Apple Spiritual Symbolism: Fruit of Life, Knowledge (& Sin)

Despite its simplicity and basic form, the apple has become a powerful symbol throughout religion, literature, and dreams.

This however raises the question, what exactly does the apple symbolize? And why did the apple become such a powerful symbol and not another fruit?

As a spiritual symbol, the apple represents immortality, youth and knowledge but also material desires, temptation and conflict. Golden apples gave Norse gods immortality, while in Ancient Greece an apple caused the Trojan War. For Christians, the apple is devilish temptation, but also knowledge of good and evil. 

Due to the apple’s almost circular shape, it symbolizes totality. Symbolically, it is associated with earthly desires or with the indulgence of these desires. As a warning against glorifying materialistic desires, the supreme being told Adam not to eat the forbidden apple, because intellectual curiosity, thirst for knowledge, is only a stepping stone between earthly desires and pure spirituality.

Apple Symbolism In Dreams, Spirituality & Mythology
The Mystical Apple of Dreams

Apple symbolism in religion & mythology

Several religions and mythologies use the apple as a symbol that express identical ideas.

The Trojan War was caused by ‘The Apple of Discord‘ awarded by Paris. Golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides were the fruits that gave immortality. The apple from the tree of knowledge eaten by Adam and Eve. As described in the Song of Solomon, the apple is a symbol of God’s Word, a symbol of richness, sweetness, and savour.

In each of these tales, the apple is a key to knowledge. However, in some cases the apple is a fruit from the Tree of Life, while in others a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

In both cases, the apple represents knowledge, which either grants immortality or process that begins the Fall of Man. 

Apples as symbols of knowledge

Traditionally, the apple’s five-pointed star core, formed by its seed compartments, is seen as a symbol of knowledge. When an apple is cut in half, its seeds form a pentagram, a traditional symbol of knowledge.

The rounded shape of an apple also symbolizes earth-bound passion or the fulfilment of them.

This is why sages considered the apple the fruit of knowledge and of freedom.

As such, the phrase ‘to eat the apple’ means to abuse the intellect in order to discover evil, to abuse the senses to enjoy evil, and to abuse freedom to commit evil.

Divine prohibition against eating the apple was a warning to mankind not to be driven by base, animal desires which lead to materialistic way of life, as opposed to the spiritualized life which should be the divine ideal.

God’s warnings make man aware that there are two paths to take and that he has to choose between the way of earthly passions and the way of spirituality. As a result, the apple stands for knowledge and the necessity of making a choice.

However, as is always the case, the mass of the uninitiated mistook the symbol for the reality. Furthermore, the pentagram (a symbol of the spiritual man) embedded in the meat of the apple symbolizes the entanglement between spirit and flesh.

Apples as symbols of youth and immortality

The apple symbolizes autumn and the approach of death.

Many tales describe heroes refusing the apple offered by a goddess because it signifies impending death.

Additionally apples represents wisdom, as is the case with the Hesperides in classical mythology.

Mythology often associates apples with eternal youth.

In Scandinavian mythology, giants are said to have tried to steal the apples of youth growing near Yggdrasil, the world tree, since these apples provided immortality to the gods.

Briagi, the poet god, was married to ldun, the goddess who guarded the apples of immortality.

The giant Thiazi forced Loki (the Trickster) to kidnap Idun and steal her apples.

Loki then stole them (and her) back in order to prevent the gods from suffering old age and death.

The apple is considered the fruit of regeneration and rejuvenation in Norse mythology. Until Ragnarok, the end of the universe’s present cycle, the gods eat apples and stay young.

Apple in Celtic Folklore

Celtic folklore describes the apple as the fruit of knowledge, magic, and prophecy. Additionally, it provides miraculous food.

The woman from the Otherworld who comes in search of Condle, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles, gives him an apple which provides him with food for a month and never grows less.

To atone for the murder of his father Cian, the god Lug set Tuireann’s three sons on a quest to find three apples from the Garden of Hesperides. It was said that those who ate them would never again feel hunger or thirst, sorrow or sickness, nor would the apples rot or wither.

The eating of an apple is sometimes viewed as the beginning of a prophecy in Breton folktales.

