Yew Tree Symbolic Meaning
Often times, the yew is considered to be one of the most ancient trees in all of the world. Some sources even say that it is the oldest-living one. This makes it an incredibly important tree when considering creation and time itself. Appropriately, the yew tree is symbolic of immortality and everlasting life, rebirth, changes and regeneration after difficult times, and protection – the yew is, after all, quite massive.
The yew tree is also very strong, making it very useful for making bows, spears, and other items. Its physical composition makes it a powerful symbol of vitality, as each of its parts plays a particular role in its cycle. The Yew’s branches grow into the ground so, when the trunk dies, the tree is able to continue living. This also lends support to the yew being a symbol of connection between the past and present, particularly in terms of having a relationship with one’s ancestral heritage.
Other Yew Meanings
Despite the seemingly wondrous nature and characteristics of the yew, its symbolism can also be rather dark. For example, it is known as the “death tree” in almost all of the European countries, as it is associated with destruction and demise. In fact, the danger that comes with the yew is not just symbolic. The yew is actually very poisonous.
Most parts of the tree are highly toxic (except the red area surrounding the seeds) due to the alkaloid, taxine, that they contain. This chemical ranges from triggering vivid hallucinations to actually causing death. This death, though, is spiritually viewed by some as a true transformation and rebirth into another world. Thus, the yew possesses a very unique duality, representing both life and longevity as equally as death.
Celtic Yew Tree Symbolism
Curious people as they were, the Celts believed that the most efficient way to get in touch with the wisdom of the gods was through nature. As with other trees and plants, the botany enthusiast Celts held the yew in high symbolic regard, mainly for its strength, audacity and long life-span. They took special interest in isolated creatures and plants, as they are unique on a grand scale.
Yews stand alone, making them a prime contender for study and focus. Fittingly, they associated the yew with strong attributes such as power, honor, mystery, strength, and leadership. However, Celtic tradition also recognizes the yew as having more mild and affable traits, including silence, illusion, holiness, and introspection. The yew bark holds ages of the tree’s history and character, all concealed behind an aloof and impassive posture. It exudes serenity and inspires deep and insightful thinking in all that encounter it and channel its energy.
Additionally, the Celts noticed other physical aspects of the mighty tree and formed specific conclusions regarding them. For example, yews are quite twisty trees, filled with many dark crevices and suggestive nooks and crannies. This feature of their presentation, in combination with its solitude, omits vibes of an otherworldly presence. Solitary creatures and plants are typically conjoined with the ideas of acumen, knowledge, and magic, making them oracles of mystery and higher understanding.
As previously discussed, yews live long and thus symbolize longevity for the humans observing them. For Celts, who made their weaponry from this tree, this meant that the same energy associated with the tree would be transferred over to the warrior bearing its bark. If a soldier had shields and weapons made from yew, it was thought to ensure victory on the battlefield and a long and happy life for the soldier.
Various weaponry were not the only things made from the strong bark and branches of the yew. Posts, rods, and other tools used in both building and spiritual ceremonies were made from this tree in order to extract the tenacious energy from its core. This energy would infuse the atmosphere of ceremonies, allowing the “other world” and its inhabitants to speak to people in this world.
What’s most curious about the Celts relationship with this tree, though, is the paradox between their reverence of it and its own lethal values. The people, especially those who studied it closely, surely knew of the dangers of the tree, yet they still valued its longevity and relation to transformation through death. Regardless of the hazards the yew posed, its positive attributes still made it one of the most sacred natural beings in the eyes of the Celts.