The Celtic tradition, art and religion are rich in tree symbols. Trees were sacred to the Celts, who depended on them for shelter, warmth, furniture, tools and weapons.
Different trees had different powers and traits, according to their various uses and levels of importance, as well as their geographical position and physical characteristics. In Celtic creation stories, moreover, trees were said to be the ancestors of mankind.
The most central Celtic symbol, perhaps, is the Tree of Life, which seems to have represented to the early Celts (as many other ancient western and eastern civilizations) a symbol of wholeness, representing an image of the Great Mother, with roots sunk deep into the life-giving earth (feminine symbol), but whose branches reach high up into the sky (heavens, spirituality).
The oak tree was especially important to the Celtic people, as it represented the centre of the universe, or the doorway to the underworld (the English word ‘door’, in fact, derives from the Celtic word for oak: daur). The oak was sacred to the Celtic god of thunder, Taranis.
The Celtic ‘tree alphabet’, known as the Ogham alphabet, was named after the Celtic god of Literature Ogma (‘Sun Face’), who was believed to have created the 20 letters that represented the main sacred Celtic trees. The Ogham Alphabet was used as a tool of divination by the sect of Celtic priests commonly known as Druids, who believed that the human race originally descended from trees. The word ‘druid’ derives from the root deru, meaning ‘wood’ or ‘tree’, as does the word ‘dryad’ (tree-spirit) – a type of Nature Fairy.
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