The Tree of Life is a common symbol that’s used in many different items of jewelry across a wide range of cultures. From rings to pendants to lucky charms, you can see the Tree of Life symbol everywhere, but have you ever wondered what it actually means?
We delve into the myths, legends, and cultures associated with the spiritual Tree of Life, uncovering various different meanings and connections that the symbol has. In reality, the Tree of Life meaning is subjective. Read on to develop your own interpretation of what the Tree of Life symbolizes.
What is the Tree of Life?
The Tree of Life is an ancient symbol, used for millennia across countless cultures. In its most simple form, it’s a figure of a tree surrounded by a circle. The branches and roots sprout out in opposing directions, usually in a mirror-like fashion. This symmetry resembles balance: it mimics the Tao yin and yang. The Tree of Life circle holds everything in place and ensures order prevents chaos.
The usual associations with such a symbol are those of knowledge, wisdom, and self-awareness. Trees are long-lived sentient beings that are eternally calm - just touching an old tree can provide insights into the self. They insert their wisdom upon people, providing strength to those that need it. In ancient cultures, trees were revered and thus stems the endless symbolism.
Where Does it Come From?
There is no definite founding father of the Tree of Life symbol. There are records of it from Norse mythology to Egyptian mythology; from the Middle East to Mesoamerica; from Buddhism to Christianity. It’s a universal and widely cherished symbol that represents different things to different cultures. Here are just some of them:
Ancient Egypt: In Ancient Egypt, the Tree of Life symbolizes abundance. The branches represent new opportunities for amassing wealth and opulence. It also represents death, the tree being the central core in the universe, the roots stretch down to the underworld, and the branches reach into the heavens.
Celtic Culture: Celtic druids believed something similar. It was commonly thought that the tree symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth. Trees were deeply respected and viewed as doorways to other worlds, the roots, and branches representing paths.
Norse Mythology: The Vikings believed in an immense mythical tree, named Yggdrasil. Again, the branches of this tree stretch into the heavens and the roots also reach into other realms. The tree is also said to be home to mythological creatures such as a dragon and a giant eagle. The trunk rises from the Norse spiritual cosmos and represents the center of the universe.
Maya Culture: Similar to the Norse myths, the Maya believed in a world tree that connected the earth with heaven and the underworld. On the Maya tree, there is a cross which represents the starting point of all creation, the source of the ever-expanding universe.
Taoism: Taoists of China believe the Tree of Life symbolizes immortality. In Taoist myth, there is a supernatural peach tree that bears fruit once every 3,000 years. Anybody who eats this peach gains immortality. The tree has a dragon at the base and a phoenix on the top.
Buddhism: In Buddhism, the Tree of Life represents wisdom and enlightenment. Buddha received enlightenment underneath the Bodhi tree and it has since become a spiritual symbol associated with immense knowledge. It also represents life and how best to live it.
Islam: The Tree of Life motif appears frequently throughout the Quran. There are several important trees referred to, but the most common story is that of the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Immortality was the only tree in the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve forbade Allah and succumbed to temptation.
Biblical: Almost identical to Islam, the story of Adam and Eve belongs to many religions and cultures. In the Biblical story, there were many trees in the Garden of Eden, in which the Tree of Knowledge was just one.
Legends of Bahrain: There is a real tree, known as the Tree of Bahrain, that is said to mark the location of the Garden of Eden. The tree is some 429 years old and nobody knows where it gets its water from. Known as a miracle tree in the local area, it’s situated in the middle of the desert with no feasible access to water and nutrients.
African Culture: The Baobab tree is often referred to as the Tree of Life. This is because it’s found in unrelenting environments but still manages to sprout fruit and hold water. It’s seen as a life-saver and often revered among African cultures.
So What Does a Tree Symbolize?
While it’s widely open to interpretation, there are several common themes for what the Tree of Life symbolizes.
One of the most common, especially in more recent times, is family, fertility, and heritage. You often hear of family trees, used trace back your family history. This is a perfect reminder of where you’re from genetically. It allows you to give credence to your ancestors and celebrate their memory through a token.
Another increasingly popular representation associated with the Tree of Life is that of growing respect for mother nature. People are finally starting to realize how much damage we are doing to the planet, how many trees we are destroying. This symbol can state your opinion on the matter and be a constant reminder to be more loving and caring to the natural world.
The Tree of Life is also known to represent peace, tranquility, and inner strength. This is similar to the Buddhist belief, as meditating in such a serene environment inevitably lead Buddha to his enlightenment. Visualize a thick trunked tree, quiet and calm, watching the world go by. It inspires inner strength and courage and this symbol can be a memento for this.
There are countless connotations for the Tree of Life, including the aforementioned spiritual and religious ones. The Tree of Life circle contains nature, but it does not contain what nature represents.
The Tree of Life Today
In the modern-day, the Tree of Life meaning is vaguer. This is a good thing, however. You can assign your own interpretation to the symbol and create your own meaning for it, using its historical and mythological symbolism as a general guide. There is no right or wrong answer.
In today’s day and age, there is a plethora of symbolism regarding the Tree of Life all around the world. One of the reasons why it’s so popular, and seemingly will continue to be so, is because there are many connotations and you can choose which you feel most comfortable with. Knowledge and wisdom, life and death, future and past - it’s your choice. If you want to wear it purely because you think it looks nice, go ahead! It’s a personal and subjective symbol and you can use it how you wish.
It’s worth noting, however, in regards to jewelry, if you wish to utilize the symbolism as a reminder, then wear it on something like a ring that is constantly visible. A necklace or bracelet will also be good for this, but earrings, for example, won’t be visible and therefore will fail as a memento. Regardless of where you wear it, the Tree of Life symbol is beautiful and can mix with any attire effortlessly.
What does the Tree of Life mean to you?