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Tree Symbolism

Apple Tree Symbolism and Meaning [In Different Cultures]

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Written by: Tina Caro

The apple tree is the oldest cultivated tree in Europe, however, today, we’ll learn more about its symbolism and meaning in different cultures.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Apple trees have a rich history, originating in Kazakhstan and gradually spreading worldwide over millennia, with their fruit being cultivated for over 4,000 years.

Across various cultures, apple trees symbolize a wide range of meanings, from love and fertility in Greek mythology to knowledge and temptation in the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

Apple trees are associated with wisdom, protection, and divination, with practices like “apple bobbing” used for fortune-telling on Halloween.

Apples have practical uses too, from historical remedies for ailments to culinary delights like apple pies and ciders, making them a versatile and meaningful addition to our lives.

An apple tree (Malus domestica) is a plant part of Rosaceae’s botanical family. Among the cultivated fruit trees, it is one of the most common. It reaches a height between 16 – 40 feet (5 and 12 meters), its foliage is expanded and dense and the roots are superficial.

The leaves are alternate and oval, slightly indented. They are smooth on the upper face and slightly tomentose on the lower. Its blossoms are pinkish-white in color, have 5 petals, and are gathered in corymbose inflorescences.

The plant sprouts and blooms in the spring. The fruit (pommel) is globular, first green in color and, when ripe, can turn yellow or red, with intermediate shades, depending on the variety.

However, some of them remain green, although they are ripe. The plant is native to a southern part of the Caucasus and in Europe, it is widely cultivated in our country and in France.

Origins of an apple tree

Its fruit has been known practically forever: just think of Adam and Eve in the Earthly Paradise, but also of ancient Greece, before the Trojan War, when the three goddesses of Olympus, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, instruct Paris to choose the most beautiful among them, to assign her the golden apple.

The_Pearls_of_Aphrodite,_1907
Herbert James Draper, The Pearls of Aphrodite, 1907

This tree also plays a leading role in history, particularly in Celtic culture, according to which every tree that lives on earth performs a double function: on the one hand it is an emblem of magical powers, on the other, it is a home for the fairies that populate the woods and forests.

Apple trees in different cultures

The symbolism of an apple tree is very rich. Starting from Greek mythology, there is an apple of discord and the golden apples of the Garden of the Hesperides. The latter are daughters of Atlas and Hesperides and lived in a garden in which apple trees with golden fruit grew. The entrance to the garden was guarded by a dragon, who was killed by Hercules, who plundered all the wealth.

The Garden of Hesperides by Ricciardo Meacci

By giving her a golden apple, Paris decided which of the goddesses was the most beautiful Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena. And this was the beginning of the Trojan war.

Unlike what is believed, an apple is not the fruit eaten by Eve in Eden; the Bible does not specify which was the fruit of sin. It was medieval iconology that associated the apple with original sin.

In Celtic mythology, Conle, son of King Conn of the Hundred Battles, receives an apple from the Lady of the Other World that feeds him for a month without ever being consumed.

CultureSymbolic Meaning
Greek MythologyAssociated with the goddess Aphrodite, symbolizing love, beauty, and fertility.
Celtic CultureSignifies wisdom, immortality, and the otherworldly realm in Celtic mythology.
Norse MythologyRepresents rejuvenation, youthfulness, and the eternal cycle of life in Norse mythology.
Christian SymbolismOften represents the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, symbolizing temptation and original sin.
Chinese CultureConsidered a symbol of peace, beauty, and feminine energy, often associated with the Moon Goddess Chang’e.
Table 1: Symbolism of Apple Trees in Different Cultures

In Breton mythology, an apple is eaten before prophesying. It is a magical tree from beyond the world; it grows in Avalon, the mythical world where heroes rest. The greatest druid of antiquity, Merlin, held his magic lessons under an apple tree.

Burne-Jones Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon

In China, the blossom is sometimes used as a sign of mourning to symbolize the transience of life, since it is very ephemeral and delicate.

Through numerous myths and legends of different cultures and ages, a tree and its fruit are the representation of the archetype of the Great Mother and her triple aspects of Virgin, Mother, and Elder; the apple also represents the melting point of matter and sky and an apple is the celebration of this union.

