The apple may have just been usurped as the most influential symbolic fruit of the historical-moralistic lexicon. Amy Jeffs and Mary Wellesley have recently published an article in the British publication Apollo magazine:
Why is this article important? And why is it important to tarot research? …Because it elucidates the connection between iconic symbology and how the Medieval (and Renaissance) individual associated with religious and moral concepts…something that the tarot also does through the images and symbols it provides.
Jeffs and Wellesley make some astonishing connections for what cherries in Medieval and Renaissance art may represent—some rather randy, some linguistic, and some etymological. But the heart of their theory is that this innocent fruit’s meaning “is an idea of spiritual riches or the hope of riches to come, frequently associated with virginity and the Virgin.”
The blessed virgin mother Mary was the epitome of many virtues, so it is not surprising that this particular symbol should also be associated with her along with so many other symbols throughout artistic history. But the concept of “spiritual riches” is basically the whole precept of the ladder of spiritual attainment represented by—particularly—the 22 Major arcana of the tarot.
Go read the whole thing, and learn a little more about the symbolic associations of our Medieval predecessors—that era of artists and storytellers that created many of the symbols that found their way into your tarot deck.