As references in the Hebrew Bible indicate, pomegranates decorated the priest's robes and the temple.
Pomegranates were eaten by the Israelites while they were in Egypt. As they traveled to the promised land, there were places without pomegranates. But the promised land would once again provide them with the luscious fruit.
Pomegranates were also used for making wine.
A legend arose within Judaism that each and every pomegranate contained 613 seeds, representing the 613 commandments of Torah.
A belief also circulated that the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was the pomegranate.
Nowadays, the crowns on top of the Torah scrolls are often made in the shape of pomegranates. Pomegranates are used during Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and are used to the Sukkah (hut or tabernacle) during Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
Pomegranate Symbolism: Christianity
The pomegranate is often seen in paintings and statues of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus.
It's a symbol of resurrection and everlasting life.
Pomegranate Symbolism: Islam
6:99 - It is He who sent down out of heaven water, and thereby We have brought forth the shoot of every plant, and then We have brought forth the green leaf of it, bringing forth from it close-compounded grain, and out of the palm-tree, from the spathe of it, date thick-clustered, ready to the hand, and gardens of vines, olives, pomegranates, like each to each, and each unlike to each. Look upon their fruits when they fructify and ripen!
6:141 - It is He who produces gardens trellised, and un-trellised, palm-trees, and crops diverse in produce, olives, pomegranates, like each to each and each unlike to each.
60:68 - O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny? Therein fruits, and palm-trees, and pomegranates.
Legend states that each pomegranate contains one seed (aril) from the pomegranate in paradise.
Pomegranate Symbolism: Mythology
The Myth of Persephone
The story goes like this:
"When Persephone is carried off to the underworld by Hades, Demeter is enraged and prevents the crops from growing. To restore the natural order, Zeus arranges his daughter's release by negotiating a settlement between Demeter and Hades. But Hades had already given Persephone a pomegranate seed, and since she has eaten the of the underworld, she is compelled to spend one-third of the year there with Hades and the other two-thirds in the world above. (The Greeks thought of the year in terms of only three seasons: spring, summer and winter). This 'deal with the devil' was always thought to explain the arrival of spring, which is when Persephone returns to earth. Her subsequent return to the underworld means the end of the growing season and the coming of winter, seen as the time of death."
So, the changing of the seasons is said to be caused by Persephone eating a pomegranate seed - - food of the underworld.
Alternatively, it is thought that this myth explains "the fate of Greek girls who were often turned over to much older men in arranged marriages. Demeter's grief over the loss of Persephone was typical of the of Greek mothers who gave up their daughters in arranged marriages, usually to an older stranger."
In this sense, the pomegranate is a symbol of the indivisibility of marriage.
Quotes taken from: Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis.
Pomegranate Symbolism: Chinese Culture
Here, the pomegranate represent many sons - - a common fertility symbol.
Pomegranates in Literature
Pliny wrote about how to preserve pomegranates.
Homer referred to pomegranates in his "Garden of Alcinous."
Shakespeare wrote of nightingales singing in pomegranate trees (Romeo and Juliet) and of picking kernals out of pomegranates (All's Well that Ends Well).
Pomegranates in Art
Paul Cezanne's "Ginger Pot With Pomegranates and Pears" and Pablo Picasso's "La Grenade" both capture the beauty and power of the pomegranate.
The painting shown here was done by Elaine Kehew and can be seen at PhotoBucket.