Because of its spherical shape and the presence within it of the seeds of life, the apple symbolized the cosmos and imperial power; in public appearances, the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire held a scepter with their right hand and a golden apple with their left, an allegory of power. This fruit is also considered the image of the world.

In Baltic mythology, an apple is the symbol of the setting sun and one of the incarnations of the goddess Saule. In the Jewish tradition, during Rosh Hashanah, slices of apples dipped in honey are eaten, to ensure the prosperity of the new year.

What does an apple tree mean spiritually?

An apple can be considered a universal metaphor for giving and receiving love, even from a physical point of view. The pommel is a symbol of sensual love, of the marriage that is consumed, of beauty, youth, and fertility; in addition, at weddings, it is part of the gifts that adorn the table set for the occasion.

On a spiritual level, however, we can say that an apple comes to represent the power of love, devotion to the gods, overcoming duality, and communion with the gods. In other words, our human love, even in its sensual expression, is a model for the union between a single individual and the divine.

An apple is the fruit of the tree of life, but also that of knowledge, good and evil. If cut perpendicular to the axis of the peduncle, it shows a pentacle enclosed in a circle, a symbol of the manmade who is at the center of the universe, matter and spirit, a five-pointed star symbol of knowledge.

tree of life neklace
You can find this one on AllWicca – Specialized Wiccan Shop.

Magickal Uses

Still today, an apple is of fundamental importance at certain times of the year, especially at Samhain, since it is offered to those who live between the worlds and to the spirits of the dead who join us on that occasion.

  • An apple has long been used in love rites. The buds are added to bags, infusions, and love incense; they are also infused with pink liquid waxes. Everything is filtered and candles are thus prepared to attract love.
  • A simple love spell consists of cutting an apple in half and sharing it with the loved one; you will be happy together.
  • Another ritual explains that you hold an apple in your hands until it warms up and then give it to your loved one. If it is eaten, love will be reciprocated.
  • An apple is cut in two and the number of seeds is counted: if it is even, the marriage is guaranteed in a short time; if one of the seeds is cut, there will be a stormy relationship, if two are cut, widowhood is expected; if the number of seeds is odd, the woman will remain unmarried, at least for the near future.
  • Apple wood is one of the 9 kinds of wood sacred to the druids and is used to light fires of sacred ceremonies.
  • For healing purposes, an apple is cut into three parts, rubbed on the painful areas, and then buried; do it in the waning moon phase to ward off disease.
  • If you cultivate a garden, pour apple juice in the newly turned areas: it will give life to the land before sowing. If you grow apples, bury 13 apple leaves after harvesting, and you will have a good harvest the following year.

Dawn’s Thoughts on an Apple

Apples (Malus domestica) are among the most common fruits eaten in the US and Europe. They grow just about anywhere. There are many varieties; most are small to medium-sized tree.

These members of the rosacea family have characteristic five-petaled flowers appear in the spring. The petals are white on top and pink underneath so that they look bright pink during the budding stage.

The pistils and stamens are bright yellow. The leaves are oval-shaped with serrated edges, shiny green on top and slightly fuzzy underneath.

Fruit appears in late summer and ripens in autumn. Fruit can be red (red delicious), yellow (golden delicious), green (granny smith), or streaked red with yellow.

History and Folklore

Apples grow wild in most of Europe. They have a very long history and are revered by many people. They are mentioned in old Saxon manuscripts and twenty-two varieties were mentioned by Pliny. Now there are more than two thousand cultivated varieties.

Once upon a time, in parts of Britain, people wassailed their orchard trees on Christmas Eve to ensure their abundant fruiting the next year. The farmer and his family and helpers would go out to the orchard with cakes and cider and throw cider over the trees and place the cakes in their branches.

They’d drink to the health of the trees, saying something like this-

”Here’s to thee old apple tree”
”Whence thou may’st bud”
”And whence thou may’st bud”
”Hats full! and Caps full!”
”Bushel- bushel bags full!”
”And my pockets full too!”
”Huzzah!”

This is said to have evolved from customs involving sacrifices to Pomona.

In the Edda, an old Scandinavian Saga, Iduna kept apples that the Gods would eat to ensure their eternal youth. In Greek folklore, the Hesperides guard apple trees that will provide the same gift to those who eat of them. Although the Bible never says so, many believe that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was an apple.

