Here is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s luxuriant post-Romantic Persephone, holding the fruit that completed her curse and imposed the season of winter on the world. Abducted by Hades, and held in his realm, she was tricked into eating four seeds of the pomegranate. Every year thereafter, she was forced to spend four months in the Underworld. During these months, her mother, Demeter, the goddess of fertility, who mourned the loss of her daughter, neglected her duties and let the fruitfulness of the world die away.
This fruit has incredible baggage. It is associated with fruitfulness in many traditions, and carries the whiff of the forbidden in Greek myth and Hebrew tradition (some believe Eve ate not an apple but a pomegranate). In a contemporary version of myth and the mysteries of the body—nutrition science—the pomegranate is again a hallowed fruit, worshiped for its antioxidants, the free radicals (a great phrase) that may help to reduce the likelihood of everything from heart disease to breast cancer from developing. Many Americans spend as much on a bottle of pomegranate juice as they do on a bottle of wine, and feel just as cultured and more virtuous for doing so.
The other afternoon, I thought I might be in paradise. The sun was warm and the breeze was cool in the garden at the American Academy. I lay down in the long grass beneath the long, bowed, branches of the pomegranate tree, which were heavy with fruit. I heard the happy voices of Jack and his friends, as they ran around, frolicking and gamboling. (Here’s an opportunity to use that word unironically–almost.) I reached up to pick the biggest fruit, and later on enjoyed seeing Jack discover all of the secret chambers full of sweet-tart drippy seeds.
We seem to have avoided any curses, unless that thunder storm that woke us up this morning counts.