Apple Symbolism

apple symbolism

Apple Symbolism

Apples play has a major role in mythology and religion. It is also the symbol of the world famous iPhone. Strange superstitions are also connected to the apple, but first let us take a look at the symbolism of apples.

The apple symbolizes youth, immortality and love. This fruit is also associated with forbidden knowledge and the Tree of Knowledge.

Many also associate the apple with temptation or with health. We are all familiar with the popular proverb “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

In Chinese the word for apple is píng guǒ. In China the apple is associated with peace. This is because the word peace in Chinese is hé píng.

In Ancient Greece apples were given as a sign of love. The apple was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite who was the goddess of love.

“I throw the apple at you, and if you are willing to love me, take it and share your girlhood with me; but if your thoughts are what I pray they are not, even then take it, and consider how short-lived is beauty.”  Plato, Athenian philosopher

In Norse mythology the apple was sacred to Idunn, the goddess of lovers.

There are tons of pictures and stories of students gifting their teacher an apple. This is a symbol of gratitude of knowledge received. The apple is highly associated with teachers.

The theory of gravitation is linked to Isaac Newton and the apple falling down from an apple tree.

Many also link the apple to temptation and deception. This is illustrated in the Grimm fairy tale “Snow White and the seven dwarfs”.

The Pentagram

apple pentagram symbol

Hidden within the apple we find a powerful symbol; the pentagram. Most people miss this as they cut the apple from top to bottom.

Try cutting your apple across the “equator” and a perfect pentagram formed by the seeds will reveal itself.

In Ancient Greece the goddess of health was named Hygeia. She is recognized in statues as the goddess who is either drinking from a jar or more often with a large snake rapped around her. Hygeia had the pentagram as her symbol.

The Pythagoreans (followers of the great Pythagoras of Samos, born 570 B.C.) named the pentagram “health”.

The pentagram was also a symbol of higher knowledge.

In Christianity this symbol is associated with the five wounds of Jesus and also with the star of Bethlehem. In both causes it is vital that it is shown with one point facing upwards and two points down.

Reversed with two points upwards it symbolizes the horns of a goat and evil.

The Tree of Knowledge

Even though the Bible does not mention specifically the apple, it has become the fruit most people associate with the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

The story is told in Genesis chapter 3. The serpent temps Eve to eat a fruit from the Tree of knowledge of good and evil.

This is the only tree God had forbidden them to touch. Eve ate the fruit and offered some to Adam. He also ate.

As a consequence, they gained knowledge of good and evil and were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

apple Christmas Tree symbol

The apple is used as a Christmas tree decoration by many in Northern Europe. It symbolizes this creation story, but also that Jesus delivered his believers from sin.

Jesus holding an apple or by an apple tree symbolizes that he is the “Second Adam” who brings redemption and life.  

Virgin and child under an Apple tree
The Virgin and Child under an Apple Tree
Lucas Cranach the Elder 1472-1553

The lump in the neck we commonly known as “Adam’s Apple” is associated with the Bible story. It was the Danish physician Thomas Bartholin (1616 –1680) who wrote an explanation in his book, Anatomia:

“The common people have a belief, that by the judgement of God, a part of that fatal Apple, abode sticking in Adams Throat, and is so communicated to his posterity” – Thomas Bartholin

The Apple of My Eye

We have all heard the expression “The apple of my eye”. The meaning is someone or sometimes a ting that is valued or loved more than anyone or anything else. It often refers to someone’s favorite person. As you probably realize “the apple” is the pupil of the eye.

The Apple Logo Symbolism

The famous Apple Logo is a great example of the apple as a symbol of knowledge. The bite taken from the apple may represent biting into knowledge.

Apple first logo

Originally the Apple Logo was a drawing of Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. The inscription stated “Newton… a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought”

Apple Day

Apple day

The Apple Day is officially October 21st in United Kingdom. Though now it is common to celebrate the apples during a week end at the end of October.

Rosh Hashanah – Apple Symbolism

apples with honey
Apple with honey. Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It occurs during the Jewish month of month of Tishrei.  In the Jewish faith it marks the time the world was created. It is the birthday of the world.

 It is also a time to make amends and figuring out how you can improve yourself as a person and improve your relationship with others. Peace on earth starts with each induvial.

During the Rosh Hashanah meal it is a tradition to eat slices of apples dipped in honey. This symbolizes hope for a good, sweet and prosperous New Year.

A few Rosh Hashanah dates:

2021: sunset September 6th – nightfall September 8th

2022: sunset September 25th -nightfall September 27th

2023: sunset September 15th – nightfall September 17th

2024: sunset October 2th – nightfall October 4th

2025: sunset September 22th – nightfall September 24th

Choose Your Woman Apple Superstition

Some men may discover they are attracted to several different women. Dating several women at the same time is fine for the notorious flirt. It is however no good if the man wants to settle down. The decision could be difficult.

An old superstition tells us the solution is easy. The man needs to hold an apple in his hand. He then should start reciting the names of the women out load.

At the same time, he is to twist the stem of the apple without stopping. He needs to pay close attention to the name of the woman he was reciting as the apple falls to the ground. That will be his future spouse. This ritual can only be performed on Valentine’s Day, February 14th.

Idunn and her Apples

Idunn and the apples

In Norse mythology the goddess Idunn (also spelled Idun, Iduna or Idunna) guarded the sacred apples which she carried around in a special basket. Gods and goddesses who ate these apples were ensured immortality. They would never grow old.

Idunn was the goddess of lovers. It was rumored that no goddess had had as many lovers as Idunn. She was stunningly beautiful. Idunn was married to Bragi who was the son of Odin. Bragi was the god of poetry.

