This is the time of the apple harvest: winesaps, greenings, macintosh, red and yellow delicious, and the antique varieties of sops of wine, sheep nose and smokehouse. There are apples to fill fruit bowls for immediate eating, apples that keep well for Winter storage, and apples that make the best pie ever. The back porch smells of hot applesauce laced with cinnamon, which is canned by the case.
Apples have always been magically important. The Celts “wassailed” their apple trees to insure a bountifull harvest in the coming year. Traditionally wassail was made of hard cider that was heated with spices and had apples floating on top. These apples, when heated enough, would burst their skins, and the white flesh would form a froth on top of the wassail. There is much reason to believe that wassailing was performed at Samhain or Halloween as it was at Yule. Samhain is the time of the apple harvest, and there are many traditions in which apples are very important. Samhain was the New Year of the Celtic calendar, and probably several traditions got shifted to Yuletide when the calendar was changed. Wassailing the apple trees, no doubt, was one of these.
Candy apples are a traditional trick or treat gift at Halloween. Another tradition is bobbing for apples, or “dooking,” as it is called in Scotland. (Description of how to dook…) This game may have developed directly from the apples that floated on the wassail of earlier Halloweens.
Another traditional Halloween game is apple on a string. (Description) This game may have evolved from people playing a similar game while the apples still hung on the tree, and this may have been done in imitation of certain animals. But it is more likely that these games developed in the spirit of fun and play that is the essence of Pagan celebration.
Apples also have a history of being used for healing (“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”), especially for curing warts. The most typical method is to slice an apple in half and rub both halves over the wart or affliction to be cured. The put the two halves back together and bury them in the Earth while reciting an enchantment to the effect that as the apple wastes away, so will the wart or other affliction.
When an apple is sliced in half horizontally it reveals hidden within its core a five-pointed star. When an apple is being cut in half for magical purposes it should be cut this way in order to take full advantage of the secret magical sign. And of course it should be cut with the boline (magically charged white- handled knife).
The apple harvest can be celebrated on the day that it is completed with a meal that features apples, apple fritters, apple pie, or applesauce. Select one tree to represent all of the apple trees in the orchard, whether it is the oldest, tallest, or most productive. Draw and consecrate a Circle around the tree and stand within it facing the tree. holding a cup of spiced cider or apple wine, anoint the tree by drawing a pentacle with a finger dipped in the cup of liquid. Draw the pentacle at eye level on the tree trunk or just below where all the branches begin. Recite something such as:
Here’s to thee, Apple tree Flowers at Beltane Fruit at Samhain Apple tree, Blessed be!
Then drink a toast to the tree and pour a libation at its roots, and eat the food of the feast within the Circle.