The Trojan war was started when the Goddess Eris threw an apple into the midst of a party of Goddesses, saying that it was for ‘the fairest’.

The sacred Isle of Avalon is also known as the Isle of Apples. Apples are believed to be the preferred food of the dead in many faiths and make great offerings.

Propagation

For most varieties, you must plant two trees for pollination. Most trees will not produce fruit their first year and some may not produce much fruit until their third or fourth year.

Dwarf varieties generally fruit quicker. Excessive pruning will cause plants to take longer to fruit.

Harvesting & Storage

Pick your apples when they are ripe. Apples must be picked by hand to avoid damage (don’t shake the tree) though windfall apples (on the ground) can be gathered, the bad parts cut off, and the apples cooked that same day.

Undamaged apples store very well in a cool spot, kept clean and dry. Apples can be made into applesauce, apple butter, and canned or baked in pies and frozen. They can also be dried. Just slice them thin, lay them out to dry in the sun, or use a food dehydrator.

Apple leaves can be plucked any time and dried like any other herb.

Gather apple blossoms when they bloom in the spring and dry by your preferred method.

Gather branches for wands and wreaths after a storm.

Magical Attributes

Apples are sacred to many Goddesses including Aphrodite, Iduna, Freya, Pomona, Eris and through various folklore, Apples are associated with love, fidelity, fertility, marriage, beauty, vanity, wisdom, the soul, the afterlife and immortality. Apples are arguably the most magical and symbolism-laden of fruits.

Apple is feminine in nature and ruled by Taurus, Friday, and Venus.

If you slice an apple width-wise, you can see a five-pointed star. They are often used cut this way to decorate altars during harvest rituals.

Apple blossoms can be used in love and healing incense.

To ensure fidelity, give an apple to your lover as a gift. You eat one half, the lover the other.

Apples are a symbol of immortality and are given as an offering to the dead on Samhain.

Pour apple cider on the ground in your garden before you plant to give the earth life.

Applewood is used to make wands.

If you peel an apple all in one piece and throw the peel over your shoulder, it will fall in the shape of your future mate’s initials.

Household Use

Dried apples and branches can be used to make fragrant wreaths and other decorations. To dry the apples, slice them thin and lay them out to dry in the sun. Branches can be braided into a wreath like any other wreath.

Healing Attributes

Apples are high and fiber and can be used to treat constipation. Granny Smith apples are great for this, eaten before bedtime. Stewed apples may be used as a gentle, but fast-acting laxative.

They contain malic and tartaric acids which help neutralize the chemicals associated with gout.

The pectin in fresh apples can help treat heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.

Apples are a great snack when you are having a low blood sugar moment.

Crushed apple leaves can be placed on a fresh wound to prevent infection.

The unsweetened juice will reduce acidity in the stomach, aid in digestion and help sour stomach.

The act of eating a whole apple (not sliced and peeled) cleans the teeth and freshens the breath. It helps remove plaque and push back the gums to remove deposits.

The bacterium that causes typhoid fever dies in apple juice, so water of questionable wholesomeness can be mixed with cider or apple juice. (Of course, boiling is always best!)

For all feverish conditions; slice an apple and place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer till the apple is soft. Strain and chill. Serve cold.

Culinary Use

Apples are great raw and in pies, breads, apple sauce, and apple butter. They are also good baked or candied. High in pectin, they are often used with other fruit to help jellies jell.

Apples are very easy to digest, the entire process taking only about 80 minutes. The sugars pass quickly into the bloodstream, making it a good snack for those low blood sugar moments.

Apples have properties that make them good companions for other food. Cabbage and its relatives are known for containing chemicals that aggravate gout, apples contain chemicals that neutralize these and so apples are a good companion for cabbage. Also, apples help digest fats, making them good companions for fatty meats like pork and duck.

They are complemented well by warm (fire and sun corresponding) herbs such as ginger, cinnamon and allspice.

About
Tina Caro

Tina Caro is a witch with more than 10 years of experience, a yogi, an astrologer, and a passionate supporter of all things holistic! She’s also an owner of the website Magickal Spot where she discusses a variety of her favorite topics.

Magickal Spot has helped thousands of readers worldwide, and she’s personally worked with hundreds of clients and helped them manifest desires to have a happier and more abundant life.

tina caro new about me photo

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