Tree of Life Meaning & Symbolism
The Tree of Life is a popular and universal symbol that represents multiple different things across various cultures and religions. The symbol does not belong to one specific culture as it has been used all over the world for centuries.
The tree is seen as a sacred symbol, which carries significant meanings in both religious and spiritual philosophies. While the Tree of Life symbolizes many different things, there are some common themes that the symbol represents within multiple cultures.
The tree of life is a fundamental archetype in many of the world's mythologies, religious, and philosophical traditions. It is closely related to the concept of the sacred tree.
Trees have claimed such a centerpiece in world cultures that one central symbol, the Tree of Life, appears in ancient artistry across almost every corner of the globe. What, exactly, does the Tree of Life represent? The answer is many-fold! Below, let’s see how the Tree of Life originated and what it means, as well as how you can use it for good in your life.
The Meaning of the Tree of Life
A Connection to Everything: The Tree of Life commonly represents the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. It symbolizes togetherness and serves as a reminder that you are never alone or isolated, but rather that you are connected to the world. The roots of the Tree of Life dig deep and spread into the earth, thereby accepting nourishment from Mother Earth, and its branches reach up into the sky, accepting energy from the sun and moon.
If you observe the Tree of Life symbol, you’ll see the way that the deep roots fan out in all directions, while at the same time, the branches reach skyward in the same pattern. This symbolizes the way that you, and all living beings, are connected to both Mother Earth and to the Universe.
Our physical bodies need the Earth to nourish us, while at the same time, our souls originate from the Universe (or Source) and will return to it once our bodies perish. Likewise, through the Universe, we are not separate; we are connected to all things.
Ancestry, Family, and Fertility: The Tree of Life symbol also represents the connection to one’s family and ancestors. The Tree of Life has an intricate network of branches that represents how a family grows and expands throughout many generations. It also symbolizes fertility as it always finds a way to keep growing, through seeds or new saplings, and is lush and green, which signifies its vitality.
Notice the way that the Tree of Life represents a large family tree. Imagine yourself as the tree’s trunk– one singular unit. If you were to map out all of your great grandparents, for dozens of generations back, your family tree would eventually look like a massive Tree of Life, representing the hundreds of hundreds of people that came together to create you. It’s profound, when you think about it!
Growth and Strength: A tree is a universal symbol of strength and growth as they stand tall and strong all over the world. They spread their roots deep into the soil to the ground and stabilize themselves. Trees can weather the toughest of storms, which is why they are such a prominent symbol for strength. The Tree of Life represents growth as a tree starts out as a small, delicate sapling and grows over a long time into a giant, strong tree. The tree grows up and outwards, representing how a person grows stronger and increases their knowledge and experiences throughout their lifetime.
The strongest trees in the world– such as the living Tree of Life in Bahrain– have weathered the most turbulent storms, and in fact, these storms made the trees stronger.
Trees’ roots extend far beneath the soil, not only to search for water, but to anchor the tree firmly into the ground in case of heavy wind. This explains why the Tree of Life represents personal growth: the stronger the storm, the stronger the tree.
Prosperity: The ancient Celts knew well that those great trees that stood in the middle of their fields, their crann bethadh, provided not only a gathering place, but also nourishment and shade, as well as a shelter for birds and other animals.
They recognized that trees allowed their people to prosper, and that without trees, human life could not thrive. Thus, their Tree of Life also symbolizes all of the nourishment and prosperity that trees provide for humans and for the Earth.
Individuality: The Tree of Life symbolizes one’s individuality as trees are all unique with their branches sprouting at different points and in different directions. It symbolizes a person’s personal growth into a unique human being as different experiences shape them into who they are. Over time, trees gain more unique characteristics, as branches break off, new ones grow, and as the weather takes its toll – all throughout which the tree remains strong and sturdy. This is a metaphor for how people grow and change throughout their lifetime and how their unique experiences mold them and enhance their individuality.
No two trees are uniform. Just like humans, each tree has experienced unique growth, difficulties, and environmental factors. Thus, the Tree of Life can also represent your beautiful uniqueness; you, your ancestry, your unique upbringing, as well as your likes, dislikes, experiences, and a whole Universe of other aspects, cannot quite compare to any other human in the world.
Cycles of Life: The Tree of Life is a symbol for rebirth as trees lose their leaves and seem to be dead during winter, but then new buds appear and new, fresh leaves unfurl during the spring. This represents the beginning of a new life and a fresh start. The Tree of Life also symbolizes immortality because even as the tree grows old, it creates seeds that carry its essence so it lives on through new saplings.
