Our folk memory and country lore is rich with references to the virtues of the Apple tree. The Crab Apple (Pyrus malus) is native to Britain and is the wild ancestor of all the cultivated varieties of Apple trees (Malus pumila domestica) available today. The Crab Apple has thorns, which have been bred out in the cultivated varieties. This beautiful tree, in all of its varieties, provides us with abundant food, and has many uses both in the kitchen, as a herbal remedy and a healing energy. All the many Apple trees have the same herbal, energetic and healing properties as the native Crab Apple. In every country this generous tree grows, apples are regarded as sacred, magical, a symbol of the Earth's abundance and fruitfulness, a means to immortality, a cure for all ills and a gift of Love.
A wealth of legends and myths surrounding the Apple tree, indicates that there is a link between Apple trees and altered states, that deep trance states can be invoked while sitting in orchards. The Apple tree is honoured as an entrance to the Otherworld, the faerie realms, the land of the dead, paradise, the home of the Gods and Goddesses, for journeying to all the unseen worlds of the imagination that lie so close to ours.
The sheer extravagant abundance of apples on an Apple tree in the Autumn is the key to understanding what the Apple tree has to teach us. It shows us how to give all, in total trust that all will be replenished. The Apple tree is there to help us to keep our trust in times off lack, and teaches us our true power is built up by giving, in abundant openhearted generosity.
The Apple tree can help those who harm themselves by their own miserliness. It teaches us to open our hearts to the abundance in our lives. When we, like the Apple tree, give all of ourselves freely and openly, then our hearts are open and we are open to receiving more. Holding back is a symptom of greed or insecurity. Many feelings of bitterness, irritation and anger result from feeling a lack of worthiness. These negative feelings create a pattern of imbalance, which can significantly reduce the flow of the life force energy in your body. If you do not feel worthy to receive certain things, the way for them to come to you will be blocked, as you have believed it to be. The Appless message is to value and celebrate all you have in your life. By affirming and feeling thankful for what you have in the present, you open up the channels for your own abundance.
Apples are a natural remedy for the stomach, bowels and heart, the main organs of giving and receiving. Our folk memory is rich with such phrases as “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and not without good reason. It is a very digestible food, and it aids the digestion of other foods. It is an excellent baby food. A ripe juicy apple eaten at bedtime every night will cure constipation. An apple before bed is also an excellent dentifrice, being a food that is not only good for cleaning the teeth, but also hard enough to push back the gums so the borders are clear of deposits. The valuable acids and salts exist to a special degree in and just below the skin, so to get the full value of an apple it should be eaten unpeeled.
The bark of the Apple tree is a tonic and a stimulant, bringing down the temperature in a fever. The bark contains phlorizin, which is used in its pure form in modern medicine. To use the bark, strip a small area in the tree taking care not to ring the trees, as this will kill it. Bark pieces can also be saved from the year's prunings. Dry the bark pieces in brown paper bags in a warm airing cupboard. They can then be stored in brown paper bags or a dark jar. Their herbal qualities should be potent for two years. Boil the bark pieces in water for 15 minutes and leave to infuse overnight. Dosage is 1-4 fluid ounces of the infusion daily.
The Crab Apple is a tradition herbal treatment for cleansing the body, for both internal and external wounds. It helps to heal skin tissue and is an anti-inflammatory and anti-septic - hence the connection in our folklore with beauty. A poultice made from the boiled or roasted fruit will remove burn marks from the skin. The same boiled fruit is good for sore or inflamed eyes.
An ointment mentioned by John Gerard in his Herbal of 1633 suggests mixing apple pulp with fat and rose water to make a treatment for rough skin. For a more magical beauty treatment, the following charm is and extract from Clair O'Rush's book The Enchanted Garden: "Gather May dew and steep apple blossom in it, heating all over a fire of ashen wood, bless the apple water and apply to the skin, letting it dry of itself. Ask a blessing of beauty and purity from a chosen deity and the tree spirit and it will heal the complaint and grant a lovely complexion."
Apples are also an old folk remedy for the cure of rheumatism by rubbing the affected area with a rotten apple. They were also a folk cure for warts by rubbing the warts with two halves of an apple and then burying them. The pectin in the apple is a good germicide and promotes the growth of new skin tissue, providing a medical basis for this old wives' tale.
