are supplied to demystify symbolism (and the artwork in this
Click here to return to the online symbolism dictionary.
The apple is a very rich symbol. Temptation
is the first one that springs to mind. A very rich, and very
old, image is that of a skeleton holding an apple: the temptations/sins
that lead to death. The apple also has many American definitions
(cultural layer interpretations): the 'Big Apple' refers to
New York City, 'as American as apple pie' is one that's been
around for a while, along with 'Johhny Appleseed' and his
perpetual planting of apples (harvest connotations). A very
successful computer company's logo also uses the fruit as
a symbol for their product, a very recognizable logo that
calls Apple(s) to mind. And we're just getting started on
the subject of the apple...
Posted: October 06, 2003.
links to the (expert) quotes below:
Vollman: The Little Giant Encyclopedia
of Dream Symbols
Biedermann: Dictionary of Symbolism
Estés: Women Who Run With the Wolves
Little Giant Encyclopedia of Dream Symbols, p. 32-33
Health and naturalness; also renewal of life and the symbol
of immortality (the golden apple). Seduction and sexual symbol
for breast. (The ideal in the Middle Ages was to have breasts
like little apples.) Something that turns into something good
(and deservedly so--for instance, William Tell's apple) or,
less frequently, something that turns into something bad (see
the Apple of Paris).
to Freud, the apple, like almost every other FRUIT, is the
symbol for breasts, particularly when there is more than one
apple. In psychoanalysis apples are generally considered a
typical sexual symbol. According to C. G. Jung, they are the
symbol of life, an ancient fertility symbol (as are the pomegranate,
fig, and quince).
Posted: January 17, 2004.
of Symbolism, p. 16-17
A fruit with a core and multiple symbolic meanings. Wild crab-apples
were gathered in ancient times, and full-sized varieties were
already found in Central Europe in the Neolithic era. In ancient
myth the god of intoxication Dionysys was the creator of the
apple, which he presented to Aphrodite, goddess of love. Erotic
associations liken apples to women's breasts, and the core
of an apple cut in halves to the vulva. In this way the apple
acquired a somewhat ambiguous symbolism. The goddess Eris
called for "the judgment of Paris" when she threw
down a golden apple marked "for the most beautiful"
(the "apple of discord" that in other languages
corresponds to the English "bone of contention");
Helen of Troy was Paris' reward for choosing Aphrodite, but
his abduction of Helen led to the Trojan War. Hercules had
to brave great danger to retrieve the apples of the Hesperides
from the far reaches of the west (compare ISLANDS OF THE BLESSED).
On the other hand, the earth-goddess Ge (or Gaea) gave Hera
an apple as a symbol of fertility upon her engagement to Zeus.
In Athens newlyweds divided and ate an apple when they entered
the bridal chamber. Sending or tossing apples was a part of
courtship. The Old Norse goddess Iduna guarded apples that
brought eternal youth to whoever ate them. In the Celtic religion
the apple was the symbol of knowledge handed down from ancestors.
symbology starts with the homonymy of the words for "apple"
and "peace" (p'ing), but the word for disease
(ping) is also similar, and thus it is considered inappropriate
to bring apples to the sick. Apple blossoms, on the other
hand, are a symbol of feminine beauty. In Europe the apple
of the Garden of Eden, from the TREE of Good and Evil, is
the symbol of temptation and original sin. In European representations
of the Fall (see ADAM AND EVE) the serpent holds an apple
in its mouth, although Genesis refers only to the "fruit";
our apple was unknown east of the Mediterranean. Various traditions
replace the apple with a FIG, quince or POMEGRANATE. Paintings
of Christ's birth show him reaching out for an apple, symbolically
taking the sins of the world upon himself; apples on a European
Christmas tree suggest that Christ's birth makes possible
a return to the state of innocence that preceded the Fall.
The enticing sweetness of the apple, however, was first associated
with the enticements of sin, also in the surface similarity
of the Latin words for "apple" (malus, malum)
and for "bad, evil, sin" (malum). Thus in
baroque art the skeleton of death often is holding an apple:
the price of original sin is death.
the secular realm the apple, with its almost perfectly spherical
form, functions as a symbol for the cosmos; thus many emperors
and KINGS hold an "imperial apple" along with their
scepter. In ancient times some coins showed three spheres
representing the three continents known to the emperor Augustus--Asia,
Africa and Europe; the imperial apple was crowned by an image
of the goddess of victory (Nike, in Latin Victoria). In the
Christian era a CROSS assumed this role, so that the astronomical
symbol for earth is a circle with a cross on it. In the legends
of Celtic Britain, Avalon (Appleland) is a symbol for divine
joy. Thus Robert Graves takes the apple as a symbol for springtime
and lovers' bliss: "It grants admittance to the Elysian
Fields, those apple orchards where only the soul of heroes
may go... An apple is a gift of the three Hesperides to Hercules,
and the gift of Eve, 'mother of all living,' to Adam. Finally,
Nemesis, the goddess of the holy grove,...(go pick up a copy
of the book to get the rest of the definition :)
Posted: October 06, 2003.
Expanded: January 17, 2004.
Who Run With the Wolves, p. 421
Several fruits are used traditionally to represent the female
womb, most often pears, apples, figs, and peaches, although
generally any objects that have outer and inner forms, and
at their center a seed that can grow into a living thing--eggs,
for instance--can connotate this "life within a life"
Posted: October 29, 2003.
Who Run With the Wolves, p. 398-340
...a saying about apple trees: "Young in spring, bitter
fruit: other side, sweet as ice." This meant the apple
had a dual nature. In the late spring it looked as lovely
and round and as though drizzled with sunrise. Yet it was
too tart to eat; it would make all your nerves stand up and
go awk! But, later in the season, to bite into the apple was
like breaking open sweet candy running with juice.
apple tree and the maiden are interchangeable symbols of the
feminine Self, and the fruit is a symbol of nourishment and
maturation of our knowledge of that Self. If our knowledge
about the ways of our own soul is immature, we cannot be nourished
from it, for the knowing is not yet ripe. As with apples,
it takes time for maturation, and the roots must find their
ground and at least a season must pass, sometimes several.
If the maiden soul sense remains untested, nothing more can
occur in our lives. But if we can gain underworld roots, we
can become mature, nourishing to soul, Self, and psyche.
Posted: October 29, 2003.
Want to know more? Go out and pick up a copy of the book(s) quoted and expand your mind :) These are MY teachers, the people who teach me about symbolism :) I hope the supplied definitions help you understand the art found on this site.