Grapevine Legends and Lore

The Magic of the Grape

France, Grapes ready for harvest
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Much like the apple, the grape is one of those fruits that has a significant amount of magic associated with it. First and foremost, the grape harvest—and the wine that it produces—has been associated with fertility deities like Egypt's Hathor, the lusty Roman Bacchus, and his Greek counterpart, Dionysus. By the time of Mabon, grape arbors are flourishing. Vines, leaves, and fruit are all usable items; the leaves are often used in Mediterranean cooking, the vines for craft projects, and the grapes themselves are extremely versatile.

Grapevines are believed to have originated around Mesopotamia, and were cultivated as long as 6,000 years before the Romans got around to introducing the plant to the British Isles. The National Grape Cooperative says that grapes were probably one of the earliest cultivated fruits. 

Grapevine Myths and Legends 

In Greek mythology, grapes appear regularly. Dionysus fell in love with a hot young satyr named Ampelos and pursued him with wild abandon. Unfortunately, Ampelos was fairly reckless, and one day he decided to go out and ride a wild bull. The bull tossed him from its back and then gored him to death. The grieving Dionysus transformed his lover into the first grapevine. The Greeks also had a tale about Leneus, a demigod who was the son of Silenus. He is associated with the treading of grapes to make wine, and with the dance of the wine trough. 

It wasn't just the Greeks who were into grapes and wine, though. A number of deities around the world are associated with the vines and the fruits, and of course the beverages that result from them. Pulque was a sour wine made from the pulp of the mague agave plant in Mesoamerica, and the Aztecs honored Tezcatzontecati as a god of both pulque and drunkenness. You can still buy pulque in parts of Mexico today, where it has been produced for centuries, and is considered a sacred drink. In the Sumerian "Epic of Gilgamesh," the goddess Siduri is associated with wine as well as beer. In Africa, the goddess Yasigi was honored by the people of Mali as a deity of alcoholic beverages; she is typically portrayed as a large-breasted, dancing woman holding a wine ladle. 

In Jewish mysticism, there are references to grapes in the Torah. Some believe that it was actually a grape, not an apple, that Eve munched on in the Garden of Eden, leading to all kinds of trouble. Later, Moses sent a dozen spies into Canaan, and they came back holding a cluster of grapes so huge that it took two men to lift it. Because of this, grapes are once again associated with bounty and abundance.

Magical Winemaking

Although the Greeks gave winemaking a shot, their success was mediocre at best. Historians say that Greek wine was thick and syrupy and the flavor was not exactly good. Not until the Romans got into the act did winemaking became a truly refined art, thanks to specialized cultivation as well as proper fermentation and storage.

When it came to winemaking, vineyards during the Middle Ages were commonly found on both noble estates and in monasteries. Many European medieval communities thrived because of their excellent winemaking skills. The "Tacuinum Sanitatis," a medieval handbook on wellness, recommends grapes for their nutritional value and suggests that wine is a good remedy for just about any illness.

Grapevine Magic

Grapes have traditionally symbolized abundance and fertility. Those who had a healthy, hearty grape harvest were practically guaranteed to be prosperous. Today, many Wiccans and pagans use the symbolism of the grape in ritual. Here are some simple ways you can incorporate the bounty of the grapevine into your fall harvest celebrations.

  • Decorate your altar with grapes and vines.
  • Make a grapevine pentacle to hang on your wall.
  • Paint or stencil grapes on the walls of your kitchen or garden; according to traditional folklore, this will make your crops bountiful.
  • Use grape leaves as an ingredient in a spell to bring abundance. For a simple talisman, fold a grape leaf around a silver coin, and tie with green string. Carry this in your pocket to bring you prosperity.
  • Plant grapes in pots on either side of your front door. As the vines grow, train them up around the doorframe. This will help ensure that abundance enters your home.
  • Use wine to asperge the ground before you cast a circle, or as an offering to the deity of your tradition, if appropriate.