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pomegranate(pŏm`grănĭt, pŏm`ə–), handsome deciduous and somewhat thorny large shrub or small tree (Punica granatum) belonging to the family Punicaceae, native to semitropical Asia and naturalized in the Mediterranean region in very early times. It has long been cultivated as an ornamental and for its edible fruit. The fruit, about the size of an apple, bears many seeds, each within a fleshy crimson seed coating, enclosed in a tough yellowish to deep red rind. Pomegranates are either eaten fresh or used for grenadine syrup, in which the juice of the acid fruit pulp is the chief ingredient. Grenadine syrup, sometimes made from red currants, is a flavoring for wines, cocktails, carbonated beverages, preserves, and confectionery. The astringent properties of the rind and bark have been valued medicinally for several thousand years, especially as a vermifuge. The pomegranate is now cultivated in most warm climates, to a greater extent in the Old World than in America; in North America it is grown commercially chiefly from California and Arizona south into the tropics. The fruit has long been a religious and artistic symbol. It is described in the most ancient of Asian literature. In the Old Testament, Solomon sang of an "orchard of pomegranates." Because of its role in the Greek legend of PersephonePersephone
, in Greek and Roman religion and mythology, goddess of fertility and queen of the underworld. She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. When she was still a beautiful maiden, Pluto seized her and held her captive in his underworld.
..... Click the link for more information. , the pomegranate came to symbolize fertility, death, and eternity and was an emblem of the Eleusinian Mysteries. In Christian art, it is a symbol of hope. Pomegranates are classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
..... Click the link for more information. , class Magnoliopsida, order Myrtales, family Punicaceae.
Other Meanings in Christian Art
Artists have also used the pomegranate to represent other aspects of the Christian religion. Sometimes pomegranates stand for the church and its congregations. A single pomegranate husk encloses many seeds, just as a unified church is composed of many different individuals and congregations. The pomegranate has also been used by Christian artists as a symbol of fertility and of hope.
An Ancient Symbol
Long before it was adopted as a Christian symbol, the peoples of the ancient Mediterranean world had turned the pomegranate into a symbol of fertility, death, and rebirth. The ancient Semites viewed the pomegranate as a symbol of life and fruitfulness. One legend suggested that the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The ancient Greeks declared pomegranates sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sexuality. Pomegranates were said to spring up from the blood of Dionysus, the god of wine. The ancient Greeks also associated pomegranates with the story of Persephone, the goddess of spring. Captured by Hades, the god of the underworld, Persephone was about to be rescued from the realm of the dead when she ate several pomegranate seeds. Consuming these seeds tied her permanently to the underworld. Although Hades permitted the young goddess to leave, each year Persephone had to return to the underworld for several months, at which time winter fell upon the land.
A Modern Greek Symbol
This association with life, death, and fertility continues in contemporary Greek tradition. Greek Orthodox mourners often sprinkle pomegranate seeds on the special dishes of kollyva, sweetened, boiled wheat, prepared to commemorate the resurrection of the dead at Greek funerals and later memorial services (see also Soul Saturday). According to contemporary Greek folklore, the boiled wheat berries stand for eternal life and the pomegranate seeds represent abundance.
Bailey, Henry Turner. Symbolism for Artists. 1925. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1972. Clement, Clara Erskine. A Handbook of Christian Symbols. 1886. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1971. Goldsmith, Elisabeth. Ancient Pagan Symbols. 1929. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1976. Leach, Maria, ed. Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Myth- ology and Legend. New York: Harper and Row, 1984. Lehner, Ernst, and Johanna Lehner. Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees. 1960. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1990. Rouvelas, Marilyn. A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America. Bethesda, MD: Nea Attiki Press, 1993. Webber, F. R. Church Symbolism. 1938. Second edition, revised. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1992.
(Punica granatum), a bush or small tree (up to 5 m high) of the family Punicaceae. The leaves are leathery, smooth-edged, and usually fall off before winter. The shoots are prickly. The blossoms form on the new year’s growth. Some of them are large and pitcher-shaped and have a normally developed ovary, pistil, and anthers. These blossoms form the fruits. The other blossoms (85–95 percent) are rudimentary, have short pistils, and fall off. Blossoming occurs from May through August. There is cross-pollination. Fruit-bearing begins in the third or fourth year after planting, and full fruit-bearing starts in the seventh or eighth year. The fruits ripen from September to November. With good care, each plant will produce 50–60 kg of fruit. The pomegranate fruit is berry-shaped and round, with a diameter up to 12 cm, and weighs 300–600 g and more. The calyx of the flower is at the top of the fruit. The fruit contains from 400 to 700 seeds and has a leathery red or yellowish pericarp. The edible part, the juicy pulp surrounding the seeds, makes up about 50 percent of the total mass of the fruit. Pomegranates do not require special soils but grow the best and bear the most fruit in deep loam that is rich in organic matter and has a porous, light subsoil. They endure temperatures as cold as -16° C. Pomegranates grow wild in mountainous areas of Middle Asia, Transcaucasia, northwestern India, Iran, Afghanistan, and Asia Minor. In the USSR they are grown in the Crimea, Dagestan, the Transcaucasian republics, and Middle Asia.
The fruit of the pomegranate is used fresh and also for preparing drinks, syrups, and flavoring from the juice. The juice contains 8–19 percent sugars, 0.3–9 percent citric acid, and also tannin and vitamin C. Dried bark from the trunk, branches, and roots, which contains alkaloids, is used in decoctions and extracts as an anthelmintic preparation, and the skin of the fruit is sometimes used to treat colitis. The leaves, the bark of the roots and trunk, and the fruit peels contain large amounts (up to 32 percent) of tannin, which is used for tanning fine leathers and for dye production. The best varieties cultivated in the Soviet Union are Azerbaijan Giulosha, Pink Giulosha, Bala-miursal’, Shakh-nar, and Krmyzy kabukh, all cultivated in Azerbaijan, and Kazake-anar, Achik-Dona, and Kzyl-anar, cultivated in the Middle Asian republics.
Pomegranates are propagated through cuttings, prepared in fall or winter from the most productive plants, or more rarely by layerings or root offshoots. Seedlings are planted in covered crop areas with 5 × 3 m or 4 × 2 m spacing, or in open ground with 5 × 4 or 5 × 5 m spacing. Care during the growing period involves cultivating the soil, clearing weeds, fertilizing, irrigating, and pruning. Pomegranates are valued in decorative horticulture; ornamental varieties include ones with single and double flowers of white, yellow, and red hues. In the central and northern zone of the European USSR they are grown as pot- or tub-plants. Pomegranates are damaged by codling moths, aphids, and mites and are attacked by stem-end rot (branch cancer).
REFERENCESGutiev, G. T. Subtropicheskie plodovye rasteniia. Moscow, 1958.
Derev’ia i kustarniki SSSR, vol. 4.Moscow-Leningrad, 1958.
B. S. ROZNOV
What does it mean when you dream about a pomegranate?
To dream of pomegranates traditionally signifies good health and longevity. Alternatively, they are tied to the myth of Persephone who is said to have become trapped in the underworld (a common symbol of the unconscious) due to her consumption of a pomegranate seed.