I love pomegranates – as they come or juiced. They are one of the first things I think of when I think of Istanbul, where you’ll find numerous stalls offering juice freshly pressed on the spot. Healthy and refreshing.
It turns out that pomegranates have a long, rich and meaningful history. The Ancient Egyptians saw the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity and ambition and also recognised its health benefits, using it to treat tapeworm and other infections. The Ancient Greeks knew it as the “fruit of the dead”, believing to have originated from the blood of Adonis. In Ancient Israel the red fruit was believed to represent the fruitfulness of the “promised land”. Moreover, it was said to contain 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah.
The pomegranate is mentioned several times in the Bible and often appears in Christian religious decoration; it features in many religious paintings by the artists such as Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Pomegranates are mentioned in the Qur’an as symbols of good things created by Allah.
It is the symbol of Armenia, representing fertility, abundance and marriage. In China the pomegranate has long been considered an emblem of fertility and numerous progeny. This symbolism is a pun on the Chinese character 子 (zǐ) which, as well as meaning seed, also means “offspring”. But perhaps the most interesting symbolism of all, comes from the Tamil interpretation, where the Tamil word maadulampazham (= woman mind) sees the seeds hidden inside the pomegranate’s tough exterior as a symbol of the difficulty of understanding a woman’s mind!