Appletree symbolism has a long and varied history across much of Europe and the Mediterranean.
From the earliest religious texts and tribal cultures to modern druidism and New Age beliefs, apple trees have always held deep symbolic meaning.
There are a huge variety of different apple trees. The most famous is the Oak, but there are many more species that grow apples.
While the different types can vary in their symbolism there are central themes that run through them all.
Most commonly, the symbolism surrounds health, love, fertility, prosperity and temptation.
Apple Tree Symbolism: Health & Vitality
The apple tree gives life. Everywhere these trees are found they form a key part of the food chain, embedded in the circle of life.
Apples have long provided food for humans, but they also form an important part of the diet of many animals, insects and (eventually) other plants.
In fact, tribes and cultures that existed in areas where apple trees were common were often healthier than those who lived elsewhere.
This is because the fruit has vitamins and minerals that are difficult to get from other food sources.
These people relied on fruit to ensure their good health.
Traditional medicine had many uses for apples.
Some can be used for digestive problems, a big issue before modern food and medicine became available, and to this day it is often said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
The fruit is also a symbol of the vitality of the tree it came from.
When a tree is undernourished it cannot produce fruit in its normal quantities, but when it is well nourished it can produce a much larger haul.
Apple Tree Symbolism: Love & Fertility
The apple is sometimes called “the fruit of love” and has many associations with love and relationships.
This is often a romantic love, but not necessarily as it also has associations with familial love and friendships.
There are numerous love spells and rituals that use apples or part of the tree. In her book “Garden Witchery”, Ellen Duggan describes one such spell that originates within the Scottish Highlands.
The spell can be performed only on Samhain Night, otherwise known as Halloween. Its intention is to discover the identity of your true love.
On the night, take an apple and split it in half to expose the seeds. Take a candle and the two halves and, at midnight, place them in front of a mirror and look into it.
You should then speak the following incantation:
“As this Samhain night rushes past,
Reveal to me a love that shall last.
May I know them when next we meet
May our love be both strong and sweet.”
Then, place the candle and the pieces of fruit on your doorstep as an offering to Mother Nature.
Pay attention for the next month as you may well meet your one true love.
Apple trees are also strongly associated with fertility.
They ripen during the Autumn, making them commonly associated with the annual harvest and the festivals that go along with the sudden abundance of food.
The fruit of the tree has obvious fertility connotations as they are the way in which these trees reproduce.
This was not lost on early European cultures who prayed to these trees for increased fertility and healthy children.
Apples were often given to pregnant women to help keep them strong and healthy during pregnancy.
The harvest festivals formed a central part of the cultural calendar for all groups at this time, and it was at these festivals that the first ciders were produced from apples.
It was likely also here that it was discovered that drinking cider often lead to an influx of children roughly nine months later.
Apple Tree Symbolism: Prosperity & Temptation
Perhaps the most famous symbolic use of this fruit is the Garden of Eden.
In the Christian faith, the Garden of Eden was a paradise on Earth within which the first man and woman – Adam and Eve – lived in bliss and safety.
When they both eat an apple from the forbidden tree, they are summarily kicked out, forced to work for a living and endure the pain of childbirth.
This is one of the earliest morality tales that feature this fruit and it gives us a lot of insight into the symbolism attached to it at the time.
Fruit, being somewhat of a luxury for much of the world, represented not just food but prosperity – and by extension, temptation and greed.
Cider, with its ability to lower inhibitions and act as a “social lubricant”, has clear links with temptation – especially for women in a less enlightened age, for whom the price of temptation could be very high indeed.
There exists here a delicate balance that speaks of the complexity of this type of tree.
While the temptation is to be resisted, it is also one of the driving forces behind prosperity.
Apple trees took such a large part in the cultural lives of European people because of this link between its symbolism and their very real, physical concerns.
In fact, it was the apple tree that helped turn nomadic hunter-gatherers into settled agricultural people in the first place.
In the heavily forested areas of the world, the cultivation of orchards began as a way to feed people but rapidly became a way to make money and improve the future success of everyone.
There are few things that hold as much symbolic meaning as the apple tree.
From health and vitality, love and fertility and through to prosperity and temptation, its diverse meanings have cemented it with the cultural tradition of varied – but ultimately linked – societies and cultures.