Take a bite into the flesh of a rosy-cheeked apple. Will you be gifted with divine knowledge and life everlasting or given imminent death and eternal sleep? That depends on the story. The apple infamously started the Trojan war, while in Arabian Nights (tales told by ancient travelers and merchants along the Chinese silk route), a magic apple from Samarkand was said to cure all human disease.
The apple has been steeped in rich symbolism throughout history, portrayed in myths, fairy tales, and proverbs as having magical, life-giving powers. In rituals both of the ancient past and present, this fruit is considered to be a gift of the otherworld that supports life as we explore the inevitable deeper, darker realms of being, including death. Apple trees have long been associated with safe havens and sustenance for practitioners of magic, medicine workers, witches, and shamans. It’s linked to truth seeking and divine knowledge and wisdom.
In an Irish folktale, the red-haired Connla, son of King Connaught and Aife, the famed warrior queen, becomes infatuated with a fairy maiden who gives him an apple that becomes whole again once eaten. Connla dines on this magical apple for one month and longs for the fairy maiden
to return, which she does and takes him on her crystal boat to the otherworld, where trees bear an endless supply of these mysterious apples that give him everlasting youth. The price to pay is that he cannot return to the earthly realm. A similar myth is found in Druid folklore, where Bran is enticed to the otherworld by an enchanting fairy maiden who carries a musical apple branch.
In Greek mythology, the apple tree is at the center of the garden of the Hesperides, a tree belonging to Hera that bore magical golden fruit and gave immortality to those who ate
it. In Norse mythology, the apple tree is also seen as a tree of immortality. Goddess Idunn, keeper of apples, fed the fruit to all the gods and goddesses, ensuring they would have eternal youth.
There are countless other appearances of the apple in stories of old. There is Avalon, meaning Isle of Apples, from Arthurian legend, the land of the fairies and the dead that’s ruled over by Morgan le Fay. There is Merlin the magician, who lived and worked in a grove of apple trees, ingesting fruit from his orchard that gave him sight and the power of prophecy.
The apple has also been depicted in ancient stories and fairy tales as being quite the opposite of life-giving, instead seen as ominous, dangerous, and even poisonous. The Latin word for apple is malum, which also means evil, thus the probable connection to the belief that the apple is a forbidden fruit or even a poisonous one. Think of the Garden of Eden, or the story of Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. As an aside, I invite you to read Snowdrop, a lesser-known version of Snow White from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (and later artfully illustrated by Arthur Rackham). The poisonous apple in this story is “beautiful to look upon, pale with rosy cheeks, and everyone who saw it longed for it, but whoever ate of it was certain to die.”
When it comes to witchcraft and magic, the apple historically has strong associations with love, healing, longevity, immortality, divination, life after death, knowledge and wisdom, and magic involving the elements. Witches, as well as the pagan Celts and Druids, knew the secret that the apple holds—that within it, the seeds form a perfect pentagram resembling earth, air, fire, and water bound by spirit. The apple has a strong connection to the pagan sabbat Samhain (October 31 to November 1) and is considered the food of the dead. Samhain is also called the
“Feast of Apples.”
Many Halloween legends and magical practices are associated with the apple. Some say that if you bury an apple in the ground beneath the light of a Halloween moon, it will provide nourishment and healing for the souls of the dead who wander the earth on this mystical night. Apple growers would bury thirteen leaves from an apple tree in their orchard on Halloween, in complete silence and in secret, to ensure a hardy future crop. Unicorns are said to live beneath apple trees and can be spotted gallivanting in orchards on silvery, foggy mornings.
Not only are apples revered for their magical properties, but also as healing food and natural medicine, so the ancient idea that they promoted longevity and immortality makes sense. Apples are rich in vitamins and minerals. They improve circulation, support the functions of the nervous system and brain, are high in fiber, beneficial to the liver, good for easing heartburn and an upset stomach, and make an ideal healthy snack that releases its sugars slowly, keeping blood sugar stable.
Apple Magic and Natural Medicine
Given that the apple tree is a magical gift of Mother Earth and has been revered since ancient times, let us honor and celebrate this magnificent creation. Here are some simple, fun ways you can work with apples—their blossoms, bark, and luscious fruit—to get in touch with and honor the spirit of the tree and enhance the magic and health of your own life.
Apple Love Divination
Apple love divination has a long history. You might try this age-old ritual traditionally performed on Halloween night: To see a vision of your future partner, turn out the lights, light a candle, cut an apple into nine pieces, and eat eight of them while gazing in the mirror. Pierce the ninth piece with your paring knife and hold it over your shoulder. The apparition of your future partner is said to appear to you and take it.
Apple Love Spell
Apples have long been used for love spells. Create an anointing oil to call your soulmate to you or to enhance an existing love. On the night of the new moon, put eight dried apple blossom petals into a small, pretty bottle. Cover them with a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil or another skin-friendly oil. Gently shake the bottle each day, envisioning the qualities you desire in your mate or the feelings that you wish to be enhanced between you and your existing lover. On the eve of the full moon, anoint your heart center with the liquid, to open it and draw your soulmate to you (or to enhance the bond with your lover). A note on ethics: Keep in mind that love spells should never involve coercion but rather work with existing feelings between two consenting partners.
Magical Apple Wood Tools
An apple branch can be used to craft magical tools like a besom (the witch’s broom), wand, or even a set of runes. (I recommend using a fallen branch as opposed to disturbing a healthy tree.) Apple is the wood traditionally used for the witch’s wand and viewed as having strong, magical powers. To make a wand, find a fallen, small apple branch that calls to you and whittle it with a knife, if you wish, to achieve a smooth texture. Seal your wand with melted beeswax to protect the wood. You may choose to decorate it with crystals and charms or just leave it natural.
Dried apple blossoms, seeds, and bark can be burned as a natural incense to strengthen divination practices (like tarot reading, scrying, and automatic writing) and to enhance magical rituals and spells associated with love, healing, and connection to the spirit world. To make, simply grind up dried apple blossoms, seeds, or bark in a mortar and pestle. Burn the powder on a special incense charcoal tablet in a heat-proof vessel, like a cast iron or copper cauldron. To produce a more pleasant aroma, you can add a ground-up resin tear like copal or frankincense to the compound. Adding a drop of essential oil will also do.
Rose and Apple Love Tea Blend
I relish in crafting herbal tea blends and particularly love a blend made from wild rose petals and apple blossoms, foraged from beach rose bushes along the coast of Maine and wild apple trees that grow in woodlands and pastures all throughout my small rural town. This tea is delicious served with apple-blossom-infused honey (see recipe below). Use one heaping teaspoon of dried tea blend per boiling cup of water, allowing it to steep ten to fifteen minutes. To better release the herb’s properties, crush them first using a mortar and pestle.
Apple Blossom Medicinal Honey
Apple-blossom-infused medicinal honey soothes a sore throat and can be used as a cold preventative. Simply fill a pint-size mason jar half full with unsprayed, fresh apple blossoms. Poor honey over the blossoms, filling the jar all the way to the top. Cap it and set it in a warm spot near a sunny window out of direct sunlight. Allow it to infuse for two weeks. Strain the infused honey through a strainer lined with cheesecloth and discard the plant matter in your compost pile. Store your magical apple blossom honey in a cool, dark pantry or in the refrigerator. It should keep for several months or longer. Enjoy!