also attribute more than apple orchards to Chapman. Stands of "native" hemp, or cannabis, are alleged to have been planted by Johnny along with his apple seeds. State historical markers and several local festivals honor John Chapman as "Johnny Appleseed", a pioneer hero. In 1966,m as the first issue of the American Folklore Series, a 5-cent U.S. commemorative postage stamp was issued depicting Johnny Appleseed [Scott #1317, issued September 24, 1966, Leominster, MA].   — Kenneth A. Thigpen
Richard M. Dorson, American Folklore (1959), Univeristy of Chicago Press, pp. 232-236
Richard M. Dorson, "Fakelore" in American Folklore and the Historian (1971), pp. 3-14
Robert Price, Johnny Appleseed: Man and Myth (1954), Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

— Jan Harold Brunvand (Editor), American Folklore: An Encyclopedia
     Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, 1996, p. 412 [GR101.A54.1996(IC)]


    Originally growing wild in Europe and western Asia, and cultivated in Europe since Roman times, the apple is a particularly sacred tree in European mythology. A 7th century poem says that a man who puts an apple to the axe must pay a fine of one cow, and the feeling that to cut one down is unlucky has persisted to the present day. So strong was this in Ireland, that an early Irish poem, the Triads of Ireland, calls for the sacrifice of a living creature in payment for felling one. Three unbreathing things paid / for only with breathing things: / An apple tree, a hazel bush, a sacred grove. Felling an apple tree is unlucky because the apple stands for immortality, for eternal youth and happiness in the life after death. The Scandinavian gods kept themselves forever young by eating the golden apples of Idun, goddess of youth and spring. In Welsh legends kings and heroes go after earthly death to live happily in a paradise of apple trees called Avalon (the name possibly from the Welsh word for an apple, afal).
    The apple probably owes its connection with immortality to its colours. Wild apples (crab apples) and many varieties of cultivated apple turn yellow and red as they ripen, and these are the colours of the sun— yellow in its course across the sky, red as it sinks to its 'death' at sunset, from which it rises again, resurrected and immortal, with each new morning.
    The Daughters of Night: This link with the sun comes out strongly in the Greek story of the golden apples which were kept by the Hesperides or 'nymphs of the evening', the daughters of Night, in their garden in the farthest west, where the sun goes down to its death in the evening. A dragon with 100 heads guarded the apples but Hercules managed to kill the dragon and steal them. He took the apples to his master King Eurystheus, who gave them to the goddess Athena. She returned them to the Hesperides again, which makes this labour of Hercules seem singularly pointless. But it is likely that in the original story Hercules won immortality by stealing the apples.

                Hans von Marées (1837-1887), Hesperides (1884), Neue Pinakothek, Munich
The apple's connection with the sun is shown in the story of the apples of the Hesperides, the nymphs who lived in the west where the sun sets. The above triptych painting by Hans von Marées is in the Neue Pinakothek, Munich.

    The Apple of Desire: As an emblem of renewed life and youth, and because of its appearance when cut in half, the apple also stood for desire and belonged to love goddesses in Celtic and Greek mythology. This is its role in the story of the Judgment of Paris. A golden apple marked "for the fairest" was thrown down at a wedding feast on Olympus, the home of the Greek gods. Three goddesses— Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite— each claimed to be the most beautiful, and Zeus decided that the contest should be judged by Paris, one of the sons of the King of Troy and the handsomest man alive.

        Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), The Judgment of Paris (1638), National Gallery, London
In the story of the Judgment of Paris, the apple stands for desire. Paris, one of the sons of the King of Troy, had the difficult task of judging which of the three goddesses was the most beautiful. He awarded the prize, a golden apple, to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The above painting by Peter Paul Rubens is in the National Gallery, London.
    The goddesses stripped naked so that Paris could judge them properly and each of them tried to bribe him to give her the apple. Aphrodite, the goddess of desire, promised him the love of Helen, the most beautiful of mortal women. Paris gave the apple to Aphrodite, which the other goddesses bitterly resented. She kept her promise and Helen ran away with Paris; which was the immediate cause of the Trojan War.
    This story, intended to account for the origin of the war, appears only in the later legends about it and has an odd ring, as it explains no religious ritual or custom and does not seem to be connected with any particular religious belief, except that the apple belongs to Aphrodite as a love goddess. It may be an elaboration of a brief reference in Homer's Iliad to Paris humiliating Hera and Athena at a meeting in his shepherd's hut by his preference for Aphrodite, "who offered him the pleasures and the penalties of love".
    It has also been suggested by Robert Graves, that the story was a mistaken attempt to explain a sacred picture showing Hermes, three naked goddesses and a young man with an apple; which really represented the Mother Goddess in her triple aspect of maiden, mother, and hage, giving the apple to the sacred king to assure him of immortality; while Hermes, who led dead souls down to the underworld stood by.
    Eve and the Apple: Traditionally the fruit which the serpent of Eden maliciously persuaded Adam and Eve to eat was an apple, though the Bible does not say what type of fruit was involved but only that it was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. A more likely fruit than the apple would be the fig, which would connect neatly with the clothes that Adam and Eve made for themselves from the fig leaves after they had eaten the fruit. But what eating the fruit brought them was the guilty consciousness of desire, which the apple symbolizes.
    Aquila of Pontus in Asia Minor, who was converted first to Christianity and then to Judaism, and translated the Old Testament into Greek in the 2nd century AD, is the first writer known to have identified the fruit as an apple. He translated Song of Solomon 8.5— "I raised thee up under the apple tree; there thy mother brought thee forth"— as "I raised thee up under the apple tree; there wast thou corrupted", evidently taking the verse as a reference to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. St. Jerome, translating the Old Testament into Latin, followed suit and the belief that the forbidden fruit was an apple has been generally accepted ever since.

