The History & Meaning Of The Tree Of Life

The History & Meaning Of The Tree Of Life

Is there an actual tree of life? The origin and meaning of the tree of life.

The tree of life is a popular design for jewelry, clothing, home decor, and more. While the tree of life symbol is undeniably beautiful, you might be wondering exactly what it means. Was there a real tree of life? Where did the tree of life come from originally?

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The tree of life is primarily a symbol, but there is a real tree in Bahrain that is often called the “tree of life” for other reasons. Unexpectedly, the tree of life symbol is found in a variety of cultures and religious/philosophical traditions. If you’re ready to unravel these fascinating mysteries surrounding the tree of life, read on to discover the history and meaning of the tree of life.

Is there a real tree of life?

First, the tree of life frequently seen in jewelry and art is not believed to be based on a real tree. However, an impressive tree in the middle eastern country of Bahrain has been nicknamed the “tree of life.”

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In the middle of the desert of South Bahrain, a single tree stands proud. This solitary mesquite tree has towered over the desert for over 400 years. The image of the ancient tree standing alone in the desert definitely creates a sense of mysticism and spirituality. Additionally, the tree is the only plant life for miles around, and there is no visible water source nearby. It’s no wonder it’s been given the title of the “tree of life”!

Local legends believe that the tree was planted in the 16th century to acknowledge where the Garden of Eden existed in Biblical times. The story sounds far-fetched when looking at the dry desert of today, but in ancient times the area was actually a tropical oasis.

History of the Tree of Life

Because the tree of life symbol is both ancient and present throughout the world, the history of the tree of life is full of mystery and debate. However, the oldest discovered image of the tree of life is believed to be from 7000 BC and was found in Turkey. References to the tree of life symbol are also present in ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Iran, Chinese mythology, Native America, all major world religions, and more areas.

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The Celtic tree of life is the most well-known version, and its the version used in most tree of life products today. The Ancient Celts were a group of societies that lived in Europe from about 1000 BC to the post-Roman era. The Celtic tree of life was most likely inspired by the Yggdrasil tree from Norse mythology.

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In Celtic culture, the tree of life’s roots connected it to the underworld, while the branches reached into heaven. The trunk then represented the physical world. Celts also believed that their ancestors were reincarnated into trees after death. For these reasons, the Celtric tree of life symbol represents connection, ancestry, and rebirth.

The Tree of Life Meaning

Even if you’ve never heard the name “tree of life” before, you’ve probably seen the famous symbol before. The tree of life holds different meanings across cultures, religions and centuries, which helps to explain the symbol’s enduring popularity.The tree of life can also be referred to as the tree of knowledge or the world tree, depending on the cultural context.

Although the tree of life symbol can represent a variety of ideas, common themes connect this symbol through time and tradition. Most frequently, almost all versions of the tree of life symbolize a connection between the physical and spiritual worlds. Unsurprisingly, the tree of life is always seen as a celebration of life. But the significance of the tree of life symbol doesn’t stop there. Several additional meanings are commonly assigned to the tree of life, including:

  • Immortality and rebirth. Ancient peoples observed how trees appear to die in the winter (dormancy) and experience rebirth in the spring. Watching the life cycle of trees lead ancient cultures to associate the tree of life with immortality and rebirth.
  • Ancestry and family. Much like today, the image of the tree is associated with families and ancestors. Just like modern “family trees”, the tree of life meaning included the ongoing growth of a family line.
  • Interconnectedness. The intertwined branches and roots of the tree of life associate it with the idea of interconnectedness. Many cultures saw the tree of life symbol to represent the interrelatedness of everything in the universe.
  • Growth and strength. All over the world and throughout history, trees stood for strength and growth. The tree of life is the ultimate symbol of these ideas. Trees can stay standing through storms and floods, indicating their strength. All mighty trees once grew from a seed to a towering giant, representing impressive upward growth.
  • Individuality. No two trees are the same; the patterns of their branches, bark, and roots are unique. For this reason the tree of life is also viewed as a symbol of human individuality. Just as the storms and weather shape how a tree grows, our life events and circumstances shape our character.

Obviously, the significance of the tree of life cannot be overstated. Life, family, individuality, growth – these ideas represented in the tree of life address the core of human existence.

The Tree of Life Today

For such a simple image, the tree of life carries a great deal of significance to many cultures. Perhaps that’s why so many people around the world still enjoy owning items with the tree of life depicted on them.

Tree of life necklaces are especially popular. As shown in the image below, the celtic representation of the tree of life is most commonly seen in decorative art today. Tree of life jewelry is appreciated for its beauty and symbolic meaning.

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Tree of Life Necklace - Maiden, Mother, Crone

Just as the tree represents individuality (because no two trees grow the same), each piece of tree of life jewelry is entirely unique. Whether you wear your tree of life jewelry for its meaning, to connect to your ancestry, or simply for its beauty, you are sure to find the perfect piece for you.