This type of folk remedy is a form of Anglo Saxon sympathetic magic. Early medieval sympathetic magic depended much upon associations. It was common practice to write a holy name on an apple; eaten on three consecutive days it would cure all ills. The apple was considered effective against venom, or poison, a purifier and cleanser, all of which corresponds with the apple's known properties today.
Of all the Bach flower remedies, the Crab Apple is unusual because it is the only one that can be used directly externally, as it acts on the mental and physical levels as well as the subtle energies. Crab Apple will remove negative impression, for instance after a dirty job, or after a long and difficult nursing task. Ten drops can be added to a full bath. Some practitioners recommended Crab Apple when fasting, others recommended it to overcome the effects of a hangover (four drops every half hour). Wounds can be bathed in it if you have reason to believe it is infected with poison that needs to be drawn out. Five drops in a little cooled boiled water is sufficient for a compress.
People in need of the Crab Apple flower remedy tend to be more then usually sensitive, taking in much more, at subtler levels, than their general constitution can cope with. They can sometimes be a magnet for dark forces. This unconscious stress often gives them the feeling of being unclean, in need of cleansing. This can manifest is self-disgust, over-anxiety about physical cleanliness, fear of contamination. The flower remedy can be used whenever there is a poor self-image, especially if it relates to parts of the body.
Apples have a long history of being used for divination, especially to foretell the future in matters of love and prosperity. Because of the strong tradition behind many of the superstitions, many have survived, albeit in a degenerate form, as entertainment. The methods of divination are varied and include such things as counting the apple pips in an apple, with reference to a specific question; burning the pips after naming each one with a young man's name, and watching which ones explode in the fire; pressing the named pips with the finger to see which sticks the longest; apple bobbing ( trying to catch the apples with the mouth only as they "bob" about in a bowl of water); throwing the peel over the left shoulder to see it forms the initials of an individual when it lands; and putting an apple under your pillow to dream of your sweetheart. All of these games and folk customs are survivals of much older ceremonies in honour of the Apple.
Many of these customs are particularly performed at Samhain, as traditionally the Apple is linked to the Celtic Otherworld, where the tree is called the 'silver bough' and possesses magical properties. Samhain is traditionally the time of the year when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, a doorway opens between the seen world of matter and the unseen world of Spirit. It is the best time of the year to make shamanic journeys, to connect to the dead, to the Spirit Realms, to gain oracular knowledge and healing powers.
Within each apple is to be found the pentagram. Cut it widthways and the shape is revealed in the formation of the pips. This ancient symbol of knowledge is sacred to the Celtic death Goddess, Cailleach, the Crone, the Veiled One, and Samhain is her time of the year. The Apple is also associated with Venus, Goddess of Love and also linked to the five pointed star.
Verjuice, a kind of scrumpy cider, was ritually drunk at this time of year, to induce altered states and otherworldly experiences. Verjuice is made simply by gathering ripe crab apples, laying them in a pike and leaving them to rot and sweat. The rotten fruit is gathered into a bowl with the stalks removed, beaten to a pulp and pressed through a coarse cloth. The liquid is bottles and is ready to use a month later.
The Apple tree has close links with the shaman, the wise woman, and magicians. It is used when undergoing magical transformations or Otherworld journeys. Celtic/Arthurian myth names one of these other worlds as Avalon, the Apple Vale, the mythical paradise where the hills were clothed with Apple trees bearing flowers and fruit together. The word "Avalon" is derived from the old Irish 'avaloch' meaning 'a place of the Apples'. The old Irish name for the Isles of Arran in the Scottish Firth of Clyde was 'Eamain Abhlach' or 'Evain Avaloch', which means 'Holy Hill of the Apple Trees'. Eventually 'Avaloch' became pronounced 'Avalon'. The Isle of Arran was believed by the Celts to be a physical manifestation of an Otherworld paradise. From the Welsh poem 'Avellenau', the bard Merlin reveals to his lord the existence of his orchard, which he carried around with him always. It was borne from place to place by the enchanter on all his journeys. We all have this ability to link to other worlds and realities within ourselves through our imaginations, to create shifts in our perception, which will reveal fresh insights and understandings for personal healing and development.
Other legends tell of Otherworld visitors to our world who appear in the same guise as the shaman, carrying and Apple branch with bells on it. The Apple Tree also represents shelter, either in this world or as a place to rest when making Otherworld journeys.
