There is a huge amount of mythology surrounding apple trees. They were possibly the first tree to be cultivated for their fruit in Europe and have played their part in in several of the mythologies and religions of the world. From Eve's eating of the apple in Genesis, to the mystical apple groves said to grow on the Isle of Avalon, to the US's Johnny Appleseed, the apple tree has played its part in human history and myth all over the world.
|© Shona M MacDonald 2012|
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The apple appears in the classic faery tale 'Snow White'; apples were fed to the Norse Gods and Goddesses to maintain their immortality; Hera's apple-tree in the Garden of the Hesperides played its part in Heracles' labours in Greek mythology.
Many folklore traditions exist, and some prevail today, involving the apple tree and its fruits. We 'bob' for apples at Halloween and a prophesy ritual can be performed that same night by peeling an apple - making sure to keep the peel in one piece - and throwing it over your left shoulder. When it lands it will form the initial of the person you will marry. It was once believed that if you could see the sun shining through the branches of an apple tree on Christmas Day then a good harvest the following year would be assured. And in the West Country in Britain, in particular, 'Wassailing the Apple' has been an annual tradition, sometimes performed at Yuletide, sometimes on the 6th of January or on the 17th of January (Twelfth Night by the old calendar). Traditions vary from hitting the apples trees with sticks to wake them up after the winter, to pouring the last of the harvest's cider on the tree roots, to soaking toast in cider and hanging it in the apple-trees for the robins who are believed to be the apples-trees' spirits, but all involve singing Wassailing songs in the orchard. These ceremonies would often conclude at the oldest tree in the orchard where the spirit of the Apple-Tree Man is believed to dwell.