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Celtic Tree of Life Symbol: History And Meaning

Known as Crann Bethadh in the ancient language, the Tree of Life appears in many different countries, religions, and cultures; including the Celtic culture. 

One of the most popular Celtic symbols, the Celtic Tree of Life plays a big part on the ancient Celtic traditions. Read on to know more about this Irish symbol. 

Celtic Tree of Life Symbol: History And Meaning

celtic tree of life symbol


In the early times, the Druids of Ireland were known to hold their important meetings under trees which were highly regarded for their ability to provide food, wood, and shelter.

The ancient Celts also believed that trees were the ancestors of man and the door to the spiritual world. Oak is the most highly regarded tree of all, said to be the most sacred of all the tree species.

Frequently depicted with the branches reaching up and the roots pointing down, the Tree of Life is said to represent the connection between heaven and earth.

These days, this symbol is seen in many forms and used for jewelry and tattoos.

Celtic Tree of Life History

Tree of Life Celtic Symbol

The concept of ‘tree of life’ is not exclusive among the Celts,  because it is also present in other cultures and belief systems all over the world.

The ancient Celtic and Northumbrian crosses have trees in their designs. This was said to be based on their belief that the tree of life symbolizes the forces of nature that combine to create harmony. 

Trees are regarded as an important part of Celtic culture, and they even believe that humans originate from trees. The Tree of Life symbol is inspired by tall trees, specifically oak, that when combined can form a forest with their expansive branches.

The importance of trees in Celtic culture is evident in the many different rituals linked with this intricate symbol.  

The tree of life or crann bethadh, according to ancient Celts, have special powers. It was said that trees of life have the power to bless people with prosperity.


In early times, the tribal people of Ireland would leave a tree in the center whenever they cleared a piece of land for settlement. This area with the tree is called the crann bethadh, and this is where they used to hold gatherings.

The concept of the Tree of Life stemmed from the fact that trees provided food, shelter, and warmth for the people. These trees also gave nourishment to other life forms such as animals, birds, insects, and wild plants.

For the Celts, the tree was a major life force that took care of the earth. It was also widely believed that trees are our ancestors. This is why Celts only lived in places where there are oak trees. 

Today, the Tree of Life symbol is often seen in tapestries, blankets, wall decor, ornate woodwork, and jewelry. 

There are also variations of the Tree of Life design, where the tree us on a pot. The pot is said to represent Mother Earth,  who is the source that nourishes all life forms. 

What does the Celtic tree of life symbolize?

celtic tree of life

There are various interpretations and meanings for this intricate Celtic symbol.

One of the most popular meanings is that the Tree of Life is said to represent balance and harmony in nature. The expansive branches and roots in the design are said to pertain to the many forces that come together to achieve balance and harmony.

For the Celts, the Tree of Life is also linked to qualities such as longevity, strength, and wisdom. These qualities are also the reasons why trees are important to Celts.

The Tree of Life also symbolizes rebirth, as seen in how the trees they change appearances with each season. They even performed rituals to mark each change that the trees went through. 

Another interesting representation linked with the Tree of Life is that it is said to connect the upper and lower worlds. The roots are said to extend to the underworld while the branches reach out to the heavens.

The trunk, meanwhile, represents the earth’s plane. It also said that it is through the trees of life that the gods communicate with humans.

In the same way, the Celts believe that these trees are also capable of sending messages to the underworld. 

Significance to the Irish Culture

The Tree of Life, as a symbol of balance and harmony in nature, continues to be among the key representations of the Celtic way of life and culture.

It is an enduring symbol that has a universal meaning, adopted by various cultures. 

The Tree of Life, as a well known Celtic symbol, has a  unique yet easily recognizable design that is often featured in various decorative pieces such as tapestries, vases, and wall decor. It is also seen in blankets, duvets, and pillowcases.

A beautiful symbol with many different meanings, the Tree of Life makes for an interesting statement design in shirts, jewelry, and even as a tattoo.



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