The pomegranate: The Most Ancient of Fruit. Myths and Origins

Pomegranates  Araceli Paz

Araceli Paz
I want to tell you about Panagiotis and his pomegranates.

Panagiotis is  one of the most amazing characters that I know.

I use the word “character” in the nicest way possible.

Panagiotis Gannakinas
Panagiotis Giannakainas

First, let me tell you about the history and myths of the pomegranate.
The pomegranate, a rosy-hued fruit, bursting with plentiful, ruby-red, jewel- like seeds, is one of the oldest, cultivated fruits.

The ancient Greeks believed it to have been planted by The Goddess of love, Aphrodite (Venus in Roman mythology) on the island of Cyprus.

Aphrodite(Venus)  Salvador Dali 1904-1989
Salvador Dali 1904-1989

Aphrodite was the goddess of love, desire and beauty. Apart from her natural beauty, she also had a magical girdle that compelled everyone to desire her.
There are two accounts of her birth. According to one, she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione, the mother goddess worshipped at the Oracles of Dodona. However, the other account, which is more prevalent, informs us that she arose from the sea on a giant scallop, after Cronus castrated Uranus and tossed his severed genitals into the sea, Aphrodite then walked to the shore of Cyprus. In a different version of the myth, she was born near the island of Cythera, hence her epithet "Cytherea".
Other stories have the Pomegranate originating in Iran or Afghanistan.

The pomegranate is a symbolic fruit, signifying beauty, love, marriage, fertility, birth, rebirth, hope and prosperity.

The pomegranate is a symbol of eternity.

Madonna and the Christ Child  Sandro Botticelli
Madonna and the Christ Child

Sandro Botticelli
A story of love and abduction, in Ancient Greek mythology, has Persephone, daughter of Demeter, Goddess of harvest and agriculture, kidnapped by Hades, God of the underworld, who fell in love with her at first sight and carried her off to his kingdom, the underworld.

  Persephone descending into Hades
Persephone descending into Hades

Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter and the queen of the underworld. She was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld, infuriating her mother who made the crops wither and the earth barren. Zeus intervened and tried to bring Persephone back to the world of the living; however, Persephone ate the seeds of a pomegranate that Hades had given to her, binding her to him for half of the year. Thus, it was decided that Persephone spend four months in the underworld and eight months on earth with her mother. (The number of months Persephone spends in each place, differs, according to different stories)

Demeter, mad with sorrow, hunted everywhere for her daughter Persephone, going as far as to disguise herself  as an old lady and with a lighted torch in her hands, roamed the Earth for nine long days and nine long nights.

Demeter, mourning for her daughter, Persephone.
Demeter, mourning for her daughter, Persephone.

Demeter was the goddess of corn, grain, and the harvest. She was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. It was believed that Demeter made the crops grow each year; thus the first loaf of bread made from the annual harvest was offered to her. She was the goddess of the earth, of agriculture, and of fertility in general. Sacred to her are live
stock and agricultural products, poppy, narcissus and the crane.
Finally, the sun God Helios told Demeter that Hades had carried Persephone off to his underworld.

Demeter found Hades and they struck a bargain, Persephone would live four months on Earth, with the living, and eight months in the underworld. (The number of months spent in each place differs,depending on which story is read) 

Map of the underworld  Greek mythology
Map of the underworld, Hades, in Greek mythology.

The Greek underworld, in mythology, was an otherworld where souls went after death and was the Greek idea of afterlife. At the moment of death the soul was separated from the corpse, taking on the shape of the former person, and was transported to the entrance of Underworld. The underworld itself was described as being either at the outer bounds of the ocean or beneath the depths or ends of the earth. It was considered the dark counterpart to the brightness of Mount Olympus, and was the kingdom of the dead that corresponded to the kingdom of the god Hades was a realm invisible to the living and it was made solely for the dead.
Notice the Elysian Fields at the upper left hand corner of the map, the only good spot in Hades!

Before being set free from the underworld, Persephone was persuaded to eat six pomegranate seeds (In ancient mythology, to eat the fruit of one’s captor meant that one would have to return to that captor), to make sure she returned to the underworld when her time on Earth was up.
That’s Hades hedging his bets!

Ruby-red pomegranate seeds
Ruby-red pomegranate seeds
This myth, one of disappearing and reappearing, was the origin  of  festivals in ancient Greece, among them the Eleusinian rites, whose secrets were so closely guarded that little is known about them today.

