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The Spirituality of Pomegranates

Next time you're wandering the produce aisle, pick up a pomegranate and treat yourself to a lesson on world religions. Beneath that smooth, red and bitter skin lie hundreds of tiny scarlet seeds - and almost as many religious associations.

"People use whatever is at hand to express their religious beliefs," says Frank Salamone, an authority on religious symbols and a professor at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. Centuries ago, in the Fertile Crescent, where so many religions arose, the pomegranate was at hand. By its very nature, it lent itself to religious symbolism.

"The pomegranate is red, and so is blood," Salamone says. "It has a lot of seeds and is an obvious symbol of fertility."

It's beautiful, strong and delicate, and its juice has healing properties, he says. "It says a lot of different things all at once. People bring meaning to it."

Ancient Persians painted pomegranates on their shields for protection in battle. In Greek and Roman myths, it was the pomegranate that seduced Persephone, the goddess of fertility, into marrying her kidnapper, Hades, god of the underworld.

POMEGRANATE (Punica granatum)

The name "pomegranate" derives from Latin pomum ("apple") and granatus ("seeded"). This has influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages (e.g., German Granatapfel, seeded apple). In early English, the Pomegranate was known as "apple of Grenada" -- a term which today survives only in heraldic blazons. This was probably a folk etymology, confusing Latin granatus with the Spanish city of Granada. The genus name Punica is named for the Phoenicians, who were active in broadening its cultivation, partly for religious reasons. In classical Latin, where "malum" was broadly applied to many apple-like fruits, the pomegranate's name was malum punicum or malum granatum, the latter giving rise to the Italian name melograno, or less commonly melagrana.

A widespread root for "pomegranate" comes from the Ancient Egyptian rmn, from which derive the Hebrew rimmôn, and Arabic rummân. This root was given by Arabs to other languages, including Portuguese (romã),[Kabyle rrumman and Maltese "rummien". The pomegranate ('rimmôn') is mentioned in the Bible as one of the seven fruits/plants that Israel was blessed with, and in Hebrew, 'rimmôn' is also the name of the weapon now called the grenade. According to Webster's New Spanish-English Dictionary, "granada," the Spanish word for "pomegranate," could also mean "grenade." According to the OED, the word "grenade" originated about 1532 from the French name for the pomegranate, la grenade. La grenade also gives us the word grenadine, the name of a kind of fruit syrup, originally made from pomegranates, which is widely used as a cordial and in cocktails.

Folk Names: Carthage Apple, Grenadier, Malicorio, Malum Punicum, Pound Garnet

Saturn Herb

Gender: Masculine

Planet: Mercury

Element: Fire

Deities: Persephone, Ceres

Powers: Divination, Luck, Wishes, Wealth, Fertility Funerary Rituals, Celebrating Samhain Fertility Spells

Magical Uses: Divination, luck, wishes granted, wealth, fertility.The pomegranate has as many connections to life (in the form of fertility) as it does to death. Some believe that this magick herb was the fruit that Eve chose to eat to gain the knowledge of good and evil (she then became mother of us all). In the stories of Eve and Persephone, death and life come to coexist after the fruit is eaten. The pomegranate is a good symbol for the unity of life and death, because on the outside it looks dead, and its flesh is hard and inedible, but on the inside the seeds are juicy and alive; in the same way, the ground in fall looks dead but seeds buried in it will come to life in the spring. There is more of the unity of opposites in the fact that the opened fruit looks very feminine but the seeds are considered a stand-in forThe red color, the resemblance of its juice to blood, and its many seeds link pomegranate to fertility in many cultures semen; likewise, the fruit makes a great Venus symbol (red, juicy) but is also connected to a Saturnian holiday like Samhain. The red color, the resemblance of its juice to blood, and its many seeds link pomegranate to fertility in many cultures.Clearly, the pomegranate is very versatile magickally.

Its Latin name, granatum, comes from the resemblance of the seeds to garnets. The leaves can be steeped in vinegar to make an ink, and the flowers and fruit rind make a high-tannin dye. Birds, bats, and squirrels love the fruit. The seeds have long been eaten to increase fertility, and the skin carried for the same reason. The pomegranate is a lucky, magical fruit. Always make a wish before eating one and your wish may come true. A branch of Pomegranate discovers concealed wealth, or will attract money to its possessor.

The skin dried, is added to wealth and money incenses. Women who wish to know how many children they will have should throw a pomegranate hard on the ground. The number of seeds which fall out indicate the number of. their off-spring. Branches of pomegranate hung over doorways guard against evil, and the juice is used as a blood substitute or a magical ink. Pomegranate are renowned for their sensual and arousing qualities. Pomegranate restores self nurturing qualities to the individual by assisting in the identificaion of deep, long-buried emotioanl needs, especially in relation to the mother, childbearing, and creative issues. It is connected to the second chakra and regenerates fertility on all levels, beautifully attuning us to Mother Love in the process.

Source: Cunningham's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MAGICAL HERBS Scott Cunningham Llewellyn Publications

''I embody the essence of femininity and inspire a celebration of womanhood.''

