Pomona is a Roman goddess of fruiting trees and orchards. She did not care for forests, she loved her cultivated countryside. She wields a pruning knife in her right hand for she is an expert in pruning and grafting. Despite the fact that she preferred to be alone to care and nurture her trees, this amazon-like beauty was besieged by suitors, in particular a god called Vertumnus. Vertumnus had the ability to take different human guises and made numerous attempts to woo Pomona but she turned him away each time. It wasn’t until Vertumnus appeared before her in his proper person (apparently quite a good looking fellow) that Pomona gave in to his charms. Vertumnus is a god of gardens and orchards and so it appears they were a match made in heaven.
The name Pomona comes from the Latin word pomum, “fruit,” specifically orchard fruit. (“Pomme” is the French word for apple.) She was said to be a wood nymph and a part of the Numia, guardian spirits who watch over people, places, or homes. While Pomona watches over and protects fruit trees and cares for their cultivation she is not actually associated with the harvest of fruit itself, but with the flourishing of the fruit trees. This is why the pruning knife was her sacred tool. In artistic depictions she is generally shown with a platter of fruit or a cornucopia.
William Morris, (whose tapestry of Pomona is shown above) 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.
If you are interested in reading a lovely interpretation of the Pomona myth check out Thalia’s site. Her story is quite charming and fun to read.