Two posts in one day, gosh I hear you say this blog is like the bus service nothing for ages and then two come along at once, well sort of. I wrote this back in early 2007 for an earlier incarnation of my blogging life, I’d actually forgotten about it, but somebody I know and respect brought up today the concept of beauty from a magickal perspective, and I was reminded of this. So I thought I would trot it out for a 2nd run around the block, I hope it is of interest.
Apple mythology and folklore abounds, it is found in ancient irish, greek, welsh, norse and english liturature. From Adam and Eve, through to Merlin and Vivianne it’s symbolism appears over and over again. After a visit from the apple lady a month or so back I took it upon myself to understand more about this fruit and what it means from a mythological and magical perspective.
That the Apple Lady chose to visit me came as no surprise, I grew up on a very large fruit farm, where apples were the primary crop. There is something very eery about an apple orchard at dusk, there is a presence as old as time, that will manifest under just the right conditions. It effects man and beast alike, I have seen domestic cats momentarily turn ferile, attacking anything in thier path and dogs shiver and yelp in fear at something that to the eye is not there.
Perhaps this occurance of the veil thinning in such a manner is a reflection of the long history man has had with this fruit, creation myths aside. Apples have been cultivated for millenia, although in the British Isles not in the format we most commonly think of, in all likelyhood most of the earlier apple tales would have referred to the “crab” apple, rather than a Granny Smith. But none the less this long relationship has ensured that it has a prominent place in our conciousness and subsequently our mythology.
The Ogham stave “Quirt” is most commonly taken to mean apple and more specifically the crab apple (although there is some contention about this amongst scholars), in an Irish myth Aillinn, the granddaughter of the king of Leinster, in true Romeo and Juliet style fell in love with Baile the heir to the throne of Ulster, these two kingdoms were sworn enemy’s and in true romantic tradgedy style the pair died, it was said that from Baile’s grave grew a Yew tree and from Aillinn’s an apple. These tree’s were purported to have been cut down by the Filidh (Irish poets) and the tradgedy was written upon them in Ogham. They were eventually gifted to Art son of Conn, but upon his reading them, they drew shut never to be opened again.
~ Theme, death and rebirth, knowledge and withheld knowledge.
A mysterious and beautiful woman appears one day to Conle, she throws an apple at him and then promptly disappears. Conle then exists on nothing but the flesh of this apple for an entire month, an becomes consumed by the thought of this woman. When she appears again to him, he follows her to the other world never to be see again.
~ Temptation, Journey to the otherworld, inability to return to this world.
Bran Mac Febal
After hearing a beautiful woman sing, he falls asleep and upon waking discovers he is holding the “silver bough” of Emain. This was a beautiful branch containing golden apples purported to have come from the apple tree in the centre of an Otherworldly Isle (the Irish version of Avalon). After many adventures he makes it Emain, where he stays for a long period of time, and for everyday that passed in Emain many more years passed in Erin (Ireland), home sickness eventually over takes him and his comrades and the resolve to return home, only to discover the pasing of time and the inability to return home. They too sail away never to be seen again.
~ Temptation, Journey to the Otherworld, inability to return to this world.
One day a mysterious stranger appears to Cormac, carrying an apple branch containing golden apples, besotted with this treasure he agrees to trade his wife and children for this wondrous item. Eventually the thrall of the branches magic starts to wear off and realising his loss, he resolves to venture into the otherworld to find them. Upon arriving he is greeted by Mananan, who declares the branch was a lure. Discussion passes between them and Cormac enquires about the meaning of a sight he witnessed upon his journey. Mananan lies to Cormac and Cormac catches him out, but Mananan refuses to give him the answer. Later they fall asleep and wake in thier own beds in this world.
~ Temptation, Journey to the Otherworld, Knowledge and withheld Knowledge.
His otherworldly wife betrays him for the love of Cu Chulain and he is slain. In some recensions of the story he hides his soul in an apple that resided in the stomach of a Salmon that would only surface every seven years.
~ Temptation, Death, Knowledge.
