Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Pomegranates have always fascinated me because of their symbolism. It is said that Solomon designed his coronet based on the pomegranate's "crown" and Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness. In Greece, the fruit is traditionally smashed open on new year's day, taken as a new-home gift and used during weddings and funerals.

I've researched the fruit and it featured heavily in one of my books (THE SICILIAN'S SECRET PASSION) - but I've never seen one growing before I discovered one at the weekend, in Umbria. I felt as if I'd tumbled into a fairy-tale.

The myth of Persephone, the goddess of the Underworld, also prominently features the pomegranate. Poor woman was kidnapped by Hades and taken off to live in the underworld as his wife (there are worse things in life than being single!). Her mother went into mourning for her lost daughter and thus all green things ceased to grow.

Zeus, the highest ranking of the Greek gods, could not leave the Earth to die, so he commanded Hades to return Persephone but it was the rule of the Fates that anyone who consumed food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to spend eternity there. Persephone had no food, but horrible Hades tricked her into eating four pomegranate seeds while she was still his prisoner and so, because of this, she was condemned to spend four months in the Underworld every year.

Which is why Rossetti's painting of the luscious Persephone shows her holding an equally luscious pomegranate.

(Research is enthralling - but sometimes just a little too distracting!)


  1. When I was in Istanbul, I kept having fresh pomegranate juice which was lovely in the extreme. I am not entirely sure how they did as when I try juicing, it comes out bitter!

    Oh and putting pomegrante seeds in a glass of champagne is v festive and lovely. They go round and round on a current of bubbles.

  2. It's interesting how Greek mythology can influence our thoughts and our imagination.

    It's a symbolic and mystic way to look at life - Aphrodite (love), Athena (wisdom), Poseidon (sea) and many others - and if we considered everything according to an ancient Greek point of view, everything would seem very fascinating and suggestive, also applicable to life.

    I love the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, two young people madly in love whose life was destroyed by a tragedy (this happens in life too) - she ran into a nest of snakes which bit her fatally on her heel. Orpheus played such sad songs and sang so mournfully that all the nymphs and gods wept. He traveled the Underworld and by his music softened the heart of Hades and Persephone, who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following and in his anxiety as soon as he reached the upper world he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

    This story always fascinates me so much, I can't imagine how painful would be losing the person you love once, but even twice.

    Greek mythology can give us the most significant paintings of life: also the magic of the sweetest fruits of earth!
    Rossetti's painting is amazing.

  3. Love it Sharon, you're a veritable treasure trove of information..! Wish I was in Umbria too, xx Abby Green

  4. Michelle - am sure that the juice is packed with all kinds of nutitional goodies - and it's such a rich and decadent colour, toor!

    Michela -thank you for reminding me of Orpheus and Eurydice's story - what a heartbreaker.....You're a veritable treasure trove of information, too!

    Abby, Umbria would love you!

  5. Gosh Sharon - I never would have thought a pomegranate could be so fascinating! Next time I eat one (I feeling guilty now even thinking of doing so) I'll remember all your interesting facts. Take care. Caroline x p.s IMHO research is never distracting...all grist to the mill I say.