Cider Musings

Pomona, the Roman Goddess for orchard cares

Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance and plenty in their myths. Her name comes from the Latin word pomum, "fruit", specifically orchard fruit. She  was said to be a wood nymph. She does not have a clear counterpart in earlier Greek mythology. Pomana’s expert knowledge in pruning and grafting is symbolised by the pruning knife she wielded, ensured the bountiful growth of fruit trees .

    Part of painting by Reubens 1617

She did not care for forests, she loved her cultivated countryside. There is a grove that is sacred to her called the Pomonal located not far from Ostia, the ancient port of Rome in Italy. While Pomona watches over and protects fruit trees and cares for their cultivation she originally was not actually associated with the harvest of fruit itself, just with the flourishing of the fruit trees. This is why the pruning knife was her sacred tool. In later artistic depictions she is generally shown with a platter of fruit or a cornucopia. But even in Roman times there was a shift in emphasis to the harvest and her deity day was pushed back in the year. Romans dedicated the date of August 13 as a feast day in honour of Pomona, as this was the date when the first fruits of the harvest were ripe enough to eat. Romans also organised the festival of Pomona for the 1st of November, which many have linked with the development of Halloween’s date today. During the festival, Romans made offerings of nuts and apples to the gods, and thanked them for protecting the harvest. In fact, many of the Halloween traditions of today are still associated with apples, including apple bobbing and toffee apples, which bear resemblance to Pomona’s sacred fruits.


William Morris depicted Pomona more associated with the harvest.

                                            William Morris 1899

He left us this lovely poem:


I am the Ancient Apple Queen,

As once I was so am I now.

For ever more a hope unseen,

Betwix the blossom and the bow.


Ah, where’s the river’s hidden Gold!

And where’s the windy grave of Troy!

Yet come I as I came of old,

From out the heart of summer’s joy.


No other hamadryad, of the wood nymphs of Latium, tended the gardens more skilfully or was more devoted to the orchards’ care, hence her name. She loved the fields and the branches loaded with ripe apples, not the woods and rivers.

                                    Naples Archeology Museum 2nd C

Ovid the Roman poet described her ... "She carried a curved pruning knife, not a javelin, with which she cut back the luxuriant growth, and lopped the branches spreading out here and there, now splitting the bark and inserting a graft, providing sap from a different stock for the nursling. She would not allow them to suffer from being parched, watering, in trickling streams, the twining tendrils of thirsty root. This was her love, and her passion, and she had no longing for desire".

                                       Hendrick Bloemert 1635