Apple Divination
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2001-2010

"And pluck till time and times are done
the silver apples of the moon
the golden apples of the sun."
William Butler Yeats

    Apples in the Tree (c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley (c)1997-2010

    We have all heard and used the expression "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." This expression is based on a very old superstition and is one of many associated with apples. I am quite sure that you have all held an apple in one hand and twisted the stem while reciting the alphabet to ascertain the initial of that "special someone" - the apple of our eye. I am equally as certain we have all gotten happy feet and sang along with the Andrew's Sisters "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me". In "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, we are moved and touched by the gracious and dignified austerity of Hester Prynne's declaration "A is for Apple." There is a very long tradition of prediction and divination with apples. A great many of them, of course, are associated with love and relationships.

    Apples were once considered to be the food of the gods - if you cut an apple in half crosswise the centre is revealed as a five pointed star. Merlin carried the orchard of Avalon, the magical "Apple-Land" or "Isle of Apples" which received the dying King Arthur, with him on all his travels. The ignorant were not to eat of this fruit because the apple contained a Pythagorean Pentagram - cut widthways secrets were revealed in the shape of its pips.

    An apple of gold was thrown into a wedding banquet for Peleus and Thetis (parents of Achilles) which was attended by many of of the gods and goddesses. The apple was thrown by Eris, the Goddess of Discord and a daughter of Night. She had been snubbed and not invited because she was such a troublemaker. The apple had "Kallisti" or “For the Fairest” written on it. Three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, claimed it and Paris of Troy had to decide who was the winner. All three goddesses offered him a bribe: Hera offered him political power and Athena promised him great skill in battle. Aphrodite offered him Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Aphrodite was chosen the most beautiful Goddess by Paris. The Apple of Discord and Paris's choice caused a quarrel among the goddesses and set the course for the Trojan War.

    One of the Twelve Labours of Hercules was to obtain The Golden Apples of the Hesperides. The tree where the sacred golden apples of Hera grew was guarded by the serpent Ladon in the garden of the Hesperides in the far west. The Hesperides were three nymphs who were the daughters of Night and Erebus. This garden was close to where the Titan Atlas supported the world on his shoulders. Hercules was able to persuade Atlas to acquire the apples for him, while he supported the world for Atlas. Apples were also sacred to the goddess Venus and symbolized her, she "was worshipped on one half of the apple as the evening star, Hesper,...and as Lucifer, son of morning, on the other." Apples have their dark side as well, the apples of Sodam were beautiful to look at but ashes inside, and the apples of Istkahor were sweet on one side and bitter on the other. In Snow White, the wicked queen poisons Snow White with an apple.

    There is a similar story to The Labours of Hercules in Celtic mythology called The Punishment of the Children of Tuireann. The sons of Tuireann, their mother was Brighid, were assigned seven tasks by Lugh, the Sun-God, to avenge the slaying of his father Cian. The first task was to obtain three apples from the Garden of Hisberna, in the east of the world. The skin of these apples was the colour of honey, the taste could cure a warrior of all his wounds and they could be used as hurling weapons. Nothing could destroy them and they would always return to the thrower when commanded. The King of Hisberna had powerful guards on his garden as it had been prophesied that three young warriors from the west would arrive to steal them. The brothers shapeshifted into the form of hawks, each piercing one apple with his beak. The King had three daughters who shapeshifted into griffins and pursued them. One of the brothers using druidic sorcery turned himself and his brothers into fish and they plummeted into the ocean away from the griffins.

    The apple and apple tree are symbolic of the guarantee of immortality in Irish tradition and the apple tree is universally esteemed as a holy tree. The apple tree is another sacred tree to the Druids. In their tradition it is said that you may cut an apple into three pieces, then rub the cut side on warts, saying: "Out warts, into apple." The pieces are buried and as they decay, the warts disappear. Apple cider is used by modern Wiccan/Pagan practioners as a substitiute in old spells which called for blood or wine. Apples are indicative of choices and are often used for love and healing magic.

    Mandrake, a small perennial of the potato family, is called the devil's apple because of the poisonous golf ball sized fruit they produce at the root. This is a strange plant native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean which has been a source of mystery and superstition for centuries. The fleshy root is said to shriek when pulled from the ground. It was used in ancient Greece to alleviate pain and as an aphrodisiac. American mandrake or May apple is an unrelated plant common to woodlands and meadows.

