The Meaning of Tree of Life: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of tree of life? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word tree of life, including its definition, usage, word origin, and more!

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What does the tree of life mean?

According to Uniguide, the tree of life is a symbol that appears in mythology and the folklore of cultures around the world. This is also sometimes referred to as the world tree. While the meanings of this tree differ from culture to culture, they all share the idea of a mystical tree that connects the physical and spiritual world like the heavens and the underworld or lower world. This tree is supposed to be foundational to supporting all life. 

The tree of life first appears as a symbol in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. This is known as the tree of knowledge of good and evil and it was planted in the Garden of Eden. This tree helps Adam obtain the knowledge for salvation and tempts Eve. 

In Celtic cultures, the tree of life is inspired by the Yggdrasil Tree. The Celtic tree of life symbol is very important to the Celtics. They believe that everything is interconnected – the natural world, and the spirits that inhabit everything, trees to rivers, lakes, and animals. These trees are considered sacred and they all have their own mystical purpose. These trees undergo the seasonal cycles, and shed their leaves, spend time being barren as just a trunk, and then regrow their leaves again, flowering and bearing fruit. These trees symbolized the cycle of life and rebirth. The Celtic Druids also made wants and staffs made from an ash tree. The tree of life is also known as crann bethadh, or the tree of immortality. Celtic tribes thought that this tree possessed special powers and was a representation of how forces of nature combined to create balance.

In Buddhism, the Tree of Knowledge is known as the bodhi tree or ficus tree. It is said that Buddha achieved Nirvana, or spiritual enlightenment, while sitting under a Bodhi tree. In Hinduism and the Baháʼí Faith, this is known as the world tree which connects its roots to the heavens by growing upside down. Buddhists think of this as the tree of harmony. This tree is thought to bring blessings to the people. There is even a carving of a tree of life in Chinese mythology that depicts a phoenix and a dragon that represent immortality, and the leaves of the tree represent coins and people.. This tree also appears in the Quran in Islam, as a tree which Allah forbids to Adam and Eve.

 In Ancient Egypt, the Egyptians thought that the Tree of Life was the place where life and death were enclosed. In Egyptian mythology, Isis and Osiris who are known as the first couple as well as other deities emerged from this tree and otherworld. Additionally, east was supposed to be the direction of life whereas West was the direction of death and the underworld. In a Taoist story, the tree of life appears in legend in a story about a tree that produces a peach of immortality every three thousand years, and that anyone who eats the fruit receives immortality. In ancient Mesopotamia, the The Assyrian tree of life is represented by a series of nodes and criss-crossing lines. In Jewish mysticism, the tree of life is known as the Kabbalah Tree of Life and is found in the Book of Proverbs. 

What are other Bible symbols?

There are many different symbols that are used throughout the Bible. Check out this list of symbols from Bible Gateway and see how many you know!

  •  Tearing garments: a symbol of anger and sorrow
  •  A throne: a symbol of God’s glory 
  •  A sceptre: a symbol of God’s rule 
  •  Spitting: a symbol of contempt 
  •  The capstone: a symbol of pre-eminence 
  •  Breaking a jar: a symbol of the destruction of Jerusalem 
  •  The rainbow: a symbol of God’s covenant 
  •  The cursing of a fig-tree: a symbol of judgment 
  •  Trumpets: a symbol of God speaking 
  •  Locusts: a symbol of God’s judgment 
  •  A rock: a symbol of stability 
  •  The wind: a symbol of the Holy Spirit 
  •  Being thirsty: a symbol of spiritual need 
  •  Thunder, lightning, cloud and smoke: symbols of God’s majesty 
  •  The human body: a symbol of interdependence 
  •  Harvesting: a symbol of judgment day 
  •  Covering the head: a symbol of submission 
  •  God’s arm or hand: a symbol of his power 
  •  God’s ear: a symbol of God listening
  •  God’s eyes: a symbol of his awareness
  •  Lifting of hands: a symbol of prayer
  •  God’s face: a symbol of his presence 
  •  Sitting in sackcloth and ashes: a symbol of repentance 
  •  A stairway: a symbol of the way to God 
  •  Baptism: a symbol of salvation in Jesus Christ 
  •  White hair: a symbol of wisdom 
  •  Stars and lampstands: symbols of God’s ministers 
  •  The serpent: a symbol of Satan’s subtlety 
  •  Arrows: symbols of God’s judgments 
  •  Washing hands: a symbol of innocence 
  •  The Lord’s Supper: a symbol of union with Christ 
  •  Shaking off dust: a symbol of rejection 
  •  The pillar of cloud and fire: a symbol of guidance 
  •  Fire: a symbol of the Holy Spirit
  •  Dry bones: a symbol of spiritual death 
  •  Grass: a symbol of human frailty 
  •  A lamb: a symbol of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice 
  •  Anointing: a symbol of empowering by God’s Spirit 
  •  Thunder: a symbol of God’s voice 
  •  A signet ring: a symbol of authority 
  •  A dove: a symbol of the Holy Spirit 
  •  Beasts: symbols of earthly kingdoms 

Overall, the tree of life meaning is different in many different cultures. Someone might wear a tree of life jewelry like on a necklace or pendants, as well as on decorations like tapestries. 

Sources:

  1. Tree of Life Meaning, Symbols, and Mythology | Uniguide 
  2. 1670 symbols – Dictionary of Bible Themes | Bible Gateway