The ancient Celtic Tree of Life symbol is beautiful and meaningful. The wide trunk of this sacred tree is crowned by branches reaching out and downward. Its roots mirror the branches, giving the motif balance and harmony. They grow and stretch out to reach toward the ground to meet and form a circle.
Both the branches and the roots are intricate; sometimes they intertwine into traditional Celtic knot designs. This is a Celtic symbol of connection. The roots and branches are connected through the tree’s trunk, but they also meet at the ground.
Wearing a tree of life symbol can mean many different things. It is linked to ancient Celtic culture, of course, but also to nature and the ties between generations. It is a symbol that can be represented in different ways.
What Is the Meaning of the Celtic Tree of Life?
Many Celtic symbols focus on the number three. The famous passage tomb at Newgrange, for example, has a stone carved with a triple spiral at the entrance. Another example of a symbol that focuses on the number three is the Trinity Knot which has three points representing the holy trinity and everlasting love.
Although having a more subtle resemblance, The Celtic Tree of Life, or “Crann Bethadh” in Irish, is no different. On this Celtic symbol, the trinity aspects focus on the main parts of the tree: Roots, Trunk, and Branches.
This is a representation of our journey through the three phases of life. The branches and leaves symbolize youth, the strong trunk symbolizes adulthood and finally, the roots represent our old age.
For some these three parts can also symbolize three generations of a family:
- The roots symbolize the grandparents or ancestors; the origin of a family
- The trunk represents the parents, linking the roots and the leaves
- The leaves signify the children, fresh and growing
Strength, wisdom, and other qualities flow from the roots to the trunk, to the branches, and finally to the leaves, just like wisdom and tradition passed on through generations.
As time passes from spring to winter, the leaves change. They go from buds to green to bright colors. Eventually, they fall off and decompose, giving nutrients to the roots.
This moment is when we can really see how all the three elements are connected. The old nurtures the new as does the new nurtures the old, forming an everlasting connection.
Interesting fact: When a tree is cut, we can count the rings to see how old it was. Each year of growth makes another ring.
The Importance of Trees in Celtic Culture
Our Celtic ancestors were very focused on two forces of nature: the sun and the trees. They believed that both influenced their quality of life and spirituality.
Celts believed that trees were not just ordinary plants. They saw them as living beings, not just a source of food, fuel, and building materials. Trees were also seen as a source of strength, wisdom, balance, and harmony.
Trees were also a common meeting place for the druids. They believed each tree species had its own qualities and its own value.
Unlike now, trees were plentiful in Ireland. The island was once mostly forest. Oak trees were plentiful and this points to the everlasting connection between trees and the Celts.
Interesting Fact: Variations of the Irish word for oak-“daire”, appear in the names of many places such as Kildare and Derry.
Before its colonization, Ireland was ruled by Brehon law. This law regulated penalties for different crimes. Cutting down certain trees, for example, was a criminal act, and the punishment depended on the species of tree cut. Under Brehon law, trees and shrubs were grouped into four categories:
- Nobles of the wood
- Commoners of the wood
- Lower divisions of the wood
Ash, Hazel, Holly, and Oak trees were in the noble group.
Interesting Fact: Celtic tribes honoured the “Tree of Life” by leaving one big tree in the middle of their field to protect their land.
Celtic Tree of Life FAQs
Many people have questions about Celtic symbols. Here are some answers to the most frequent questions we receive about this sacred tree design!
What kind of tree is the Tree of Life?
“Crann Bethadh” is Irish for Tree of Life. It’s not an actual type of tree. While some experts think it is an oak tree, others believe it is an ash tree. It seems most likely that the ancient Tree of Life design represents aspects of all trees, not just one kind.
Were the Celts the only culture that had a Tree of Life?
Different cultures all around the world have used tree symbols. Some saw their tree of life as a connection between the upper and lower worlds. But the Celtic Tree of Life looks rather different from other Tree of Life symbols.
What’s different about the Celtic Tree of Life?
The ancient Celtics loved rounded shapes such as spirals and swirls, and the circle made by the branches reaching down and roots growing upwards is distinctly Celtic.
Why do people wear the Celtic Tree of Life symbol?
There are various reasons a person chooses to wear the “Tree of Life” symbol. It can mean that the wearer loves Celtic culture, Ireland, or nature in general.
Mostly, it represents the connections between different generations, how each generation grows from the previous one. It’s a beautiful tribute to your roots.
One of the Oldest Celtic Symbols
The meaning of a Celtic Tree of Life isn’t changed by the details. If you are shopping for Tree of Life jewelry, it has the same meaning whether it is a minimalist design or one adorned with delightful crystals. The branches might be simple lines or intricate Celtic knots. One isn’t better or more authentic than another.
It’s amazing to think how long this ancient Celtic design has endured. While it is linked to the passage of time, surely the people who designed it centuries ago never imagined how many future generations would love the Tree of Life and find new ways to wear it.
Slán go fóill