Culwch and Olwen
Culwch journey’s to the otherworld to gain the hand of Yspadden, the giant’s daughter, Olwen; To win Olwen’s hand he has to complete many impossible tasks. He petitions Arthur his cousin to help him in these tasks, his aparell during his appearance in Arthur’s court, it that of a four cornered cloth of purple which has golden apples of great value on each corner.
~ Journey to the Otherworld, Epic Challenges, Giants.
Hidden from the concept of war by his mother, a chance meeting with a group of knights; set him on the path of becoming a great warrior. One of the knights he encountered was Owain, who is described as the one “who kept track of the knight who had divided the apples in Arthur’s court”.
~ Epic Challenges, Knowledge and withheld Knowledge.
Purported to be the father of Modron (Father of the Mother), his name possibly derives from the welsh word “afall” meaning apple.
Eris is snubbed when is not invited to a wedding, she turns up anyway and throws a golden apple (possibly from the garden of hersperides) inscribed with the word Kallisti, into the proceedings. Kallisti means to the fairest, the goddesses assembled argue over who this gift is intended for. This argument in a round about way sparked the Trojan war.
~ Temptation, Death
Gaia gifts Hera enchanted apples trees upon her marriage to Zeus. She plants them in the grove of immortality, also known as the Garden of Hesperides.
~ Otherworld, Immortality
After rejecting many suitors, Hippomenes asked Aphrodite to aid him in persuing his suit of Atlanta. Atlanta declares she will only marry a man who can beat her in a foot race, knowing full well that she cannot be beaten. Aphrodite gift’s Hippomene’s apples from Hesperides, and instructs him to drop them along the route as he run’s. Atlanta cannot help but pause to scoop up these treasures and thus looses the race.
~ Temptation, Epic Challenges
Charged with pergorming twelve seemingly impossible tasks to atone for commiting infanticide. His 11th task was to gain the golden apples from the Garden of Hesperides. Later as a gift for achieving these tasks, he is given the gift of immortality.
~Epic Challenges, Immortality
The keeper of the apples of immortality in Asguard, she is stolen and taken to the giant Pazi in Jotenheim. Without her apples, the gods start aging and a battle ensues between the gods and the giants, the gods eventually win and Idunn is restored to Asguard.
English / Arthurian Mythology
Morgana/Morgraine/Morgan Le Fey
Half sister to Arthur, she plots his downfall, yet at the brink of his death when he is mortally wounded; accepts him into Avalon (The Island of Apples) to heal him and keep him safe until the hour of Britains greatest need.
~ Immortaility, Death/Healing
Having been driven mad after the loss of his men in battle, he retires to the forests of Cumbria, he laments his loss. “Nineteen were the apples trees which once stood here with thier fruit: they stand no longer. Who has stolen them from me, where have they gone so suddenly. Now I see them now not. So fate both supports and opposes me, letting me see and preventing me from seeing”.
~ Otherworld, Death/Healing, Knowledge and withheld knowledge.
Apples and the Tree of Life
I encountered my Apple Lady whilst scrying, specifically I was in Tipareth of Geburah (the beauty of severity), she entered via Nun the 24th path of the Tree of life, which joins Netzach (victory) with Tipareth (beauty), which corresponds to the 13th Tarot Trump – Death. This is the path of “The pain of the obligation”; Regardie describes it as “the path of hidden energies that, when aroused, leads to increasing levels of illumination”. He futher explains, “Outmoded ideas of the ’self’ evaproate as new self-images and ’similitudes’ form to replace them. The task of the student on this path is to let go of the old and yield to that which is unfamiliar”.
Many of these stories have common themes, death and resurrection, knowledge and hidden knowledge, temptation often by a beautiful woman, percieved impossible challenges. So what does the apple teach, who is the “Apple Lady”. She has a role in just about every pantheon and every mythology group, her role is that of transformation, of progression, challenges that elicit spiritual and magical growth often through a purification through death, death of apects of the practitioner that bind them or cause conflict within thier ego that prevents them from reaching thier potential, from discovering thier true will.
The Apple Lady offers you the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but to accept that fruit requires that step your feet along a path from which you cannot return, no matter how much you would wish it. And to eat that fruit will ensure that you will never be the same again. Possibly better, more complete, but undeniably different.