Apples have apparently been regarded as sacred or magical in almost every country in which they grow, and from very early times. It is said that if the sun could be seen shining through the branches of an Apple tree on December 25, Christmas Day, then the owner, if a farmer, would reap a healthy crop the following summer.
Diviners in search of water hidden underground are known to often use forked branches taken from the Apple tree traditionally called 'Wishing Rods.' In ancient Ireland the apple tree was one of three things which could only be paid for by living objects.
To destroy an orchard was in many parts of England almost sacrilegious, and it was said that if an orchard was destroyed to make way for another crop, the crop would never prosper. In Yorkshire it was considered unlucky to strip an apple-tree completely, and an apple or two (even deformed or inedible fruit would do) was always left as a gift for the birds (or faeries). An old Samhain charm was for all the district's unmarried young people to tie an apple onto a piece of string and whirl it around before a fire. The one whose apple fell off first was said to be the first to marry; the last left with an apple was fated to die unmarried.
An apple could also be peeled in one long strip and tossed backwards over the left shoulder, and the shape made by the peel was said to show the initial of the future spouse. An old cure for warts was to cut the apple into as many pieces as there were warts, rub each piece on a wart and then bury the pieces in the earth. A variant of this stated that the apple should be cut in half and each half rubbed on each wart, after which the apple should be tied together and buried. As the fruit rotted, the warts would disappear.
The ancient custom of Wassailing the apple trees was intended to awaken the sleeping tree-spirit, drive away bad luck, and ensure a good harvest. It usually took place around Yule, and involved the farming folk choosing one tree in the orchard to represent all. The people would drink to the tree with cider, throw cider over its roots and put a piece of bread or toast soaked in cider into a fork of the tree's branches. Guns were fired through the topmost branches of the trees and much noise was made by blowing cow-horns and beating on pots and pans. Often the trees were danced around, and in most places some variant of the Wassailing Song was sung. Omitting the ritual was thought to bring bad luck and a poor yield of apples that year.