The story is told of the old farmer who went to Church one Sunday morning. He was a man of few words. On his return, his wife asked him what the sermon was about. “Sin.” he replied. The wife was a patient woman. “And…” she said. “Figgered the preacher was agin it.” the man responded, before going off to milk the ducks, or whatever farmers do before Sunday lunch.
I re-read the account of the Fall, perhaps as small penance for my own real, imagined or alleged misdemeanours, imagining my own response to the temptress.
An apple is a fruit with a core – itself a fertility symbol – and multiple symbolic meanings. Wild crab-apples were gathered in ancient times, and full-sized varieties were already found in Central Europe in the Neolithic era. In ancient myth, the god of intoxication Dionysius was the creator of the apple, (and cider, presumably) which he presented to Aphrodite, goddess of love. Plus ca change. More erotic associations are obvious. In this way the apple acquired a somewhat ambiguous symbolism. The goddess Eris called for “the judgment of Paris” when she threw down a golden apple marked “for the most beautiful” (the “apple of discord” that in other languages corresponds to the English “bone of contention”); Helen of Troy was Paris’ reward for choosing Aphrodite, but his abduction of Helen led to the Trojan War, a seriously discordant event, especially for Hector whose bloody corpse Achilles dragged behind his chariot around the city walls. Hercules had to brave great danger to retrieve the apples of the Hesperides from the far reaches of the west. On the other hand, the earth-goddess Gaea gave Hera an apple as a symbol of fertility upon her engagement to Zeus. In Athens, customarily, newlyweds divided and ate an apple when they entered the bridal chamber. Sending or tossing apples was a part of courtship. The Old Norse goddess Iduna guarded apples that brought eternal youth to whoever ate them. In the Celtic religion the apple was the symbol of knowledge handed down from ancestors.
It seems that in many mythologies apples and other multiseeded fruits have fertility overtones as well as resonances about knowledge and disobedience. The Genesis account may be a synthesis of many of them. I seem to be able to eat them without feeling particularly guilty, so the damage seems already to have been done.