— Richard Cavendish (Editor), Man, Myth & Magic:
     The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown

     Marshall Cavendish, New York, 1985, pp. 141-142 [BF1411.M25.1983Bv.1(IC)]


    In Hesse, it is said that if an apple be eaten on New Year's day, it will produce an abscess.
    To find an apple on your tree that is of one color or kind on one side and another color or kind on the other, is a sign of a terrible division in the family.
    In the East, there is a fruit called the "love-apple". If you send it to the one you love and whom you wish to love you, it will induce the person to do so.
    When you get your winter's supply of apples, notice the peeling; if it is very thick, you may prepare for a long and cold winter.
    If you find a large but very thin seed in an apple, you will receive an important letter.
    If you eat an apple having but one seed, you will receive an unexpected fortune, either by marriage or legacy.
    In Sicily, if a person throws an apple out of the window and a woman picks it up, there will be no marriage for the person that year.
    In Pomerania, to eat apples is believed to insure against fever.
    It is accounted lucky to come upon a worm in the first ripe apple you eat.
    To slip on an apple-peel, signifies a better end than beginning.
    No Russian will touch an apple before the feast of the transfiguration, Aug. 6th.
    An apple falling from a tree and striking a person on the right shoulder, is an omen of good luck; on the left, bad.
    In Turkey is an apple that, if tasted by persons feeling old and decrepit, will restore them to youth. "A bloom on the tree when apples are ripe, / Is the sure termination of somebody's life." (Gloucestershire, England)
    To drop an apple when eating it, fortells sickness. If you drop it twice, an accident.
    Burying thirteen leaves of an apple tee, insures a good crop of apples.
    In the West of England, when the apples are gathered in, a few are left on the tree for the fairies, so as to secure their good will and friendship.
    In Austria, a maiden cuts an apple and places the left half in her bosom and the right half behind the door. The first man who comes through the door, will be her future husband.
    The English believe that if the boys went out on New Year's and, encircling the apple trees, sang the following words, they would have a good crop: "Stand fast root, bear well top, / Pray God send us a howling crop. / Every twig apple big, / Every bough apples enough. / Hats full, caps full / Great quarter sacks full!"
    If, in cutting an apple in two, a seed is cut, trouble will come to the person having the largest portion of the seed.
    Apple-growers say that they had rather gather their apples under a shrinking moon, for even if the apples are bruised in the gathering, they will not rot so fast as if taken at the waxing moon. "If apples bloom in March, / In vain for them you'll search; / If apples bloom in April, / Why then they'll be plentiful; / If apples bloom in May, / You may eat them night and day."
    When a full crop of apples is picked in Cornwall, it is unlucky to go again and pick the few remaining ones that have been missed. Those belong to the fairies and earth-spirits, and they will resent your greediness.
    In the Scandinavian mythology, the apple tree played an important part. In the Edda, the goddess Iduna is related to have had charge of the apples which had the power of conferring immortality, and which, in consequence of their miraculous property, were especially retained by the gods to eat when they felt themselves growing old. The evil spirit Loki carried off Iduna and the wonderful apple tree, and hid them away in a forest where the gods could not find them. The result of this spiteful theft was that everything went wrongly, both in this mundane sphere and in the realms divine. The gods grew old and infirm, and were no longer able to control the affairs of this earth, until by combining their powers, they overcame Loki and compelled him to restore the apple tree, which again restored comparative harmony among men and gods.
    The apple plays its part in the fables of every race. It was the forbidden fruit of Eden; the wedding gift of Zeus to Hebe; the prize for beauty offered by Paris; borne in the hand of Aphrodite; watched by dragons in the gardens of the Hesperides; vainly grasped at in hell by Tantalus; comforted the love-sick maiden in th Song of Solomon; ruined Troy, and saved Hippomenes. Iduna, wife of Bragi, Odin's son, keeps in her magic casket the apples of which the gods must eat to obtain perpetual youth. It formed the groves of the blessed Isle of Avalon; conveyed the poison to Snowflake; and was pierced by the arrow of William Tell. To this day, it receives in the cider districts exceptional respect. The Devonshire women carry bowls of wassail into the orchards and sprinkle a few drops upon each tree, to make it fruitful.
    In Somersetshire, the apple trees are "wassailed", by singing certain songs to insure a good crop.
    The Pennsylvaina Germans say: Pick apples in the dark of the moon to keep them from rotting.
    APPLE OF EVE— There is a tree in Hispaniola, St. Domingo, called the "apple of Eve". It has a very fragrant smell and is very enticing; but it is an "apple of Sodom", being as deadly as beautiful.

— Cora Linn Daniels & C.M. Stevans (Editors), Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore,
     and the Occult Sciences of the World
, Vol. II, Gale Research Company, Detroit, 1971,
     originally published by J.H. Yewdale & Sons, Co., Chicago, 1903, pp. 764-765, 867


Plants and Plant Husbandry: APPLE
    Apple Tree Planted During Starry Nights— In planting an apple tree,
we should select a starry night so that the apple [sic] bears many fruits
(Batangas, Valencia, Bukidnon, 1967).

