The symbolism of apples runs rife in legends, folklore, fairytales, and myths. For thousands of years apples have been seen as the fruit of knowledge, and as a symbol of protection. If you cut an apple in half horizontally you see the secret within, the seeds of the apple form the shape of a star (or pentacle).
Apples were sacred to several goddesses including Hera (who had a garden of golden apples) and Aphrodite (who held apples as sacred for their connection to fertility). In Celtic belief apples were sacred for their knowledge giving and protective properties. In fact the mystical Isle of Avalon is named for apples (the translation of Avalon means the Isle of Apples).
In the realm of fairytales apples could be utilized as a tool within the narrative. This is most prevalent in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The poisoned apple within that tale helps to move the story forward and also shows the negative aspect of the fruit. During the times when Christianity began to take over in Britain and Europe the apple went from being a symbol of the goddess to being associated with the apple in the Garden of Eden that gave birth to original sin when Eve ate it! The poisoned apple symbolism comes into line with this later view of the fruit.
The fact that apples contain a natural pentacle can also have them associated with, and used by, witches. Hence another reason for the early Christians for wanting to make them out to be ill omens. You can see this done a lot with pagan symbols and sacred objects. They are either adopted wholly by the Church (in different names) like with the Christmas tree, or they are made to be seen as evil. Another example of demonizing something pagan is Friday the 13th being seen as unlucky, while in pagan times this day was associated with the goddess (particularly the Norse goddess Freya, whose sacred day was Friday the 13th)!
I hope that this article has given you some food for thought!
For more intriguing apple information take a bite out of the following titles.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by The Brothers Grimm
- Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch
- Mythology by Edith Hamilton
- The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers
- Goddesses in Every Woman by Jean Shinoda Bolen (A great read for anyone interested in archetypes, she also wrote the followup Gods in Everyman, which is also well worth a read!)
- The Mabinogion Translated by Sioned Davies
- Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (for a little modern symbolism of apples!)