Jun 25, 2010

The Celtic Tree

"Original design Celtic Tree of Life" by Jen Delyth ©1990 - www.celticartstudio.com

From Celtic Wisdom:
(on St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise)
"Once, when he visited St. Enda on Aran, he had a vision of a great tree growing in the middle of Ireland with branches spreading to all four corners of the land. Enda believed that this meant that Ciaran would be that tree of great influence, and he was, in a matter of speaking, by founding Clonmacnoise."

Trees were very important in ancient Ireland, so it's no wonder this symbolic vision involved a tree. The pre Christian druids never built temples, but they did have sacred spaces where they worshipped--tree groves, usually oak or yew. Ancient Christian monasteries were usually surrounded by a sacred grove of yews, and this may have been left over from pagan times. According to one source, some of the yews still growing in Ireland and Britain might actually predate the coming of Christianity.
Below is a picture of one such tree.

Brehon Law divided the trees into four classes (spelling out the penalties for felling each type unlawfully.)
  • Chieftans: oak, hazel, holly, yew, ash, pine, and apple.
  • Peasant trees: alder, willow, hawthorn, rowan, birch, and elm.
  • Shrub trees: blackthorn, elder, juniper, and reed, which was included because of its usefulness.
  • Brambles: dog-rose, bramble, fern, and spindle.
They aren't all trees, but they were classed as such. Sometimes tribes had a certain tree associated with them, and homes were erected around one of these trees. What is it about trees? I live surrounded by mature trees and even though fall drowns me in leaves, I wouldn't have it any other way. I feel relaxed among the trees. Mine include oak, maple, shag bark hickory, beech, pine, and probably some others I haven't identified.

The Celtic symbolism of the Tree of Life (pictured at the top) signifies the connection between the earth and the sky. It reminds us that we are connected both to heaven and earth. (I'm sure there are other symbolisms as is the case with all Celtic symbols, which are open to interpretation.) Like the legend of St. Enda's tree, trees in general have great influence over me. What about you?
My trees in the spring.


  1. Very good Cindy! And the joing of upper and lower portions of the tree create a whole, the Circle of Life in the Celtic Wheel. Excellent work you are displaying on your page!!

  2. Lovely post, Cindy. I love trees as well and can relate to your sentiment about feeling relaxed among trees; they're very inspirational. I loved Tolkien's creativity with regard to trees having memory...

    The Tree of Life is my favorite symbol next to the cross of Christ -- thanks again for this post which brought to mind so many pleasant thoughts.

  3. Thanks, Marty and Amy. I'll probably revisit the topic sometime.

  4. Hi, glad you liked my original design "Celtic Tree of Life".. It is indeed a powerful philosophy...

    This design is actually not from antiquity, it is my own articulation of the Celtic Tree of Life symbolism... of which there was no visual representation before...

    It needs to be credited "Original design Celtic Tree of Life" by Jen Delyth ©1990 - www.celticartstudio.com
    thanks so much, lovely site - jen delyth

  5. I was going to mention Tolkien's love of trees and his utilization of them in his works, but Amy already did that--although I will add that the walking, sentient trees known as Ents are among his most noble characters.

    I've heard that, when attempting to give a Christian witness to Jewish people, it is better to say that Jesus was placed "on a tree," rather than on a cross. There is Scriptural warrant for that, given that Acts 5:30 says that "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree," and Galatians 3:13 (alluding to Deuteronomy 21:23) says that "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."

  6. So that symbol kinda means "roots of family and the growth of"