Friday, 9 May 2014

The Celtic Tree of Life - 'Crann Bethadh.'

Tree of Life Wall Plaques

As you may know, I just love trees, and this was my first, but certainly won’t be my last, piece of work based on a tree!

This particular design, although created by myself, is based on a quite universal theme of the Tree of Life, World Tree or Sacred Tree.

This is a common motif in many world mythologies and alludes both to the interconnected nature of all life as well as a metaphor for a connection between all forms of creation – the link between heaven and hell or underworld - “As above, so below.”

The Celts venerated trees (Tree of Life – ‘crann bethadh’ pronounced: krawn ba-huh) and their Druids had ritual centres within oak groves.

When clearing a piece of land to settle in, many Celtic Iron Age tribes used to leave a tree in the centre. This tree then became the centre of the community, with gatherings and celebrations held beneath it.

I grew up in a traditional village that had a village green with an enormous tree in the centre. Just like our ancestors, we held many events around and under this tree. The tree dominated the village and always felt like a protective and symbolic presence.

In Norse (Viking) mythology there is Yggdrasil, which, again, in their cosmology is a type of World Tree, Tree of Life and Sacred Tree, connecting many worlds.

The Ash Yggdrasil by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine (1845-1921) Wikimedia Commons
The Ash Yggdrasil by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine (1845-1921) Wikimedia Commons

The accepted meaning of Yggdrasil is ‘Odin’s Horse’ – the Poetic Edda (a collection of minstrel poems) describe how Odin sacrificed himself by hanging from this tree, in doing this he discovered the Runes.

“I know that I hung on that windswept tree,
Swung there for nine long nights,
Wounded by my own blade
Bloodied for Odin,
Myself an offering to myself:
Bound to the tree
That no man knows
Whither the roots of it run.
…down to the deepest depths I peered
Until I spied the Runes.
With a roaring cry I seized them up,
Then dizzy and fainting I fell.

Well-being I won
And wisdom too.”       

             The Poetic Edda.

This always reminds me of the quest for spiritual knowledge undertaken by Siddhartha Gautama when he meditated under the Bodhi Tree, achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha.

Trees have always been associated with the spiritual quest, and there are many books on tree lore, symbolism, healing powers and meaning.

I shall certainly be creating more pieces based on, or featuring trees, they are one of my greatest inspirations.

I hope you like ‘Tree.’

Thanks for reading!


Justbod Team

Article updated: June 2014 - 

Tree is now also available in our very popular 'Dark and Light' range. bod has hand burnt the design onto birch, which is then inset into a handcrafted oak frame 16 cm².  
Tree of Life wall plaque
Tree of Life wall plaque in our Dark & Light Range

Further update 29 June 2016:

Our latest 'Tree:' cold cast bronze or aluminium, inset into a 16 cm² handcrafted solid oak plaque:

Tree Of Life Wall Plaque by Justbod
Visit our 'Symbols & Motifs' Page

See our Shop for all of bod’s currently available works. 


Unique Handcrafted Gifts
 ~ inspired by a love of nature and history ~

Justbod: Unique Handcrafted Gifts Inspired by Nature & History

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