    Mother Goddesses are powerful female figures revered by many cultures. They are often depicted dispensing apples, bread or coins symbolizing wealth and the bounty of nature. In Irish and Welsh stories, apple trees in The Otherworld were magical and always laden with fruit that had magical properties. The story of Mael Duin is the earliest known Celtic travel myth. On his voyage into The Otherworld, three magic apples fed his crew for 120 days. In the story of Conla, a woman from The Otherworld gives him an apple which he eats from for one month.

    Cullwch, who is the first great hero of Welsh mythology, had golden apples embroidered on the corners of his purple cloak. The apple branch represented the seeking of your heart’s desire. King Cormac was given a branch with nine apples of red gold on it which made a beautiful sound when shaken. When the branch was shaken, no one had a want, a trouble or felt tiredness.

    In Norse mythology Idun is the goddess who tends to the apples of eternal youth. Her apples prevent the gods from aging rapidly. The apple has connections with Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit trees. Hallowe'en is derived from the festival for Pomona.

    The expression "apple of the eye" has a biblical origin and means the pupil of the eye and something or someone that is very precious and in need of protection, Deuteronomy 32:10, Proverbs 7:2, Lamentations 2:18, Zechariah 2:8.

    Keep me as the apple of the eye,
    hide me under the shadow of thy wings,
    Psalm 17:8

    Traditional Christianity generally regards the apple as the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which Satan tempted Eve with in the Garden of Eden. The Adam's Apple, the projection in the neck formed by the thyroid cartilage, is supposed to have been caused by a piece of the apple caught in Adam's throat. Since that time, superstition has dictated that to eat an apple without polishing it first is a challenge to Satan. Carl Jung interpreted the same apple as a symbol of life.

    To dream of ripe, sweet, red and green apples is a promise of well deserved reward and shows the achievement of harmonious balance in your life. If the apples were green and bitter, it indicates that you could face a loss through your own foolishness and fickle friendships. Red, ripe apples denote true, dependable friendships.

    If you dream of an apple which is rotten on the inside, it can indicate a relationship with serious problems even if the surface appears perfect. Eating apples with a friend or other people is a happy omen. Eating alone in a dream generally indicates a need to protect yourself from loss of status and friendships. Apple pie or baked apples in a dream can augur high expectations leading to disappointments. To dream of apple trees in blossom or an orchard can predict unexpected joys and prolonged advancement. A Crabapple tree is an indication of a new experience approaching.

    In keeping with the traditions of the Romany, a young lady wishing to dream of her future husband was to obtain an apple from a widow on the Eve of St. Andrew. No thanks were to be given. The young lady consumed half of the apple before midnight and the other half after, which would ensure a dream of her intended.

    Another method used to discover the face of your future spouse was to take an apple and a candle into a dark room just before midnight. While standing in front of a mirror cut the apple into small pieces. Throw one piece over your right shoulder and eat the rest while brushing your hair. Don't look behind you. As midnight strikes, the face of your future spouse will appear in the mirror. There are several variations on this divination method. If you sit in front of a mirror in candlelight and eat the apple while thinking about the boy or girl you like, he/she will return the sentiment.

    We have all played the childrens Hallowe'en game of bobbing for apples. Games, such as apple-bobbing, called apple-dookin’ in Scotland, represent the journeys taken across water to obtain the magic apple by Celtic heroes. Traditionally speaking, the girls were to polish, mark and then float an apple in the tub of water. The boy that retrieved her apple with his bite would be her spouse. If you bob for apples it is necessary to concentrate on one so you may enjoy its sweetness in full. There is another apple game for boys called Snap Apple. Apples are hung from the ceiling on strings, the boys leap and try to sink their teeth into them. The first boy to bite into an apple would be the first to marry. Another tradition advises that if you share an apple with the one you love they will love you in return.

    Peeling apples for a prediction has been popular for ages. This method was used if someone had a very important question. The apple was peeled very carefully so that the questioner ended up with a long unbroken peel. The question was asked and the peel was thrown over the shoulder. The answer was "No" if it fell in the shape of an "U" or an "O" and it was "Yes" if it was anything else.

    Another very popular form of a peeling prediction was one that allowed a girl to find out who her future husband would be. The apple was peeled, again in one long continuous piece, and thrown over her left shoulder. If the peel remained unbroken, it would fall in the shape of the initial of her future spouse. If the peel broke, she would remain unmarried.

    Some peeling predictions require the use of a silver knife to peel the apple and others indicate that the divination be performed at midnight on Hallowe'en. If a girl cuts an apple into nine pieces at midnight on Halloween in front of a mirror, then sticks each piece with the knife and holds each piece (one at a time) over her left shoulder, as the ninth piece hits the reflection in the mirror, she will see her future husband. If a girl peels an apple at midnight on Halloween and hangs the peel on a nail by the front door, the initials of the first man to enter will be the same as those of her unknown lover. Apple peeling was also used see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life.