As mentioned Idunn’s most important assignment was to guard the magical apples of youth. All the gods were dependent of these apples.

The importance of the apples is illustrated in the story of what happened when Idunn and her apples were kidnapped.

As the tale goes it all started when Loki, the unreliable trickster god was captured by a frost giant named Thiassi. The frost giant only agreed to set Loki free if he promised to give him Idunn and her apples.

Loki was true to his promised and lured Idunn to a nearby forest. He told the goddess that more and better apples grew there.

In the meantime, Thiassi had transformed himself to an eagle. He swept down and captured Idunn in his claws and flew away.

Thiassi and Idunna
Thiassi and Idunna by Harry George Theaker 1920

With Idunn and her apples gone complete disaster and panic spread throughout Asgard, the home of the gods and goddesses. They all started to decline very quickly.

Their hair turned gray and their skin became wrinkly. All the gods and goddesses were aging fast. To make matters worse they became very weak and many showed signs of memory loss. 

Odin, the main god heard what happened. He was furious with Loki. He threatened Loki that if Idunn was not safely returned immediately he would use his magic to make Loki’s life a gruesome nightmare.

Loki took the threats seriously and set out to save Idunn. He transformed himself to a falcon and flew to Jotunheim, the land of the giants and trolls. After he located Idunn he proceeded to transform her into a nut and flew back with her to Asgard.

Thiassi discovered what had happened and in the shape of an eagle flew after Loki with the intention of recapturing Idunn.

Loki landed safely in Asgard. Shortly after Thiassi reached Asgard. His flying ability went to a holt and he fell right down. The gods filled with anger killed Thiassi. Odin then ripped his eyes out and threw them towards the sky. His eyes magically transformed into stars.

Loki transformed Idunn back to her beautiful self. All the gods and goddess ate an apple each and restored their youth and strength.

Apples in Greek Mythology

One infamous apple was the golden apple which led to the Trojan war. It all started with the goddess Eris. She was the daughter of Nyx, the goddess of night. Eris was the goddess of discord, disharmony and quarrel.

The goddess Eris wasn’t very popular. When Thetis (a sea nymph) and Peleus (King of Phthia) got married they did not invite Eris to the wedding.

Eris became extremely upset. Being a true goddess of disharmony, she took revenge. On a golden apple she inscribed the words “for the loveliest”. She threw the golden apple into the wedding party.

Athena (goddess of wisdom, crafts and war), Hera (Queen of heaven and wife of Zeus) and Aphrodite (goddess of love) all claimed the apple was theirs. They got into a heated argument.

Zeus decided to put an end to the quarrel by declaring the young, handsome prince Paris (the son of the Trojan king) to be the judge and give the golden apple to the most beautiful of the three goddesses.

Judgement of Paris
The Judgement of Paris by Gerolama di Benvenuto – 1500

All three tried to bribe Paris. Hera declared she would grant him enormous power if he let her win. Athena told him that if he chose her, she would ensure he had great success when in battle.

Finally, Aphrodite promised him he could have the most beautiful woman in the world if she were to win. That settled the matter. Without a second thought he handed the golden apple to Aphrodite.

The most beautiful woman in the world was named Helen. The flaw in this plan was that Helen was married to the king of Sparta. Under no circumstances did the king wish to lose his wife.

Aphrodite was true to her word and made Helen get infatuated with Paris.  Paris and Helen fled to Troy. The King was outraged and demanded the return of his wife. A war was inevitable.  The Trojan war lasted ten years.

So, what eventually happened to Helen and Paris? Well, Paris was hit by an arrow in the war. He begged to be carried to his wife as she was known to heal all wounds.

Yes, Paris was also married when he started his affair with Helen. His wife refused to help him. She had not forgiven him for running off with Helen. Paris died.

Helen ended up back with her husband, the king of Sparta. Strangely enough the story states that they lived peacefully together the rest of their lives as if nothing had happened.

The Garden with the Golden Apples

Garden of Hesperides
The Garden of Hesperides by Ricciardo Meacci 1894

In Greek mythology Hera received a very special gift from Gaia (Mother Earth) when she married her brother named Zeus. Gaia was Hera’s grandmother. The gift was a branch with gold apples.

The golden apples were planted in a beautiful garden in the west. These fruits were valuable and needed to be guarded.

The daughters of Atlas (Hesperides) were given this important assignment. That is why the garden was known as “the Gardens of the Hesperides”.  The Hesperides were often referred to as the “daughters of the evening”.

Also placed to guard the apples was a fierce hundred-headed dragon named Ladon.

The famous hero Hercules encountered many challenges as we well know. Among them were the 12 labors. The eleventh labor involved fetching three golden apples from the Garden of Hesperides.

Hercules had no idea where this garden was located. Finally, he located Atlas who had been doomed to carry the heavens on his shoulders.

Atlas agreed to fetch the apples. In return Hercules was to hold the heavens until he got back.

When Atlas returned with the apples, he saw an opportunity to be released of his burden. He offered to deliver the apples, which involved a tough journey back to Mycenæ.

But Hercules was on to him and had no intention of getting stuck holding up the heavens. Hercules knew he had to play along and cheerfully thanked Atlas.

He asked Atlas to grant him one favor before he left. His shoulders hurt badly and he just needed to quickly find a cushion.

Atlas agreed to hold the heavens as Hercules got a cushion. Naturally Hercules walked away and Atlas was doomed to carry the heavens for all eternity.

In another version of this tale, Hercules kills Ladon, the dragon and steals the apples himself.

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