What Does the Celtic Tree of Life Symbolize?

Celtic Knotworks has been around for nearly 20 years now, and for all of that time, one of our most popular designs has been the Celtic Tree of Life. My wife Suzie and I designed this piece together, using matching Celtic knots to represent the tree’s roots and branches. In between the two, nestled in the bend of the trunk, you can see a person’s head – representing the individual experience that unites one’s background with one’s dreams. 

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The Celtic Tree of Life: In History

To understand the Celtic Tree of Life, it helps to understand how absolutely pivotal trees were to the Celtic people. Trees were valued not only for practical reasons -after all, trees provided lumber, firewood, and even food – but also for spiritual reasons. Druids venerated the Oak tree, and congregated in groves to share wisdom together. The Ogham, also known as the Celtic Tree Alphabet, identifies the key emotional characteristics the Celts identified with the trees in their environment. 

The Tree of Life is considered to be an Oak tree in the Celtic traditions. When Irish Celts established a new village or settlement, they’d plant an Oak in the center of town. This was known as the Crann Bethadh – the village’s Tree of Life. This tree would serve as the town’s central hub and meeting place. 

In Norse traditions, the Tree of Life is an Ash tree. This tree is also known as Yggdrasil, and the Midgard serpent is said to sleep among its roots. 

Contemporary Symbolism of the Tree of Life

The Celtic Tree of Life is considered symbolic of strength, wisdom and endurance. These are qualities attributable to the Oak tree as well. Some people consider the Tree of Life to be a trinity-style symbol evoking the never ending cycle of life through birth, death, and reincarnation. In the Christian tradition, the Tree of Life, like the Trinity knot or Triskele, can evoke the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In folklore and old traditions, the Tree of Life represents a gateway to the land of Fairy. 

Perhaps the most popular modern interpretation of the Celtic Tree of Life is that it’s a reminder to reach for your dreams while staying grounded. This is why the Celtic Tree of Life is often chosen as a gift for graduates, new entrepreneurs, and anyone embarking on a life-changing adventure.