Friday, September 19, 2008

Garnets 101

One of my recent posts on RJ.org, the blog of the Union for Reform Judaism, highlights the spiritual sustenance a pomegranate can provide, particularly as the High Holidays approach. My attraction to this exotic fruit, however, is more than spiritual. As a wordsmith, I am intrigued by the linkages among words, and pomegranate is a great one for connecting the dots.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that the word pomegranate is derived from the Old French pome grenate, meaning apple having many seeds. Grenate, in turn, derives from the Latin granatum, which means grain or seed, and gives us such English words as garner, granary, grange and garnet. An interesting connection here: the ancient Greeks named garnets--those dark red gemstones that seem to have fire within--as such precisely because they reminded them of the tiny seeds nestled deep in the ivory lining of a pomegranate.

A few more tidbits about garnets: they are the birthstone for the month of January (maybe that’s why I’m so partial to them?) and they occur naturally in all colors of the rainbow—except blue. According to legend, Noah used the light of a garnet to steer the ark through the night. Early explorers and travelers, too, often carried garnets to illuminate the night and as protection against disaster and evil. As for me, I generally don’t board a plane, ride a train or even set off on a road trip without garnet studs in my ears or a garnet pendant around my neck.

Superstitious? Not a chance!