The meaning of the Tree of Life is many and varied however it has a commonality among
different cultures, both ancient and modern, that is rarely seen in any other
significant form of symbolism.
Below are links to pages within this
site containing details of the Tree of
Life Meaning as depicted in different cultures
A precis of the Tree of Life occurence in ancient
The Tree of Life in its various forms is recognized in all cultures as a symbol of
immortality and eternal life. From ancient Chinese and Egyptian culture to Germanic
paganism and Mesoamerica, it has been sought after throughout the ages. And, while depicted in
many different contexts, the imagery across all cultures is essentially the same. Not to be
confused with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the tree of Life is the tree whose fruit
gives eternal life to all who might obtain it. In addition to its religious references, it is a
reminder of our past (roots - ancestry), present (tree body - knots included) and future (fruit
– labor and posterity).
The Assyrian Tree of Life was represented by a series of nodes
and criss-crossing lines and was an important religious symbol, attended to by eagle-headed
gods and priests, or the king himself. In Chinese mythology, a carving of the Tree of Life
depicts a phoenix and a dragon – the dragon representing immortality. There is also a Taoist
story of a tree that produces a peach every three thousand years; the person who eats the fruit
In Egyptian mythology, Isis and Osiris are the first couple, said to have emerged from the
acacia tree of Saosis, which the Egyptians considered the Tree of Life. The Egyptians Holy
Sycamore also stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting the two worlds. In Norse
religion, the Tree of Life appears as Yggdrasil, a massive yew or ash surrounded by extensive
lore. Other examples include Thor’s Oak and the sacred tree at Uppsala.
The Hebrew Bible reference the Tree of Life in the Book of Genesis, in
which the fruit of the tree give Adam and Eve Eternal Life. It is important to distinguish
between this, the Tree of Life, which fruit they were allowed to “freely eat” and the Tree
of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which was forbidden. Once they had partaken of the forbidden
fruit, God set angels and a flaming sword “to guard the way of the Tree of Life, lest Adam
should stretch forth his hand and partake of the fruit thereof and live forever in his
The Book of Mormon gives a detailed account of the prophet Lehi’s dream, in which the Tree
of Life is a manifestation of God’s love for all mankind. The fruit of the tree represents
Immortality and Eternal Life, which Lehi desires for himself and for his family, and the
account explains the difficulties and rewards associated in obtaining it. Depictions of world
trees are also found in Mesoamerican cultures, including the Maya, Aztec, Izapan, Mixtec, Olmec
and others, relating to calendars, seasons and a representation of the Milky Way.
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