One festival that we do know a bit about, is that, in ancient Greece, after the harvest, a three day feast occurred, devoted to the Goddess Demeter, mother of Persephone, the third day was devoted to women, where pomegranate seeds were eaten to guarantee many children and much prosperity.

Making pomegranate juice
Making pomegranate juice
Even today, young brides in certain Greek villages, throw pomegranates through the door of their new house, with such a force, that the pomegranate bursts open, scattering the seeds.

 This ritual is said to ensure a happy marriage and the birth of many children.

pomegranate seeds
Seeds like jewels

The pomegranate is a seasonal fruit, ripening in the autumn, autumn being the beginning of the new year in ancient times, wreaths, decorated with wheat stalks, walnuts and pomegranates, adorned houses, much as is done today at Christmas time.

Christmas wreath with pomegranates and wheat.
Christmas wreath with pomegranates and wheat.

In Greece, the pomegranate is a symbol for the New Year, and is used as a decoration at Christmas and New Year as a good luck charm.

The pomegranate is also a biblical symbol, and is mentioned in the great religions of the world.

Pomegranate  Biblical symbol of love, beauty and marriage

Biblical symbol of love, beauty and marriage

Mohammed, the Muslim prophet, advised pregnant women to eat pomegranates, a symbol of beauty, so that they would bear beautiful children.

The pomegranate is seen everywhere at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, much as it is in Greece, also, in Jewish mysticism (Kabbala), as in Greece, pomegranates are burst open on religious days, as a call for fertility and prosperity.

Pomegranates to bring good luck
Pomegranates to bring good luck
Another ritual, of symbolic value involving pomegranates, used even before Christianity and still performed today in Greece, is the eating of koliva at funerals and memorials.

The Greek word koliva comes from kolivos, meaning a small coin; in ancient Greece it was called pansperma, (seeds or sperm) meaning a mixture of seeds and nuts.

Pansperma was consumed at the pagan festival of Anthesteria (one of the four Athenian festivals honouring Dionysus, held in the month of Anthesteria, spring time)

This dish, containing cooked wheat kernels, nuts, raisins, sugar and pomegranate seeds, symbolizes rebirth or resurrection.


"While recipes may vary widely, the primary ingredient is wheat kernels which have been boiled until they are soft and then sweetened with honey or sugar. Koliva also contains some or all of the following: wheat, sesame seeds, almonds, ground walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and parsley.Romanians decorate the koliva with crosses of cocoa, chocolate or candy. In terms of the Greek Pantheon, the wheat symbolized the earth goddess Demeter, while pomegranates stood for her daughter, Persephone, queen of the underworld. Almonds were sacred to Aphrodite and raisins to Dionysus. Sesame seeds were considered to open the doors of consciousness.
The practice of offering koliva at funerals and memorials is traditional in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and MoldovaRussia, Balkan countries, and among Christians in the Middle East." 
Some religions consider the pomegranate to have been the fruit of The Tree of Life.

Klimt  "The Tree of Life"

"The Tree of Life"
Owing to it’s wealth of symbolism, the pomegranate has been portrayed in art for thousands of years, on pottery, carpets, embroidery, fabric pattern and in some wonderful paintings.

"Girl With a Pomegranate"  William Bouguereau
"Girl With a Pomegranate"

William Bouguereau

"The Blood of a Pomegranate"  Stephen Mackey
"The Blood of a Pomegranate"

Stephen Mackey

Carpet with pomegranate design
Carpet with pomegranate design

Bukhara Suzani. Silk on cotton
19th Century
Uzbek Ottoman silk handmade embroidery  Suzani
Uzbek Ottoman silk handmade embroidery

William Morris  Wallpaper design;Bird and Pomegranate
William Morris

Wallpaper design; Bird and Pomegranate
We've all seen this one!
 Now, about Panagiotis, where shall I start?

Well, to keep with the theme, he grows pomegranates, acres of them.

Panagioitis' pomegranates  Ancient Sikyon
Panagioitis' pomegranates

Ancient Sikyon
Panagiotis not only grows pomegranates, but also, the juiciest of apricots and peaches, the tangiest of lemons, the tastiest of mandarins, unique, flavourful quince, and quality olives.

