Malum Non Malum

 Juleigh Howard-Hobson

The Romans may have used the term ‘malum’ for apples and also for evil…the Old Testament (that venerable text which underlays so much of Western culture) may have claimed the apple forbidden…and a poisoned apple may have almost spelled the end of Snow White…but the apple, whether cultivated as malus pumila (the anciently domesticated orchard apples) or growing wild as malus sylvestris (the indigenous European crab apples) is not at all a wicked fruit.

Indeed, everything about the apple points to the contrary.

Long known as a love charm—one of the tree’s folk names is ‘Tree of Love’—the apple fits its charming role perfectly. A member of the rose family (ah, the ultimate flower of love), when sliced in half across the middle the apple reveals a very distinct shape hidden inside it: a pentagram, the symbol of Venus, the goddess of love. Add to these features the fact that apples are sweet and they most often are red (the colour of love) or green (envy, or thwarted love) and the sympathetic magick inherent in this fruit is obvious. (Obvious enough to be forbidden, perhaps.)

The knowledge that one is loved can be elusive, and patience can be hard to keep in such matters. Apple charms that address qualms of the heart are abundant. These charms range from a simple twisting off of an apple’s stem while reciting the alphabet (the letter that you last speak when the stem finally comes off is the first letter of your true love’s first name) to the slightly more complicated act of peeling off an apple skin in one long piece and throwing it over your left shoulder (the letter that the peel looks like when it lands is the first letter of your true love’s first name) to more complex affairs such as cutting an apple into nine pieces on Halloween, waiting until midnight, and then eating them while looking into a mirror…finishing the ninth piece will result in the image of your future true love being revealed in the mirror.

Should you wish to ensure that your true love is the one you intend it to be (not leaving things to fate or chance), all you need to do is place a ripe red apple under your arm before you go to sleep, then offer this same apple to your intended. When it is bitten, your intended is smitten.  Or, you can cut an apple in two, while keeping the object of your desire firmly in mind—if you have managed to not cut any seeds, the love you desire will come to you.

When you find yourself in the position of not knowing which one of a few ‘intendeds’ you ought to focus on, apple seed charms can be helpful. Cut open an apple, put half its seeds on one cheek, and the other half on the other. Assign an intended person to each cheek. The cheek with the last seed to fall off is the cheek holding the name of your true love. The same result can be sought by merely taking two seeds, naming each one for each prospective love, and sticking each one on an eyelid. The one that falls first is not your intended.

Once you’ve found your love, you can ensure happy fidelity by cutting an apple in two with a silver knife and giving half to your partner, and eating half yourself.

Charming and sweetening the human heart throughout the ages, the apple has never fallen far from the Tree of Love that bears it.

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