— Francisco R. Demetrio (Ed.), Dictionary of Philippine Folk Beliefs and Customs, Book IV,
     Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, 1970, p. 865 [GR325.D44v.4(IC)]


    Fruitfulness, health, knowledge, love, wisdom; also death, discord, evil, lust, temptation. Of phallic significance. In witchcraft food of the oracular dead. In fairytales the giver of immortal youth; in the Swiss tale of William Tell typifies danger. In folklore the fruit is the symbol of consummation as the egg is of initiation. Word from the root ap (ab or ball). The ending le (ala) is apparently a diminutive form. As used in Northern Europe, yields ap (ab or ball or eye) + poe (pol or Baldur), thus eye of Baldur, sun god. French pomme yields eye of sun. Greek for apple is melon, i.e., one god; Welsh is aval, thus Avalon, the isle of rest, is Apple Island. It equates with Apollo and is the source of Appleby, Appuldurcomb, Appold, etc. In Celtic tradition one of the two sacred trees of ancient Ireland. In China symbolizes peace. In Christian- Hebraic-Moslem tradition earthly happiness, fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Cause of the fall of man and of original sin, death-dealer, destroyer. In the hands of Adam, weakness; in the hands of Eve, damnation. In the hands of Jesus, the new Adam; in the hands of Mary, the new Eve, redemption or salvation. Attribute of Saint Dorothea. Neither early Hebrew nor Mohammedan works clearly identify the fruit, and some believe an ear of wheat, a fig, or fruit of the vine may have been intended. Some believe a Semitic word for fruit was translated into Old High German opaz (fruit) or Anglo-Saxon ofet (fruit), both of which are rendered as apple. In Greek mythology the apple symbolizes discord, love, victory— Eris, Atalants. The golden apples of Aphrodite caused even the frigid Atalanta to yield to love. In Norse mythology a symbol of immortality.
    Apple Blossom: December 31 birthday flower signifying preference. In the language of flowers: He prefers you; also Fame called him great and good. Herald of May; appropriate to brides. Emblem of Arkansas and Michigan.
    Apple Howling: In England salute given in apple orchards on Christmas Eve invoking fruitfulness.
    Apple of Discord: In Greek mythology gold apple inscribed "For the Fairest", and thrown onto a table by Eris, goddess of discord, at the marriage feast of Thetis and Peleus, to which all deities except Eris had been invited. Aphrodite, Athena, Hera, each claimed the apple. Called upon to act as judge, Paris awarded the apple to Aphrodite. The vegeance of Athena and Hera was directed against Paris, and they brought about the fall of Troy. Thus any cause of dispute.
    Apple of Hesperides: The apples the color of burnished gold with the taste of honey. When eaten they did not diminish in any way, and whoever cast one of them hit anything he wished, and the apple came back into his hand. They also had the power of healing, and were symbolic of happiness, love, and wisdom. They were given to Hera as a wedding gift when she married Zeus. She placed them under the guardianship of a dragon (earth spirit) in the Garden of the Hesperides (Garden in the North). The apples tossed by Eris was stolen from this garden. One of the labors of Hercules was to get an apple. In Celtic lore demanded by Lugh as a blood fine from the murderers of his father, the son of Tuirenn. Probably identical with the apple tree of Manannan. According to some scholars, oranges or persimmons were intended.
    Apple of Istakhar: All sweetness on one side; all bitterness on the other.
    Apple of Paradise: Apples with a bite on one side to indicate the bite given by Eve.
    Apple of Perpetual Youth: In Scandinavian mythology the golden apples in the keeping of Idhunn, daughter of Svald and wife of Bragi. By tasting them the gods preserved their youth.
    Apple of Pyban: In the travels of Sir John Mandeville, pigmies fed on their scent alone.
    Apple of Samarkand: In the Arabian Nights a cure for any disorder.
    Apple of Sodom: A poisonous Dead Sea fruit; a lovely fruit which, when plucked, turns to ashes; hence anything deceptive or disappearing. Typifies sin.
    Apple Tree: Useful beauty. Frequently figures as a tree of everlasting youth. A tree of knowledge or of life. In Baltic mythology, when the tree has nine branches, typifies the rays of the sun.
    Thorn Apple: Deceitful charms.
    Wild Apple: When Celtic tree alphabet was increased to fifteen consonants, tree of the eleventh consonant, quert (Q or CC), which shared the month of the hazel, August 6 to September 2.

— Gertrude Jobes, Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore, and Symbols
     Screcrow Press, Inc., New York, 1962, Part I, pp. 112-114 [GR35.J6.v.1(IC)]


    A pome fruit and the tree bearing this fruit, widely cultivated in the temperate regions, originally growing wild in Europe and western Asia. The apple tree and its fruit play an important role in classical, Arabian, Teutonic, and Celtic mythology and folklore. The apple as such is not mentioned in the Bible in conjunction with Adam and Eve. Despite the popular conception of the story, the cause of the trouble was the "fruit" (unidentified) of the tree which is in the midst of the garden" (Genesis iii.3). The apple mentioned in the Song of Solomon (ii.3,5; vii.8;; viii.5) and in Joel (i.12) may the apricot or the orange (the apples of gold, Proverbs xxv.11) which flourished in Asia Minor.
    In mythology and folklore, the apple is celebrated in numerous functions: as a means to immortality, an emblem of fruitfulness, an offering or a distraction in suitor contests, a cure, a love charm, a test of chastity, a means of divination, a magic object, and according to Voltaire's story of Newton, it was responsible for the discovery of the law of gravity. In Greek mythology, the golden apples of the Hesperides were sought by Hercules for Eurystheus because of their immortality-giving quality. Scandinavian mythology includes the story of the apples of perpetual youth kept by Idhunn in Asgard. The wonderful apple thrown to Conle, son of Conn, by the woman from the Land of the Living, was food and drink to him for a month, and never diminished; but it made him long for the woman and beautiful country of women to which she was enticing him. Gna, messenger of the Scandinavian Frigga, dropped an apple (symbol of fruitfulness) to King Rerir. He and his wife ate it together, with the result that they had a child. In Greek myth the suitor of Atalanta, compelled to race with her, threw down golden apples to distract her, and so won the race and the girl. Frey sent eleven golden apples to Gerda as a marriage offer. The apple is the central tree of heaven in Iroquois Indian mythology. In a Wyandot myth, an apple tree shades the lodge of the Mighty Ruler.
    The apple of Prince Ahmed in the Arabian Nights cured every disorder. In U.S. Negro folklore, apple-shaped birthmarks can be removed by rubbing them with apples and keeping the person on an apple diet. They are also used in voodoo love charms. The apple is a love charm also in Danish, German, and English folklore. In Danish folktale it serves as a chastity test, fading when the owner is unfaithful. In Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, apples are used in divination. The custom of dipping for apples or catching one on a string on Halloween is a remnant of druidic divination. The apple is a magic object in Scandinavian, Irish, Icelandic, Teutonic, Breton, English, and Arabian folktales.
    It is also the subject of numerous proverbs and sayings: Eat an apple going to bed, Make the doctor beg his bread (now, An apple a day keeps the doctor away). There is small choice in rotten apples, and From the egg to apples (now, From soup to nuts).

John Chapman (1774-1845), eccentric, itinerant pioneer nurseryman and colporteur, enshrined in historical, literary, and folk tradition as the American Saint Francis and "voice in the wilderness". Beginning in the 1790's, he worked his way west from his native Massachusetts to the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Indiana frontier, planting apple nurseries, spreading "news right fresh from heaven", befriending and winning the respect of settlers and Indians alike, as a mediary and "medicine man". His apple seeds and seedlings, exchanged for food, cast-off clothing, and other articles or for frontier currency, took care of his simple needs, while the profits went into copies of Swedenborg's works, which he separated into parts for wider and cheaper distribution.
    Generally pictured as a barefoot, bearded, kindly hermit and tramp, with a tin mushpot or pastelboard peaked cap on his head and a tow-linen coffee sack on his back, he left a trail of legends and anecdotes, folk memories and public memorials, orchards and monuments, not only throughout the Middle West but from coast to coast. He has been celebrated in drama, poetry, fiction, and biography as a saint in action, and memorialized by New Church and horticultural societies as a missionary extraordinary and the patron saint of pomology. As a savior among frontier wastrels, the archetype of "endurance that was voluntary, and of action that was creative and not sanguinary", he occupies a unique place in the pantheon of folk heroes— the poetic symbol of spiritual pioneering, of self-abnegation combined with service, of plain living and high thinking.
    He is said to have proved his fortitude in enduring pain by sticking pins and needles into his flesh, and his love of every living thing by extinguishing a campfire to keep mosquitoes from burning themselves in it, and by sleeping out in the snow rather than oust a mother bear and her cubs from the hollow log they had pre-empted. Other typical scenes and exploits in the Applessed saga include floating down the Ohio River in two canoes lashed together and containing apple seed salvaged from Pittsburgh cider presses, and saving the people of Mansfield from Indian massacre by running 26 miles to Mt. Vernon for help and returning in 24 hours. Among the oddly assorted memorials to his name are a "Johnny Appleseed apple", "Johnny weed" (annoying dog fennel, which he planted along with other medicinal herbs), and "Johnny Appleseed Week" (last week in September, celebrated in Ohio since 1941). — B. A. Botkin

— Maria Leach (Editor), Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend
     Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York, 1949,
     Vol, 1, p. 68 & Vol. 2, pp. 555-556 [GR35F8v.1-2(IC)]


Symbolic fruit. The most magical of fruits to the Celts, the apple appears in many myths and legends. It hides in the word for the Arthurian otherworld, Avalon; it is the fruit on which the hero Connla of the Golden Hair was fed by his fairy lover; the soul of king Cúroí rested in an apple within the stomach of a salmon; it was one of the goals of the fated sons of Tuireann. Its significance continues into folkloric uses such as that in the British Cotswolds, where an apple tree blooming out of season meant coming death. Symbolizing harmony and immortality, abundance and love, the apple was considered a talisman of good fortune and prosperity. Some have connected the word to Apollo, a word derived from the same source as our word "apple".