Using an Apple wood wand would be the appropriate magical tool to use if you wanted to make shamanic journeys to the Otherworld. It is said that the Apple is used as a calling sign to the Otherworld that you wish to enter their realm. Making your own wand will also help you physically, mentally and spiritually connect to the Apple tree.
Finding the right piece of wood for a wand may take time. Go about this task in a magical frame of mind. There are many considerations such as: how do you feel about cutting a piece from a tree? Or are you going to wait for a piece that needs pruning? If you have your own Apple trees, this is easier, or you can ask friends or family to let you know when they prune their Apple trees so that you can find a suitable piece for yourself that will be cut anyway.
If you cut from a tree, remember to ask the tree, listen to the answer, respect your intuition and respect the tree. As always, thank the tree for its gift. I feel that asking the tree for a wand, is the beginning of a relationship between you and the tree, which is stronger than if you have a piece of wood from an unknown tree.
Another thing to focus on is the size of the wand. I personally favour pencil-sized wands, which I can easily carry around with me in my pocket, but meditation wands, talking sticks and ceremonial wands are usually bigger. If you want to take the bark off, it is easiest to do when the wood is freshly cut, before it dries hard onto the wood. You might not want to take the bark off. Focus on what the wand means to you and you will feel that is right to do.
Apple wood is traditionally used for carving, so you might try your hand at a bit of inspired carving. Rough carving is quite good to do while the wood is fairly fresh, and then leave it to dry out before finishing, but it is prone to splitting, so it is best not to carve when it is very fresh. It is a hard wood, so it is not easy to carve, but it is full of beautiful patterns and colours found in the wood. It doesn't have a regular straight grain and it is a wonderful orangey colour and smells wonderful too. The sweet smell is intensified when it is burnt, and it is worth saving every scrap for ritual fires.
How long it takes for your wand to dry out depends on its size. A thin pencil wand will only take a week or two, but a bigger piece may take a few months, depending on where it is left. Apple wood takes longer than most to dry out and is liable to split if it is not done naturally and slowly. If you take the bark off it is best kept inside a garage or a shed, in a cool, airy place. This way the wood will keep its colour. If the bark is kept on, it can be left outside where the wind, rain and sun can season it slowly, but the colour fades.
Use your Apple wand as an aid to Otherworld journeying. Find a nice quite space (under and Apple tree would be wonderful. In an orchard would be perfect!). Holding a piece of Apple wood or wand, close your eyes, and welcome the Spirit of the Apple into your heart. Do not try to predict what will happen but imagine yourself in a group of trees. If you can't actually sit with an Apple tree then imagine yourself sitting under an Apple tree, looking out at a group of trees. Take note of whatever comes readily into your mind, but let your thoughts and feelings stay fluid, staying focused on your link to the Apple. Then let your mind wander out to the other trees. Look at what trees your unconscious has chosen to be with you, and taking each in turn, what you feel about them. Try to notice if the tree's energy changes, in relation to the other trees that are next to it, also if there are any people or animals, and if so if they have anything to communicate to you. Notice if any tree species are more plentiful than other, as this might be a clue to an area of your life, which needs extra attention. Once you have established this place, then call on you Otherworld guide to meet you. This may be a tree spirit, animal, bird or person. It may take several attempts before you feel or notice that contact has been made. Don't worry about it; let things happen in their own time. It gets easier on repeat journeys.
If you wish to work with the energy of the Apple, you can aid the process by sitting with Apple trees as often as possible, get to know their vibrations, make friends with them. Old orchards are particularly potent places. Also, work with Apple wood, eat more apples, drink apple juice and cider, especially if it is organic and home made! Dry apple peel and drink it as a tea. Try cultivating Apple trees from the pips for some very special trees which you are closely linked with.
Plant Apple trees where ever you live, even if you know you will be moving on. Plant them for the future and for future generations. With the decline of the old orchards, many of the old varieties of apples are now lost to us. But there are many who are seeking to save them. If possible plant varieties that are known to do well in your area, taking into account the size of the future tree and the space available. Every garden has room for at least one Apple tree! There are dwarf varieties available for the small garden, or any variety can be trained to grow flat against a wall or fence. They can also be bought at garden centres already trained to grow flat. There are even varieties that can be grown in a container or pot, although these need a lot of care, feeding and watering. Planting an Apple tree helps you to build up a special relationship with the tree, as you care for it. You find yourself talking to it as you appreciate it's many virtues, especially the beautiful blossom in the Spring and of course, the joy of collecting and eating fresh apples in the Autumn.