Through their reverence of their own great trees, the Celts came to understand a tree’s life cycle through the seasons as an awe-inspiring birth-death-rebirth cycle. This represents a few things: first of all, as humans, we all go through personal growth periods where we feel like everything we identify with is “dying”, only to find a sense of renewed hope and confidence on the other side of this ego death.
Of course, this life cycle also represents the physical human cycle of birth, death, and then, if you choose to believe in it, “rebirth” in the form of reincarnation or a new life in the Spirit World. The Tree of Life can represent this infinite immortality, too– think about how trees produce seeds, which create new trees, even after the original tree has died.
Peace: Trees have always evoked a sense of calm and peace so it is unsurprising that the Tree of Life is also a symbol for peacefulness and relaxation. Trees have a relaxing presence as they stand tall and still while their leaves flutter in the breeze. The Tree of Life serves as a reminder for the unique, calming feeling that one gets from trees.
Grounding: Similar to the Tree of Life’s “growth” symbolism, the significance of groundedness has to do with the tree’s seemingly infinite roots. We know, scientifically, that the deeper a tree’s roots stretch, the more resistant they are to harsh weather.
Similarly, we humans must ground ourselves with reverence for the Earth and for our physical bodies. In doing so, we strengthen our root chakras, cultivating a sense of stability, so that we can live with steadfastness no matter what life takes us through.
Abundance: When autumn arrives, trees don’t fear losing their leaves. They don’t hold onto the leaves in worry that they’ll never grow new ones. Governed by the loving wisdom of the Earth, trees gracefully release their leaves every fall, stripping themselves bare for the winter in complete trust that they will grow fresh leaves anew in the spring.
As such, the Tree of Life can teach us that abundance is all around us, and that we don’t have to hoard our possessions out of a fear of loss.
The History of the Tree of Life Symbol
As a symbol, the Tree of Life goes all the way back to ancient times. The oldest known example was found in the Domuztepe excavations in Turkey, which dates back to about 7000 BC. It is believed that the symbol spread from there in various ways.
A similar depiction of the tree was discovered in the Acadians, which dates back to 3000 BC. The symbols depicted a pine tree, and because pine trees do not die, the symbols are believed to be the first depictions of the Tree of Life.
The Tree of Life also has strong significance to the Ancient Celts. It represented harmony and balance and was an important symbol in the Celtic culture. They believed it had magical powers so when they cleared their lands, they would leave one single tree standing in the middle. They would hold their important gatherings under this tree and it was a very serious crime to cut it down.
Multiple cultures have different mythologies involving the Tree of Life. References to the symbol have been found in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Iran, Ancient Mesopotamia and Urartu, and many more places. The symbol was widely recognized and used in ancient cultures so it is difficult to pinpoint its exact origins and how it spread throughout the world.
The Tree of Life has countless ancient roots, similar to the physical roots of the Tree itself. Archaeologists have located this symbol in Turkey and dated it back to 7000 BC; similarly, it appears in Acadian culture around 3000 BC.
This symbol also shows up in ancient Celtic culture; they called the Tree crann bethadh in their language. The Celts highly revered trees; upon clearing a field, for example, they ritualistically left a single tree standing in the middle. Generations of people would then use this tree’s shelter to conduct meetings and ceremonies. Indeed, the Celtic people believed that trees were wise, mystical living beings, and their high regard for nature led them to use trees as symbols in their culture.
The Tree of Life Symbolism in Different Cultures
Christianity – The Tree of Life is mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. It is the tree that grows within the Garden of Eden and is the source of eternal life. There are several meanings behind the Tree of Life symbol in Christianity. Some believe it to be the symbol of humanity free from corruption and sin, while others believe it to represent love. The tree is believed to have healing properties and its fruit grants immortality.
Buddhism – In Buddhism, the Tree of Life is known as the Bhodi-tree and is believed to be the Tree of Enlightenment. It was under this tree that Buddha reached enlightenment so it is seen as a very sacred symbol.
Celtic Beliefs – The Tree of Life is still a prominent symbol in the Celtic beliefs and is depicted in multiple forms. They believe the roots represent the ‘other world’, the trunk represents the mortal world and connects the roots and branches, and the branches represent the world above, or the heavens.
Islam – The Tree of Life is known as the Tree of Immortality in the Quran. It appeared in Eden and is the tree from which Adam and Eve ate after Allah had forbidden them from doing so.
Judaism – In Judaism, The Tree of Life is what sustains and nourishes life. It stands in the center of a fruitful garden planted by Yahweh.
How to use the Tree of Life to call in good luck and abundance
If you resonate with the Tree of Life’s countless spiritual representations, you’ll likely benefit from wearing or displaying the symbol in one way or another. Seeing the Tree of Life daily can remind you of its beautiful, infinite meaning, which can raise your vibration and attract positivity towards you.