— Patricia Monaghan, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore
     Facts On File, Inc., New York, 2004, p. 22 [BL900.M66.2004]


(Malus domestica). In common with other fruit trees, it was believed that if an apple tree blossomed out of season misfortune or death was foretold.
    Remarking an apple blossom a few days ago, month of November on one of my trees, I pointed it out as a curiosity to a Dorset labourer. 'Ah! Sir,' he said, 'tis lucky no women folk be here to see that'; and upon my asking the reason he replied 'Because they's sure to think somebody were a-going to die.' [N & Q, 4 ser., 10:408, 1872]
    [Southmolton, Devon;] We had apples and blossom on one branch of the tree one September, and were told it was a sign of death. [Chope, 1929: 125]
    If an apple tree blossoms very much out of season it foretells a tragedy in the family before the year is out. [Reading, Berkshire, February 1987]

    A belief recorded from Derbyshire [N & Q, I ser. 8: 512, 1853] and elsewhere was that if the sun shone through the branches of apple trees on Christmas Day, or Old Christmas Day, an abundant crop of apples was foretold. In Dorset this belief was expressed in the couplet [Carre, 1975: 12]:
            If wold Christmas Day be fair and bright
            Ye'd have apples to your heart's delight.
    At about the same time of year apple trees were wassailed.
    In certain parts of this country superstitious observances yet linger, such as drinking health to the [apple] trees on Christmas and Epiphany eves, saluting them by throwing toasted crabs or toast round them, lighting fires etc. All these ceremonies are supposed to render the trees productive for the coming season.
    I once had the occasion to pass the night preceding Twelfth day at a lone farm-house on the borders of Dartmoor, in Devonshire, and was somewhat alarmed at hearing, very late at night, the repeated discharge of fire-arms in the immediate vicinity of the house. On my inquiring in the morning as to what was the cause of the unseasonable noise, I was told that the farm-men were firing into the Apple-trees in the orchard, in order that the trees might bear a good crop. [Johns, 1847: 303]
    Four years later it was reported:
    Amongst the scenes of jocund hospitality in this holiday season, that are handed down to us, is one which not only presents an enlivening picture, but offers proof of the superstition that still prevails in the western counties. On 'Twelfth Eve', in Devonshire, it is customary for the farmer to leave his warm fireside, accompanied by a band of rustics, with guns, blunderbusses, etc., presenting an appearance which at other times would be somewhat alarming. Thus armed, the band proceed to an adjoining orchard, where is selected one of the most fruitful and aged of the apple-trees, grouping round which the stand and offer up their invocations in the following quaint doggerel rhyme:

Here's to thee
Old apple tree!
Whence thou mays't blow
And whence thou mays't bear
Apples enow:
Hats full!
Caps full!
Bushels, bushels, sacks full,
And my pockets full too!
Huzza! Huzza!
    The cider jug is then passed around, and, with many a hearty shout, the party fire off their guns, charged with powder only, amidst the branches, sometimes frightening the owl from its midnight haunt. With confident hopes they return to the farm-house, and are refused admittance, in spite of all weather, till some lucky wight guesses aright the peculiar roast hte maidens are preparing for their comfort. This done, all enter, and soon right merrily the jovial glass goes round— the man who gained admission receiving the honour of 'king of the evening', and till a late hour he reigns, amidst laughter, fun, and jollity. The origin of this custom is not known, but is supposed to be of great antiquity. [Illustrated London Newsm, 11 January 1851]
    This custom seems to have been most prevalent in Devon and Somerset. It also occurred in other apple-growing districts, but appears to have been absent from the cider-making area around Hereford. In Sussex, where the custom was known as 'howling', the earliest reference dates back to 1670, when the Rector of Horsted Keynes recorded in his diary on Boxing Day, 'Gave to the howling boys sixpence' [Simpson, 1973: 102]. At Duncton, in West Sussex, 'Spratty' Knight was the chief wassailer in the 1920s. He was 'Captain' of a team of wassailers who would assemble at the village pub and go around the local farms asking each farmer 'Do you want your trees wassailed?'
    The gang, followed by numerous small children, then went to the orchard. Spratty blew through a cow's horn, which made a terrible sound. It was to frighten away any evil spirits that might be lurking around. Next one of the trees, generally the finest one, would be hit with sticks and sprinkled with ale. This was a gift to the god who looked after the fruit trees. Lastly all the company joined the wassailing song, the words of which were as follows:
Stand fast, root, bear well, top,
Pray, good God, send us a howling crop,
Every twig, apples big, every bough, apples now;
Hats full, caps full, five bushell sacks full,
And a little heap under the stairs,
Hulloa, boys, hulloa, and blow the horn!
And hulloa they did, to the accompaniment of the horn. This completed the wassailing, and everyone trooped out of the orchard up to the farm-house door, where they were greeted by the farmer's wife with drinks and goodies. Sometimes money was given instead of good cheer, and then on around the village, till they arrived at the Cricketers' Inn, which was their last port of call. [West Sussex Gazette, 26 December 1966]
Similarly, in Devon in the 1940s:
    The sun on the apple trees on Christmas Day would mean a good crop, and at Dunkerswell up the Culm Valley, on Twelfth Night they went out from the local pub at night to shoot into the branches and sing an old song. [Tilehurst, Berkshire, February 1987]
The wassailing of apple trees seems to have survived longest at Carhampton in Somerset, where the custom continues to take place in the orchard behind the Butchers Arms Inn each January [Patten, 1974:7]. Elsewhere wassailing has been revived as a publicity venture by cider companies. Thus in 1974 the Taunton Cider Company promoted a wassailing, complete with a Wassail Queen, at Norton Fitzwarren, in west Somerset [Western Gazette, 25 January 1974]. A particularly vigorous revival is the Apple Howling event which the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men put on each year.
    The practice is undoubtedly traditional to Sussex where it is known as 'Apple Howling' rather than 'Wassailing the Apple Trees', but the proceedings, as conducted by the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men, are a compilationg of traditions from various parts of the country rather than a purely Sussex tradition. We have used such sources as Christina Hole's British Folk Customs and records of the event at Carhampton, Somerset, to produce an hour long event which has proved a great success. As you will see in Geoffrey Palmer and Noel Lloyd's A Year of Festivals [1972] it is our team at Tandring, Hailsham, which is used to illustrate this traditional event! This was the first occasion that we did it, in 1967 (January 6th). Chanctonbury Ring M.M. have now successfully done their apple howling for the last two years at Furner's Farm, Henfield, Sussex. We try to do it on the Eve of Epiphany, but since Friday clashes with a Folk Song Club commitment we have chosen a Thursday on both occasions. We had 300 spectators this year and in addition there were 25 morris men. Mr. Whitton, the owner of the orchard, is most cooperative! The morris men are enthusiastic! [Dick Playl, past squire of Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men, January 1978]
In 1978 the programme proceeded from a 'cacophonouse noise' to signal the start, through a series of traditional activities, including the palacing of spiced wassail cake in a fork of the tree 'to ensure the good-will of robins and other birds', to a 'general hullabaloo', followed by three cheers for the orchard owner, before concluding with the distribution of 'traditional spiced Wassail Cake and English cider from the barrel'. Sixteen years later, in May 1994, the bagman of the morris men reported:
    We still go Apple Howling on or very near Twelfth Night. Of late we have taken to doing it on the nearest Saturday, in the early evening as it is very popular with the children. We regularly get audience of 100. Furner's Farm is a working orchard on a commercial scale with a considerable amount of trees for this part of the country. It has packing sheds where we retire to after the ceremony to eat wassail cakes (locally made spiced buns), drink cider and to perform some dances. This is given as a thank you to all our loyal followers, and gets larger by the year, despite the weather in January which can be quite inclement at times. It also ensures that everyone has played their part in bringing a good crop for next year.
This revival took place at a time when there was a resurgence of interest in English folk music and dance. In the 1990s, following a period of interest in 'green' and New Age ideas, revivals reflect these enthusiams.
    There seems to be no record of apple tree wassailing in Yorkshire, and my attempts at reviving the custom will undoubtedly be frowned upon by some folklorists who are of the opinion that such a revival should not be contemplated in an area where the custom has not been previously performed. My reply is that apple trees have a right to be wassailed wherever they grow. There is a great affinity between trees and humans, but also, unfortunately at present, great isolation. Wassailing the apple trees is one way of helping to restore harmony and thus correcting this imbalance... This year I finally managed to find a suitable location in the Sheffield area, although only 5 people attended... Plans for 1994, apart from a repeat of the 1993 wassails, include a possible second wassailing location in the Sheffield area, and a possible one near Rotherham. [Sheffield, April 1993]
Writing in 1884, Sabine Baring-Gould recorded a north Devon belief that it was usual for there to be late frosts, which severely damaged apple blossom, on the nights of 19, 20, and 21 May. This period was known as St. Frankin's Days. The pre-Reformation Church blessed each year's new apple crop on St. James's Day (25 July) [Brand, 1853:346], while in the 17th century it was recorded:
    In Herefordshire, and also in Somersetshire, on Midsommer-eve, they make fires in the fields in the waies:sc— to Blesse the Apples. I have seen the same custome in Somerset, 1685, but they doe it only for custome sake. [Aubrey, 1881:96]
In a letter written from Elton, north Herefordshire, in 1880, it was stated:     Unless the orchard are christened on St. Peter's Day [29 June] the crop will not be good; and there ought to be a shower of rain when the people go through the orchards, but no one seems to know for what purpose exactly [Leather, 1912:104]
St. Swithin's Day (15 July) was another day on which apples were christened.
    In the Huntingdonshire parish wherein I passed St. Swithin's Day, 1865, we had not a drop of rain. A cottager said to me, 'It's a bad job for the apples that St. Swithin hadn't rained upon 'em.' 'Why so?' 'Because unless St. Swithin rains upon 'em they'll never keep through winter.' [N & Q, 3 ser. 8:146, 1865]
    When I was a lad we were told not to eat apples before St. Swithin's Day or they would make us ill, as they had not been christened. This was in South Notts. [N & Q, 8 ser. 10:112, 1896]
    The Christening of the Apples. This was a common expression for St. Swithin's Day in the neighbourhood of Banbury in the middle of the last century. On that day apples were supposed to begin to get big and mature quickly. [N & Q, 11 ser. 10:152, 1914]
    The Apple Christening DAy is still a common folk-name given to St. Swithin's Day in Surrey as well as in Berkshire and Oxfordshire, as I am told by many friends. [N & Q, 11 ser. 10:152, 1914]

