Pomegranate

(Punica granatum) References to pomegranates have been found as far back as the Mosaic writings, and on the sculptures at Persepolis and in Assyria, as well as on the monuments of ancient Egypt; the actual fruits have been found in Egyptian tombs (W M Dawson. 1929). The Eber Papyrus recommends the rind beaten up and taken in water as a vermifuge.

In fact, the value of the root-bark as a tapeworm remedy is well-known in Africa. The Hausa also use the flowers in infusion as a vermifuge (Dalziel). The peel was also in common use among the Romans for tanning leather, and it still is so used. It is red Morocco leather that benefits most from tanning with the unripe fruit rind, which yields a red dye - so do the flowers (Moldenke & Moldenke). The bark and rind were used as ingredients of ink once (Zohary). The astringency that makes the rind useful in tanning ensures that it would be recommended for diarrhoea and dysentery (Thornton). It was often combined with opium and an aromatic like cloves in India, for the same complaints (Fluckiger & Hanbury), and Huxley records the same use in Haiti, where it is also used for chills and asthma.

In a Persian story, Khodaded was one of fifty children begotten by a childless nomad upon his fifty wives, after eating as many pomegranate seeds. He had incessantly prayed for offspring, and was commanded in a dream to rise at dawn, and to go, after saying certain prayers, to his chief gardener, who was required to get him a pomegranate. He had to take from it as many seeds as seemed best to him (Hartland. 1909). The fruit itself symbolized the womb in a state of pregnancy, and the immense number of seeds made it suitable as an emblem for a prolific mother goddess (Simons). It is the symbol of the feminine, and of Aphrodite in particular (Grigson. 1976), and of fertility. The mother of Attis was a virgin, Nana (which means Earth (Freund)), who conceived by putting a pomegranate (or a ripe almond, according to another version) in her bosom (Frazer iv). It is ironic that, given the creative symbolism inspired by that mass of seeds, they should also have supplied the name of a deadly weapon. When the explosive shell that strewed metal particles over a wide area was invented, the French called it grenade, from the seed-scattering pomegranate (Lehner). Not so ironic perhaps, after all, when one considers the Persephone myth. Hades agreed to let Persephone go, but secretly gave the girl a pomegranate seed to eat, so that she would have to come back to him, since the fruit was sacred to the underworld (Grant), or, to put it a better way, was the food of the dead. In all myth and later folklore, partaking of the food of the dead condemned the indiscreet to live perpetually with the dead, just as taking fairy food made it impossible ever to rejoin the world of human beings. But the seed is also the symbol of reproductive power, so Persephone has in a sense undergone a puberty initiation (Lindoln).

One origin myth for the pomegranate says that when Agdos, the hermaphroditic son of Zeus, was emasculated, the plant sprang from him (Freund). At wedding ceremonies in Rhodes, a pomegranate was put on the threshold, to be crushed by the bridegroom's foot as he entered (Rodd), though T B Edwards. 2003 says that it is the bride who crushes the fruit, with her right foot, as she enters her new home. Gregory the Great said the pomegranate was to be used to symbolize congregations, because of its many seeds, and also to be the emblem of the Christian church, because of the inner unity of countless seeds in a single fruit (Haig), the same imagery as that used to symbolize fertility. In much the same way, that multitude of seeds stood for peace and prosperity. Jewish New Year dinners always include foods that are in some way suggestive of prosperity and happiness. One of them is pomegranates, "that our merits may be as numerous as its seeds" (Trachtenberg), and Greek New Year tables too always have the symbolic pomegranate on them (Megas). Breaking a pomegranate over the threshold is a very ancient New Year custom in Greece, just as a Moroccan practice, cutting a pomegranate open and throwing it on the ploughshare, will magically affect the fertility of the soil, and the ears of corn will be as loaded as the pomegranate (Legey). "Full as a pomegranate" is a saying that explains the custom and its object (Megas). Dreaming of them is supposed to be a sign of good fortune and success (Gordon. 1985). A New Year's custom from the Aegean island of Lesbos has a similar import. It is that of breaking a pomegranate on a stone that had been gathered from the seashore, literally a "woolly stone", i.e., a stone with seaweed on it. The pairing of symbolized faithfulness with the stone's symbolic steadfastness (for it must have lain a long time in one place for seaweed to grow on it) was just what was needed to ensure a good year to come (Rouse).

There was some belief in the protective power of the juice. The Arabs of Hiaina, when commencing ploughing, always squeezed a fruit on to the horns of one of the oxen, so that the juice would go into any evil eye that looked at the animals, and so render the evil harmless (Haining).

It was said in ancient times (also in the 10th century Geopontica), that pomegranate and myrtle have such affection for each other that their roots will entwine even if they are not very near, and both will flourish (Rose).

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Coping with Asthma

Coping with Asthma

If you suffer with asthma, you will no doubt be familiar with the uncomfortable sensations as your bronchial tubes begin to narrow and your muscles around them start to tighten. A sticky mucus known as phlegm begins to produce and increase within your bronchial tubes and you begin to wheeze, cough and struggle to breathe.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment