Origin: Central Asia
Scientific Name: Malus domestica
Folk Names: Fruit of the gods, fruit of the underworld, silver bough, tree of love
Associated Celebrations: ShadowFest
Deities: Aphrodite, Apollo, Diana, Flora, Hercules, the Hesperides, Idunn, Olwen, Pomona, Venus
Parts Used: Fruit, blossoms, juice/cider
Magical Properties: Love, happiness, fertility, lust, wisdom, healing
Apples can be troubling to identify in mythology and historical accounts, as ‘apple’ was used as a generic term for fruits and nuts until the 17th century. However:
- Apple remains have been found in tombs in Europe and West Asia dating back to 5,000 BCE, probably as food for the dead, and possibly due to an association with rebirth.
- In Ancient Egypt: Ramesses II planted apples in his gardens in the Delta. Ramesses III once gave an offering to Hapi, the god of the Nile, of 848 baskets of apples.
- “Apples” were commonly referenced in Greek mythology:
- As part of his Twelve Labours, Heracles was required to pick golden apples off the Tree of Life growing in the centre of the Garden of the Hesperides;
- A golden apple with “For the most beautiful one” inscribed on it being awarded to Aphrodite is attributed with starting the Trojan War (now known as the Golden Apple of Discord);
- Apples were then considered sacred to Aphrodite: Throwing an apple was considered a symbolic declaration of one’s love, as was catching it a symbol of accepting said love.
- Apples were said to abound on the sacred island of Avalon in England, and were intimately linked wth spirituality on the British Isles.
- Norse goddess Idunn kept a garden of golden apples which the gods ate to grant them perpetual youth. Apples were strongly associated with fertility in Norse mythology, and is said that certain Norse priests were forbidden to eat apples, due to the fruit’s lustful properties.
- At one time, apples were rubbed before eating to remove any demons or evil spirits residing inside them.
- The proverb “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has been traced back to 19th-century Wales (originally “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread”).
- Apples can be used in place of a poppet.
- Eat apples or apple products to encourage love.
- Add apple blossoms to love and healing incenses.
- Use apple cider in place of blood or wine, if they are called for in old magical spells and rites.
- Give an apple to a lover as a present, cut it in half, and eat one half while your lover eats his or hers, to ensure a happy relationship.
- Irish folklore says that if you peel and apple in a single piece and throw it over your shoulder, the peel will reveal the initial of your future love.
Apples are often eaten raw, but are also juiced, made into cider, preserved, or cooked into desserts such as apple pies.
Apples originated in Central Asia, and have been grown domestically for 6-10,000 years in Asia and Europe.
Type: Deciduous tree
Plant size: Up to 9m in the wild
Leaves: Dark-green oval-shaped leaves, with serrated edges and slightly downy undersides, arranged alternately
Flowers: Spring: 3-4cm diameter white/pink flowers with 5 petals, in groups of 4-6
Fruit: Late summer/autumn: Round, up to 9cm diameter, with red, yellow, and green skin colourings
Etymology: The word ‘apple’ comes from the Proto-Indo-European “ab(e)l”, which is believed to refer to fruit in general.
In the Garden
Type: Deciduous tree
Light: Full/part sun
Soil: Rich, moist, well-drained
Companion Planting: Chives. Nasturtiums nearby are thought to prevent sawfly and woolly aphids. Garlic, tansy, lavender, parsnip.
Apple trees make potatoes prone to blight.
- Does not like to be water-logged.
- Will not grow on the site of an old or established apple tree.
- Should be planted with at least one other tree that flowers at the same time for pollination.