by Ellen Evert Hopman
illustration by Will Hobbs

In “the Song Of The Forest Trees”, a thirteenth century Irish poem of wood wisdom, the following trees are identified as not to be burned; “Woodbine, monarch of the forests, Apple, a tree ever decked in blooms of white, Blackthorn, throughout his body…birds in their flocks warble, Willow, a tree sacred to poems, Hazel, spare the limber tree, Ash, rods he furnishes for horsemen’s hands”.

The common Wild Apple was a component of the mixed hardwood forests of the post-glacial Indo-European homeland. The domesticated Apple was probably developed in the southern Caucasus as part of the Neolithic farming revolution and soon spread to Switzerland and Britain. Apples were an important and popular food source being sweet, high in calories, and easy to dry. According to the historian Tacitus, milk, deer, and apples were the main diet of the Germanic tribes.

Apples had magical and religious significance for Celtic, Greek, Slavic, and Germanic peoples. They are so embedded in our cultural imaginations that the Biblical story of Adam and Eve is said to revolve around an apple even though no apples are mentioned in the Bible!

The Apple was one of the Chieftain trees of Ireland, the wanton felling of which meant death to the offender. It was said to shelter both the hind and the unicorn. Scandinavian tradition relates that Loki stole the apples which the Goddess Ithunn had bestowed on the Gods to keep them immortal. When the Gods began to age Loki had to return them.

In English folk tradition warts can be cured by rubbing them with two halves of an apple which are then buried. As the apple decays so will the warts. Cutting down an Apple tree was considered sacrilegious. In Herefordshire it was said that hops would never grow in a felled Apple orchard. A piece of common land could be claimed by fencing it and planting an Apple tree. As long as the yearly crop was taken the landowner maintained his claim. In Yorkshire it was said that one apple must be left on each tree after harvest as a gift for the Fairies. If a bloom appeared on a tree which had already borne fruit it was an omen that someone would die. Wassailing the orchard is an old custom of Twelfth Night. Farming families ate hot cakes and drank cider and then proceeded to the orchard where a cider soaked cake was placed in the fork of an Apple tree. More cider was poured on the cake as a libation and then noise makers were employed, such as pots and pans, to drive away evil spirits. Cider was then sprinkled on orchard and field to encourage the vegetation Fairies.

The Seneca indians used the root of Wild Apples for tuberculosis and malaria. The Meskwaki used it to cure smallpox. Apples are rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins C, B, and B2. Peeled apples will help diarrhea, stewed whole apples are laxative. Eating apples oxygenates the blood, cleans the liver, and eases insomnia. Baked apples make a poultice for sore throats and fevers.

Dried apple peel tea taken several times a day eases rheumatic pain. Apple cider restores intestinal flora (especially important after a round of antibiotics), reduces stomach acidity, clears gas, and clears the liver. It is slightly diuretic and helps the kidneys to expel uric acid (four cups a
day is recommended for gout).

Adding garlic and horseradish to apple cider makes a drink that clears skin blemishes, eczema, psoriasis, infections, bone necrosis, tumors, abscesses, and benefits Lupus. The mixture can be applied externally as well. Apple wood is a traditional choice for magic wands and the scent is considered a potent love charm. Associated with immortality and The Summerland, Arthur’s Island of Avalon was said to be covered with Apples. Unicorns are very fond of Apples and may be seen cavorting in the orchard on a misty day.

about the author:

Ellen Evert Hopman is a Druid Priestess, herbalist and author of “Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey”, “A Druids Herbal – Of Sacred Tree Medicine”, “Walking the World in Wonder – A Children’s Herbal” and other volumes. Visit her website for more!

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