But the idea of apples being blessed on St. James's Day also lingered.
    'On St. James' Day the Apples are Christened.' This saying is found among the people in Wiltshire and in Somersetshire. Was St. James considered to be the patron of orchards? and was he invoked for a blessing on the infant fruit? as, at that season, May 1, the apple trees are in bloom. [N & Q, 2 ser. 1:386, 1856]
In 1913 a farmer living at Veryan, Cornwall, advised:
    Never pick apples before St. James' Day, when they get their final blessing. [Peter, 1915:132]
Clearly there is some confusion over which St James's Day is intended: the first quotation refers to the feast of St. James the Less (1 May) and the second apparently refers to the feast of St. James the Greater (25 July).
Since 1989 the environmental group Common Ground has been promoting 21 October as Apple Day, in the hope it will stimulate a greater appreciation of old varieties of apple. It remains to be seen whether or not this annual event will prosper, but according to a report in The Times of 17 October 1992:
    More than 80 apple-promoting events have been planned around the country next week, from the planting of a new orchard of Cox's Orange Pippin, near the Slough home of its 19th-century founder to cider-making demonstration and tastings in Devon and Somerset, and a children's apple activity day at the Greenwich Borough Museum.
Particularly in Ireland, apples are widely used in Hallowe'en activities.
    Hallowe'en is celebrated on the night of 31st October. The children get a tub full of water and put it in the middle of the floor. They put an apple or a couple of apples into the tub. The children then kneel down around the tub and put their heads into the water, to try to catch an apple in their mouth. They enjoy themselves very much at this. This night is also known as 'Snap-Apple Night'. [IFCSS MSS 350:397, Co. Cork]
    I was born in 1946 and brought up in a working class area of Manchester. [At Hallowe'en] occasionally during my childhood we bobbed for apples in a tin bath, or tried to eat them off strings with hands tied behind back. This happened once or twice in early childhood. Nowadays we have apple bobbing, apples on strings. [Acomb, North Yorkshire, August 1989]

In 19th century Cornwall:
    The ancient custom of providing children with a large apple on Allhallow-eve is still observed, to a great extent, at St. Ives. 'Allan-day' as it is called is the day of days to hundreds of children, who would deem it a great misfortune were they to go to bed on 'Allan-night' without the time honoured Allan apple to hide beneath their pillows. A quantity of large apples are thus disposed of, the sale of which is signified by the term Allan Market. [Hunt, 1881:388]
Similarly, in the 20th century:
    Allantide was still a popular occasion in my Newlyn childhood, and extra-large 'Allan Apples' very much in demand. The older girls put them under their pillows to dream of their sweethearts. While boys hung them on a string and took large bites! [Williams, 1987:98]
The peeling of an apple (or occasionally an orange) so that the peel remains in one long strip, which is then thrown over the shoulder to form the initial of a potential husband on the ground, is a widely reported activity, particularyly at Hallowe'en.
    'At midnight,' says a 14-year-old in Aberdeen, 'all the girls line up in front of the mirror. One by one each girl brushes her hair three times. While she is doing this the man who is to be her husband is supposed to look over her shoulder. If this happens the girl will be married within the year'. 'After they have done this' continues the young Aberdonian, 'each girl peels an apple, the peel must be thrown over her left shoulder with her right hand. This is supposed to form the initial of her husband-to-be.' [Opie, 1959:53]
In Cornwall a more rough and ready method of divination was used:
    An apple pip flicked into the air indicated the lover's home, so long as this verse was used [Deane and Shaw, 1975:53]: North, south, east, west, / Tell me where my love does rest.
Similarly, in Lancashire:
    In order to ascertain the abode of a lover, the anxious inquirer moves round in a circle, squeezing an apple pippin between finger and thumb, which, on pressure being employed, flies from the rind in the supposed direction of the lover's residence. The following doggerel is repeated during the operation:
Pippin, pippin, paradise,
Tell me where my true love lies,
East, west, north or south,
Pilling brig or Cocker-mouth.
    That the reply may be corroborated, the inquirer afterwards shakes another pippin between the closed hands, and, on ascertaining the direction of the point of the pippin to the point of the compass, the assurance is supposed to be rendered doubly sure, if the charm works as desired, but not otherwise. [N & Q, 4 ser. 6:340, 1870]
It is recorded that Dorset girls might use an apple pip to test their lovers' fidelity:
    If on putting it in the fire, it bursts with the heat she is assured of his affection; but if it is consummed in silence she may know that he is false. Whilst they anxiously await the effect the following couplet is usually announced [Udal, 1922:251]: If you love me, pop and fly; / If you hate me, lay and die.
In 1882 it was recorded that on St. Thomas's Day (21 December), Guernsey girls would use an apple to obtain a glimpse of their future lovers.
    On the day you must take a golden pippin, and having walked backwards to your bed, and having spoken to no one, you must then place it underneath the pillow, and St. Thomas will grant to you when asleep a vision of your future consort. On placing the pippin underneath the pillow, the following charm must be repeated [Stevens Cox, 1971:9]:
Le jour de St. Thomas,
Le plus court, et le plus bas,
Dieu, fais me voir un mon dormant,
Ce que j'aurai pour mon amant.
Montre moi et mon épouse
La maison ou j'habiterai.
In Lancashire in the 1980s:
    I remember twisting off apple stalks, each time the apple was turned a letter of the alphabet was said, when the stalk broke that letter was the initial of the Christian name of the one you were to marry. The broken stalk was then poked into the apple, counting letters again, when the skin broke that letter was his surname initial. [Kensington, London, November 1991]
Awd Goggie and Lazy Lawrence were Nursery Bogies which children were warned protected orchards and unripe fruit. In the East Riding of Yorkshire:
    There is another wicked sprite, who comes in most usefully as a protector of fruit. His name is Awd Goggie, and he specially haunts woods and orchards. It is evident, therefore, that it is wise on the children's part to keep away from the orchard at improper times, because otherwise 'Awd Goggie might get them.' [Gutch, 1911:40]
Further south:
    Lazy Laurence was a guardian spirit of the orchard, both in Hampshire and in Somerset. In Hampshire, he sometimes took the form of a colt and chased orchard thieves. In Somerset, Lazy Laurence seems rather to afflict the thieves with what is described in one of the night spells as 'Cramps and crookeing and fault in their footing.' The Somerset proverbial saying runs [Briggs, 1976:262]: Lazy Laurence, let me goo, / Don't hold me Winter and Summer too.
The Somerset folklorist Ruth Tongue (1898-1981) recorded vague recollections of the Apple-Tree Man, which was, apparently, the oldest tree in the orchard.
    Pitminster was the place where in my childhood I was gravely and proudly conducted by a farm-child to a very old apple tree in their orchard and told mysteriously that it was 'the Apple Tree Man'. In 1958 I heard of him again on the Devon-Somerset borders. [Briggs and Tongue, 1965:44]
The proverb 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away' seems to have been first recorded in the form 'Eat an apple on going to bed. And you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread' in 1866 [Simpson, 1982:5]. Some west Dorset farming families seem to have taken the injunction quite literally, for apple dumplings formed a standard part of their daily evening meal, and:
    They used to keep the apples from one year so that the last of them could be made into a pie eaten at the end of sheep shearing time [in May] the following year. [Thorncombe, Dorset, autumn 1974]
Apples were used in a variety of traditional remedies.
    During my childhood in a Pennine village, I was sent to the greengrocer for a rotten apple— a mouldy one— as a remedy for an obstinate stye. {Letter from Streatham, London, in Sunday Times, 21 December 1958].
    Thoroughly rotten apples were threaded onto chilblained toes to cool the burning and itch8ing [Lisburn, Co. Antrim, March 1886]
    According to my 86-year-old aunt, an apple was placed in a room where there was smallpox; as the apple went mouldy the smallpox was believed to be transferred from the patient to it. [Histon, Cambridgeshire, January 1989]

