The Tree of Life in Other Cultures
As you know by now, the Celts were not the first people to adopt the Tree of Life symbol as something meaningful.
According to this Mesoamerican culture, a mystical mountain on Earth was hiding Heaven. A World Tree connected Heaven, Earth and the Underworld and grew at the point of creation. Everything flowed out from that spot in four directions (North, South, East & West). On the Mayan Tree of life there is a cross in the centre which is the source of all creation.
The Egyptians believed that the Tree of Life was the place where life and death were enclosed. East was the direction of life whereas West was the direction of death and the underworld. In Egyptian Mythology, Isis and Osiris (also known as ‘the first couple’) emerged from the Tree of Life.
The Tree of Life is featured in the Book of Genesis and is described as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which was planted in the Garden of Eden. Historians and scholars are unable to agree on whether it is the same tree or separate ones. The term ‘Tree of Life’ appears another 11 times in subsequent books of the Bible.
There is a Taoist story in Chinese Mythology which describes a magical peach tree that only produces a peach ever 3,000 years. The individual who happens to eat this fruit becomes immortal. There is a dragon at the base of this Tree of Life and a phoenix on top.
The Tree of Immortality is mentioned in the Quran and is different from the Biblical account insofar as only one tree is mentioned in Eden which was forbidden to Adam and Eve by Allah. The Hadith do mention other trees in heaven and while the tree symbol plays a fairly minor role in the Quran, it became an important symbol in Muslim art and architecture and is also one of the most developed symbols in Islam. In the Hadith, the different trees are combined into one symbol.
Today, the Tree of Life has become one of the most requested tattoo symbols, rivalling the much loved tribal symbol. Most people in the modern era look at trees and don’t give them a second thought. Things were a lot different in ancient times when civilisations loved, respected and revered trees. The meaning and symbolism the Celts attached to trees is a prime example of this as these proud warriors viewed them as magical bringers of life that connected all worlds.