In Celtic culture, the apple-tree (abellio) is seen as a tree from another world, while the apple was a miraculous fruit. 

Before carrying Bran across the seas, the Otherworld woman who came in search of him gave him a branch of an apple tree.

The Isle of Avalon – “Emain Ablach” in Irish, “Ynys Afallach” in Welsh – also known as ‘the Orchard’, is the mythical resting place of dead kings and heroes. 

Cornish tradition holds that King Arthur took refuge here until the day comes when he will free the Welsh and Cornish from foreign oppression. 

There is a legend that Merlin taught under an apple tree.

The apple-tree was as sacred to the Gauls as the oak.

Apple meaning in Christianity

In ancient times, apples were symbols of love, marriage, springtime, youth, fertility, longevity, and sexual bliss. As a result, it became associated with temptation in Christian tradition.

Despite not being named in the Bible (and being described as a fig in non-biblical writings), the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that tempted Eve was believed to be an apple, perhaps because “malus” is the Latin term for both evil and apple.

As a result, an apple is associated with Original Sin and Man’s Fall in the Christian tradition.

On the other hand, an apple in Christ’s hand represents salvation from original sin, and while apples on the Christmas tree represents humanity’s return to paradise.

Apple symbolism in dreams

Apples, symbolic of original sin in the Bible, are often interpreted as symbols of love.

In dreams, the state of the apple often represents the dreamer’s love life. The apple represents sensual/worldly temptations, so you may be considering giving in to these.

In other situations, a dream about an apple represents knowledge and the freedom to make choices that knowledge allows. It is only through knowledge and freedom that we can make positive or negative decisions.

Consider all the other details in the dream when interpreting the apple. Does the apple represent freedom and spiritual and emotional liberation, or do you view it as a symbol of runaway passions and negativity? Do you give in to temptation and make harmful decisions or do you make wise choices and enjoy life to its fullest potential?

Red and golden apple meaning in dreams

Taking a bite out of a red apple means love will make its way into your life. 

If you are single, you will meet a new partner; if you are married, you will experience a renewal of love. 

In the case of an apple with worms, you may feel frustrated or separated. However, your love relationship is in trouble if the apple is full of worms.

An apple that is rotten indicates trouble ahead.  It may also mean that the dreamer’s efforts aren’t accomplishing what they were supposed to accomplish, or may even harm the dreamer.

The golden apple represents self-awareness.  In the language of alchemy, the ‘Golden Apple’ is also symbol of sulphur.

Biting into a sour apple: for better or worse, you must deal with an unpleasant situation.

In Chinese culture, apple blossoms symbolize peace and beauty. From a spiritual perspective, an apple represents a new beginning and fresh thinking.

Apple tree meaning in dreams

A dream of a bountiful apple tree is traditionally associated with good fortune and achievement.

An apple tree with many apples represents your many friends.

A blossoming apple tree symbolizes business success.

Seeing an apple tree just before harvest suggests a good chance for profit.

Dreaming of an apple pie meaning

Traditionally associated with childhood and the comforts of home, apple pie probably reflects an aspiration to return to childhood security.

The apple tart foretells good fortune, while the cherry tart predicts wealth. A chocolate tart is a sign of exhaustion.

Dreams in which you are served a smaller slice of apple pie may indicate old rivalries and resentments.

Resources and references:

  • A dictionary of symbols by Cirlot, Juan Eduardo
  • A dictionary of symbols  by Chevalier, Jean
  • Dictionary of symbols by Chetwynd, Tom
  • A dictionary of dream symbols : with an introduction to dream psychology by Ackroyd, Eric
  • Illustrated dictionary of symbols in eastern and western art by Hall, James
  • Dictionary of symbols and imagery by Vries, Ad de
  • Symbolism : a comprehensive dictionary by Olderr, Steven
  • Dictionary of mythology, folklore and symbols by Jobes, Gertrude
  • The complete dictionary of symbols by Tresidder, Jack
  • The dream dictionary from A to Z by Francis-Cheung, Theresa
  • 1001 dreams by Altman, Jack
  • The Watkins dictionary of dreams by Reading, Mario
  • Dictionary of dreams : interpretation and understanding by Colin, Didier
Atlas Mythica

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