Sacred Apples

apple tree pixabay
Image by suju from Pixabay

Apple trees – their wood and fruit – have had meanings in the folklore and mythology of many cultures for centuries.

In Norse tradition, the apple is the tree of immortality. The Goddess Idunn was the keeper of the apples, which she fed the Norse Gods and Goddesses to keep them forever young. Apple wands were also used in Norse love rituals as apples represented long life, wisdom, and love.

JK Rowling seems to have borrowed from Norse folklore in her Harry Potter series. The applewood wand holder is described as being “well-loved and long-lived.” Since apple tree branches are knobbly and twisted, a  wand made from an apple branch is not likely to be perfectly straight, but rather would have twists.

The apple (or similar fruit) plays a big role in the Bible story of Adam and Eve and represents knowledge. Fairy tales, such as Snow White, use apples symbolically. Sir Isaac Newton was said to have had gravity revealed to him by an apple that fell on him.

The symbolism of the apple varies but in many cultures, it has symbolized knowledge, prosperity, love, jealously, and temptation.

apple pentagram

In mythology, Kore/Persephone’s sacred fruit is the apple. When an apple is cut through its equator, both halves will reveal a near-perfect pentagram shape at the core, with each point on the star containing a seed.

Pagans and Roma cut apples to show the pentagram and sometimes refer to the core as the Star of Knowledge. The pentagram is one of the most widely used religious symbols in the world and has been used by Wiccans, Pagans, Israelites, and Christians.

A pentagram is a five-pointed star with one point aligned upwards (when surrounded by a circle, it’s known as a ‘pentacle’) and its name derives from the Greek words penta (five) and gamma (letter).

Pentagrams were used symbolically and had magical associations in ancient Greece and Babylonia. Today they are used as a symbol of faith by many Wiccans, much in the way that the cross is used by Christians. Christians once commonly used the pentagram to represent the five wounds of Jesus. The pentagram has been used in Judaism since at least 300BCE when it first was used as the stamp of Jerusalem and to represent justice, mercy, and wisdom.

The pentagram is featured on the national flags of Morocco and Ethiopia.

The pentagram was originally a symbol of the goddess, Kore, who was worshipped thousands of years ago from the British isles to Egypt by different names (Cara, Ceres, Carnak, Core, Car, Karnak, Persephone).

Five is an often significant or magical number. In Ireland, there are five great roads, five provinces, five paths of the law and the fairy folk count in fives and wear fivefold cloaks.

Wiccans use the pentagram for healing circles and wear the symbol. They interpret the five points as the five elements- earth, air, water, fire, and spirit. Some see the five as the four directions plus the direction of the spirit.

Apples are also used for divination, especially in matters of love. Some use a count of the apple pips (seeds) which vary from five to less than ten. To divine who a girl might mary, pips are each given a potential man’s name and then burned watching to see the first to explode in the fire. You could also throw an apple peeling over the left shoulder to see what initial of an individual it forms when it lands. Putting an apple under your pillow supposedly allows you to dream of your sweetheart.

Shamans and magicians have used apples when undergoing transformations or Otherworld journeys. When I studied the Arthurian legends I learned that one of these Otherworlds is Avalon. It is the Apple Vale, a mythical paradise where hills were clothed with trees bearing flowers and fruit together. Merlin told Arthur about it and an orchard that was brought there by the Enchanter.

celtic apple

The Ogham system connects the apple to the unfearing spiritual warrior. The warrior journeys to the Otherworld which can cause madness and returns. In Celtic society, madness was believed to be a gift and a rare ability and it could link them to the Otherworld knowledge and insights.

Earlier, I wrote about Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire in which he used John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) to illustrate how the apple’s sweetness and its use in making an alcoholic cider made it appealing to settlers moving west. That brought the apple tree West.  (Pollan also points out that our manipulation of apples has made the modern varieties require more pesticide than any other food crop.) I also wrote about a local apple-based alcoholic brew – Laird’s 100 proof apple brandy and Applejack which is 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits. That’s not necessarily spiritual, but it is spirits.

apple blossom pixabay

The Noble Apple
The Botany of Desire
Applejack and Jersey Lightning

A Summer Supermoon of Release

“Boy and Moon” by Edward Hopper

According to, this month’s full moon, which rises on June 23 (Sunday), will be the closest and largest Full Moon of the year – a supermoon. A supermoon is a new moon or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.  They are not very rare. There are 4-6 supermoons a year with 3 in a row this year (May 25, June 23, July 22) but this June full moon is the most “super”.

