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Tree Symbolism

Cypress Tree: Folklore, Healing, Symbolism and Meaning

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Written by: Tina Caro

Cypresses are a genus of evergreen plants belonging to the Cupressaceae family and include trees reaching up to 50 meters in height. Let’s learn more about cypress tree symbolism, spiritual meaning, and uses.

Most of the species, originating in Mexico and California, are present today in all the northern hemisphere regions with a warm or temperate-warm climate. Its main features are unique and often used for ornamental purposes.

These trees have a generally tapered, pyramidal and much-branched crown.

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At the beginning of January 2023, Magickal Spot partnered with and acquired an incredible website Witchipedia.com, founded by Dawn Black. Dawn created Witchipedia in 2006 as an online reference and collection of magical and spiritual information and resources for Witches, Pagans, Heathens, and anyone on a magical spiritual path.

Since our websites merged, some of our articles also had to merge.

Below you’ll find Dawn’s thoughts on this topic as well.

Branches are very thin and host numerous leaves reduced to scales, tightly leaning against each other or spread apart at the apex. In some species, the color of the leaves appears very dark green; in others, they have a very particular green-blue color.

The flowers are inconspicuous, while the fruits appear as woody cones with a rounded shapes divided into different scales. These scales, upon reaching maturity, tend to open up gradually, releasing small seeds.

During the two-and-a-half centuries of the establishment of Islam in Sicily, Muslims introduced the cultivation of this tree on the island. Now, a thousand years later, these slender trees, wrapped in pink bougainvillea, serve as a backdrop to the impressive Greek and Roman temples. And in the capital, the Botanical Garden of Palermo preserves the largest cypresses in Europe, with more than 1,200 years of history.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Cypress trees have deep-rooted symbolism in various cultures, often representing eternal life, immortality, and the connection between life and death.

The spiritual meaning of a cypress tree is associated with transformation, renewal, and the journey of the soul, making it a powerful symbol in spiritual and religious contexts.

Cypress essential oil, used in aromatherapy, is known for its calming and grounding effects, making it a popular choice for relaxation and emotional balance.

Rituals and magick often incorporate cypress for protection, purification, and divination purposes, harnessing its mystical qualities in spiritual practices.

Symbolism of a Cypress Tree

Cypress is the symbol of immortality as an emblem of eternal life after death and in fact is often found near cemeteries. Due to its absolute verticality and upward movement, it signifies the soul moving towards the celestial kingdom.

It is the tree of Hades, the god of the underworld. Since the dark foliage of this tree expresses melancholy and pain, the priests of Hades, made crowns out of it and spread their garments during the sacrifices.

SymbolMeaning
ImmortalityRepresents eternal life and the continuity of the soul.
MourningOften associated with grief and used in funeral rituals.
ResilienceSymbolizes strength and the ability to withstand adversity.
ProtectionBelieved to ward off negative energies and evil spirits.
TransformationSignifies growth, change, and the cycle of life and death.
Table 1: Symbolic Meanings of the Cypress Tree

The mythological origin of it is told in the Greek legend of Cyparissus. Apollo, the god of the sun, had fallen in love with the beauty of the young Cyparissus, who had a domesticated deer as his companion. While he was practicing with the bow one day, it mortally struck the deer. So great was his despair that he even begged for death.

Cyparissus
Cyparissus and his companion

In ancient Greece, it is associated with Apollo and Artemis.

Apollo, moved by the pain of his beloved, turned it into a tree that he named “Cypress”, and which from then on became the symbol of mourning and access to eternity.

What’s the Spiritual Meaning of a Cypress Tree?

According to a Persian legend, it was the first tree to grow in Paradise. Because of the evergreen leaves and the wood was considered incorruptible, it became the vegetable image of immortality.

Not surprisingly, it has remarkable medicinal qualities: leaves and fruits contain a very aromatic essential oil with vasoconstriction and protective action on the capillaries. Cypress tincture is indicated to treat phlebitis, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids.

This tree is sacred to Hades / Saturn, the “Dis Pater”, that is the richest of all the gods because the number of its subjects, that is the dead, never ceases to grow.

The Minoans worshiped it as a divine manifestation and the cult extended from Cyprus to Crete. In Egypt, its wood was used to build coffins. In the East, it evoked fertility due to its vaguely phallic appearance.

If, over three months, its branch is slowly cut, it will become a real healing instrument: it will suffice to slide it on the person to be healed, pressing on the painful parts and scorching the tip to purify it. Roots and cuddles can be burned as incense to amplify spiritual healing. Wearing its twig during funerals gives comfort and lightens the pain of mourning.

It is a tree that contains protective energy and protects the house from negative energies.

According to an ancient belief, some cypress branches placed on the grave of loved ones would help them on their otherworldly journey by guaranteeing them love and fortune.

The essential oil bolsters meditation and is used in Samhain rituals. Symbol of longevity and eternity, people in the past brought with them a piece of its wood to protect themselves from dangers and ensure a long life.

Seven cypress cuddles strung on a red cord turn away the grief and adversity from one’s life.

Use it for: protection, propitiating longevity, meditating, helping the dead, gaining greater awareness, receiving help and comfort in times of transition, understanding what is superfluous, reaching the root of the problems.

Stones associated with this tree are snowflake obsidian, Sicilian quartz, blue agate.

Cypress in Different Cultures

The symbolic Tree of Death, linked to cemeteries, is also the balsamic Tree of Life because it can restore health to those who come to him by breathing in their essences. It’s thin, narrow, very tall and it seems like a finger pointing to Heaven.

In the western world, it was formerly dedicated to Pluto, whose forehead was crowned with its branch, and that is why they also used to spread their branches at the doors of the deceased people’s homes.

Since then, more than twenty centuries ago, it has adorned the cemeteries of the peoples of the Christian culture throughout the Mediterranean basin. And it has even given its name to an island, Cyprus, whose inhabitants worshiped it in distant times.

One of the oldest representations of the tree of life is in Pharaonic Egypt, specifically in the tomb of Inkerkhaoni (XX Dynasty). In the fresco painting we see the Apopis snake – divinity of the world of the dead – killed by a feline.

apopi
Apophis snake

A solar symbol represents optimism, life and hope prevailing. This imagery is very far from the Latin conceptions of this tree.

Islamic civilization admired this tree, as it did with the palm tree. In Istanbul’s mosaic decoration of the Imperial Palace of Topkapi, we see seven haughty cypresses paired with twelve branches.

Topkaki palace
Topkaki palace

The epitaphs of Anatolia, Turkey’s Muslim tombs are mostly decorated by cypresses, artistically represented, giving them a halo of serenity and immortality. That again contrasts with the necrological sense in the West, and as an inheritance of the Romans, we give to our cemeteries.

And now let’s go to the Far East. The Chinese did not distinguish clearly between Thuya and Cupressus. That is why the comments that follow refer to both species equally.

In ancient China it was assumed that the consumption of its seeds sought longevity, as they were rich in yang substance. The flame obtained by the combustion of the seeds allowed the detection of jade and gold, as well yang substances and symbols of immortality.

In Japan, one of the most used woods in shinto rites is a variety of cypress, the hinoki. It is used to manufacture various instruments, such as the shaku (scepter) of the priests. It is noteworthy that the ritual fire is lit by rubbing two pieces of hinoki.

This wood is also the one used for the construction of temples, such as Isé. The notions of incorruptibility and purity are here again manifestly found.

Dawn’s Thoughts on Cypress

Cypress (Cupressaceae spp) is the common name for the trees and shrubs in the Cupressaceae family of conifers. Cypress have needle-like leaves when they are young, and scale like leaves when they are older.

They produce tight, roundish cones. Many of these cones hold tight to their seeds until they are exposed to fire.

Cypress trees can be found in Central America, the Western United States, Northwest Africa, Southern China and other parts of Asia, the Mediterranean regions of Europe and the Middle East.

Cypress in History and Folklore

Cyparissus was a youth who had a tame deer that he loved greatly. One day, he was out hunting and he killed a deer with his javelin only to discover that he had killed his own beloved pet. His grief was so great that the Gods (specifically Apollo or perhaps Silvanus or Zephyrus) took pity on him and transformed him into a tree, the Cypress((See Cyparissus at Theoi.com)).

According to Virgil’s Georgics, the Roman God, Silvanus is carries an uprooted cypress sapling.

The cypress is sacred to both Apollo and Artemis, as they were born among the cypress trees in Ortygia((Theoi.com Artemis Estate & Attributes)).

Asclepius’s staff is made of cypress and his sanctuary at Titanes was planted with cypress trees((Theoi.com Asclepius Cult)).

Cypress is the sacred tree of the Underworld and sacrifices to Hades and Persephone were made beneath the cypress trees((Theoi.com Hades Estate and Retinue and Persephone Goddess)).

Kyparissiai, Lady of the Cypress, is an epithet of Athene.

CultureCypress Folklore
Ancient GreeceAssociated with the realm of the dead and used in funeral rites.
Ancient EgyptConsidered a symbol of mourning and used in mummification.
MediterraneanPlanted in cemeteries as a symbol of remembrance and immortality.
Native AmericanCypress trees are believed to be a connection to the spirit world.
Chinese cultureSeen as a symbol of longevity and used in traditional medicine.
Table 2: Folklore and Mythology

The Symbolism of the Cypress

The cypress has been associated with mourning and the underworld since that ancient Greeks, especially throughout the Mediterranean region. Garlands of cypress were placed about homes to indicate that those within were in mourning and it was one of many woods traditionally used for funeral pyres.

The Romans kept cypress in the home as long as the body was there and carried it in the funeral procession((Funeral Customs by Bertram S Puckle Chapter IX)). Later, coffins were made of cypress wood. A white cypress tree grows by a spring in Hades’ realm((Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers, by Kathleen Freeman, [1948], 1. Orpheus)).

Cypress is often used as a literary device to indicate mourning and loss((See Folk-Lore of Shakespear by T.F. Thistleton Dyer Chapter VIII Plants.)). (See Sappho’s Conjecture’sOn the Banks of the HoProtests of a Widow Against Being Urged to Marry Again.) It is also used in literature to describe someone with a beautiful and graceful figure and a regal bearing. (See Hymn to a Night God,

Cypress in Aromatherapy

Cypress essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves and cones of the cypress tree. The woodsy scent is said to be grounding and to help with concentration and focus and to help gather scattered thoughts. It helps us cope with change and brings about a sense of stability even in the face of change. It soothes the nervous system during times of stress and helps strengthen the psyche. It is particularly comforting for those mourning the death of a loved one. For this purpose, it can be dabbed on the body, added to massage oil, or placed in an oil burner.

Cypress for Healing

The scent of cypress may also be inhaled to treat nasal congestion or the oil may be added to a chest rub or massage oil for the purpose.

Cypress in Ritual and Magick

Cypress corresponds to the elemental energy of Earth and the planetary energy of Saturn.

Cypress resin incense or needles may be burned to purify ritual space.

The fragrance of cypress is especially suited to funerary rites and other rites honoring the beloved dead, such as Samhain festivals.

More Information Online

Plants of Greek Myth at Theoi.com
Cypress Essential Oil at Aromaweb
Cypress Essential Oil at Essentialoilexperts.com
Cypress Tree Wood Magical Properties at Wicca Altar

About
Tina Caro

Tina Caro is a witch with more than 10 years of experience, a yogi, an astrologer, and a passionate supporter of all things holistic! She’s also an owner of the website Magickal Spot where she discusses a variety of her favorite topics.

Magickal Spot has helped thousands of readers worldwide, and she’s personally worked with hundreds of clients and helped them manifest desires to have a happier and more abundant life.

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