Burning apple wood 'will scent your room with an incense-like perfume' [letter from Five Ashes, Sussex, in The Times, 1 March 1929] or 'will fill your room with the gentlest of perfume' [letter from Middle Winnersh, Berkshire, in TV Times, 23 December 1989].

— Roy Vickery, A Dictionary of Plant-Lore
     Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York, 1995, pp. 4-13 [GR780.V53.1997(IC)]


    The true apple, Malus sylvestris, is not cultivated in China; the varieties found are more akin to M. prunifolia, being handsome in appearance but of poor flavor. The wild crab-apple M. baccata, is very abundant in the North. The small cherry-apple, Pyrus spectabilis, is also common.
    Apple blossom is sometimes employed as a decorative motive, and is regarded as an emblem of feminine beauty. On account of the similarity in the sound of the Chinese word for "apple" p'ing (), and "peace" p'ing ()— the gift of a few apples suggests the idea of perpetual concord, and is equivalent to the greeting "Peace be with you".

— C.A.S. Williams, Encyclopedia of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives
     Julian Press, New York, 1960, p. 18 (original 1932), [GR335.W53.1961(IC)]


Wikipedia: Apple (symbolism)
   (Mythology & religion, Greek: Apple of Discord, Norse, Celtic, Legends, folklore & traditions)
Wikipedia: Apple
   (Botany, History, Culture, Apple cultivars, Production, Commerce, Consumption, Health benefits)
Apple Facts (Institute of Food Research, UK)
   (History of Apples, Apple Market, Apples in Science, Nutrition Info, Apples & Health, Products)
Apple (1911 Encyclopedia Britannica)
   (Dessert Apples & Kitchen Apples with their ripening months)
The Symbolism of the Apple in Greek and Roman Literature
   [By A.R. Littlewood, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 72 (1968), 147-181]
Three Apples Fell from Heaven
   [By Anne M. Avakian, Folklore, Vol. 98 (1987), 95-98]
Apple Symbolism and Legends (By Kathleen Karlsen, 6-3-2010)
   (Dessert Apples & Kitchen Apples with their ripening months)
Traditional Themes and Motifs in Literature (By Tina Blue, 2-5-2001)
   (Apple as a symbol of deadly seduction, of innocence betrayed: Snow White & Eve)
Apple Symbolism and Legends (By Kathleen Karlsen, 9-11-2007)
   (Apple blossom is the state flower for Arkansas, symbol of love, youth, beauty, & happiness)
What does an apple symbolize in literature? (Yahoo Answers)
   (Girl bites apple at end of Eudora Welty's story "A Visit of Charity")

| Top of Page | Gift of Apples | Notes to Poem | Poems 2010 | Poems 2009 | Poems 2008 |
| Haikus 2010 | Haikus 2009 | CPITS | Poetry & Power | Books | A-Z Portals | Home |

© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (6-14-2010)