Dressed in flaming shades of golden orange and red, the flowers and fruits of the pomegranate have long been a symbol of female fecundity. Break the fruit open to reveal the sweet juices and seeds, a reminder of woman's primary urge to create and care for others.

The spirit of the pomegranate encapsulates the fiery and creative aspects of femininity. Her gift is fertility. In ancient Assyria and Babylonia, pomegranates were served at marriage banquets to celebrate love and inspire fecundity. In Greek mythology, Persephone was confined to the underworld because she ate pomegranate in the garden of Hades. Her mother, Demeter, bargained with Hades, who conceded that she could spend half the year with her mother. When Persephone is separated from her mother the countryside is sterile; her return accompanies the arrival of spring This symbolism followed the pomegranate into the Far East. At Asian weddings, pomegranates are thrown onto the floor of the newlyweds' bedchamber to bless the marriage. Buddha said ''Pomegranates will cleanse your soul of hatred and envy,'' alluding to their warm and nurturing spirit


Exodus 28:33 34 directed that images of pomegranates be woven onto the hem of the me'il ("robe of the ephod"), a robe worn by the Hebrew High Priest. 1 Kings 7:13 22 describes pomegranates depicted on the capitals of the two pillars (Jachin and Boaz) which stood in front of the temple King Solomon built in Jerusalem. It is said that Solomon designed his coronet based on the pomegranate's "crown" (calyx. Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to have 613 seeds which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah. For this reason and others, many Jews eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah. However, the actual number of seeds varies with individual fruits. It is also a symbol of fruitfulness. The pomegranate is one of the few images which appear on ancient coins of Judea as a holy symbol, and today many Torah scrolls are stored while not in use with a pair of decorative hollow silver "pomegranates" (rimmonim) placed over the two upper scroll handles. Some Jewish scholars believe that it was the pomegranate that was the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. Pomegranate is one of the Seven Species (Hebrew: Shiv'at Ha-Minim), the types of fruits and grains enumerated in the Hebrew Bible (Deuteronomy 8:8) as being special products of the Land of Israel.

Ancient Greece

The wild pomegranate did not occur in the Aegean area in Neolithic times. It originated in eastern Iran and came to the Aegean world along the same cultural pathways that brought the goddess whom the Anatolians worshipped as Cybele and the Mesopotamians as Ishtar.

The myth of Persephone, the chthonic goddess of the Underworld, also prominently features the pomegranate. In one version of Greek mythology, Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken off to live in the underworld as his wife. Her mother, Demeter (goddess of the Harvest), went into mourning for her lost daughter and thus all green things ceased to grow. Zeus, the highest ranking of the Greek gods, could not leave the Earth to die, so he commanded Hades to return Persephone. It was the rule of the Fates that anyone who consumed food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to spend eternity there. Persephone had no food, but Hades tricked her into eating four pomegranate seeds while she was still his prisoner and so, because of this, she was condemned to spend four months in the Underworld every year. During these four months, when Persephone is sitting on the throne of the Underworld next to her husband Hades, her mother Demeter mourns and no longer gives fertility to the earth. This became an ancient Greek explanation for the seasons. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting Persephona depicts Persephone holding the fatal fruit. It should be noted that the number of seeds that Persephone ate varies, depending on which version of the story is told. The number of seeds she is said to have eaten ranges from three to seven, which accounts for just one barren season if it is just three or four seeds, or two barren seasons (half the year) if she ate six or seven seeds. There is no set number.

The pomegranate also evoked the presence of the Aegean Triple Goddess who evolved into the Olympian Hera, who is sometimes represented offering the pomegranate, as in the Polykleitos' cult image of the Argive Heraion (see below). According to Carl A. P. Ruck and Danny Staples, the chambered pomegranate is also a surrogate for the poppy's narcotic capsule, with its comparable shape and chambered interior. On a Mycenaean seal illustrated in Joseph Campbell's Occidental Mythology 1964, figure 19, the seated Goddess of the double-headed axe (the labrys) offers three poppy pods in her right hand and supports her breast with her left. She embodies both aspects of the dual goddess, life-giving and death-dealing at once. The Titan Orion was represented as "marrying" Side, a name that in Boeotia means "pomegranate", thus consecrating the primal hunter to the Goddess. Other Greek dialects call the pomegranate rhoa; its possible connection with the name of the earth goddess Rhea, inexplicable in Greek, proved suggestive for the mythographer Karl Kerenyi, who suggested that the consonance might ultimately derive from a deeper, pre-Indo-European language layer.

Within the sanctuary of Hera at Foce del Sele, Magna Graecia, is a chapel devoted to the Madonna del Granato, "Our Lady of the Pomegranate", "who by virtue of her epithet and the attribute of a pomegranate must be the Christian successor of the ancient Greek goddess Hera", observes the excavator of the Heraion of Samos, Helmut Kyrieleis.