I wonder how the early Native Americans explained the supermoons. They often called this full moon the Green Corn Moon because it was the time of the first signs of the “corn in tassel.” It meant the start of preparations for the upcoming festivals in the growing season.

American colonists were more likely to refer to it as a Strawberry Moon or Rose Moon.  Their ancestors in Britain may have known it as the Mead or Honey Full Moon. Those names go back to medieval times and are also associated with Druids and pagans. Beehives would be full of honey from the heavy pollen of spring. That brought them mead (honey wine) that is believed to have been discovered by Irish monks during medieval times.  Mead has a reputation for enhancing virility and fertility and acting as an aphrodisiac and so found its way into Irish wedding ceremonies. Some etymologists say the term “honeymoon” came from the Irish tradition of newlyweds drinking honey wine every day for one lunar month after their weddings.

In North America, late June is usually the first crop of strawberries and the first rose blooms.

Many cultures have celebrated the full moon with ceremonies. Though not very common today, neo-pagans, Wiccans and other  groups still mark the event.

img-candlesYou don’t have to be a member of any of those groups to have your own Full Moon release ritual which is said to center you and allow you to release something you hold inside that is doing you harm.

You use a “sacred space” of your choosing outdoors. People might use sage smudging to purify the space. They would bring some personal power totems – objects of special significance to them. You sit under the Full Moon on the ground and try to allow yourself to feel a connection to it. You can think of it as a centering ritual or meditation.

After all, the Moon is the mover of the living waters of the Earth and within our own bodies. Feel the earth under your feet and allow it to absorb any tension in your body. Feel the pull toward the Moon.

You don’t need to be alone, but talking is discouraged. Place before you a large water-filled bowl.  You want to have a small votive type of candle that you can float on the water. Each person “writes” what they want to release on a candle. The writing is more symbolic than literal. It doesn’t matter if the thing written can be seen, as long as it is actually written by the person.

Light the candle and try to feel the transfer of what you’re releasing into the candle and into the water.

Does that sound too New Age for you? Again, just think of the exercise of this quiet concentration and becoming aware of where you are and acknowledging the Moon in all its beauty far above you. You might be surprised to feel relieved after the ritual.

The Honey Moon

The June Full Moon is often called the Rose, Strawberry or Flower Moon. For 2012, it appears on Monday, June 4th, and I chose an older name of the Honey Full Moon (AKA the Mead Moon) that goes back to medieval times. Both of those names are associated with Druids and pagans.

We are past the moons that signal spring and new life reaching for the warmth and light of the summer sun. Birds have hatched, animals have given birth and insects are swarming. Just last month, bee hives would have been empty but now after the heavy pollen of spring, they are laden with honey.

And that brings us to mead. This honey wine is believed to have been discovered by Irish monks during medieval times. The drink figures in both Gaelic poetry and Irish folklore. The basic recipe for mead consists of honey and water and sometimes a bit of yeast. The fermented honey wine has its flavor variations based on the flowers that produced the honey and the way the mead was prepared. Some people compare it to a Riesling wine with a range from sweet to quite dry.

Mead was believed to enhance virility and fertility, while also contributing supposed aphrodisiac qualities. As a result, Mead quickly found its way into Irish wedding ceremonies.

Some historians and etymologists say the term “honeymoon” came from the Irish tradition of newlyweds drinking honey wine everyday for one full moon (a month) after their weddings. Today, some Irish weddings still include a traditional Mead toast to the newlyweds.

If you want to stay with the pagan beliefs, then the natural energy of this time is a time for personal transformation, especially near this fertile moon. It is also a time ripe for prosperity, inspiration, and creativity. Pagans may also wear shades of yellow, gold, and amber to honor the harvesting of the honey. You may even want to try brewing your own mead.

