The Tree of Life
Tree of Life jewellery has gained in popularity over the past few decades. But did you know what the Tree of Life symbol means?
Since the beginning of mankind, symbols have been important in our need to understand life. Humans have always asked questions as to our existence, why we are here, how to deal with life and how to cope with the grief of losing a loved one. Knowledge and guidance was passed down in stories and myths and meanings and wisdom were woven into signs and shapes which symbolised a power or attribute – something which gave hope, strength and fortitude.
The symbolism of trees has been woven into myths, stitched into tapestries and told in stories in many different cultures.
We all know that the way we remember and learn about our family ancestry is called a “Family Tree”. But tree symbols have formed a powerful way of helping us understand and deal with the human journey.
Trees have not only been used to assist us in finding the meaning of life, but are woven into our traditions. We still love the ritual of decorating the evergreen Spruce to celebrate Christmas, even for the non-religious these rituals are something we love to take part in. Some cultures decorate twigs at Easter.
People have woven the meaning of the tree of life symbol into many cultures, myths and stories.
In this blog, we look at what the Tree of Life symbol is and why it is used. We ask what it looks like, its origins, and some of its most recognised meanings.
The roots of the tree take its nourishment from an abundant earth and as an anchor for stability.
The branches and leaves reach towards the heavens and the light of the sun. They provide fruit, nuts or seeds and offer shade and shelter underneath.
The trunk in the middle connects the two and builds its strength by weathering the storms.
A tree grows from a tiny seed to a mighty tree. All seeds look alike but grow into a tree with its own shape and size, even within the same species.
Throughout the year, trees go through seasons of change unless they are evergreen. With a time of life flourishing to a season of bearing fruit or flowers. Then a season of withering and withdrawal to a season where it appears to have perished and died.
Yet the tree is alive, holding on and waiting. Then, when it is time and safe to do so, it begins to sprout tiny buds. And so, the seasons roll on, year after year.
It is a beautiful metaphor for life and what we all must live through on our own journey through life. A time of growth, a time of letting go and allowing things to fall away.
The ancients knew this. They passed wisdom on by way of myths in the stories they told. They wove symbols into tapestries and carved and painted them on walls and bowls.
These symbols were also incorporated into body adornment including Tree of Life necklaces and other jewellery.
Our Family Tree reminds us of all the people we are connected to, through our ancestry and genes. These people, with who we may share qualities and traits, have lived before us. It is fascinating to know what kind of life they experienced. They are somehow brought closer to us when we can see the connection in our family tree, yet they remain still so elusive. The tree symbol can embody all this meaning and connection.
The Tree Of Life
The Tree of Life is a symbol which has spanned many cultures, philosophies and religions. Although it has many meanings, most overlap to form common themes.
So it is no real surprise that a sacred tree symbol represents so much, including:
- A Family Tree
- Strength and stability
- A striving upward for better
- Our connection to the earth and the heavens above
- Our beliefs about the Underworld and Heaven
- Birth and death and rebirth – in other words, Eternal Life
- Family Roots and our connection to our ancestors before us
- Plenty and sustenance
What The Tree Of Life Looks Like
The Tree of Life symbol depicts a tree with roots spreading out beneath a strong trunk. Branches and leaves reach out to the heavens above.
The tree is often placed in a circle. A circle holds great meaning in itself and are often used to imply a sacredness.
The Origins Of The Tree Of Life
The people of Ancient Egypt believed that the Tree of Life grew from a sacred mound reaching upward to the heavens with the roots stretched down into the Netherworld.
The Tree of Life was mentioned in the bible, numerous times.
It was planted by God in the Garden of Eden, next to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Tree of Life would bear fruit which would give Adam and Eve immortality with no old age or sickness.
But, because they ate from the tree of knowledge, despite been instructed not to do so, they were banned from the Garden of Eden. They would, consequently, never be able to eat from the tree of life.
“The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” (Genesis, 3:22)
But there was hope! The biblical story goes that, despite the sin committed, God decreed that those who listen to His word and live according to his rules, will be able to enjoy the gifts given by the Tree of Life.
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation, 2:7)
So, the symbol has lived on and is often incorporated into a Tree of Life necklace or with a cross pendant for those who yearn to live by Gods commandments.
The Celtic Tree of Life, or Crann Bethadh as it is called, was a prominent Pagan symbol.
They believed that trees were ancestors and a doorway to the “otherworld”. Indeed the word ‘Druid’ comes from the Celtic word ‘duir’ meaning door.
The roots of a tree were said to be in the Other World; the trunk in the mortal world and the branches represented the heavenly world.
The Celts would never base a settlement unless there was at least one large tree around. If they ever cleared land they would always leave one tree standing and it was under this Celtic Tree of Life that they would hold their meetings.
According to the Celts, it would be a serious crime to cut down this tree and it was considered a great victory in a battle to destroy the enemy’s tree. Such was the meaning the tree represented.
The Buddha reached enlightenment whilst he sat under the Bhodi-Tree, otherwise known as the Tree of Enlightenment or Tree of Life. Consequently, the tree is also a sacred symbol in Buddhism.
In the Quran the Tree of Life represents immortality.
In Judaism the tree of Life was planted by Yahweh in the centre of a fruitful garden and it represents nourishment of life.
The African Baobab tree stores water and produces fruit and so is a life-saver in times of need.
Many Tree of Life images appears in ancient Turkish tapestries, carvings and drawings.
Tree of Life Jewellery Collections
In modern times the Tree of Life symbol has been incorporated into tattoos, tapestries and fabrics and other Tree of Life jewellery pieces.
Tree of Life jewellery can be kept plain, either in silver or gold, or set with stones.
A popular Tree of Life necklace has gemstones, even birthstones, threaded on the branches which looks very effective – both for colour and to make a birthday gift even more memorable.
The design of the symbol lends itself to all kinds of jewellery including necklaces and pendants, anklets and Tree of Life bracelets. Tree of life earrings are readily available in both stud and drop designs.
Because the Tree of Life symbol was so strongly connected to the Celtic traditions, the territories associated with Celts have incorporated the Tree of Life motif in many of their pieces – the Irish, the Scots and the Welsh have all been fond of using this symbol. Welsh Gold companies like Clogau Gold have been strongly associated with the Tree of Life design, like their Tree of Life necklace below.
Welsh Gold Tree of Life Necklace
Not Forgetting the Men In Our Life
These fabulous Tree of Life cufflinks created by British Silversmiths, Hersey and Son. With an oxidised background which accentuates the raised Tree of Life motif, makes a most thoughtful gift.
These cufflinks make a very touching mans gift, signifying the strength and devotion displayed by the family man.