|"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.
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?