Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh): meaning and history

A symbol widely recognised across Ireland, the Celtic Tree of Life is often represented in jewellery and worn by many. But what does this symbol mean?

The Celtic Tree of Life, or Crann Bethadh (Crown Bett-ah), as it’s known in Irish, is a symbol full of meaning and history.

Many people will recognise this symbol instantly. But while many will remember the image when they see it, not all will know the true meaning behind this iconic Celtic symbol.

Read on to learn the meaning and history of the Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh).

History of the Celtic Tree of Life a symbol of the Ancient Celts

The Celtic Tree of Life is a symbol with a fascinating history.
Credit: Instagram / @256woodchips

The Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh) is said to have come from the days of the Ancient Celts. The Celts were an ancient tribe said to have settled in Ireland around 500 BC.

The Celts believed in the spiritual worship of trees. This tribe would host gatherings at the foot of a tree, where they would hold counsel, share stories, and elect new tribe leaders.

The Celts would leave one solitary tree in their land to protect it, as they believed in the magical protection of noble trees such as the Oak and Ash trees. This gesture was a way in which the Ancient Celts honoured the Tree of Life concept.

These trees were central to the lives of these tribes. Cutting down one of these trees was considered a severe crime and a way of overthrowing an opposing tribe.

Meaning of the Celtic Tree of Life ‒ a symbol steeped in meaning

The symbol is steeped in meaning.
Credit: Instagram / @burntofferingsnz

The Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh) had many meanings to the Ancient Celts. It meant a balance and harmony in nature, longevity, strength, wisdom, and rebirth.

Trees can change or be reborn through the seasons, and the Ancient Celts believed this of themselves, too, believing that they came from the trees and nature. They were seen as guardians of their land and gateways to the world of the spirit.

Looking at any Celtic Tree of Life, you will notice the intertwining roots and branches. These interconnecting limbs represent the connection between our world and the spirit world.

It was thought that the Ancient Celts could communicate with the Gods of the upper world through Crann Bethadh, which is why they honoured it by gathering there.

The Celtic Tree of Life in modern culture ‒ still a commonly used symbol

The Celtic Tree of Life is still widely used today.
Credit: Instagram / @basil_ltd

This symbol is widely recognised and celebrated by Irish jewellers. It is worn by many who appreciate its message of peace, harmony, and balance.

Jewellers use the Celtic knots in the tree’s roots and branches to make a beautiful piece of Irish jewellery, representing life’s constant, never-ending cycle.

It can also be seen throughout art, with many people opting for tattoos of this Ancient symbol. While each artist may create a slightly varying image, the symbolism and history remain the same.

Maybe next time you pass a field with one lone tree, you might pause for a moment to consider its link between our world and the heavens.

Do you believe in the connection that is held between our world and the spirit world? If so, maybe you might consider wearing a Celtic Tree of Life around your neck to celebrate this ancient belief of our ancestors.

Other things to note ‒ there are multiple meanings to this symbol

There are multiple meanings of the Celtic Tree of Life.
Credit: Instagram / @sanvila_handmade

Given the age of this symbol, it is no surprise that there are multiple meanings behind this old Celtic image.

Another meaning we found was that the branches reaching out symbolises the search for meaning through learning. Meanwhile, the trunk means the strength provided by family, with the roots relating to our heritage.

Another meaning relates to how the mind and body connect to create harmony within. We also found a definition suggesting that the Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh) represents the journey through the three stages of life: birth, death, and regeneration into another life.

That’s a lot of meaning packed into one striking little symbol. Which definition of the Celtic Tree of Life resonates with you the most?

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