Next time you're wandering the produce aisle, pick up a pomegranate and treat yourself to a lesson on world religions. Beneath that smooth, red and bitter skin lie hundreds of tiny scarlet seeds - and almost as many religious associations.
"People use whatever is at hand to express their religious beliefs," says Frank Salamone, an authority on religious symbols and a professor at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. Centuries ago, in the Fertile Crescent, where so many religions arose, the pomegranate was at hand. By its very nature, it lent itself to religious symbolism.
"The pomegranate is red, and so is blood," Salamone says. "It has a lot of seeds and is an obvious symbol of fertility."
It's beautiful, strong and delicate, and its juice has healing properties, he says. "It says a lot of different things all at once. People bring meaning to it."
Ancient Persians painted pomegranates on their shields for protection in battle. In Greek and Roman myths, it was the pomegranate that seduced Persephone, the goddess of fertility, into marrying her kidnapper, Hades, god of the underworld. Full Story