Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh)

The image shown here is one of many representations of the Celtic Tree of Life.

The Tree was a central part of early Celtic spirituality. To the Celts, the tree was a source of basic sustenance- a bearer of food, a provider of shelter and fuel for cooking and warmth. Without trees, life would have been extraordinarily difficult.

Wood from sacred trees had magical properties, which was reflected in the Celtic Ogham alphabet, wherein each letter represents a particular sacred tree (modern Ogham divination is based on the uses and importance of these sacred trees to the Celtic people). Some trees provided food, some wood for making hunting weapons; others were sacred to the fairy-folk or to the Gods. In Celtic creation stories, trees were the ancestors of mankind, elder beings of wisdom who provided the alphabet, the calendar, and entrance to the realms of the Gods. Trees were also associated in the Shamanic beliefs of the Druids and other Celtic peoples with the supernatural world.

Trees were a connection to the world of the spirits and the ancestors, living entities, and doorways into other worlds. The most sacred tree of all was the Oak tree, which represented the axis mundi, the center of the world. The Celtic name for oak, daur, is the origin of the word door- the root of the oak was literally the doorway to the Otherworld, the realm of Fairy. The word Druid, the name of the Celtic Priestly class, is compounded from the words for oak and seeing- a Druid was one who was “Oak seeing,” meaning learned in Tree magic and guardian of the doorway. Long after the Druids of old have vanished into the mists of time, the lore of trees continues as a vital part of Celtic myth and folklore. Countless Irish legends revolve around trees. One could fall asleep next to a particular tree and awake in the fairy realm.

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Tree of Life from a Pict stone carving
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In Celtic legends of the Gods, trees guard sacred wells and provide healing, shelter, and wisdom. Trees carried messages to the other realm, and conferred blessings. o this day, trees can be seen in the Irish countryside festooned with ribbons and pleas for favors, love, healing, and prosperity. The interlaced figures known popularly as Celtic knots usually represent sacred trees and plants, and the sacred animals of the forest.

The medieval Green Man or foliate god derives from Celtic tree motifs and represents the animus of nature; the spirit of the forest and of the hunt, and is pictured as a spirit face in the form of gathered leaves and sprouting tendrils.

You can read more about the Tree of Life and its significance in various cultures here.

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Related Symbols:
YggdrasilTriple crescentTriskele

More Celtic Symbols

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Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh) « Searching for the Sacred
September 3, 2009 at 11:55 pm

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

phe January 10, 2011 at 12:11 am

the picture used for the tree of life
is what i had tattooed on my hip

its a very important symbol to me
i wear the green man as a pendent aswell

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