Tree of Life Necklace Meaning Across Cultures

Updated May 11, 2021
Tree of Life necklace

People interested in inspirational and symbolic jewelry should consider buying a tree of life necklace. The tree of life is an ancient symbol that makes appearances in the folklore of many different cultures and has both religious and metaphysical ties. Today, the tree of life is a popular theme for symbolic, spiritual, and fashion jewelry.

Tree of Life Symbolism and Jewelry

The tree of life is an ancient symbol that has crossed cultures and religions for thousands of years. It represents knowledge, wisdom, and the interconnection of all life. There are various depictions of the tree of life in historic artwork and jewelry, and these pieces of evidence span large swaths of geographic territory. In some capacity, the tree of life is a human throughline, connecting people of all different cultures under a common thread.

The Tree of Life and Connecting the Universe

In many ancient cultures, the tree of life was a motif used to embody a doorway between one place of existence from another. Whether it was death and life, or the tangible and the spiritual, these cultures used the pictorial iconography of the tree to better define the shape of their world as they knew it to be.

Symbol Tree of Life Pendant

Egyptian Mythology and Jewelry

The ancient Egyptians believed that the tree of life was connected to the god Osiris, who was dually associated with death and fertility. They saw the trunk as the center of the universe, with roots leading to the underworld and branches that reached towards the heavens.

Modern Egyptian tree of life pendants typically feature either a tree with roots extending into the ground and branches reaching toward the sky. Some designs include an image of the tree of life with Osiris.

Celtic Lore and Jewelry

Long ago, the Celts viewed the tree of life as holding a symbol of all life; the roots reached into the underworld; the trunk rested on earth, and the branches reached toward heaven. Celtic druids believed the tree was a doorway between the spirit world and the human world, which allowed the gods to communicate with people.

Modern Celtic tree of life pendants are popular types of jewelry and feature detailed engravings of abundantly leaved trees reaching skyward with a broad trunk and firm roots buried deep in the earth. Celtic Christian designs may include a cross on the trunk. Neopagan style pendants may include an engraving of the green man or the image of a woman in the trunk to represent the goddess.

Scandinavian Mythology and Jewelry

Within Norse mythology, the central figure Yggdrasil takes on this role of the tree of life. Quite literally, Yggdrasil is a massive ever-green ash tree that holds all of the nine realms of the universe together with its branches and roots. If the tree of life were to wilt and die, so too would all the realms of the universe, making it a highly important figure in Nordic culture.

As with a lot of tree of life jewelry, contemporary Nordic pieces display Yggdrasil most commonly as necklace pendants, though sometimes they're incorporated into leather cuffs as well.

Chinese Folklore and Jewelry

Chinese folklore tells of a mystical tree of life that bore fruit only once every three thousand years, and it was said that whoever ate the fruit would become immortal. Necklace designs that reflect the Chinese folklore's interpretation of the tree of life often depict an abundant fruit tree, honoring the peaches of immortality legend. Some pendants also include other symbols such as yin and yang.

The Tree of Life and Creation Myths

Another way that historic communities used artistic discourse to shape their spiritual world was through creation mythology, and the tree of life was frequently featured in these stories. Many people know of Christianity's tale of the Garden of Eden, but you might not be as familiar with the rest of these spiritual interpretations.

Copper Pendant necklace

Christian Biblical References and Jewelry

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Bible describes a tree of life in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve, the first two humans, eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God casts them out of paradise before they can eat from the tree of life, which would allow them to live forever. Invoking a sense of fear and reverence for this sacred object, Christian tree of life jewelry ranges from simple engravings of a tree with roots to heavily foliaged trees with fruit reaching toward heaven with the roots ground into the earth.

Jewish Kabbalah Teachings and Jewelry

The tree of life is also a prominent part of the Jewish Kabbalah teachings. It's described in the Sefer Yetzira (Book of Creation), which explains creation in a precise set of numbers and letters of the Hebrew alphabet to form the "32 paths of secret wisdom." Tree of life pendants inspired by the Kabbalah are often based upon sacred geometry concepts, and they symbolize unity and joy.

African Baobab Tree and Jewelry

The baobab tree, which has grown in many African countries for centuries, is often referred to as the "tree of life." A Senegalese legend claims that the god Thora threw the baobab tree out of his paradise garden, where it landed on earth upside down and thrived. The baobab tree is called the "tree of life" because of its ability to store up to 4,500 litres of water in its trunk and bear a fruit that provides large quantities of vitamin C, calcium, and antioxidants. The fruit is often used as a cure all holistic remedy.

When water is scarce, both people and animals have turned to the baobab as a life-saving water source. A hollowed-out trunk of a large baobab tree can shelter as many as 40 people. Baobab tree jewelry is widely available in the region and honors the tree's status as the "tree of life." Pendant designs include simple engraved images of baobab trees and elaborate designs of baobab trees with gemstones.

Popularity of Tree of Life Necklaces

Today the tree of life is still an important symbol because of its history and meanings. The mass appeal of the tree of life has made it a trendy theme for jewelry. Necklaces and pendants are the most popular form of tree of life jewelry. The designs range from engravings of trees on metal and painted tree sketches on resin to sculpted metal tree and gemstone arrangements. Many pieces are available in materials such as sterling silver, pewter, and resin as well as yellow and white gold.

A Timeless Symbol

Due to its diverse cultural connection, jewelry depicting the tree of life will certainly be produced for many decades to come, and everyone can enjoy a tree of life piece of jewelry no matter what connection they attribute to the natural motif.

Tree of Life Necklace Meaning Across Cultures