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Symbols - What does heaven look like

Apples and the apple tree

The apple tree has [wrongly] in modern times come to symbolise temptation and ‘forbidden fruit’.  This symbolism, however, has largely been as a result of the Christian church associating knowledge, as well as sex, love and sensuous love with ‘sin’.  The forbidden fruit in the Book of Genesis is not identified.  It is only Christian tradition that developed the story so that Eve coaxed Adam to share an apple with her.   

The ‘correct’ symbolism of the apple tree is that described in the Greek myth concerning the golden apples in the garden of Hesperides.  Here the golden apple is symbolic of a key virtue -  wisdom, as well as immortality.

In this context a golden apple is symbolically similar to Treasure. 

The use of trees containing golden apples is not confined to just Greek myth.  In The Poetic Edda for example, eleven apples are given as a present to keep the Aesir ageless.  Thus in the sagas of the Edda, apples are symbols of immortality.  

Note that the use of the number eleven in the translation may not be correct and it has been guessed that an alternative translation might be ellilyf  rather than ellifo where ellilyf means eternal life.

In Norse mythology, Iðunn is the goddess associated with apples and eternal youth. She is also the keeper of the apples of knowledge.  Iðunn is found in the Poetic Edda  and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson.


Idun and the Apples

John Bauer – Loki and Idun

There are several instances in the Old Testament where the apple is symbolic of virtue. The phrase 'the apple of your eye' comes from verses in Deuteronomy 32:10, Psalm 17:8 Proverbs 7:2, and Zechariah 2:8, implying an object or person who is greatly valued.

Deuteronomy 32:9-11 (New International Version)

 9 For the LORD's portion is his people,
       Jacob his allotted inheritance.

 10 In a desert land he found him,
       in a barren and howling waste.
       He shielded him and cared for him;
       he guarded him as the apple of his eye,

 11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest
       and hovers over its young,
       that spreads its wings to catch them
       and carries them on its pinions.


Rene Magritte – The Son of Man

Lucien Levy Dhurmer - Eve


Carl Larsson Brita as Iduna

Song of Solomon 2:2-4 (New International Version)

 3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
       is my lover among the young men.
       I delight to sit in his shade,
       and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

 4 He has taken me to the banquet hall,
       and his banner over me is love.

So if we translate, I love to be in communion with my Higher spirit and the wisdom that I receive from him is ‘sweet’. Banner in this context means canopy – a protective cover of love.

The apple as a symbol of wisdom and immortality  has been preserved in a number of other legends, sayings and myths.  In Arthurian legend, the mythical isle of Avalon's name is believed to mean 'isle of apples'. So the island of wisdom and immortality.

The phrase "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is now commonly taken to mean eat an apple because it has vitamins and minerals that will keep you healthy, but the phrase does not say ‘eat’ it says simply ‘an apple [an input of wisdom] a day keeps the doctor away’ [is capable of making you stay well – gives you immortality].

In Proverbs 25:11, the verse states, "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver", again the virtue of wisdom.

In the love songs of the Song of Solomon, the apple tree is yet again used as a symbol of immortality, this time as the ‘lover’ meaning the Higher spirit.


Painting by me – First blossom

The symbolism has carried through into some literal rituals.  Buckets of apples were found in the 9th century Oseberg ship burial site in Norway and fruit [and nuts] have been found in the early graves of the Germanic peoples in England and elsewhere on the continent of Europe.

Apples feature prominantly in the Völsunga saga. Frigg sends King Rerir an apple after he prays to Odin for a ‘child’[see children] , Frigg's messenger (in the guise of a crow) drops the apple in his lap as he sits atop a hill. Rerir's wife's consumption of the apple results in a six-year pregnancy and the caesarean section birth of their son—the hero Volsung. 

Needless to say all this is symbolic and the birth and link with children is that apples by extension represent ideas.  Thus a child is an idea in this context and by a process of giving Rerir wisdom, after six years he has the birth of the idea of the hero Volsung.

Finally, there is also often the interesting idea that the little pearls of wisdom we come up with – our creative ideas in the guise of apples [to mix my symbolism] are occasionally plucked up by the spiritual world and used and stored there.  In effect, this process is a two way one – apples go up and down!!

In the picture below, we see a palace in the background, a river or stream in the foreground and Idrunn is being carried away by an eagle, with her apples in a casket

Notice how a thread or cord still links her to earth, meaning she is still connected to the earth even though her ideas are being ‘stolen’!

He flapped away with her, magic apples and all (1902) by Elmer Boyd Smith.

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