The Celtic Tree of Life

From The Wisdom of Trees in the Celtic Landscape by C. Austin

The concept of a divine World Tree or Tree of Life, the mythic bridge between the worlds of god and human, is entwined with the veneration of trees. As an embodiment of the universe, the roots of the World tree inhabit the underground, the deep knowledge of earth. The trunk unites the roots with the upper celestial canopy. The products given by each tree were considered a physical manifestation of divine providence.

County Limerick, Ireland is the home of the enchanted Lough Gur. Legend holds that every seven years the Lough disappears and a tree can be seen growing from the bottom of the Lough. This Irish version of the World Tree can be seen in its double which rests in a nearby pasture. Cloch a Bhile, the “stone of the tree,” is about seven feet in height and a steadfast reminder of the mythic tree that supports our world under the Lough.

The Celtic landscape combined the vegetative mystery of nature, the daring exploits of heroes and gods and the folklore that grew from both. Each tree had its own personality and resident spirit. The seasonal leaf growth and loss of deciduous trees gave rise to beliefs about death and resurrection while the evergreen species brought assurances of life in the death time of winter.

The tribes of Ireland each had a sacred tree that grew in the immediate whereabouts of the site of royal inaugurations. Today at these sites, such as at the Hill of Tara and Magh Adhair, a small standing stone keeps lonely vigil, a more permanent marker of the living monument that has left the place…

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