There are actually a number of things the Tree of Life symbolises and many cultures have held the symbol extremely important and sacred and still do. The Celtic Druids adapted it from the Norse, whom had a slightly different interpretation to the Celts. The Norse saw their ash tree as the source of all life, it’s branches leading to nine different lands.
The Celts, when clearing land for settlement they would leave one central tree which became the Tree of Life. This tree provided food and shelter for both humans and animals. Important meetings were held under the tree believed to have special powers. The tree housed their ancestors and they would not inhabit an area that did not have a central Tree of Life. To the Celts, the tree seeds and regrows. The seeds contain the essence of the previous tree. In this way the tree is immortal. A symbol of strength and growth, a fresh start in life, good health and branching out to a bright future.
Persia once spread from Ireland to China. The Tree of Life theology quickly spread.
In times of conflict, to cut down the opponents tree was deemed to be one of the worst crimes committed.
The Bodhi tree in Buddhism is revered as the Buddha became enlightened under the Bodhi tree and therefore represents the path to enlightenment.
The Peepal tree is India’s Tree of Life. The Hindus see the tree reflecting life in all its aspects. As the tree grows and the Supreme gets more involved in worldly affairs, it becomes more distant from the Source.
To the Mayans, the tree connected Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. Spreading out in the four directions, a cross in the centre of the Mayan Tree of Life is the source of all creation.
The Egyptians believed the first Gods were born under the Tree of Life.
Taoists describe a magical peach tree with fruit of immortality.
The Quran mentions the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden and two other supernatural trees. The Infernal Tree(hell), the Lote Tree(the Uttermost boundary).
The garden of Eden that Genesis in the Bible refers to is the same Tree of Knowledge or the Tree of Good and Evil that gave eternal life.
One of the most popular symbols used today, it’s important to remember just how special trees really are.