Eve is reported to have bitten into one, or perhaps it was a quince. Hera received some for a wedding gift or maybe they were lemons. Apples have been around for a long time and our enjoyment for the tasty fruit is one of the earliest and most natural of inclinations – all children love apples.
We cultivated apples in 3000 BCE in the Swiss lake-dwellings long before the Romans conquered Britain and brought the art of apple cultivation with them. The Spaniards brought apples to Mexico and South America. The Pilgrims of Massachusetts Bay Colony planted apple seeds. It’s certainly a popular fruit
In Greek mythology, Atlanta refused to marry unless a suitor could defeat her in a runnng race. One suitor, Milanion, accomplished this goal by dropping 3 golden apples (gifts of the Goddess of Love) during the race. Atlanta stopped to pick them up, lost the race, and became his wife. An ancient Greek who wanted to propose to a woman would only have to toss her an apple. If she caught it, he knew she had accepted his offer. (In Germany during medieval times a man who ate an apple that was steeped in the perspiration of the woman he loved would succeed in his pursuit of her)
In another Greek myth, Eris Goddess of Discord was enraged because she had not been invited to the wedding of a fellow god and goddess. She tossed among the guests a golden apple with the inscription, “For the fairest.” Three goddesses felt they were worthy. In order to put an end to the squabbling, Paris, a mortal, was called upon to judge the fairest. He chose Aphrodite. Hera and Athena, the rejected goddesses, were furious and caused great devastation to Paris and his family. And we know what that meant – the sack of Troy.
When Aeneas escaped from Troy to Italy, the Sibyl told him that the only means of entering and returning safely from the underworld was to carry the fruit of the golden bough. In accordance with the cult of the goddess Diana at Nemi it’s more than likely that the golden bough was an apple branch.
In Teutonic mythology, Iduna, wife of Bragi the Poet, was the goddess of eternal youth and the guardian of the “golden apples.” If any of the gods felt the approach of old age, they only had to taste of one of these apples to remain young. She was abducted by a giant (aided by Loki) and the other gods aged rapidly. Loki was sent to rescue her so that she might restore youth again.
In Britain apples are most identified with the Island of Avalon, whose name is derived from the Welsh word for apple: afal (pronounced aval). Avalon is where the mortally wounded Arthur is taken to be healed, a place where there is ever sunlight and warm breezes, the land is lush with vegetation, and the inhabitants never age nor know pain or injury.
Apples come in many colours, shapes, sizes, degrees of crispness, sourness and sweetness. The beauty of the apple is that its taste will change from year to year depending on the growing conditions, the flavour even varies from apple tree to apple tree.
Go out and get an apple. They’re good for you. And remember what Horace advised : “Whatever variety of apple you eat, to get the best make sure to buy only those picked by the light of the waning moon”
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