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Since ancient times, trees have often been viewed as sacred and vital, making it no surprise that the Tree of Life has significance across several cultures around the world. While the symbol has various meanings to each culture, there are overarching themes as to what it represents. Here’s a closer look.
What is the Tree of Life?
The earliest depictions of the Tree of Life date back to about 7000 BC and were found in present-day Turkey. There are also depictions discovered in the Acadians dating to 3000 BC, in ancient Egypt and in Celtic culture.
There is no consensus as to what type of tree is used for the Tree of Life. The most common depictions show a deciduous (leaf-bearing tree) with branches that reach high into the sky and roots that spread out through the ground. The widespread reach of the roots and branches are essential to many of the symbolic meanings of the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is believed to be derived from the Flower of Life.
The symbol for the Tree of Life sometimes shows the tree set within a circle. This symbol has significance to several ancient cultures, religions and philosophies.
Tree of Life in Judaism
The Tree of Life is a prominent symbol in the Kabbalah teachings of Judaism. It is believed to be what sustains and nourishes life. The Tree of Life contains 10 Sephiroth, which are spiritual symbols that each represent an aspect of God and together depict the name of God. The Kabbalah teaches that God used these ten forces to create the universe and are part of the force of compassion that God send to Earth to help humans.
Tree of Life in Christianity
In the Book of Genesis in the Bible, the Tree of Life plays an important role. It grows within the Garden of Eden beside the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life was said to have healing properties with fruit that, when eaten, granted immortality. After breaking God’s rules Adam and Eve were forced to leave the garden, bear the burden of sin, and were separated from the Tree of Life. For Christians, the Bible promises gifts from the Tree of Life when they reach Heaven.
People debate the meaning of the Biblical Tree of Life. Some say it is the symbol of humanity free from corruption and sin, and others saying it represents love.
Tree of Life in Buddhism
In Buddhism, the Bhodi-Tree is considered sacred as it was while sitting and meditating under a Bodhi tree that the Buddha reached enlightenment. Due to this, trees, and specifically the Bodhi tree, are highly respected as a symbol of enlighten and life.
Tree of Life in Celtic Culture
The Celts had a deep connection with nature, especially trees. Trees were places to gather, and respect their spiritual connection to their ancestors, deities, and the Celtic Otherworld. The Celts respect for trees grew from their appreciation that trees made life easier by providing food, shelter, warmth, and homes for animals. They always made sure to leave one large tree in the middle of any clearing they made, as they believed it had special powers to take care of all life on Earth. To the Celts, trees acted as a doorway to the Otherworld – their realm of the dead and other spirits.
The Celtic Tree features a similar design to the Tree of Life in that the branches reach high into the sky, and the roots dig into the ground. The Celtic Tree is made of an endless knot to further symbolize Earth’s interconnectedness with all living things. The symbol represents the powers of Mother Earth, a connection to our ancestors and the spirit world, and spiritual growth.
Tree of Life in Ancient Egypt
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the tree symbolized the opposite concepts of death and life. The branches symbolized the heavens, the tree represented the center of the universe and the roots symbolized the underworld. Together, the Tree of Life symbol was a representation of life, death and the afterlife.
Symbolism of the Tree of Life
In addition to the cultural and religious meanings, the Tree of Life has several symbolical meanings.
- Connection – The Tree of Life represents a connection to everything. Similar to how a tree is connected to the soil, the air, the sun, and the surrounding area, you are connected to everything around you.
- Being Grounded – The symbol represents that you are grounded, rooted, and connected to the world around you.
- Family Roots – It represents family and ancestral roots. Just as the tree is rooted and branches out, a family is rooted in its history and branches out, creating new life. The interconnected network of roots and branches represents the continuity and network of families across generations.
- Fertility – It represents fertility, as no matter what, the tree finds a way to keep growing and spread through its seeds.
- Individual Growth – The Tree of Life can symbolize growth, strength, and uniqueness. A tree is a universal symbol of strength and growth as they stand tall and strong. The storms that a tree faces do not always break but instead bend the branches and morph the shape until each tree is different. Similarly, your own experiences allow you to grow into a unique individual.
- Rebirth and Immortality – Trees represent rebirth as the tree goes through a yearly cycle of death and regrowth of its leaves. This rebirth shows a fresh start on life which is full of positive energy and potential. This same imagery can also represent immortality. Even as the tree ages, it lives on through the new saplings growing from its seeds.
- Peace – The Tree of Life represents peacefulness and relaxation. The tall, powerful, constant presence of the trees evokes a sense of calmness when you are near them.
Tree of Life in Jewelry and Fashion
The Tree of Life can be found in jewelry designs, clothing, and artwork. The design is popular due to the many symbolic meanings and the connections to religions and cultures. As more people seek escape from city life and aim to reconnect with nature, this symbol is sure to remain popular.
The symbol is often paired with birthstones or other healing crystals to add more meaning to the piece. The symbol is often engraved or carved into pieces of jewelry, while some styles feature 3D designs of the Tree of Life. They make for perfect pendants as well as earrings, rings and bracelets.
Also, because the Tree of Life holds meaning across a variety of faiths and cultures, and has universal symbolism, it can be worn by anyone.
Wrapping It All Up
The Tree of Life is a powerful, universal symbol; it is found across cultures and religions throughout history. Trees themselves are considered special, and the Tree of Life encompasses the best things that they represent. With its connection to nature and many other positive meanings, it can be personalized to your definition.