Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday What Herb is This - Apple

Like last Wednesday's "herb" the pumpkin, apples aren't actually an "herb" per se, but they are strongly associated with Samhain/Halloween, from fresh apple pies, to apple butter, to bobbing for apples, so I felt it appropriate to include this here...


From the very beginning the ancients were truly enamored with fruit. Apart from milk and honey, fruit is nature's only pleasure laden natural food. From the beginning apples have been associated with love, beauty, luck, health, comfort, pleasure, wisdom, temptation, sensuality, sexuality, virility and fertility. Stories and traditions about man's origins connect him to a garden of paradise filled with fruit trees. The stories are essentially the same whether it be the Semitic Adam, the Teutonic Iduna, the Greek Hesperides, or the Celtic Avalon, man's idea of paradise centers on an abundance of cultivated fruit, its sensual irresistibility and the consequential calamity of its seduction.

A syrup made from Apples is a good cordial used to treat fainting, palpitations, and melancholy. The Romans used ripe Apples for laxatives and the unripe ones to treat diarrhea. Ripe, juicy apples eaten at bedtime every night will cure some of the worst forms of constipation - sour apples are the best for this purpose. An infusion of the peels is good as an wash for eye infection. They are also a good source of vitamins (A, B1, C) and minerals, so are good to use in anemia and general debility. The Apple is also good for your teeth - cleansing to the teeth on account of its juices, and just hard enough to mechanically push back the gums so that the borders are cleared of deposits. Rotten apples used as a poultice is an old Lincolnshire remedy for sore eyes, that is still in use in some villages. The chief dietetic value of apples lies in the malic and tartaric acids. These acids are of signal benefit to persons of sedentary habits, who are susceptible  to liver ailments, and they neutralize the acid products of gout and indigestion. The juice of apples, without sugar, will often reduce acidity of the stomach. 

Only in Christian mythology does the Apple have negative meaning. Biblically, the apple is sometimes believed to be the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is believed by many to be the fruit Eve gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden, although the exact fruit given is often hotly debated by biblical scholars - and the term 'Adam's Apple' comes from a Christian superstition that relates that a piece of the forbidden Apple stuck in Adam's throat, and his descendants ever after had the lump in the front of the neck which is so named. The angel of death, Azrael, could accomplish his mission by holding Apple to the nostrils. Also, to eat an apple without first rubbing it clean was a symbolic gesture of challenging the "Devil."

Wassailing the orchard-trees on Yule Eve used to be a popular thing to do. The farmer and his family and workers would go out to the orchard after supper, carrying along a jug of cider and a plate of hot cakes. The cakes were placed in the boughs of the oldest or best bearing trees in the orchard, while the cider was flung over the trees after the farmer had drunk their health in some such fashion as the following:

"Here's to thee, old apple-tree!

Whence thou may'st bud, and whence thou may'st blow,

Hats full! Caps full!

Bushel - bushel-bags full!

And my pockets full too! Huzza!"

The toast was repeated three times, the men and boys often firing off guns and pistols, and the women and children shouting loudly. Roasted Apples were sometimes placed in the pitcher of cider, and were thrown at the trees with the liquid. Trees that did not produce much fruit were not honored with wassailing but it was thought that the more productive ones would cease to bear if the rite were omitted.

Numerous superstitions surround the fruit of the apple tree which has most commonly been used in love magic and divinations. People once believed that apples would keep them young forever. When you cut the apple fruit breadthways you see the five-pointed star made from the placement of the seed casings. This symbol, the pentagram, is the traditional symbol of knowledge. That the five-pointed star, pentagram, is surrounded by the circular shape of the halved apple, the symbol becomes a pentacle. This is a symbol of protection, the protection of sacred knowledge. Apple is used in love, healing, garden, and immortality magic. A common folk spell says to bury an Apple at midnight on Samhain eve to feed those waiting for rebirth. Also on Samhain it was traditional for a large Apple to be given to each member of the household to be eaten for good luck in the new year. Apple has been used in spells for hundreds of years. You can substitute Apple cider for the blood or wine called for in some ancient spells and rites. The wood is good material for wands used for love spells and rituals. The branches and twigs that are pruned from the apple tree are often used for making magical items such as wands, beads, wreaths, pentagrams for the walls, and even stick birdhouses. Apples can be used for divination. The Apple can be peeled in one long continuous peeling. the peeling is then flung over the shoulder and whatever letter the peeling forms is said to be the first letter of the person that you will some day marry. The Apple seeds can also be looked at to foretell the future. One custom regarding the apple fruit is to bury a few apples, after their harvest, to appease the spirits of the dead.

Since ancient times it has been deemed unlucky to harm an apple tree. Fortunately, this does not include the yearly pruning of the apple tree which, in fact, keeps apple trees healthy by preventing their limbs from becoming overburdened with fruits and breaking.  To the Gauls, the apple tree was as sacred as the oak tree Among the Celts, the fruit of the apple tree symbolized knowledge, magic, and prophesy. The tree was of the Celtic Underworld and acted as a sort of bridge between the living and the dead.  The apple is associated with the planets Venus and the Sun, and the element of water. In Magical circles the Apple is often called the Fruit of the Underworld, the Silver Bough, the Tree of Love or the Silver Branch. In Greek mythology, Gaia, or Mother Earth, presented a tree with golden apples to Zeus and his bride Hera on their wedding day.

Is it any wonder that apples became the most sought after fruit on earth? They have taken their rightful place in the pleasure gardens of the wealthy throughout the world in spite of the almost instinctive knowledge that eating them may lead one to a life of chaos and destruction.

Midwest Apple Improvement Association

The Sacred Spiral

Contains Information Compiled by Sarah the Swampwitch

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader's personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

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