The pomegranate, as a symbol, was known to and highly esteemed by the nations of antiquity. In the description of the pillars which stood at the porch of the Temple (see First Kings via, 15), it is said that the artificer "made two chapiters of molten brass to set upon the tops of the pillars." Now the Hebrew word caphtorim, which has been translated chapiters and for which, in Amos (ix, 1), the word lintel has been incorrectly substituted, though the marginal reading corrects the error, signifies an artificial large pomegranate or globe. The original meaning is not preserved in the Septuagint, which has nor in the Vulgate, which uses sphaerula, both meaning simply a round ball. But Josephus, in his Ardiquities, has kept to the literal Hebrew.
It was customary to place such ornaments upon the tops or heads of columns, and in other situations. The skirt of Aaron's robe was ordered to be decorated with golden bells and pomegranates, and they were among the ornaments fixed upon the golden candelabra. There seems, therefore, to have been attached to this fruit some mystic signification, to which it is indebted for the veneration thus paid to it. If so, this mystic meaning should be traced into Spurious Freemasonry; for there, after all, if there be any antiquity in our Order, we shall find the parallel of all its rites and ceremonies.
The Syrians at Damascus worshiped an idol which they called Rimmon. This was the same idol that was worshiped by Shaman before his conversion; as recorded in the Second Book of Kings. The learned have not been able to agree as to 'he nature of this idol, whether he was a representation of Helios or the Sun, the god of the Phoenicians, or of Venus, or according to Grotius, in his Commentary on the passage in Kings, of Saturn, or what, according to Statius, Feems more probable, of Jupiter Cassius. But it is sufficient for the present purpose to know that Rimmon is the Hebrew and Syriac for pomegranate.
Cumberland, the learned Bishop of Peterborough (Origines gerLtium antiquissimae, or Attempts for discovering the Times of the First Planting of Nations, page 60), quotes Achilles Statius, a converted Pagan, and Bishop of Alexandria, as saying that on Mount Cassius, which Bochart places between Canaan and Egypt, there was a temple wherein Jupiter's image held a pomegranate in his hand, which Statius goes on to say, "had a mystical meaning." Sanconiathon thinks this temple was built by the descendants of the Cabiri. Cumberland attempts to explain this mystery thus: "Agreeably hereunto I guess that the pomegranate in the hand of Jupiter or Juno, because, when it is opened, it discloses a great number of seeds, signified only, that those deities were, being long-lived, the parents of a great many children, and families that soon grew into nations, which they planted in large possessions, when the world was newly begun to be peopled, by giving them laws and other useful inventions to make their lives comfortable." Pausanias (Corinthiaca, page 59) says he saw, not far from the ruins of Mycenae, an image of Juno holding in one hand a scepter, and in the other a pomegranate; but he likewise declines assigning any explanation of the emblem, merely declaring that it was a Greek expression meaning a forbidden mystery. That is, one which was forbidden by the Cabiri to be divulged.
In the Festival of the Thesmophoria, observed in honor of the goddess Ceres, it was held unlawful for the celebrants who were women to eat the pomegranate. Clemens Alexandrinus assigns as a reason that it was supposed that this fruit sprang from the blood of Bacchus.
Bryant (Analysis of Ancient Mythology in, page 237) says that the Ark was looked upon as the mother of mankind, and on this account it was figured under the semblance of a pomegranate; for as this fruit abounds with seeds, it was thought no improper emblem of the Ark, which contained the rudiments of the future world. In fact, few plants had among the ancients a more mythical history than the pomegranate.
From the Hebrews, who used it mystically at the Temple, it passed over to the Freemasons, who adopted it as the symbol of plenty, for which it is well adapted by its swelling and seed-abounding fruit.