Monday, April 12, 2010

Trees and Their Meanings

Tree. Photocollage by Myriam B. Mahiques

Mature trees, the longest lived and largest plant form, carry a beauty and life force all their own. They connect the three worlds: the heavens, the here-and-now, and the underworld. It is extremely important to protect old trees and develop our personal relationships with them. To touch or embrace a tree is to remember all the life force just under the bark.
When we express something positive and then say “knock on wood” and knock on a wooden table, we are recalling an ancient tradition. Back when everyone recognized tree spirits, it would be customary to knock on a tree to awaken the spirits to ask them to reinforce a positive experience or intention.
The ancient Celts used trees growing in rings as “cathedrals,” as sites for rituals.
There are many different sacred and symbolic trees. They have many different meanings and associations in different cultures. Here are a few:
Apple: Eden (Tree of knowledge)
Cypress: long life
Date and Fig trees: fertility
Evergreens: everlasting life; used at winter solstice and Christmas
Flowering cherry and plum: in Japanese tradition, temporality, fleeting beauty
Fruit trees: fruition; changing of the seasons; Eden
Hazel: nuts of knowledge (Fionn gained the Wisdom of the Ages and became the great hero of Ireland after he ingested salmon that had eaten hazelnuts)
Laurel: mythological evergreen used as crown for gods and Olympians
Maple: renewal
Oak: long life, solidity, trust
Olive (branch): peace
Palm tree: Paradise (when near an oasis)
Pine: strength; always alive
Pomegranate: fertility and sustenance; just three seeds kept Persephone alive during her descent to Hades
Trumpet flower: calling up to heaven

Murray, Elizabeth. Cultivating Sacred Space. San Francisco, 1997

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