Sunday, August 30, 2009
This is a continuation of the "Rich Tapestry" series.
Take a spin through Genesis and notice the absolute absence of the word "Apple." Everyone knows the story... Eve talks to a snake and then convinces Adam to eat the apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, thus precipitating the fall of man and condemning us to an eternity of strife and requiring the death of Jesus to bear the sins of man and yadda yadda yadda. But there's no apple. And nor should there be... you'd be hard-pressed to find a Macintosh or Granny Smith at the time or place the creation myth was being recorded. That would be like Native American's saying that the great spirit rode through the desert on a kangaroo.
Chances are, the "forbidden" fruit would have been a pomegranate. It makes loads of sense in light of both the geography and the tendency to cling to all things Greek when constructing the Christian Quilt.
Let's look at what the apple means... Consuming the fruit is a physical act, a tangible manifestation of the triumph of the serpent over the creator's creation (man). Upon consumption, man is fallen. The eating of the fruit causes a descent. The decent of man from divinity to mortality has far reaching implications, obviously. It instills in man an inherent badness, thus setting the stage for a redeemer (Christ).
Not to get too far ahead of myself, but that stage setting is referred to as a Felix Culpa, or "fortunate folly" and is beautifully encapsulated by this poem.
Anyway, back to the fruit salad... There is an almost identical analog to this whole scenario in Greek mythology... Persephone, daughter of Demeter, catches the eye of Hades who plots to abduct her and keep her in the underworld for himself. When Persephone is abducted, her mother, Demeter, goes into a crazy-deep depression and ceases her duties of providing favorable growing seasons and the earth falls into a cold, dark, barren wasteland.
Demeter finds out that it is Hades who has taken Persephone and sets out to bring her back. Hades gives in, and agrees to release Persephone, under the condition that she suffer as Demeter did (Demeter is Hades' sister) by forgoing food and drink. However, Persephone sneaks three pomegranate seeds, and Hades demands a compromise. Eventually, it is agreed that Persephone will descend into the underworld with Hades for part of the year and return to earth the other part. Demeter, apparently, gets all post-partum every time that Persephone has to go pay the piper, and thus we have seasons and transitions. Summer is the happy shiny time that Persephone is up here with her mom and Winter is the time she is being Hades' bitch.
It's really not difficult to see the parallel between the descent of man (caused by eating fruit) and the descent of Persephone (caused by eating fruit).
So why an apple? Well, if you are trying to sell your story to someone who has no idea what the hell a pomegranate is, you might want to substitute a familiar fruit in its place. Such is the case of specifying the fruit to be an apple as Christianity spread north into Pagan Europe... a land devoid of pomegranates, but full of people apt to latch onto a new magic tale. Hey, if those fur-wearers insist on knowing what kind of fruit tree it is, tell them it's that damn apple thing that they have growing all over the place up there so that it sounds relevant to them! Sphere: Related Content