In the small village of Ancient Sikyon, located twenty two miles Southwest of Corinth, Panagiotis and his father, Anastasios, run an organic farm which has been in their family for three generations.

Ancient theater  Ancient Sikyon, Corinthias
Ancient theater

Ancient Sikyon, Corinthias
Here, on these sun-drenched, fertile plains, Panagiotis, and Anastasios, cultivate organically grown fruit and vegetables of the highest quality and nutritional value.
 Just as Mother Nature intended, without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

drupes products Gr
Tasting the wares
In 2012 Panagiotis, ever on the look out for something new, took things a step further by using his traditional, organic produce to create delicious marmalade, jams, spreads and juices, now available in supermarkets and specialty gourmet shops, throughout Greece.

Drypes pomegranate jam
Drypes organic pomegranate jam

Panagiotis' yummy pomegranate and apricot jam,
just a couple of his delicious flavours.

Drypes organic apricot jam
Drypes organic apricot jam
Enjoy all types of fruit, even when not in season, not unnaturally grown in some clinical hot house, something that goes against Panagioitis' beliefs, but dried.

Scrumptious as a snack or to enhance breakfast cereals, try them in  homemade museli, or bake a fruit cake with them.

Dried fruit from Drypes
Dried fruit from Drypes
You will love the dried tomatoes, be creative, experiment with them, invent your own mouthwatering dish!

Drupes is the name of the company Panagiotis runs, drupes means any fruit that has a stone e.g plums, cherries, apricots, peaches etc.

See their website below.

Panagiotis’ specialty  is his pomegranate petimezi; pure, concentrated pomegranate juice.

 An ancient Greek sweetener, used before sugar was ever heard of.

Drypes omegranate petimezi
Drypes organic pomegranate petimezi
Pomegranates in a bottle.
 Enjoy the benefits of one of the most ancient "super foods" all year round.

Panagiotis, who believes that fruits and vegetables should be used only when in season, not grown unnaturally in a greenhouse, starts his pomegranate petimezi production at the beginning of autumn, when the rosy fruit is ripe.

Pomegranate harvest
Pomegranate harvest 
The fruits of Panagiotis' labours!

Pomegranates, Drypes Corinthias.

Harvested and ready to go.
Panagiotis works all the daylight hours that God gave us when bringing in his pomegranates. They can be found in major supermarkets and green grocers all over Greece, enabling us to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
Pomegranate petimezi, slightly less sweet than the more well-known grape petimezi but much more nutritious, is made from 100% pure pomegranate juice

This wonderful nectar is absolutely full of vitamins, AB and C, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and iron, pomegranates have been proven to contain more antioxidants than red wine or green tea.

Petimezi,  from 100% pure pure concentrated pomegranate juice
 from 100% pure pure concentrated pomegranate juice 
Its uses are endless; diluted with water as a cool drink in summer.
 Or drizzled over yogurt or ice cream and when mixed with balsamic vinegar, it makes a delicious dressing for salads.

Panagiotis is a true nature lover, born to be outside, riding his motorbike or his ATV, tending to his trees, feeding his hens, ducks, geese and peacocks, yes, he has peacocks!

Panagiotis' pomegranates Ancient Sikyon
Panagiotis' pomegranates
Ancient Sikyon
Panagiotis showed me some tomatoes he has grown and explained to me how they are raised from ancient seeds, all the way from Peru, and a type of Asian cucumber, again, an ancient species.

This is not all, Panagiotis has an artistic flair, he has created the most fascinating sculptures, made from stuff you or I would have thrown out, old lamps, useless bit of metal etc.

 Panagiotis’ sulptures adorn his garden and add a wonderful Bohemian touch to his house.

Panagiotis' work of art
Panagiotis' work of art
Panagiotis’ aim is to eventually be self-sufficient, to live off the land; I think he may very well succeed.

I could visit Panagiotis every day, there is always something new to learn, up there in his little corner of Ancient Sikyon, and besides, I do have a soft spot for him, he reminds me so much of my son, Johnny, both in looks and character.


My son John
My son John

Both lovers of nature and the great outdoors, and oh yes, anything with an engine and wheels!

Totally crazy, both of them, but in a good way!

Keeping in the shade
Keeping in the shade
This picture says it all about Panagiotis!

 I love it.
 Among the ruins of Ancient Sikyon, with his digger.
 Keeping cool in a way that only Panagiotis could think of!

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