Origin and History of the Celtic Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is a term used in mythology to refer to life on earth. Christians refer to the bible passages in the old testament book of Genesis which refer to the tree of knowledge found in the garden of Eden. The Tree of life is symbolic to people from a variety of different backgrounds, religious, scientific, philosophical and is even mentioned in mythology. The idea of a central point that connects all forms of life, connects heaven and earth is often represented by the tree of life.
Tree of Life Celtic Symbol - Image
The image below depicts the Tree of Life as being one big circle that connects all forms of life and depicts the tree as the gateway to the underworld. The tree of life has different meanings for everyone depending on their individual beliefs.
Tree of Life Image - Celtic Symbols
Tree of Life Celtic Symbol - Poem
The following poem by the famous Irish writer and poet William Butler Yeats published in 1912, describes his perception of a holy tree or tree of life.
The Two Trees
by William Butler Yeats
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee.
There, through bewildered branches, go
Winged Loves borne on in gentle strife,
Tossing and tossing to and fro
The flaming circle of our life.
When looking on their shaken hair,
And dreaming how they dance and dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.
Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows,
With broken boughs, and blackened leaves,
And roots half hidden under snows
Driven by a storm that ever grieves.
For all things turn to barrenness
In the dim glass the demons hold,
The glass of outer weariness,
Made when God slept in times of old.
There, through the broken branches, go
The ravens of unresting thought;
Peering and flying to and fro
To see men's souls bartered and bought.
When they are heard upon the wind,
And when they shake their wings; alas!
Thy tender eyes grow all unkind:
Gaze no more in the bitter glass.
Tree of Life Celtic Symbol - Bible References
The Tree of Life is symbolic to Christians, it stood next to the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden; indeed the following bible verses from the book of Genesis refer to the tree of life:
"And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
(Genesis 2:9) King James Bible
"And the Lord God brought forth of the ground all manner of trees, fair to behold, and pleasant to eat of: the tree of life also in the midst of paradise: and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
(Genesis 2:9) Douay-Rheims Bible (Catholic)
“And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.... So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
Tree of Life Image - Celtic Symbols
Facts about the Tree of Life Celtic Symbol
The term tree of life is sometimes used as a synonym for a holy or sacred tree
In the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life grew next to the Tree of Knowledge
The Tree of life is symbolic to people in different ways depending on their own personal beliefs
In some religions, the tree of Life symbolises immortality and fertility
W.B. Yeates considered the Hazel tree to the the Irish form of the tree of life
The names of the Irish hero 'Mac Cuill' translates to son of Hazel (Tree)