The pomegranate is sacred to Ceres (Roman name of Demeter) and is often associated with Samhain (and Saturn). Its seeds are what kept Persephone tied to Hades, the god of the Underworld. He kidnapped Persephone from the upper world, but Demeter so pined for her that Hades, who was usually implacable (as Death), agreed to allow her to go back up to earth. The only condition was that she had to remain in the Underworld for as many months as the seeds of pomegranate she had eaten (read a contemporary retelling of this story).
Relationship to Life and Death
The pomegranate has as many connections to life (in the form of fertility) as it does to death. Some believe that this magick herb was the fruit that Eve chose to eat to gain the knowledge of good and evil (she then became mother of us all). In the stories of Eve and Persephone, death and life come to coexist after the fruit is eaten. The pomegranate is a good symbol for the unity of life and death, because on the outside it looks dead, and its flesh is hard and inedible, but on the inside the seeds are juicy and alive; in the same way, the ground in fall looks dead but seeds buried in it will come to life in the spring. There is more of the unity of opposites in the fact that the opened fruit looks very feminine but the seeds are considered a stand-in for semen; likewise, the fruit makes a great Venus symbol (red, juicy) but is also connected to a Saturnian holiday like Samhain.
Relationship to Poppies
I think there must also be a link in the Persphone story between pomegranate and poppy, her mother Demeter's plant. The pomegranate has a shape similar to the ripe poppy pod and both contain many seeds. The poppy, of course, was connected to death because of its ability to give sleep. Pomegranates decorated the pillars of the Temple of King Solomon, and they still decorate the handles of Torah scrolls today. The red color, the resemblance of its juice to blood, and its many seeds link pomegranate to fertility in many cultures.
Clearly, the pomegranate is very versatile magickally. Its Latin name, granatum, comes from the resemblance of the seeds to garnets. The leaves can be steeped in vinegar to make an ink, and the flowers and fruit rind make a high-tannin dye. Birds, bats, and squirrels love the fruit.
In the Garden
This dwarf pomegranate can be grown in pots and makes a good candidate for bonsai because it gets a maximum of only 4 ft tall. It comes from the area from Iran to the Himalayas and has spread all over the world because of its beauty. It is hardy outside to zone 7 (10F), as far north as Washington, DC, but won't bear fruit that far north. The small (2" diameter) red fruits need a warm, semi-arid climate with an extended fall to ripen, but even if it never gets fruit, the flowers are quite beautiful.
How to Grow Dwarf Pomegranate
Barely cover the seeds and use bottom heat (like a heating pad underneath the flat) so that the temperature fluctuates between 68F/20C at night 86F/30C during the day. Germination should occur within 28 days. Transplant to full sun. Grow in pots north of zone 7 to take inside when it gets cold. It begins blooming at 1ft/.3m tall and flowers through late fall. Fertilize regularly and water more often when it is flowering & fruiting. It can begin to bear after 1 year but after 2-5-3 years is more common. Fruits appear on new growth & ripen 6-7 months after the flowers appear; they must stay on the plant to ripen. Ripe fruit sounds metallic when tapped. Overripe fruit will crack open. Too much sun on fruits causes brown scald. Clip off fruits. Store at 32-41F/0-5C with high humidity. They improve in storage and will keep for 7 mos. General growing info.
Uses in Witchcraft & Magic
© 2004, 2015 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission