The Sacred Trees of the Celts

Trees were of great significance to the ancient Celts. Their roots and branches were thought to represent the links between the mortal and Other worlds. Deciduous trees were seen as symbols of rebirth, bursting into new life as the seasons moved from the cold harshness of winter towards the warming light of the spring. 

One of the oldest forms of writing, Ogham script, is sometimes called "The Tree Alphabet" with each of the 20 letters representing a tree. It was said to have been created by Oghma, the god of literature. In this article we take a look at some of the sacred trees that feature in the many Celtic myths and legends handed down through generations. 


Thought to have strong powers of healing, wisdom, strength and protection, the ash tree was of great importance to the Celts. Along with the oak and hawthorn, the ash was considered to be the most sacred of all trees.





A symbol of strength and wisdom; often associated with gods and druids. Today some people still look to the oak and ash trees to predict the weather for the summer months. Whichever tree comes into leaf first is said to indicate how much rain will fall. The traditional saying used around here was; "Oak before ash, we're in for a splash. Ash before oak, we're in for a soak".


Also known as the May Tree, as this is when the gorgeous blossoms appear. Hawthorn was a symbol of regeneration, love and protection. It was also considered extremely unlucky to bring the blossoms indoors.






The apple tree was linked to health, happiness and rebirth. The wands of druids were often made from the apple tree.





A symbol of wisdom and featured in one of the most famous Irish legends about Fionn MaCumhail and the Salmon of Knowledge. The story tells of how the great salmon named Bradan rested calmly in the Pool of Wisdom on the River Boyne. He fed on the nuts from the nine hazel trees growing around the pool and all the wisdom of the world became concentrated in his flesh. Whoever ate the salmon would inherit all his wisdom and judgement. 




With its beautifully scented yellow blossoms, gorse was associated with optimism, resilience, fertility and good fortune. Sprigs were often included in wedding bouquets. 





Alder is a symbol of protection, prophecy, strength and secrecy and is often to be found growing near water. It was said that Deirdre and Naoise hid in alder woods when they fled to Scotland. Read more of their tragic love story here.


Often associated with death, yew trees are commonly found in the grounds of churches and in cemetaries. The legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows, tells of two yew trees that grew from the graves of Deirdre and her husband, Naoise. The tops of these yew trees, when full-grown, met each other and intertwined together, and none could part them.


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