Apples are kind of a classic, aren't they? If someone asks you for a word that starts with A, you will almost certainly say "apple." We can picture a kid giving an apple to their teacher (even though I'm pretty sure no one has actually done that in decades). We even use apples in everyday idioms and terms - the apple of my eye, Adam's apple, easy as apple pie, a bad apple, comparing apples to oranges, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.... You get the idea.
Apples being so commonplace, it's not a surprise that they've been used magically for so long. In the real world and in stories, apples are a staple.
In Snow White, the evil queen, disguised as a witch, poisons Snow White with an apple. The poisoned half, which Snow White eats, is red. The unpoisoned half, which the queen eats, is white. So clearly we have some color meanings at play here.
In the Garden of Eden, a forbidden fruit (most often depicted as a red apple) hangs on a tree waiting to doom all of mankind.
There are several instances of golden apples in Greek mythology. A golden apple inscribed "to the fairest" started the Trojan War. Heracles had to collect golden apples from the garden of Hesperides. Hipponomes was given three golden apples by Athena, which he used to distract Atalanta and win her hand in marriage.
Have you noticed a theme yet? The apple is always something someone wants or it's used to get something someone wants. Snow White wanted the apple because it's a treat, the queen wanted Snow White dead. Eve wanted the apple because she wanted knowledge of good and evil. The goddesses Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera fought over the "to the fairest" apple. Etc.
We could spend all day going over the possible symbolism and the variations based on the color of the apple in question, and maybe I'll do that in a future post, but this is supposed to be a sort of overview, so let's move on.
Apples are an incredibly versatile fruit. They can be served in so many forms: raw, baked, pie, juice, sauce, spread, etc. The only part of an apple that should not be eaten is the seed, because it contains a compound of sugar and cyanide. Maybe there's some basis to the stories of poisoned apples?
So how have apples been used in magic? Aside from poisoning or tricking pretty young ladies, that is.
Apples have been used for divination for ages. A few folkloric tricks include:
Peel the apple, keeping the peel in one long piece. When the peel comes off, drop it on the floor. The letter it forms is the first initial of your true love's name.
Wait until midnight and cut an apple into nine pieces. Take the pieces into a dark room with a mirror (either hanging on the wall or a hand-held one will do). At midnight, begin eating the pieces of apple while looking into the mirror. When you get to the ninth piece, throw it over your shoulder. The face of your lover should appear in the mirror.
If a girl has more than one potential lover, peel an apple and pull out the seeds. Place a wet seed on your cheek for each boyfriend. The last one left stuck to the skin represents the suitor who is the true love.
The apple's versatility in food seems to carry over to its versatility in magic. Many spells are for love and fertility (which makes sense for a fruit, being sweet and full of seeds), but there are other uses if you look.
Apples can symbolize fertility, the Goddess (along with various specific goddesses), love, knowledge, temptation, envy... They really are full of depth and meaning.
Next time you're at the store, make sure to grab a few apples. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, you know.