This Sagittarius Full Moon is also the time of the Christ-Goodwill Festival or the Festival of Humanity, and the World Day of Invocation – all times marked to unite the human family. This year the Full Moon is a Lunar Eclipse at 14 degrees of Gemini/Sagittarius.

In North America, the harvesting of strawberries in June gives this full Moon one of its names. Europeans often refer to it as the Rose Moon. Other names include: the Moon of Horses, Lovers’ Moon, Strong Sun Moon, Aerra Litha (Before Litha), Brachmanoth (Break Month) and the Moon of Making Fat.

The Full Moon festival of Edfu in Egypt honored the goddess Hathor. The cow horns on her head represented the Crescent Moon. Every year at the New Moon the statue of Hathor was taken from her temple at Dendera and transported by boat to the temple of the god Horus at Edfu, arriving on the Full Moon. This festival celebrated the sexual union of the two deities. It was a time of great festivities and very likely human marriages, since it was considered a period of good luck.

Rodlima is the ninth month of the Druid year and is known as the time of the Bird Moon. The first day of this month is the full moon. Rodlima is from May 30 (when the Celts celebrated Midsummer) to June 27 (Bright Moon). The patron deity for Rodlima is Tasimea.

Star Walking the New Moon

Photo by Mohan Reddy Atalu on

Tonight is the Taurus New Moon (April 21). The New Moon is also the Dark Moon and for some people it’s a night when they think “there’s no Moon.”

To those who follow the stars, this New Moon is when the Sun enters Taurus. That is a time to bring us back to our senses and an invitation to celebrate our body and the natural world.

Fittingly, it move us into Earth Day tomorrow.

This is the lunar phase when the Moon lies between Earth and the Sun and is therefore in conjunction with the Sun as seen from Earth.  The dark side of the moon (cue up the music here) faces almost directly toward Earth so that the Moon is not visible to the naked eye.

Right now, the earth in Paradelle is rather dry after a warm winter and mild spring, but rain is moving in. This week I can see that the ground will be moist, fertile, and fragrant. The air is scented with lily of the valley that has started blooming and lilacs are ready to send out their perfume.

The Sun and Moon are conjunct (fused) with Ceres in Taurus. In mythology Ceres (the Greek Demeter) was the mother of Persephone and goddess of agriculture and the harvest. She gave humanity two gifts: grain and the Eleusinian Rites. She was worshiped as the all-nourishing mother. In 2006 the asteroid Ceres was elevated to a dwarf planet. If you are into astrology, her presence in the chart of the New Moon reminds us to honor Mother Earth and do whatever we can to live in harmony with nature.

Jupiter is also currently in Taurus, and that makes four planets in the sign of the bull. Plus, Mars is in Virgo and Pluto is in Capricorn. Six planets in that night sky to observe. I will grab my iPad with its Star Walk app tonight and, even if the sky is cloudy, I will gaze up at all of them.

The New Moon is also known as the Dark Moon. Amongst the Druids and other ancients, the ight of the New Moon is a solemn occasion, calling for vigils and meditation. (Unlike the Full Moon nights which are a time of rejoicing.)  To the Druids, the new moon is feminine energy at its peak in the absence of masculine energy. The feminine is the receptor of the seed and the womb of the newborn. An excellent time to “plant a seed” whether it be in the soil, or more figuratively in a spiritual beginning.

In the Hindu calendar, people generally wait for the New Moon to start new works. And the new moon is the beginning of the month in the Chinese calendar. Some Buddhist Chinese keep a vegetarian diet on the new moon and full moon each month.

February’s Moon of Snow and Ice


This Tuesday’s Full Moon (2/7/12) is the Moon of Snow and the Moon of Ice.  For many areas of America, the February Moon marks a time of the heaviest snowfall.

Native American tribes of the north and east often called this the Snow Moon and some tribes referred to this as the Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.  The Choctaw called it the Little Famine Moon

The ancient Druids marked this as the Storm Moon and it occurs during the fifth month of their year. The first day is the Full Moon and it runs until March 1 which is the Moon of Ice.

The name for this month probably comes from the Roman goddess Februa (AKA  Juno Februa) or the god Februus, who was later identified with the Roman Pluto or Dis. In Roman culture, it was a time of spiritual purification and initiation. It was seen as a time to cleanse and purify yourself and your dwelling place. It was believed that purifying changes the vibrations by removing negative ones and inviting in positive ones and so prepares the environment, the body, mind, and spirit for receptivity of new spiritual and life experiences.

February is a month of ice in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere and a  time of dormancy when activity and life (both by humans and in nature) is low or below the surface. Even water (the zodiac sign is Aquarius) slows, freezes, and seems to disappear.

To Colonial Americans, this was the Trapper’s or simply the Winter Moon.

Not all parts of the Earth are covered with ice or snow now. Celebration during this time includes Hatun-pucuy, or the Great Ripening, which was celebrated among the Incas. The Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece was also called the Festival of the Returning Daughter and celebrated Kore’s return from the Underworld and the rebirth of earthly vegetation.

In China, this is a Holiday Moon connected with the New Year. The country of Tibet celebrates the conception of Buddha and the Feast of Flowers during this time of year.

The Cold Wolf Moon After The Yule

Tomorrow, January 9, 2012, is the Full Moon that starts the new year.

This Cold Moon (called Unolvtani in Cherokee celebrations) marked the start of the season for personal and ritual observance, fasting and personal purification. It was a time for families to prepare for the coming of the next season which will start with the Windy Moon in March. The tools for planting are repaired, and new ones are made. The ancestors are honored with the telling of stories about them to young ones.

This month is the time of a Cold Moon Dance in communities. Another tradition found here in America by natives was also a part of celebrations by ancients in Europe. To mark the ending of one cycle of seasons and welcoming the beginning of the new cycle, community hearth fires are put out and new ones are made. The putting out of Fires and lighting of new ones was the duty of holy men of certain clans.

This time also coincides with the first arrival of the Morning Star in the east. Of course, the Morning Star isn’t a star at all, but the name given to the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise. The Greek referred to “Phosphorus” (meaning “Light-Bringer”) or Heōsphoros [AKA Eosphorus in English] meaning the “Dawn-Bringer” for Venus in its morning appearance.

While names for the Full Moons were used by Native Americans and other ancient civilizations to keep track of the seasons, their names applied to the time period that began with the full moon and extended until the next Full Moon. Remember, they did not use a calendar, so weeks, months and years were not concepts of time for them. No messy leap years, time zones or daylight savings time to negotiate.

Some of the Native American names that I have seen for the January full moon are the Cold Moon, Cooking Moon, Moon of the Terrible, Moon of the Raccoon, Full Snow Moon (also applied by some tribes to the February moon).

Why so many different names? Most variations in naming can be explained geographically. Tribes of the southwest and the northeast did not share the same climate, plants or animals and the names of the moons show that. One name that comes from far northern tribes is the Moon When Trees Pop.

A very common name used for our January moon is the Wolf Moon, a name inspired by the howling of hungry wolves during this time of scarcity that would gather outside villages and encampments.

Other names for this month’s full moon include the Winter Moon, Hunger Moon, Old Moon (an Colonial settlers name borrowed from Native Americans), Moon After Yule, the neo-Pagan Ice Moon.

The word January comes from the Roman god Janus. Janus had two faces and ruled over beginnings and endings and the past and the future. It was considered the time to put aside the old and outdated in your life and make plans for new and better conditions. It is not hard to see that we have maintained the idea in our annual ritual of new year’s resolutions.

The Holiday Moon is a name used in China. The Chinese celebration is actually similar to the Romans in celebrating their New Year, which occurs on the first day of the New Moon when the Sun is in Aquarius. This is considered a time for settling debts, honoring ancestors, and having family reunions. Paper images of dragons are carried through the streets and set off fireworks to chase away evil entities and misfortune.

In Tibet, the year began at the end of January and there was a celebration to expel the Old Year. They would make a human image from dough for the demons to inhabit. The image was worshiped then for seven days and then it was taken outside the village to a crossroad and abandoned. Why worship the demons? These negative beings, who have accumulated during the Old Year, get recognized for their existence. Then, by leaving the image outside the village, they are told that they are not welcome.

I also like the Druid name for this Moon. Our January is Llianth, their fourth month of the year, and the full moon is known as the Poet’s Moon. It is a good time for peace, creativity, and inspiration.

Venus, the Morning Star