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.
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 shape 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 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.
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, its upward movement, it signifies the soul that moves towards the celestial kingdom.
It is the tree of Hades, 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.
The mythological origin of it is told in the Greek legend of Cyparissus. Apollo, 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.
In ancient Greece, it is associated with Apollo and Artemis.
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 that has vasoconstriction and protective action on the capillaries. Cypress tincture is indicated to treat phlebitis, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids.
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 to associate with this tree are snowflake obsidian, Sicilian quartz, blue agate.
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Cypress in Different Cultures
The symbolic Tree of Death, linked to cemeteries, is also the balsamic Tree of Life because it is able to 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.
Since then, more than twenty centuries ago, it adorns 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.
A solar symbol represents optimism, life and hope prevailing. This imagery is very far from the Latin conceptions of this tree.
Islamic civilization felt admiration for 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.
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.
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.