In modern times the pomegranate still holds strong symbolic meanings for the Greeks. On important days in the Greek Orthodox calendar, such as the Presentation of the Virgin Mary and on Christmas Day, it is traditional to have at the dinner table "polysporia", also known by their ancient name "panspermia," in some regions of Greece. In ancient times they were offered to Demeter and to the other gods for fertile land, for the spirits of the dead and in honor of compassionate Dionysus. When one buys a new home, it is conventional for a house guest to bring as a first gift a pomegranate, which is placed under/near the ikonostasi (home altar) of the house, as a symbol of abundance, fertility and good luck. Pomegranates are also prominent at Greek weddings and funerals. When Greeks commemorate their dead, they make kollyva as offerings, which consist of boiled wheat, mixed with sugar and decorated with pomegranate. It is also traditional in Greece to break a pomegranate on the ground at weddings and on New Years. Pomegranate decorations for the home are very common in Greece and sold in most homegoods stores.


Pomegranates are a motif often found in Christian religious decoration. They are often woven into the fabric of vestments and liturgical hangings or wrought in metalwork. Pomegranates figure in many religious paintings by the likes of Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, often in the hands of the Virgin Mary or the infant Jesus. The fruit, broken or bursting open, is a symbol of the fullness of Jesus' suffering and resurrection.In the Eastern Orthodox Church, pomegranate seeds may be used in kolyva, a dish prepared for memorial services, as a symbol of the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom.


According to the Qur'an, pomegranates grow in the gardens of paradise (55:068).[The Qur'an also mentions (6:99, 6:141) pomegranates twice as examples of good things God creates.

Other cultures

In Hinduism, one of Lord Ganesha's names is "Bijapuraphalasakta," which means "He who is fond of the many-seeded fruit (the pomegranate)."

In Hindi, the pomegranate is called "anaar". 'Bhagwa' is a variety of pomegranate that is widely available in India.

Tree of the white pomegranate
•The pomegranate is the symbol and heraldic device of the city of Granada in Andalusia, Spain.
•Pomegranate is one of the symbols of Armenia, representing fertility, abundance and marriage.
•It is the official logo of many cities in Turkey.
•Pomegranate juice is used for natural dyeing of non-synthetic fabrics.
•Although not native to China, Korea or Japan, the pomegranate is widely grown there and many cultivars have been developed. It is widely used for bonsai because of its flowers and for the unusual twisted bark that older specimens can attain.
•Balaustines, the red rose-like flowers of the pomegranate, taste bitter and may be used as an astringent in folk medicine.The term "balaustine" (Latin: balaustinus) is also used for a pomegranate-red color.
•In Mexico, pomegranate seeds are an essential ingredient of chiles en nogada, a favored food symbolizing the red component of the national flag.
•Kandahar is famous in Afghanistan for its high quality pomegranates.
•Pomegranate is displayed on coins from the ancient city of Side, Pamphylia.
•Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska employs the pomegranate with its pulpy interior and lustrous, juicy seeds as a symbol of the promise of a new relationship with a man with whom the narrator has just fallen in love in her short story "El recado." ("The Message")
•Pomegranate is the name of a UK-based online poetry magazine for writers under thirty.
•The pomegranate fruit was an emblem in the coat of arms of Catherine of Aragon (1485 - 1536). She was the widow of Arthur, Prince of Wales but, more memorably, was King Henry VIII's first wife. However, when Queen Catherine didn't produce a male heir, His Majesty cast a furtive glance around the court for younger and more promising breeding stock, finally settling on Anne Boleyn. With a new queen ensconced in the Palace, her first decree was a new coat of arms, showing a white falcon pecking at a pomegranate.
Potential health benefits
In preliminary laboratory research and human pilot studies, juice of the pomegranate was effective in reducing heart disease risk factors, including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status, and foam cell formation.all of which are steps in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

Pomegranate juice has also been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum angiotensin-converting enzyme. may inhibit viral infections and may have antibacterial effects against dental plaque.

Containing polyphenols which inhibit estrogen synthesis, pomegranate seed oil was effective against proliferation of breast cancer cells in vitro

Medicinal Uses: The pomegranate fruit is a source of plant hormones akin to feminine hormones. Eating fresh fruits may smooth one's passage through the transitional, and sometimes difficult, phases of womanhood. Stir their juice into fruit punches and sweet wines or experiment with grenadine, a pomegranate syrup. As a flower essence Pomegranate emphasizes all the feminine qualities. It kindles fire energy and the primal urge to create, procreate, and care for others. This essence also helps women who feel confused and compromised as a result of being torn between career and home life. Various parts of the pomegranate can be used in medicine; however, the bark has marked anti-tapeworm activity. It can be rather strong and traumatic, associated as it often is with nausea and vomiting, since the treatment for tapeworm includes a regime of strict fasting followed by purging or enemas.

Part Used: Bark Collection: The bark of the stem or root is collected from the cultivated plant. Constituents: Tannins, alkaloids Actions: Anthelmintic Preparation and Dosage: Decoction Mrs Grieve gives a dosage of 120g/4oz of bark to 500ml/1pt of water made into a decoction. Of this 15ml (1/2fl oz ) is taken.

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