    An Apple Spell for What the Heart Desires

    Whatsoever your heart desires
    Write it down in words of fire
    Cut the Sacred Apple through
    Place your wish between the two

    Seal with twigs from the Lady's Tree
    Place in a kiln until dried it be
    Sleep upon it night or day
    Until good fortune comes your way

    If you are having difficulty making up your mind between two people, places or situations just take two apple seeds and assign one to each of your choices. Stand in front of a mirror and stick the seeds on your forehead. The one that falls off last is the right choice.

    For people desiring to know the initial of the person who will be their next relationship, take an apple seed and stick the seed to your forehead. Recite the alphabet. The letter you are saying when the seed falls is the initial you seek.

    Counting the seeds was also a form of divination. To find out what the future held, people would cut an apple in half and count the seeds in the core. If the seeds were even in number, good luck was coming. An odd number indicated a disappointment and cutting one of the seeds in half indicated that the future could hold hard lessons and uncertainty.

    In Austria if a girl cut an apple in half on St. Thomas' Night it was believed she would learn her future. An even number of seeds indicated that she would marry soon but if one or more of the seeds was cut she would have troubles in her future and be widowed.

    Another stem twisting divination was used for a basic "Yes" of "No" answer. You would ask your question while holding the apple in your left hand and, with your right, begin twisting the stem. Every time you stwist the stem, say yes or no. The word that you say when the stem twists off is the answer to your question.

    Many cultures have interesting beliefs and traditions about apples. An apple appearing in the grounds of your tea cup indicates an achievement. In Britain if an apple tree comes into bloom out of season while still bearing fruit it was an augury of a death in the family. In the rest of Europe this same event is viewed as an omen of extremely good fortune. It is also good fortune to find any type of fruit growing double. If you share it with a friend you will both receive a wish. A pregnant woman eating one could have twins.

    In Somerset at Congresbury land auctions for single acre plots on two pieces of common land were once held. Each plot was marked and a matching mark was made on an apple. The apples were placed in a bag and were distributed to the commoners to allocate their plot. In Switzerland, William Tell refused to bow in homage to an Austrian nobleman's hat and was forced to shoot an apple off his son's head as punishment.

    You were never to pick all the apples off the tree at harvest, some were to be left for the birds. If any apples were left on the tree in spring, there would be a death in the family within the year. It is also a good idea and considered lucky to leave a fallen apple or two on the ground in the orchard to keep any spirits who may be wandering through content. In Germany if the first apple on a new tree is picked and eaten by a mother with many children, the tree will be abundantly fertile as well. In Denmark, a fairytale uses an apple as a chastity test, the apple will fade if the owner is unfaithful.

    I hope you have some fun with this and don't worry, only people who have read this article will know how those two little dents in your forehead got there. Only God can count the apples in a seed.

    'Moonlit Apples'(1917)

    In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep.
    And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep
    Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
    On moon-washed apples of wonder

    John Drinkwater(1882 - 1937)

    To Enchant an Apple

    Pick your apple when the moon has waned three days; Breathe upon its green cheek, rub it with a scarlet cloth, and say:

    Fire sweet and fire red, warm the heart and turn the head.

    Kiss the red half, Put it later in another's hand - Who holds it shall weaken, who eats it shall be yours.
    From The Crones Book of Words....Valerie Worth

    Appletus (c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2001


    A Dictionary of Omens and Superstitions
    by Philippa Waring
    Souvenir Press 1978
    ISBN 0-965-63619-4

    The Dreamer's Dictionary
    by Lady Stearn Robinson & Tom Corbett
    This is a companion book to the above
    from the same publisher

    Secrets of Gypsy Dream Reading
    by Raymond Buckland
    Llewellyn Publications 1990
    ISBN 0-87542-086-9

    The Mammoth Dictionary of Symbols
    by Nadia Julien
    Robinson 1996
    ISBN 1-85487-273-7

    The Kids Guide to Fortune Telling
    by Louise Dickinson
    Kids Can Press 1998
    ISBN 1-55074-479-8

    The Holy Bible
    King James Version

    The Celtic Tree Oracle
    Liz and Colin Murray
    Rider & Co Great Britain 1988
    ISBN 0-312-02032-5

    Heroes of the Dawn
    Celtic Myth
    1996 Duncan Baird Publishers
    ISBN 0 7054 2171 6

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