Apple tree - Malus sylvestris (Latin) - Quert ( Ogham)
Shelter of a wild hind is an apple.
Shelter of a hind, lunatic, death sense, a time when a lunatic’s senses come back to him.
Excellent emblem, protection.
Force of a man.
Book of Ballymote 1391
Like the Hazel tree, apple is a tree of knowledge and a provider of nutritious food.
The apple tree is known in many cultures and traditions including Greek mythology and Christian lore.
In Britain there are many tales and indeed warnings of the eating of apples. The general agreement amongst these traditions is that the Apple is connected to the Otherworld and can confer divine knowledge and inspiration but at a price for once that knowledge is known there is no going back.
Stories speak of Isles of paradise with sacred apple trees. Glastonbury is said to be a physical manifestation of Avalon from the Gaelic Evain avaloch meaning holy hill of apples. Thomas of Ercledoune was given the gift of prophecy by the Queen of the fairies and warned he may never return from the Other-lands.
The Apple is a symbol of office for those great souls such as Sweeny Geilt, Taliesin and Merlin who dared to risk their lives and especially the sanity of their minds to travel to the Other-lands.
Shamanic traditions across the globe speak of the healers or wise ones who risk their lives for the knowledge to help their tribe or community. The ogham letters for apple is QU or CU a synonym for a warrior in Celtic lore, in this case a spiritual warrior unafraid to face death or travel to the Other-lands.
Orchards come into their own at Samhain ( the time when the Otherlands are most accessible). Apples are piled high and eaten in abundance. Apples are wassailed (celebrated) with song, ritual and toasts. Often libations of cider are poured on the apple tree’s roots.
In ancient times Pliny recognised 22 varieties of apple but since then over 2000 varieties have made their way across Europe especially from France into Britain. Apples contain much goodness as they are full of sugars, amino acids, vitamins, pectin, mineral salts, malic and tartaric acids.
They are good for infections of the intestine, constipation, fatigue, hypertension, rheumatism, bronchial diseases, coughs and cholesterol etc etc…..
Our native Crab Apple is easily overlooked in woodlands as it is often grows as a single tree. The true native has long pointed thorns and a rather shrubby untidy appearance which is why it bears the name crab from the Norse word skrab meaning ‘scrubby’.
However its presence is announced in the autumn when you will often notice copious amounts of small bitter apples upon the tree and ground. The crab apple however is not to be dismissed by the seeker of better tastes as we must remember this tree is the ancestor of all our cultivated apples and is still the rootstock to which the grafts of cultivated apples are made. Crab apples also make a wonderful jelly when mixed with rowan berries.
Crab-apples, Crab-apples, out in the wood,
Little and bitter, yet little and good!
The apples in orchards, so rosy and fine,
Are children of wild little apples like mine.
The branches are laden, and droop to the ground;
The fairy-fruit falls in a circle around;
Now all you good children, come gather them up:
They’ll make you sweet jelly to spread when you sup.
One little apple I’ll catch for myself;
I’ll stew it, and strain it, to store on a shelf
In four or five acorn-cups, locked with a key
In a cupboard of mine at the root of the tree.
Cicely Mary Barker
In the spring it is also more easily noticed with its wonderful display of pink blossom which exudes a perfume at night to attract insects, not unlike honeysuckle.
The apple tree tells us it is a time of fruition, a time to gather our resources and feel abundant. It also protects us from the more negative states of the mind.
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.