It was a pomegranate, five seeds, that held Persephone in the Underworld. Because she ate them, she was obliged to return each year.

Egyptian gardener picks fruit from an esplanaded pomegranate tree. A child chases a bird away

Egyptian gardener picks fruit from an esplanaded pomegranate tree. A child chases a bird away

Pomegranate was a treasure among Egyptian physicians (as well as the Babylonians) for the treatment of tapeworms and infections. Homer called Egyptian physicians “more skilled at medicine than any of humankind.” Centuries later, the Prophet Muhammad said the pomegranate would purge the system of envy and hatred.

Ancient Assyrian seal

Ancient Assyrian seal

In Ayurvedic medicine, pomegranate is an astringent, used against intestinal parasites and dysentery, among other illnesses. In Ayurveda, as well as in Western folk medicine, the fruit — seeds and rind — has been used both as a contraceptive and abortifacient.

pomegranate tree

In Afghanistan, I remember students removed the ink straws from their Bic pens, punctured the rind of the pomegranate (anar) with the pen casing and sucked out the juice before opening the fruit and enjoying its seeds.

In honor of the Mysteries, I sometimes make a pink tea, halving and boiling the fruit, husk and all, in water with honey, then straining the liquid and adding a dash of rosewater. Even the cooked seeds after boiling are delicious.

Some say the pomegranate is an aphrodisiac and some claim it was a pomegranate and not an apple in the garden of Eden (then again, some claim it was a fig that tempted Adam and Eve).

Pomegranate. The Fruit of Heaven. And Hades.

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